With 14.6 miles to go before the next lock we cast off the lines at 0630 giving us two and a half hours to arrive before the 0900 opening. This was extra time but there are many no wake zones along the way and we wanted to arrive early to be able to go through on the first locking.
A tactical error was made however. No consideration was given to the Hamlet Swing Bridge about 2.8 miles from lock 42. Always before we had been able to open swing bridges during the course of the day’s travels. It turns out that the bridges operate on the same schedule as the locks. This bridge was not going to be opened prior to 0900. We reached the bridge that was surrounded by summer cabins around 0650 so reluctantly, not wanting to wake the neighborhood, blew the horn three longs to open the bridge. Nothing happened. We went dead slow but saw no sign of life. When it became apparent that this bridge was not going to be opened any time soon I quickly spun the boat around in the current drawing it toward the bridge and pulled alongside a concrete wing wall mid river. It had cleats so clearly was for the use of boats waiting for the bridge to open. We ended up mooring there and doing cruise research for two hours waiting for the bridge tender to show up.
He appeared on schedule and opened the bridge promptly at 0900 and off we went. In about two more miles we were in Sparrow Lake. This is a lake about 2.5 miles long and one mile wide. We were going the length and finally a lake deep enough that you didn’t need to worry about staying in the channel. This lake was 10-20 feet deep. The northwest end of the lake was very shallow, however, and the channel was very crooked. Another boat was about a half mile ahead of us and we watched as, all of a sudden, it came to a halt and then started backing up. Eventually it stopped backing and just sat.
I have been navigating this whole trip with the Raymarine chart plotter and with an iPad. The chart plotter has Navionics map data and the iPad has Garmin data with an Active Captain overlay. I usually set the Raymarine chart scale to whatever is appropriate for the conditions and use the iPad with a much larger scale so I can get a bigger picture of where we are going. The combination of these two aids has worked well for me as I can see ahead of time where we will be going with the iPad and that helps interpret the data on the Raymarine which is zoomed in to a much closer image. On these narrow, winding channels the close look at the course and navigational aides which can be visually inspected as we approach gives me a good sense of where we should be going in all of this terrain that has multiple intersecting channels trying to entice you off of your intended course.
We charged into the shallow winding course at the north end of the lake and wound around the navigational aides with confidence due to the previously mentioned navigational method. I looked behind to find the boat that had been stopped had pulled in right behind us and was following our path religiously.
We continued down the Severn River composed of small lakes and narrower portions through the Sparrow Lake Chute, McDonald’s Cut, Ragged Rapids until we reached the Swift Rapids Lock (43). The lock was already in the process of locking down one boat and then would bring another up prior to our turn. We pulled along the blue line and waited. The boat that had been following us for the past eight miles parked right behind us on the blue line. It turns out that they were on their maiden voyage after purchasing the boat at Orillia back on Lake Couchiching so it was the first time through this area for them. Without experience or a game plan he had become confused at the north end of Sparrow Lake so was more than happy to fall in behind and follow us. We locked through together and he followed us all the way through Flat Rapids, Dinnertime Rapids and until we reached the “Big Chute”.
I AM SO SORRY. I DECIDED TO TAKE MOVIES OF GOING OVER THE BIG CHUTE AS IT WAS PRETTY SPECTACULAR AND I THOUGH MOVIES WOULD BETTER SHOW THE EXPERIENCE. IF MOVIE CLIPS CAN BE INSERTED INTO THIS BLOG I HAVE NOT FOUND THE PROCESS AS YET. PERHAPS A WIDGET I HAVEN’T USED. IN ANY CASE MY APOLOGIES FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO SHOW AN AMAZING PART OF THIS TRIP. THUS, ONLY ONE PICTURE.
We were finally going to see this amazing operation. Instead of a lock to drop you in elevation this is a railway carriage of sorts. It is submerged on the top end and you drive your boat into two slings just as if you where going to be hauled out by a Travel Lift at a marina. These slings slowly put you down on your keel as the carriage emerges from the water on the railroad tracks. You then are carried over a small hill and down the other side to be dumped back in the water after a net drop of 58 feet. I took movies the whole time so hope they turn out. Unfortunately I didn’t think to get my movie camera ready so needed to take them with my point and shoot camera.
Almost as thrilling was transiting “Little Chute” rapids soon after leaving Big Chute. This rapid was running strong and is entered by rounding a sharp corner just prior to the rapids. I had to crank the throttle all the way up to gain the steerage needed to maintain control of the boat through the 600 or so feet of turbulent water.
From there on it was mainly cruising Glouster Pool and Little Lake until we reached our goal for the day. This was Starport Marina in Port Severn just prior to our last lock (45) on the Trent Severn Waterway. It turns out this is a very nice marina with amenities to include free laundry, showers and restrooms, gas barbeques, a lounge with big screen TV, a sundry store, marine store, fuel including diesel, ice, and even a courtesy car.
We celebrated our (almost) completion of the Trent Severn Waterway by launching the dinghy and going across the end of the lake to Christie’s Mill Inn and Spa for some romantic fine dining on New Zealand Rack of Lamb and Chilean Sea Bass.