Finishing the Rideau Canal and Arriving in Kingston, Ontario

114 Days Looping
1,745.4 Nautical Miles Total (2,008.6 Statute Miles)
31.0 Nautical Miles This Week
11.3 Hours Underway This Week
4.3 NMph Average Speed
12 Locks This Week, 86 Total Locks

Remember: Click on the small pictures to enlarge!

Monday – July 29th – 15.3 NM – 7 Locks – To: South Frontenac, Ontario, Canada
(Upper Brewers Mills)
On Monday morning we left Chaffey’s Lock at 9:00 am and headed to Upper Brewers Mills. The first part of the day was across Opinicon Lake to Davis Lock. Davis is known as “solitude lock” and is one of the most remote locks on the Rideau. As we approached Davis we could see that there were already a few boats in the lock, and a few more tied up to the wall. One of those was Thunderbolt who we had first met way back on the way to Ottawa.

After the first group of boats locked through, we went in with Thunderbolt, and a couple of smaller boats. Thunderbolt was headed to the same area as we were for the night, so we decided to travel with them for they day. After Davis Lock, we went through another series of small cuts between lakes, and shared the channel with a group of canoeists who looked surprised when two larger boats came around the corner toward them.

A couple of miles after Davis lock, is Jones Falls (Lock #39,#40,#41, and #42), and impressive 4 lock step, and probably the prettiest lock view on the Rideau. At Jones Falls, you go down one lock into a large basin, turn 90 degrees, then go down another 3 locks one after another. In all you drop 60 feet!

When we arrived, they were just dropping a group of boats on the last of the 4 locks, and there was a group waiting to come up, so we were looking at about 2 hours before it would be our turn. We tied up to the waiting wall, and decided to take a walk down the locks with Scotty and Meredith from Thunderbolt to get a closer look the locks. We had hoped to visit the blacksmith shop at the lock, but he wasn’t opening until noon, about the time we’d be locking through.

We walked down the locks, feeling a bit bad for the lock staff here as it’s about a 1/4 mile climb to get from the lower three locks to the upper lock, and they have to do that several times a day. We watched the group of up-bound boats come through the first three locks, some of the tallest on the Rideau. At the bottom of the locks is a hotel marina that we originally had thought of staying at, unfortunately they were closed this year for major renovation including a new bridge and docks. When the up-bound boats reached the basin with one lock to go, we headed back up the hill past another Block House and got our boats untied and ready for our turn. Only two smaller boats had arrived while we were waiting, so it would be an easy locking through.

After the up boats cleared the lock, it was finally our turn. Thunderbolt is less maneuverable than we are, so they went in first, we went in beside them, and the smaller boats grouped up behind us.

It took about 90 minutes for the boats coming up stream to be lifted, going down, especially with larger boats at the head of the lock goes faster because they can open the flood gates more and drain the lock faster. Our trip down took less than an hour.

The first lock was pretty standard, no worries. As we moved into the basin to turn, we smelled coal smoke, and could see that the blacksmith had arrived and was stoking up his forge. After the turn, it was into the 3 step which is a drop of around 45 feet. Pulling right up to the lock gate, which is just above water level is a bit disconcerting, a little too much throttle, and over the edge you go!

The lock staff was great as usual, and with just 4 boats it was a quick locking down. We pulled out behind Thunderbolt, waved goodbye to the lock staff and headed toward Upper Brewers Lock about 10 miles away.

The trip to Brewers was on mostly open water, and through lakes. We saw some interesting rock outcroppings that had been rounded out by the glaciers, and a rock that was white from bird-poop. We passed through a little wooden swing bridge, and into Cranberry Lake. The land here started to flatten out on the East side of the lake and we started seeing more farm fields again. Our friends on Thunderbolt turned off just before we reached Brewers Mills as they planned to anchor out in Cranberry Lake. The wind had started to come up, so we agreed to let them know if there was extra space on the wall at the lock in case the wind was too strong for anchoring out.

We arrived at Upper Brewers Mills just after 3:00. Brewers Mills is another lock in the middle of nowhere, the nearest “town” is 5-6 miles away. The wall at the top of the lock was already full, so we locked through, and tied up to the wall at the bottom of the lock. This lock also has the platform camping tents, and both were occupied, between people visiting the lock, the campers, and the other boats at the top, there were plenty of people around including a Black Lab that was having a good time cooling off in the water.

It was a very hot evening, and the bottom of the lock has no power, so we ran the generator to keep the boat cool. After the sun went behind the trees, we went for a walk around the lock area and checked out the ruins of an old mill. There is a holding pond, that looked like it was a pretty popular fishing spot based on the number of lures wrapped around the phone wires. The wind dropped and we heard from Thunderbolt that they would be staying the night on the lake.

We went back to the boat, cooked dinner on the grill, and once it got dark, we called it a night early.

Tuesday – July 30th – 1.6 NM – 1 Lock – To: Washburn, Ontario, Canada
(Lower Brewers Mills)
Because we were basically killing time before we reached Kingston, we just went one more lock down the canal where we were more likely to get power. We left Upper Brewers Mills, at 8:30 for the 1.6 mile ride to Lower Brewers Mills which is another lock with pretty much nothing around it. There is was a small metal arts gallery in an old grist mill building, but that is about it. We arrived just before 9:00 and the lock staff was just arriving for the day and tied up at the top of the lock. While we were waiting for them to open up, we watched a group of swans on an island just beside the boat, and an eagle family on a platform next to the old lockmasters house. Once the lock staff got all of their equipment unlocked, we walked down to talk to them. There were two boats on the lower wall, one large boat that had spent the night and was planning to spend another, and one boat that had spent the night and was going upstream.

The lockmaster told us that he would lock us down first, while the other boat got ready, so we pulled into the lock, and dropped down, and then hung out in mill pond for a few minutes while the other boat went into the lock, then took their spot on the wall. We met “Aurora” a beautiful Defever 44. They were headed up the Rideau to Ottawa, and were spending a few nights at each lock. Just after we tied up, it started to rain so we hung out on the boat for an hour or so until it stopped. When the rain stopped, a group of Canadian military troops stopped by the lock to have a look and watch some boats come through and protect the lock from an American invasion.

We walked up to the lock to pay for our power, and then around the small dam, to Doner Studio, a metal art studio and museum. The museum is an old grist mill dating from the 1800’s that the owner has restored and has displays of old milling equipment mixed in with his art. We walked around the mill for a bit, then took a walk around the property which has a nice walking path along the mill pond and the canal which was right across from where we were tied up. The path is lined with gardens and some of his metal sculptures, as well as lots of chipmunks!

While we were walking down the path, our old friend the Kawartha Voyageur showed up on its next cruise up the canal. Even though we’d seen it a couple of times already, watching the bow of the boat lift up, and them fitting into the lock is fascinating.

When we got back to the boat, I noticed that the stream of water coming out of the side of the boat from the air conditioning system was much weaker than normal. One of the issues we’d been having in the Rideau canal was the amount of weeds in the water. On the boat, any place that water is taken in from is under the boat for the boat systems. There is a “raw water strainer” to filter out large particles that might damage the pumps. There are strainers on the engine intakes, generator cooling water intake, air conditioner cooling water intake, water intakes for the two toilets, and the anchor washdown pump.

Seaweed Salad Anyone?

I’ve been cleaning out the engine, generator, and air conditioner strainers on a daily basis because of the amount of stuff in the water. Normally, when I pull the covers off of the intakes, the water pours out due to the pressure since the intakes are below the water line. When I opened the intake for the generator, the strainer basket was packed with grass and weeds, so much so that it had backed up into the hose that leads to the intake under the boat. I had cleaned out the strainers the day before, but when I pulled the strainer basket to clean it only a trickle of water came out of the hose. I tried starting the generator, and it sucked a little more grass out, but the flow was still not near enough. We spent the next 2 hours trying to get the hose un-clogged. There was no shore water connection available, so we tried a hose from the anchor washdown, but it didn’t have enough pressure. We tried running a smaller hose down the intake hose to push it out, but I think we just packed it in. We tried using a wet-vac to suck it out, no good. Then we tried using the wet-vac to blow it out, also no good. In the end I had to disconnect the hose from the connection where it comes through the hull inside the engine room. I expected to have a flood of water as it’s a 1.5 inch hose. We did get water from the filter side as it drained which confirmed that the clog was in the fitting that leads under the boat. We tried a couple of things and in the end just rammed a piece of wire down the fitting until it pushed the clog out. Once the clog cleared, the water rushed in! I turned off the shutoff, and then we spent a while wet-vacing out about 10 gallons of water from under the engine.

Note to our boating friends: 1) Clean your strainers frequently! They do get clogged and can cause all sorts of expensive issues from ruined impellers to overheating engines. 2) Check and change your raw water hoses and clamps. Hoses have dates on them and have a lifespan of about 10 years. Michael, my mechanic at A&M changed out our hoses and clamps before the trip as the boat is 13 years old. Some of the existing clamps were rusted or were no longer tight. Seeing how quickly the water poured into the engine bay when I got the fitting clear was dramatic evidence that if one of those hoses ever burst or came off, especially the 4″ engine raw water intake, there is little chance that the bilge pump could keep up for long. From the 1.5″ through hull for the generator we got 10 gallons in just 10-15 seconds!

That process took most of the afternoon. We cleaned up the boat and put away the tools, then relaxed. At around 6:00, we got together for docktails with the Steve and Diane from Aurora, and Harold and Angelina from a 38 ft Regal (they had just bought the boat and it had no name yet) who were spending the night with us at the Lock. We chatted until about 8:00. When our docktails broke up, we had a quick dinner on the boat. We got lucky that the satellite antenna was at the right angle to pick up the satellites even with the mast down, so watched a bit of TV until bedtime.

Wednesday – July 31st – 14.1 NM – 4 Locks – To: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
We had called on Monday to make reservations in Kingston. They have a strict “48 hour or more policy on reservations” so our reservation in Kingston was on Thursday. There are several marinas in Kingston and we had pretty much run out of canal to stay at, so on Wednesday morning, we figured we’d go to Kingston and find a place to stay until Thursday when we had a reservation at Confederation Basin Marina in the heart of downtown.

We left Lower Brewers falls just after 8 AM, and headed to Kingston Mills, the last set of locks on the Rideau Canal. We passed a huge flock of swans and some impressive bird rookeries.

We arrived at Kingston Mill (Locks #46, #47, #48 and #49) another set of 4 locks with a turning basin in the middle and our last locks on the Rideau at around 10:00. There was one boat already waiting that we had spent the night with last night, and several coming up-stream through the locks, so we had about 45 minutes to walk around the locks and see the sights. Just like Smiths Falls, the first lock was stand-alone, with a basin between it and then next three right in a row. There was also an impressive dam (that took them 4 tries to finish), and a Block House to protect the lock from the impending American invasion.

We walked around while waiting and got a great view of a train passing over the locks .We also noticed that our friends on Thunderbolt were tied up at the bottom of the locks. When our turn came to go down, we entered the first lock and again as we were going down, it was a pretty fast trip through the 4 locks. As we went down, we chatted with a Menonite family who were on vacation and watching the boats go down. They had a little boy who was about 6 and we gave him one of our frogs which seemed to make his day.

At the last lock, Meredith from Thunderbolt came over to chat with us and we compared notes for the next few days.

The run from Kingston Mills to the lift bridge in Kingston Harbor was only a few miles, with the only notable sight, the abandoned marina just outside of Kingston. They closed this year because of two years of high water flooding their docks.

We arrived at the Kingston lift bridge about 11:30, the Kingston Lift bridge opens on request on the hour except for 8:00, 12:00 and 5:00 (rush hours). We had missed the 11:00 opening, so had to wait until the 1:00 opening. We picked a spot in the bay in front of the bridge, and deployed the anchor. After 10 minutes it was apparent that we had not stuck and were drifting, so we pulled it up (covered in muck and grass) and tried again. The second time was a disaster, and the third time after letting out some more chain (75′ in 15′ of water), we stuck. We turned off the engines and just hung out in the bay. While we were waiting, we called the marina where we had our reservation to see if they could take us a day early, fortunately, there was no problem, so we waited for the bridge to get to the marina.

The wind was pretty strong (10-15 knots) and we kept a careful eye on our position as there was very shallow water behind us and a sailboat anchored there as well. At 12:30 I noticed that the anchor had slipped and we were starting to drift toward the shallow areas. As it was only 30 minutes till the bridge opening, and we knew we’d have a ball of muck to clean off the anchor so we pulled up the anchor and while Brenda drove the boat in circles, I hung over the anchor pulpit and picked grass and mud off the anchor with a boat hook.

By the time I got the anchor cleared of mud and grass and got it back stowed on the boat , the boat and I were covered with goo, and the bridge was just starting to lift. We slipped under the bridge, and within a few minutes we were tied up at Confederation Basin Marina, right in the heart of Kingston.

After we tied up and got the boat secure, we hurried to get to Fort Henry. We’d heard from some other boats that Wednesday they had Canadian craft vendors and we didn’t want to miss that. We’d been told that the best deal in town was the Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley service. We bought tickets and walked onto a trolley to Fort Henry. The Trolley service was great! It’s only about $12 a day, goes to all of the important sights, and there is a Trolley about every 30 minutes. We bought a 3 day pass and it’s been one of the better values on the trip!

The trolley left from the visitor center, in the park just outside of the marina gates. It crosses the lift bridge that we had gone under, then tours through the Canadian Military Academy, (their equivalent of West Point) then goes up the hill to Fort Henry. We toured Fort Henry visiting the Canadian craft shops, looking at the displays of the history of the fort which first built by the French, torn down and re-built by the British, fortified during the War of 1812 to prevent American attacks (and repelled the only American attack of the war). They have young people who are cadets at military academies in Canada in dress uniform walking around, drilling, and doing musical marching drills. It was fun to watch!

Fort Henry Ontario Marching Band

One of the unique historical facts about the fort was the “Goat” which was (and is) the forts mascot. You see references to the goat all over the fort, and frequently see one of the cadets walking a goat around the fort. (Actually, the goat is walking the cadet, more than the cadet is walking the goat!)

We spent several hours at the fort, then caught the last trolley back to town. The trolley does a loop from downtown, across the river to the fort, then along the waterfront to the other side of town and the prison district. In addition to being the sailing capital of Canada, and having Fort Henry, Queens College (the Canadian equivalent of Harvard University), Kingston is known as the prison capital of Canada. The first “maximum security” prison, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth in 1800 is located here. The trolley took us past several local Kingston historic sights and to the Canadian Prison History museum, and Kingston Penitentiary that is now closed but open to the public for tours.

We made a note to visit in the next few days, but kept on the trolley until it brought us back to downtown, then walked around a bit and picked Kirkpatrick’s Pub and Microbrewery for a burger dinner. When we got back to the boat, it was 9:00, getting dark, and we were treated to the fireworks show from Fort Henry.

Thursday – August 1st – 0 NM – In: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Thursday morning, we spent a couple of hours washing the mud and bugs off the boat that had accumulated over the past two weeks on the water. It was hot and with the dark blue hull, almost as soon as we put the soapy water on, it would dry. Also, the mud that splashed on cleaning off the anchor was like cement. It took a lot of repeated scrubbing and rinsing to get it off. We finished up around 11:00, cleaned up and headed up the dock to town.

Our slip at Confederation Basin Marina, is at the end of one of the long docks, so it’s a 1/4 mile walk from the boat to the gate at the marina, the office, and bathrooms!

Blue marker is our slip, yellow line is the
path along the docks to get to the gate.

We had purchased the three day trolley pass, so we jumped on and rode back out around Fort Henry, and jumped off at the park near the “Pump House”. It was a short walk, from the park to the Pump House past some old victorian homes (and ducks) and the original site of the Molson Brewery in Canada before it was moved to Montreal. The Pump House is the original steam powered water pump that supplied freshwater to the city. It would suck water directly from Lake Ontario, and send it up to the houses. The tour guides said that in the early days you’d occasionally get tadpoles and small fish pop out of the faucet. Also at the pump-house, they have a model railroad display.

After the Pump House, we walked back up to the park passed some more nice houses to where the trolley stop is. We had about a half hour wait so Brenda checked for a Geocache, and there was one nearby in the park. We walked in and found it in a few minutes. A bit of history on the City Park, it’s a large park, not far from the lake shore. When Kingston was the capital of Canada, it was reserved to build the Parliament and other government office buildings by Queen Victoria. Because of concerns about the proximity of the United States and worries that we might invade. It was decided that Ottawa would be the capital and the land was given to the city for a park.

We caught the trolley and rode it up to Bellevue House, John MacDonald’s house which is in the Italian Villa style and a Historic Landmark. The house is currently under major renovation so we were not able to go inside. We were able to go to the visitors center, and walk around the victorian vegetable garden tended by Parks Canada staff in traditional dress and using only victorian era gardening methods.

From there we hopped back on the trolley. The next stop is the Kingston Prison Museum and tour. We had planned on taking the tour, but tickets sell out early in the day, so we bought tickets for Friday afternoon, and rode the trolley back into town through Queens college and the Church district. The next stop is the top of Princess street which is the main shopping street in Kingston. We got off and walked down Princess street, stopping for some lunch and visiting some of the antique shops and a pharmacy with a display of antique equipment and bottles.

We took our time and ended up back at the town hall just across from the marina where they have a farmers market on Thursdays, then back to the boat for a rest.

In the evening, we walked to an old fire station that has been converted into a Tex Mex restaurant and had a nice dinner on the patio overlooking the harbor. We got back to the boat just about sunset, and got some nice photos of the Murney Towers and the Military academy in the setting sun.

We’ve shown some photos of the Murney towers and mentioned them but I don’t recall having explained what they are. They are defensive towers built in the 1800’s. They provided a high spot to watch for the invading Americans, and had small gun slits for small caliber cannon, and guns in the walls. Under the roofs on the top level, they installed large caliber cannons. The roofs protected the cannons from the weather and were designed to be able to be quickly disassembled to expose the guns in case of attack. Up to 50 troops lived in the towers along with their families, quite a crowded place! They were only ever used once to repel an an American fleet that was chasing a British ship across Lake Ontario. Today there are only 4 left, and they are historical landmarks.

Friday – August 2nd – 0 NM – In: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Friday we went to Prison! In the morning we walked over to the marina on the other side of the bridge to see if we could catch-up with our friends on Lee Loo. Even though our AIS system said that they were still there, we found that they had already left. We did get a chance to chat with another Looper couple that had spent the night there before heading up the Rideau. On our way back to town to catch the trolley for our prison tour, we passed an Armourie that is home to “The Princess of Wales Own Regiment” another beautiful stone structure from the Victorian era. There are a large number of structures from the 1800’s in Kingston that are well preserved both government and private some with very unique architectural details like rounded window casings.

We passed St Paul’s Churchyard, where the earliest burial is from 1783 when Kingston was first settled as a military fort. Our walk brought us in a loop back to downtown, and we made a quick stop at Pan Chancho Bakery and picked up some pastries (and Buttertarts) for tomorrow’s breakfast, swung by the boat to drop them off (1/2 mile round trip down and back on the docks), and took photos of yet MORE ducks. We caught the trolley right next to town hall and rode up to the Prison District for our tour.

Kingston is the prison capital of Canada and has had several prisons since it was first settled. In early 2000 they started building new prisons outside of town as the town had encroached around the current complexes, and many of them dated from the early 1800’s. In 2013 they closed the old complex. The former Wardens house was converted into the Canadian Prison Museum. The former women’s prison had the security wall around it removed so that you can see the structure, and has been donated to Queens University who runs and has a campus next to the prison that teaches criminal justice. Currently it is empty, the main prison complex with buildings from the 1800’s through early 2000 has been opened to the public for tours.

To make sure that we were on time for our tour and to give us time to visit the Prison Museum, we arrived about 2 hours early. Our first stop was the Warden’s house and museum which has a collection of prison artifacts, prisoner art, and examples of some early punishment devices including a water torture device. It was interesting but a bit morbid.

After touring the Museum, we still had an hour or so before our tour so we walked down to the Portsmouth Olympic Harbor right next door to the prison where the boating events were held during the 1976 Olympics. We got something to drink at the snack bar, then walked back up to wait for our tour.

The tour started with everyone having to sign a release stating that:
– You would not stray from the tour
– You would wear the colored wrist band and stay with your group
– You might get locked into a cell overnight if you do stray from the group
– You would not drink the water
– You would not be offended by the artwork and graffiti on the walls
– You understood that the guide could not give out names of prisoners
– If you fell and hurt yourself it’s your own damn fault
– You won’t take photos of the tour guides without permission

When the prison was closed in 2013 and they decided to open it for tours, the prison service and the park service went through and secured the tour route with clamps and chains on the doors to keep people from being locked in. Other than that, it’s pretty much as it was when they walked out and closed the doors. All of the signs and notices to prisoners are still on the walls, the graffiti is still there, even some personal belongings left behind in the cells when prisoners were moved. It’s about as authentic as you can get.

The prison had seen several riots over the years and during the most recent in 1971, they burned large portions of the prison. We had a college student who was our tour guide and brought us around giving us the history of the area. When we got to specific points of interest, they had retired guards who worked in the prison give us a presentation on the area.

Our first stop was the visiting gallery, and the conjugal visitor houses, small houses within the prison walls that prisoners could earn the money and privilege to have their families stay with them for a few days.

Next was the main gate, one of the oldest portions of the prison dating from 1833. The doors on the inside and outside have NEVER been open at the same time, even now that the prison is closed. From there we were taken into the “DOME” where all of the 4 cell blocks join together, and where all prisoners came through going from their cells to the exercise yard or to the vocational training workshops. We then went into one of the main cell blocks to see how the prisoners lived. Even with overcrowding, modern Canadian prisoners are housed only one person to a cell and have a bunk, desk, toilet/sink, and if they can afford it, a TV and radio. We were told that when the prison was first opened, men, women and children (as young as 8) were housed in the prison. It was still one cell per person, but the original cells were 4 ft wide x 8 ft deep x 6ft high, most without windows. There has never been a prisoner “Dining Hall” at the prison, all meals are cooked in the prison and prisoners eat their meals while locked in their cells.

From the cell block, we visited the isolation cells where trouble some prisoners or prisioners who were not safe in the general population (former police officers, child molesters, suicide risks) were kept. Here they thought was a good place for me, and I was placed in a cell. Brenda tried to bribe the ex-guard who was giving the tour to close the door, but she wasn’t willing. Phew!

The exercise yard was our next stop, and then into the workshops where prisoners received vocational training or were given work to earn money. Two of the major workshops was a mattress shop and sewing mail bags for Canada Post. The workshops date from the 1850’s and even though the top floors were burned during one of the riots, they are so well built that they are still in excellent repair today.

We then went to a substance abuse rehab center inside the prison which had some beautiful murals painted on the walls. It’s one of the only places in the prison that had not been marked up by graffitti. As we made our way back to the main gate to finish the tour, we passed the location where one of the only escapes from the prison occured when a prisoner scaled a wall and went over the top. Note: the razor wire and electric fence was installed AFTER the escape. Our last stop was the old prison hospital that served all of the area prisons. When the prison was closed in 2013, the last prisoner was so sick, that he could not be moved, so the entire prison was kept operational just for him for several months until he was well enough to be moved.

As we left the prison, our tour guide collected the wrist bands and we were counted out. Only when everyone was accounted for, were we allowed out the door. Given the fairly serious release form and the counting in and out, it sounds like there was an issue early on when they started giving tours, I asked the guide, but she said that it was one of the areas they could not discuss.