Finishing the Trent-Severn and Starting Georgina Bay

138 Days Looping
2,073.7 Nautical Miles Total (2,386.4 Statute Miles)
89.6 Nautical Miles This Week
14.4 Hours Underway This Week
7.4 NMph Average Speed
4 Locks This Week, 129 Total Locks

Monday – Aug 26th – 0 NM – In: Orillia, Ontario, Canada
We had scheduled an extra day in Orillia to pick up our mail which contained our prescriptions for the next 3 months. We had gotten a call earlier in the week that the package had arrived at a UPS store, so in the morning, I rode my bike 2 miles to the UPS store, picked-up the package and rode back to the marina. Brenda checked and everything made it through customs just fine.

After having a late breakfast on the boat, we walked to town and just wandered up the hill on their main street visiting all of the various shops. They had some very interesting places including a large Bakery & General Store called The Mariposa Market. In Orillia’s downtown they have bicycle sculptures created by local artists and sponsored by local businesses. They are similar to the Bears, Mermaids, Swans, Moose, etc that we’ve seen elsewhere but each is a totally unique creation.

We stopped at the Orillia History museum which is housed in the old Police Station. This is the first museum that we didn’t care for. Aside from the old safes (which were neat), and a display from Orillia’s most famous citizen who won the world long distance rowing competition in the 1930’s, most of the art was modern Japanese Manga style, not our cup of tea.

We stopped at a local Pub for lunch, then went back to the Bakery, stocked up on baked goods for the next few days, then went back to the boat. I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the blog and a website that I’m doing for a friend. In the evening we had leftovers, and hit the sack early as we planned an early departure. While we were eating dinner, a bagpipe band started playing in the park next to the marina, so we got a nice concert!

The marina is enclosed by a large breakwater that is actually two small islands. On them they have lights to allow boaters after dark to avoid hitting them. They also have a large illuminated Canadian flag.

I’ve been waiting for the right time to talk about Canadians and their maple leaf flag. In the US you hear alot about people loving the American Flag, many people fly the flag in front of their homes and there is a great deal of respect for the Stars and Stripes. Traveling in Canada, I’ve seen more Canadian flags flying in front of homes, on boats, decorating porches and businesses than I’ve ever seen in the US with the American flag. Canadians love and respect their flag. Every lock, every government building, many homes, all of the boats and marinas have at least one, and many times multiple flags flying. On the typical US boat, the American Flag is 12 x 18 inches. The Canadians have at least a 2 ft x 3ft flag, and many time larger! The Canadian flag is displayed everywhere! I don’t thinks it’s a “patriotic” thing with their flag like it is in the US, it’s just a great looking flag that was adopted by popular vote in 1965 after a competition, and Canadians just love their very beautiful flag and display it as often as they can.

The Canadian Flag

Tuesday – Aug 27th – 0 NM – In: Orillia, Ontario, Canada
When we checked the weather forecast on Monday night, there was an 80% chance of rain on Tuesday. Overnight we got some pretty heavy rain, and by 8:00, it was windy, pouring rain, and foggy to the point that you couldn’t see across the lake to the opposite shore. Since we had 7 locks to do, one of which was the Big Chute Marine Railroad one of the most anticipated locks of the trip, we decided to just stay in Orillia for the day, and continue on Wednesday which was predicted to be sunny and clear.

Except for a quick trip to the marina office to pay for our extra day and the grocery store for some water and a few extra supplies, we spent the entire day on the boat. I worked on the blog (last weeks was a big one!), and Brenda watched cat videos on YouTube, and napped.

In the evening Brenda cooked a beef and vegetable stew in the InstaPot which was excellent! We had a bit of a sunset as the rain had moved out. All in all a quiet day. We ended up taking a few photos of the rain, just to have something to post.

Wednesday – Aug 28th – 40.7 NM – 3 Locks – To: Port Severn, Ontario, Canada
As promised Wednesday dawned bright and clear with a beautiful sunrise. We got the boat ready and were on the water by 8:30. The first part of the trip was crossing of Lake Couchiching, which aside from dodging a few islands was just open water. We passed Ship Island, which the Anhinga had taken over and it was the first view of nests in the trees that we’d seen. We assumed that these were ground nesting birds, but the trees were filled with nests to the point that they were weighing down the branches.

We then entered another narrow dug canal. The canal is 6 miles long and connects Lake Couchiching to Sparrow Lake. The speed limit on the entire canal is 5.5 Knots. About a mile in, we came to a railroad swing bridge. As luck would have it, just as the bridge came into view, we saw two locomotives go across. The bridge only has 14 feet of clearance, so we had to wait 15 minutes for the train to pass. When the last car rolled over the bridge, we got ready to go. However the bridge operators had different ideas. One of the climbed down a ladder and went to work greasing up the works under the bridge. It took them another 15 minutes to finish up their maintenance work. While we were waiting another trawler heading in the opposite direction arrived and we both just sat on opposite sides of the bridge waiting. We saw the worker climb back up and heard the motors for the bridge start up, and a few minutes later, the bridge started to swing open. There wasn’t room for both of us to pass between the bridge pilings, so we got to go first. Only 1/2 mile downstream, we arrived at our first lock of the day, Couchiching (Lock #42). This was a pretty quick lock, and we were through with 3 other boats headed toward Sparrow Lake.

The rest of the canal was more like a river, about 50 to 75 feet wide, and very built-up with some very unique cottages. We passed the Hamlet Swing Bridge which was being re-built so we didn’t have to wait for it to open, and then into Sparrow Lake. Sparrow lake was pretty wide open and we were able to make good time across it. After Sparrow Lake the route went back into a series of small lakes connected by narrow channels. Some of these were spectacular, one in particular, McDonalds Cut was blasted out of solid granite. The walls were 30 ft high. Very impressive! Another interesting feature of the area is that we’d go from 10 ft of depth, to over 100 ft and back again in just a few hundred yards. The glaciers had certainly done a job on this area!

We reached the Swift Rapids Lock (Lock #43) our second of the day. Swift Rapids is the biggest standard lock drop on the Trent-Severn at a 47 foot drop. There was a boat coming up in the lock when we arrived, so we tied up to the blue line wall and walked down to take a look at the lock. It was a HUGE drop. We found out that it was originally going to be a 3 step lock, but they built a railway lift (see the next lock for an explanation) instead when the canal first opened, then in 1964 it was replaced with this massive single lock. We were surprised at how fast this lock was, it filled faster than some of the 8 foot locks we’d been through. We had to hustle back to the boat, and they were calling us forward just as we got the engines re-started! We pulled in with a few other boats and a couple of jet-skis, the doors closed and it was almost like being on an elevator. We were down 47 feet in less than 10 minutes.

From lock 43 to the Big Chute Marine Railway (Lock #44), was 8 miles and was again a series of interlinked small lakes and channels. As we got close, we noticed on our AIS system that the Kawartha Voyageur was at the Lock. They don’t put the boat through, but tie up to the visitor dock so that they passengers can watch the boats go through and it’s their turn-around point for the trip. We wanted to watch boats go through before we went, so we pulled up next to the Voyager and walked up to the railroad and visitor center.

The Big Chute is yet another amazing mechanical device. It’s a custom built railroad car that runs on special tracks and is moved by huge cables. The train car starts in the water at one end with the platform submerged. Boats float onto the platform. Depending on the size of the boat, the operators raise straps to stabilize the boat while it’s being moved. After the boats are loaded, the entire carriage rises up and the boats sit on the floor of the rail car as it is pulled up out of the water, across a road, and then down the other side and back into the water.

The front wheels of the rail car ride on the inside set of tracks, and the rear on the outside set of tracks. These tracks are at different heights so that it keeps boats level during the entire trip of 750 feet, with a change in height of 60 feet. One of the interesting features of the rail car, is that one of the cables goes up and over a large wheel on the rail car. This wheel spins a generator on the rail car that produces the power used to adjust the straps and control the carriage.

The cables that operate the railcar feed into a motor house and are powered by 4 large electric motors. It looks very similar to a ski lift!

We watched another boat about our size and a few smaller boats go through. Then watched them bring a few boats back up to the top. We chatted with one of the lock operators and he explained the drill and what information the lock operator would ask for when we pulled up.

We went back to the boat, and moved into position on the waiting line. We had just tied off, when we heard them call us up on the PA system. First into the lock was a young lady on a kayak towing a small inflatable boat “trailer”. For her it was easy paddle up to the front of the railcar platform, stop, and wait for the water to rise as it moved forward and out of the water. For us, as we approached the lock operator asked us our length and width, “42′ and 14′”, if we had a full keel, “Yes”, if our props hung down, “Yes”. Great we’ll hang you off the back of the car (so that our propellers were hanging down behind the edge and wouldn’t hit the floor). He told us to pull up slowly in the middle of the car, and as we did they raised the straps to catch the bow. Then, once we stabilized, they raised a strap in the middle of the boat. The straps don’t hold you up like on a lift, they are just there to keep you from tipping over. The weight of the boat rests on the floor of the railcar on your keel.

Once the second strap was on, he told me to shut off the engines, then asked if I wanted time to close the sea-cocks (valves that control the water going into the engines). On our boat, the pumps are self priming, so we don’t need to do that. I said, no, and he pushed the button and we started to move. Total load time was less than 3 minutes! Up we went, out of the water, there was a brief stop just as soon as we were out of the water so that they could check that the boat was properly supported, then up we went. There was another stop for a few seconds while the crossing gates closed, and then we went across the road, and pulled up even with the winch building. On the winch building, there is a third floor porch, that the staff use to get on and off the rail car. Again a short stop, to transfer some staff, and then off we went down the big hill to the other side. The boat kept very level as we went down. The rail car sped up quite a bit as we went down the hill. As we got to the other end, they slowed way down and we were gently floated back up as the rail car submerged. The kayaker was first out, and when we were fully floating, we were given the okay to start engines and pull off of the rail car. The entire trip, took about 12 minutes, but it seemed much quicker!

We’ve included a few videos of the boats we watched, and from cameras on board as we went through below.

From the Great Chute to Starport Marina, just before the last lock on the Trent-Severn was 8 miles ahead. As we cruised along a fairly wide channel, with the occasional narrow cut, the wind started to come up, and the clouds moved in. We pulled into the marina about 4:00, pumped out and topped off the fuel tanks, then moved to our slip for the night along a covered dock. Once we’d settled in, we walked about a 1/2 mile to a local restaurant (one of two in walking distance) and had dinner. After dinner we walked over to the ice cream boat, got dessert, then walked back to the marina. We just made it back as it started raining.

Thursday – Aug 29th – 10.9 NM – 1 Lock – To: Midland, Ontario, Canada
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Overnight we got some very heavy rain and strong winds (20-25 mph). In the morning, it was still overcast with 10-15 mph winds, but the rain had stopped. We checked the weather forecast, and it was not good for the afternoon, and Friday was predicted have very high winds (25 mph and higher) and waves (6-7 ft) on Georgian Bay. The winds weren’t bad so we decided to make a quick dash across the lower part of the bay to Midland, Ontario, where there was a huge marina, and a town with a Super Walmart, restaurants, and taxi service. We called the marina there that offers discounts to Loopers and booked in for two days with an option on a third.

We left Starport at 9:30, and were at the Port Severn Lock (Lock #45) about 3 minutes later. We had a short wait for an up-bound boat, but were in and dropping the last 12 ft and out of the Trent-Severn waterway. After exiting the lock we went under the Trans-Canadian highway, and out into the bay. The run was just a 10 mile run on mostly open water. There were some waves but we were headed directly into the wind for most of the trip so it was relatively comfortable. We got to Bay Port Yachting Center in Midland, Ontario, and backed into our assigned slip around 11:00.

We walked to the marina office, about 1/2 a mile hike the marina is so large, and checked in. Ken, the marina manager introduced himself, and offered to review our charts with us and point out best routes, good anchorages and marinas for the next section of our trip. During the main season, it’s a service he provides to Loopers who visit there. We went back to the boat for the afternoon, then had an early dinner on the boat and walked back to the office to meet with Ken at 7:00 and got an hour long briefing where he marked up our charts, and gave us a wealth of information. We had guide books, but they cover ALL of the marinas, anchorages, and routes. Having someone who has cruised the area and gets feedback from 100’s of boaters every year was great! We had been questioning where to go on this leg, and Ken talked us through a route. With our brains almost bursting with information, we walked back to the boat for the night.

Friday – Aug 30th – 0 NM To/In: City, ST
Friday was very windy as predicted and we stayed in port at Bay Port in Midland. We spent the morning planning our next weeks travels, and getting the routes into the chartplotter. There was nothing within walking distance of the marina, so we got a ride from the marina courtesy car up to the local Walmart Superstore. We didn’t need much but it was something to do to keep busy during the day. We had lunch at a Boston Pizza (an Ontario Sports Bar chain) and did our shopping at a Walmart. The Walmart was much farther out from the marina than we expected, it took us around 15 minutes to get there. Rather than have the marina pick us up and have a half hour round trip, we decided to just grab one of the numerous cabs which are all flat rate in town ($9.00) back to the Marina.

In the evening, we took advantage of the flat rate cabs and went to a local pub for dinner, then we walked down to the waterfront taking photos of the many wall murals in town. While at the park on the waterfront, we did a geocache which took us a while to find. It was a container about 1/4 in round (that looks like the end of a bolt) on a WW2 Howitzer type cannon. We gave up a couple of times, but as we were walking away, decided to give it one more go (very typical for Geocaching), and in the end, as is usual, it was in the last place we looked.😉

After finding the Geocache, we took another cab back to the back to the boat.

Saturday – Aug 31st – 16.2 NM – 0 Locks – To: Longuissa Bay, Ontario, Canada
Saturday we left Midland and cruised about 16 miles to an anchorage that had been recommended by Ken. The area we were in had three popular anchorage locations, and was only a few miles off of the main channel. Our original plan was to go to Brown Bay which was closest to channel, when we got there a few other boats were already anchored, but it was pretty open and we didn’t want a rough night. Because it was early, we decided to check out the other two locations. The second one on the list was only about 1/2 mile away on the opposite bank, this one was called Hockey Stick Bay and when we turned the corner of the “hockey stick” there were so many boats already anchored that we had to turn around as we couldn’t even get in. Being Labor Day weekend, we thought that it might be busy, but not THAT busy. We cruised another 2 miles up into the inlet, and reached Longuissa Bay. Here there were about 15 boats anchored, but there was still quite a bit of room, so we picked a spot and anchored. It took us two tries to get the anchor to catch and then we settled in for the day.

Over the next two hours, 6 other boats came in. The wind had picked up a bit, and we’d been watching our position and noticed that our anchor was dragging and we were about 20 ft closer to shore than when we had started. So, we pulled up the anchor and reset it. This time, we were happier with the hold as we could feel it really catch as we backed down on it. Also, on our first attempt, we were fairly close to a sailboat, and now we had a good 75 ft between us and the next closest boat. At this anchorage, we had no cell signal and no internet. We did have satellite TV, so we just chilled out. I did a bit of reading, an actual paper book with words written in ink! And Brenda listened to the radio and did some puzzle books.

Throughout the day, more boats arrived including another Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 just like ours! The owners of that boat paddled over in their kayaks and introduced themselves. They lived locally, and just cruise during the summer. They were here for the weekend.

By evening, we had over 30 boats anchored in the little bay. It was quite crowded. If you want to get away from it all, this is NOT the place! We cooked dinner on the boat, and turned in early as we had a longer run planned for Sunday.

Sunday – Sep 1st – 24.8 NM – 0 Locks – To: Frying Pan Island, Sans Souci, Ontario, Canada
On Sunday morning, the mist was rising over the bay. During the night, the wind had shifted and the boat had done a 180 degree turn. It’s always a bit odd waking up and looking out of the boat and trying to figure out which way you are facing. The anchor hadn’t slipped at all during the night so we were happy with our 3rd night at anchor.

We pulled up the anchor at 7:30 and headed north west toward our next destination Henry’s Fish Restaurant. The route to Henry’s was through the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay. You may remember that the definition of an island is “has a portion that is above water all the time and has at least one tree”, well we can see that that count must be accurate, if not a bit low. Also, there are an equal or larger number of “rocks” that are just above the water, or below the water (the water here is still 4 feet above normal) and have no tree, so it’s just a rock. Any island with more than 100 square feet of space seems to have some sort of cottage or camp on them. Some of these “cottages” are multi-million dollar mini-mansions. Just amazing!

We were able to run a bit faster in the open bays and larger channels, and in others we had to crawl along to make it through the narrow channels around the rocks. You really have to read the markers and trust that they are in the correct place!

We arrived at Henry’s Fish Camp just before noon. Henry’s is a famous fish restaurant. It’s on an island with no roads. The only way in is by boat or seaplane. It’s a registered seaplane airport and in the season, has 12 commercial flights a day, plus many private planes fly in. They have a number of docks to accommodate the up to 600 customers a day that visit, and for a small fee, you can stay overnight at one of their docks, they even give you a 10% discount in the restaurant when you do! Today is the last day of the season for the restaurant, so we got here just in time!

When we arrived there was still plenty of space at the docks. We were given a slip where we brought the bow of the boat up to within 10 ft of the rocky shore. Even here, we were still in over 20 feet of water the sides of the island are so steep. By 1:00 the docks were pretty much full with boats including two ferries from nearby larger islands with 20-30 people on board, and 3 seaplanes. The restaurant had a long waiting line and were quoting up to 2 hours wait to get in. We’d been told to watch for the docks to empty a bit and then put our name on the list. At 4:00 we walked up and only had about a 15 minute wait. We walked around a bit (not much place to walk) and watched a couple of seaplanes take off.

When our turn came, we were seated and had an excellent fish dinner. I had the White Fish fish and chips (the choices were pickerel, white fish, trout, and perch). Brenda did the Shrimp Bowl, both were excellent and the portions were huge!

After dinner, we decided to walk off the heavy fried foods, so looked on-line and found a geocache on the island, about 1 mile away at a tennis club. You may recall that I said that there were no roads on the island. There is a trail (and I mean a rustic, rock strewn, pushing aside bushes and shrubs kind of trail), that connects Henry’s with the Tennis Camp. We followed the trail, and arrived at the camp.

During the day, we’d seen boat coming and going at the camp, which has 8 very nice tennis courts and a couple of lodges and club buildings. When we arrived, it was totally deserted. We found the cache easily, then walked around the waterfront taking a few photos of some monuments.

It had started getting dark, so we walked back through the woods to the boat. A few more boats came in close to closing time (8:30 pm is Henry’s last seating), and after it got dark, we turned in as we had a 60 mile day planned for Monday.

NEXT WEEK: Things that go THUMP, BANG, BUMP. We find Niger Rock!!!!!