July/August 2018: Rideau Canal Boat

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Our plan was to rent a canal boat from le Boat at Smiths Falls, Ontario on the Rideau Canal, travel slowly north, enjoying the towns along the way, to Ottawa where we would spend 3 days, and then retrace our steps back to Smiths Falls. If we had enough time remaining before the boat had to be returned, we would head further west to Perth.

We rented the Canal Boat from le Boat as planned. The rental company is new in Canada with their first base located in Smiths Falls. Turned out the boat was not well suited for the trip with no air conditioning, limited ventilation, few screens and very little shade. While it wasn’t “luxury cruising,” we did enjoy the trip, largely because of the beauty we encountered along the way.

We did, as you will read below, get to Perth, a lovely town just south and west of the home base at Smiths Falls.

Smiths Falls to Ottawa, then all the way to Perth and back to Smiths Falls

July 27, 2018: Flew to Syracuse, NY, then drove to the 1,000 Islands in time for sunset. Stayed overnight at the River’s Edge Hotel where we had dinner and breakfast. The hotel had a terrific view of about 632 islands (Stu counted them!). Many of the islands were preserved as park while others were developed as private estates for the very wealthy.  Boldt Castle was one of those private estates, now maintained by a historical trust. It was the target of our overnight stay between the airport and the boat rental site.

July 28, 2018: Caught the Uncle Tom’s shuttle to Boldt Castle, a beautiful place with 120 rooms, built by Mr. Boldt for his wife, but she died before it was completed. He never stayed there.

Drove to Smiths Falls in the afternoon to presumably get our rented canal boat, but it had not been properly cleaned yet and there was no freezer in the refrigerator. Planning to be on the boat for 2 weeks, we had to bring along frozen food. Le Boat agreed to clean the boat and get us a freezer, so off we went to see a bit of the town and shop at Walmart and Independent to buy all the non-frozen provisions. After we boarded, Stu cooked shrimp with onions, peppers, and marinade, so we had a good feast in spite of the setbacks. Then we finished the cleaning that they had neglected to do on their second attempt.

July 29, 2018: The small but workable freezer arrived, we went shopping for frozen food, and we had our orientation, before setting out on the canal. We locked through the Smiths Falls Combined locks, the Old Slys lock, and the Edmunds lock to the Kilmarnock lock, where we stopped for Stu to make us delicious omelets. We learned from the Kilmarnock lockmaster that the docks at the next lock, Merrickville, were full, so we spent the night at Kilmarnock.

By late afternoon it had gotten very hot inside the boat. We were angered to find that the “air cooling” in the boat was a far cry from air conditioning. It did not cool at all during the day, and the boat had no screens to allow even some open windows to catch whatever breeze there might be. The bugs were wicked, so the windows stayed closed, and we stayed out of the cabin as much as possible. Not our original plan, but we had no choice as we finished our first day of cruising on the Rideau Canal. Still the countryside was beautiful and the people we met at the docks and in the towns were wonderful. A consolation prize for an unusable cabin. It did cool down at night.

July 30, 2018: Left the Kilmarnock lock at 8:30am and stopped at the dock next to the Merrickville lock 90 minutes later.

We spent the day in Merrickville, a quaint town of historic buildings re-purposed for modern uses. Stepping off the dock brought us to the Blockhouse, built in 1832 with 3½-foot stone walls to protect the town from a U.S. invasion! The U.S. was fighting for the northeast portion of Canada. In 1856, the U.S. was no longer a threat, so the British turned the Blockhouse over to the Canadian government.

We had a great lunch at the Yellow Canoe and then we walked around the lovely town. We stayed overnight docked in Merrickville.

July 31, 2018: Headed to Clowes lock early to get in line, then locked through Clowes, Upper and Lower Nicholson’s, and 5 more miles to Burritt’s Rapids for the afternoon and overnight. Lunch was turkey wraps aboard the boat, and then we took the Tip to Tip Trail to see the beautiful historic homes on the island. The island was created when the lock was constructed, separate from the dam, so boats could navigate along the canal. Dinner was at the Lock 17 restaurant, enjoyed so much that we promised to come back on our return trip.

August 1, 2018: Left Burritt’s Rapids early for the “Long Reach” to Long Island lock (25 miles, 4 hours by Le Boat). We had planned to go on to the Black Rapids lock, where there was electric power, but it was full (according to the lock tenders), so we stayed at Long Island. However, there were so many smokers at the dock that we ended up anchoring out, which was fine. Beautiful spot to anchor. Dinner onboard, wonderful Cornish hen by Stu.

Aug. 2, 2018: Awoke with the sun at 5:45am. Waited until 8am to leave for the Black Rapids lock, which didn’t open until 9, and we locked right through. We were running out of water on the boat, but using all dock facilities (through Hogs Back and Hartwells locks) until we got to Dow’s Lake Marina for refill and overnight dock. Did laundry there, and Stu took a long bike ride on the bike path that goes all the way into the center of Ottawa. Very bike-friendly. Dinner at the Pub Italia/Abbey, a restaurant that is decorated like a religious convent.

The Rideau Canoe Club for lessons and competitions – on the west side of Ottawa – a non-profit organization founded in 1902 – home of the 2018 Canadian Champions.

Aug. 3, 2018: Left Dow Lake early to get under the Pretoria Bridge when it opened at 9, so we could be at the Ottawa docks early enough to get a spot. Had omelets while we waited for the bridge, tied up at a rail before the bridge. Got to Ottawa locks early enough to get one of the best spots for walking to downtown Ottawa. Walked around the beautiful Parliament buildings, but couldn’t go inside. Must show up before 8am to have a chance at getting tickets to go inside that day. Will try tomorrow morning.

At 5pm we met Colette at the Westin Hotel (months before had signed up for private tour with her) for sunset photo tour of Ottawa. Really good 3-hour tour. Most unusual part of tour was to see the rock art in the shallow water along the Ottawa River, sponsored by the National Capital Commission, a Canadian federal agency. John Deprano, the balanced rock sculptor who created the art, was at the site when we arrived – a special treat to talk with him about his life and art. Website: www.jfceprano.com

Sunset at the Ottawa River

Aug. 4, 2018: At 10am we were on the first bus of the day for the Hop On Hop Off Grayline tour of Ottawa – 90 minutes around, then went around a second time, getting off at the Canadian War Museum and National Holocaust Monument, the Canadian Museum of History at lunchtime, and then the National Gallery of Canada, a remarkable glass structure designed by architect Moshe Safdie, with a 30-foot tall bronze spider sculpture out front.

In the evening we walked to a park behind the Laurier Hotel to watch fireworks over the Ottawa River, and then headed for the By Market to have a late dinner at the Aulde Dubliner and Pour House – flat breads for each of us – delicious.

Aug. 5, 2018: Stu got in line before 8am to get tickets for the Parliament tour (available only on the same day – and with waiting in long line) but, in spite of his early arrival, the line was down the street and the tickets were gone by the time he got to the head of the line. Meanwhile, I was across the street at the “changing of the guard” in front of the Parliament building.

 

When I heard that Stu hadn’t gotten tickets and had gone back to the boat, I went over to the ticket place to see what I could do. I was chatting with a guard, bemoaning our fate of not getting tickets and having to leave town the next day, and the guard said I could get tickets for the Peace Tower, the tall tower in the center of the Parliament complex. With tickets in hand, I met Stu at the Parliament building and we ascended the elevator to the top of the tower.

I asked every employee in sight how we could see the rest of the building. I was directed to a kind lady at the main desk who took pity on me and walked us to the incredible Library of Parliament where the tour was underway.

She stayed with us for a few minutes, and then whispered to me that we should just stay with the tour, which still hadn’t covered the Senate side of Parliament. So we lucked out, and got to see the second half of the tour.

We had a quick late lunch at Freshii . Then we went back to the Westin to meet Garry Black, the photographer who would give us our second private tour of Ottawa from 3 to 6pm, walking around the downtown area for “minimalist” photography.

Walked to the By Market for dinner at The Grand, past the Flight of 8 (the 8 locks that end the Rideau Canal at the Ottawa River), then to the lawn in front of the Parliament for the (daily) 9:30pm Light & Sound Show projected on the building.

Aug. 6, 2018: Left Ottawa – sad to leave this beautiful and amazing city – stopped at Praetoria Bridge and walked to Loblaw’s to get groceries. We decided to move along quickly enough to get to Perth, on the other side of Smiths Falls. We locked through the Hartwells, Hogs Back, Black Rapids, and Long Island locks, stopping overnight when we reached the Pirate Cove Marina in the rain. Stu cooked salmon and corn for dinner, bought in the morning at Loblaw’s.

Aug. 7, 2018: Left the marina early, still moving steadily along to get to Perth. Locked through Burritts Rapids, Lower and Upper Nicholsons, Merrickville’s 3 locks with a 90-minute wait to get through, Kilmarnock, and Edmunds locks. We did not get to Old Slys lock before it was shut down for the day, so we docked at the base of the lock for the night.

Aug. 8, 2018: After a relatively quiet but unnerving night at the bottom of the Old Slys lock, we locked through, and continued on through the Smiths Falls combined lock and the Smiths Falls detached lock to the Poonamalie lock, the Lower and Upper Beveridges lock to the Tay Canal and on to the Last Duel Park, our campsite in Perth. We walked into town to take a look at this beautiful town and have dinner at Michael’s, then headed back to the RV camp.

This is a good place to talk about overnight at a lock. There are three choices:

1. Each lock has a number of free tie points marked with a Gray Line. Most are equipped with inexpensive electricity. These are our first choice since the boaters in the area give us a feeling of safety, the area is typically clean and neat, and the tie points are easy.

2. When the Gray Line is full, the lock master permits tie up near the lock, called the Blue Line. These tie points are normally reserved for boats queuing for the lock and are made available for overnight guests only when the locks close for the night. They have no electricity.

3. The third choice is to dock at unmarked and unimproved tie points for “overflow.” Once these fill, overnight boaters must anchor in an area designated for their use. Unfortunately, our boat was not well equipped to anchor so we occasionally had to stay on tie points in less than safe-feeling areas or areas where other boaters were smoking.

Aug. 9, 2018: Got tickets for the 11am “walking” play in Perth, Ontario, starting at the Matheson House Museum. The action takes place all around the town. The audience walks behind the stage manager from one location to the next, and the actors are always there to pick up where they left off. We enjoyed it so much, we promptly bought tickets for the 7pm performance of their second show. Lots of fun and really good plays. Lunch after the first play at Peter’s. Late dinner back at the boat where Stu grilled pork loin by flashlight on the fly bridge of the boat, where the grill resided.

Aug. 10, 2018: Goodbye to lovely Perth, heading back to Smiths Falls (our starting point) by locking through the Upper and Lower Beveridges locks and the Poonamalie lock. We had dinner at the Roosteraunt and prepared to turn in the boat by 9 the next morning.

August 11, 2018: We had left our rental car in Le Boat’s parking lot during our boating journey, and retrieved it for the drive back to the Syracuse airport. We had an uneventful flight home, the end of a very eventful 2 weeks.