Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ottawa to Portland--the Rideau Canal

We left Ottawa fairly early Sunday morning in preparation for a another full day of locking. We also needed to get to Dow's Marina to get fuel and water--diesel fuel being so scarce where we are. After almost an hour of fueling because of the small hoses they use, we put 186 gallons into "Bella Luna" at $6.05 a gallon--including taxes. Not as bad as we had expected here in Canada, but still stiff enough for the bank to call and make sure it really was us charging that much! Louis has been happy with how little fuel our generator burns--as we have had to use it now on many occasions when we do not have a power source at night. Thanks Ed and Steve at Coral Bay Marina for your insight on this!

The Rideau Canal is long, winding, mostly shallow, beautiful, and in some parts very narrow. It also has 45 locks from Ottawa to Kingston. The "season" for locking is May through October. In the winter time when the water freezes, a part of the Rideau--almost 6 miles between two locks--becomes the longest ice skating rink in the world! Fire trucks daily spread a new layer of water on top, zambonies groom along the ice 5 across, hot dogs, fried dough, and hot chocolate stands line each side of the walls and literally thousands of people ice skate the Rideau daily! The water level has been lowered early on to a depth of only 4 feet, and about 3 feet usually freezes--so if you happen to break through (which doesn't happen)--all you'll be is wet--and cold! The season for ice skating lasts from 4 to 10 weeks--depending on the amount of snow they get. Last year they had to close the canal after only 4 weeks because they had too much snow in the canal and had no way to remove it! Sadness!!! But wouldn't it be fun to see it this way too--a frozen, white, hard, glistening Rideau--I just can't imagine it any other way other than what we see right now--green and full of life. And in addition, Dow's Marina does a huge business in the cold months--renting ice skates and supplies and keeping their three restaurants hopping with "winter business". Good for them, they're nice people.

We go through 8 more locks finding ourselves at the bottom of lock #17, tired, dirty, ready to quit locking, and anxious for a few cocktails and bed. There are 6 boats tied up here where we are, all expecting to lock up sometime tomorrow--we have a great time meeting these mostly "locals". After a short time of socializing, we shower, have a small dinner on the boat, and call it a day--going to bed before 9pm--it's still light outside!! But it's quiet on our dock. What a day it has been for us all.

Monday, "Bella Luna" and "Prime Time" are the only ones waiting on the blue line when the first locking begins at 8:30am. We're ready for the day--and a long day it will be as we plan to go through/up 12 more locks and get to Smiths Falls for the afternoon and night. At every lock, all the Canadian Parks people are so friendly, helpful, and curious about our trip. And they love Buddy! At one lock today, as we were waiting for another 3 boats to come down, Buddy got off the boat for about a half hour--off leash--and did nothing but swim--color him a super happy Looper dog!!

We get to Smiths Falls, tie up at a beautiful park wall, and head into town for a wonderful dinner at an Irish pub--overlooking the 4 huge, raging waterfalls. What a beautiful setting--and what a welcome relief for us all to just kick back --we've now gone through 28 locks in 3 days! I'm now going to "officially" quit counting the locks daily--it makes me even more tired to remember them all--trusting just to say here that by the time we've completed this journey of ours, we will have gone through somewhere around 165 locks. We'll be old pros and full of muscle for sure by the time we get home!! Wow--what an experience.

I have noticed something that I think is really worth mentioning here now though--and I don't want to forget it. Every little town we've been to and through most recently up this way has lots of Irish pubs in them--several in each small town. And I've noticed so many, many women, men, and children with fair skin and bright red hair--all along the canal locks and in the towns. I hadn't connected the two thoughts until just yesterday---this area of Canada has lots of Irish people--it's so very delightful and unexpected!!

We're now in Portland, and it's Wednesday, July 9th. We've been here since yesterday--deciding this morning to rest here for one more day and night. This marina, Len's Cove, is one of the "best finds" we've been to yet. In addition to being so quaint, it has a semi-circle of 15 small dark brown cottages--which have been here for about 75 years, and which are rented weekly by the same families who have been coming here for years. They have now their third generation of families coming here to enjoy the serenity and beauty of this place--reminds me of our connection to camps Seagull and Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina--we're the third generation of campers there now too! Len's Cove has a full service marina too--that's always comforting for boaters. Also, at the small local grocery store just two blocks up here in Portland, the white canvas sign over the front door says, "Fireworks, Worms, & Ice"--I thought that was a scream and guess it says it all! We went into the store, bought ginger snaps and fresh corn, and were happy with what they had to offer--still no diet tonic though. But back at the marina here, they have the best "swap library" I've seen to date--two sides of this un-airconditioned long "lounge/library" room I'm sitting in now are lined with three shelves of books on each side--just wonderful--packed with hundreds of books, and so much variety--I'm thrilled! I've "swapped out" for several really good ones to take with me for the next few weeks. They also have two fabulous restaurants just a two minute walk away--we celebrated Gary's birthday last night at one (with two other tables!)--Happy Birthday Gary!!!--and Louis and I had a great lunch at "Fast Freddie's" today. Dinner will be simple and on the boat tonight. We hope to get on Skype and talk/eyeball with our children tonight--we haven't seen each other in weeks!! Can't wait to see Clay's black eye!

I've been blogging for over 4 hours now, and it's time to stop. I've done the last two postings today, and one last night--catching up on the last 9 days. But my time on the Internet is unpredictable--and I have to do it whenever it's possible/available. We really hate to leave this area--this is such a beautiful part of the Rideau--wide and full of small islands with houses on most of them--and lots of loons. But we need to keep moving so we can enjoy every place along the way as much as possible--especially the Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Everyone who has done this Loop before us says those are the prettiest parts of the whole trip--we'll see and keep you posted. For us, after the 4th of July the days always seem to fly, and with the days of summer going so quickly for us now and with what we want to see and accomplish, it'll be hard for us to stay on a schedule of reaching Chicago by Labor Day! How truly fast "time flies"--even our children tell us so. How much I wish I could just throw out an anchor and hold tight to our days right now.

We'll be in Kingston for a long weekend--locking through the rest of the Rideau tomorrow and Friday--I think we have something like 17 more locks to go. Did I just say/blog that I wasn't counting locks anymore?? Yep---CRS! More later...........

P.S. We woke up yesterday to find that Louis's cell phone "sound" doesn't work on his phone. He immediately called our precious friend, Kate (we love you!), at Verizon in Briarcreek, only to find out that it is a "sometimes common" problem on his type of cell phone--wish we had known that earlier! Anyway, my cell: 919-280-7064 is now the one we can receive calls on & is up and running after having been in the dresser drawer--turned off--here on the boat since entering Canada (not on the "Canada" Verizon plan--but now is--thank you Kate!). We hope that once we get to Kingston, we can get Louis's phone fixed--we'll see! He can still get his messages on his cell via my phone, but just can't talk on his. Stay tuned!


Geni Slaughter said...

Hey! It sure does sound like fun! We had a great time video chatting last night, and I hope we can do it more often. Although we talk on the phone, it's great just being able to "see" you again. Boo's hair is really getting long! He needs to get Pops to see him.
Clay says, "Hey Boo & Dee, I hope you're having a lot of fun with your friends." His black eye is better today, but we still have not found the marble :(
I hope that you will have internet this weekend so you can video chat again and see Catherine and the girls when they are down here.
Love you bunches!
Geni, Thomas & Clay (we pick up HT from camp tomorrow!)

Jay Stockard said...

Hey guys! Glad to keep up with the "Legend of the Locks!" We had a great evening with Geni and Clay earlier in the week and plan to get together with both clans Friday at your house! We WILL clean up, I promise. Take care, ane know we love and miss you!


Nancy & Jimmy said...

Hi from Hyco Lake!!!!!! We went to dinner tonight at the NEW Bistro at the lake.....Warm Waters is the name and it was delicious.Definitly not NYC, but very retro for Roxboro and the Lake...Hopefully they will be open still when you get home.....Love all the blogs and news.....Nancy & Jimmy