First of All –
- First time locking down on the Trent Severn Waterway
- First time cruising in the Lake Huron drainage
- First time exceeding 6,000 miles on a cruise
- First time losing a boat hook overboard
- Kirkfield Lift Lock
- Canal Lake
- Lake Simcoe
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: NA
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,041
- Hours Underway: 9
- Fuel: 19 gallons; $42; 6 mpg
- Morning House Battery Reading: 12,65
- Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NE
- Daily High Temperature: 80
- Water Temperature: 76
The theme for today begins with the letter “M”. Two significant “M”ilestones are reached in the course of the day. Just 2 miles after leaving Rosedale we log the 6,000th mile of our cruise. And in doing so, we’re cruising across the top of the Trent Severn. Once we reach the dramatic Kirkfield Lift Lock we descend for the first time on the Trent. Once the lock gates open, we’re in the Lake Huron drainage, with a steady descent ahead of us, to the water level of Lakes Huron and Michigan. The ride down is even more spectacular than the ride up in the Peterborough Lift Lock. Although some 20 feet less in height, the effect is far more dramatic. When we get the green light, we enter the chamber and proceed to the very front. Like kids at a scary movie, we want to sit in the front row. Our boat is perched just behind the gate, and we’re looking down some 49 feet, with nothing separating us from the big airy void but a metal gate, rather like a pickup truck’s tailgate. We look over the bow and the view is impressive. We put our trust in those marvelous engineers who designed this thing almost 100 years ago, and also in the fact that it’s been performing flawlessly for countless cycles since it first went into service. As with the Peterborough lock, the ride is amazingly swift, and in next to no time we’ve smoothly ridden down to the lower water level. The gate opens when it’s supposed to, at the bottom and not at the top, and we glide out, waving our thanks to the lock operator high above us.
The route leading to and from the lift lock is significantly different from the waters we’ve cruised thus far on the Trent. For the most part we’re in a very narrow canal which has been blasted out of solid limestone rock. The canal builders made it no deeper than necessary, and I regularly get readings of 5.5 to 6.5 feet in depth from my depth sounder. The channel is so narrow that I’m grateful for not encountering any southbound boats during our passage. After clearing the lift lock, we reach and descend 4 more conventional locks, in rather close succession. These are modest in drop, but not without their challenges, as my “M”ishap attests. At the third lock our entry is complicated with a rather strong tailwind. I enter at idle speed, and once inside the chamber I take the engine out of gear and coast toward the wall. Sandy hands the bow line to the lock attendant while I shift into reverse to kill our forward momentum, which is being provided by the tailwind. I reach over to the lock wall with the boathook and snag one of the mooring cables, as I’ve done dozens of times before. However, this time the wind is just a bit stronger, and reverse hasn’t done quite enough. I firmly grip the boat hook to arrest our glide, and that’s when the plastic handle on the end of the boat hook gives way. I’m stuck holding a little red plastic handle as the boat hook pops free and drops into the water. Without the plastic handle, it quickly fills with water and sinks to the bottom of the lock. No way will I be able to recover it, however, I just happen to have a spare boat hook, stowed below, and available for just this kind of situation. I’m glad I have the spare, but rather sorry that I need it in the first place.
In the category of “M”essages, the issue is considerably more serious. While on the approach to Lake Simcoe I read and respond to a series of text messages regarding my 91 year old dad. About a month ago I received word that he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer. My two sisters recently traveled to be with the folks, and I’m getting word that dad is having a rough time. My heart is with my family, but I’m a long ways away, and won’t be able to help until we can get home. I’m currently running about a week ahead of my projected timetable, however, from here on in I’m going to be pushing the pace, so that we can get back home as soon as prudence and safety will permit. I project we still have 650 miles to go, plus a 2000 mile drive back to our home in Washington. Right now, it looks like I’ll have time to do that, but in this situation, things could change, and then I’ll need to figure out Plan B.
Pushing across Lake Simcoe today is part of that acceleration. Simcoe is known for being rough and even dangerous during windy or stormy conditions. Today just happens to be a very good day to make the 10 mile crossing of Lake Simcoe. The wind is light and off our starboard quarter. We’ve made good progress through the locks, and can get across the lake by 3pm. This will set us well for the final run down to Lake Huron tomorrow, culminating with our ride down the Great Chute marine railway. More about that tomorrow.