Taking a Ride on the Big Chute Marine Railway – 7/30/16

First of All -

  • First time having to wait for an entire cycle of the lock before getting our turn to go through
  • First time locking down on a marine railway

Namely Speaking-

  • Couchiching
  • Dinnertime Rapids
  • Big Chute
  • Little Go Home Bay
  • Port Severn

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,084
  • Hours Underway: 9 (with delays at 2 locks)
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 7 ; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5919I’m greeted with a glorious sunrise as I emerge from the cabin shortly before 6am. I take it as a favorable sign for a good day ahead. We want to start early once again, since we have a long way to go, and 3 locks to pass along the way, including the Big Chute marine railway. We also realize that this is Saturday on a 3 day Canadian holiday weekend, midsummer, and the weather is perfect. We reach the first lock about 45 minutes before the 9am opening, and have no problem fitting in, once the chamber opens. We’re not so fortunate at the nextDSCF5925 lock, Swift Rapids. This lock is known as the Giant Lock, since it’s the highest conventional lock on the Trent. With a lift of 47 feet, it’s only 2 feet shy of the lift at the Kirkfield Lift Lock. The doors and chamber are immense, but they’re not big enough to hold all the boats which are qued up to go through. Boats which have arrived ahead of us lock through first, and we must wait for an entire down and up cycle before it’s our turn. Once we clear the lock, we cruise through a beautiful region of lovely waterfront homes, interesting granite rock formations, lush forest, and narrow winding passages. In some places the canal builders had to blast a canal through solid granite rock, which explains why this stretch of the waterway was the last to be completed.

Because of the holiday weekend, boats of every size and description are out, enjoying the water. Most are operating responsibly, but there are a few which are rude with their wakes, and one was darned near dangerous, insisting on blasting by me on my starboard side, in a narrow patch of water and way too close to both me and a group of kayaks and open fishing boats. I gave him 5 blasts of my airhorn out of frustration, but I doubt I made any impression.

Around 2:30pm we round a bend and arrive at the Big Chute Marine Railway. A standard docking wall is on our port side, with blue line and gray wall tie up space, but that’s about all that is standard about this facility. Instead of constructing standard locks, which would have been extremely difficult and costly, due to the abrupt drop in terrain, which also just happened to consist of DSCF5930solid granite, the canal builders came up with an ingenious solution. They constructed this marine railway. Boats motor up to an open cradle, which rolls on rail wheels and which has been lowered into the water. Once the boats are inside the cradle, slings lift the boat hulls by the stern. The entire platform is then raised up, out of the water and the boats are now suspended by a sling in the stern, andDSCF5932 resting on the platform by their bows. The entire platform is then pulled ahead, up a slight rise, across a street, and then down a steep incline and into the bay below. And this is all done with boat captains and crew still on board. It’s a dramatic experience for first timers like us. I’ve got my GoPro video camera rolling, and am snapping still pictures at the same time. As with the lift locks, the ride is over quickly, and we’re soon on our way on the lower Severn River.

We dodge speeding boats and jet skis as we work our way down toward Port Severn. The bright sun is taking its toll, and we’re feeling tired from the day’s activity. I’m looking forward to finding a decent place to stop for the night. I look up marina listings in the cruising guide and see two which have laundry on site and restaurant nearby. I call one place and am told they’re completely booked up. I can’t reach the next marina, Driftwood Cove Marine Resort, on the phone but decide to head that way anyhow. When I’m close I call on the VHF, and the owner replies. He too says they’re completely booked. I ask him if he has any recommendations and after a few minutes he says to come on in. He’s checked and one of his permanently rented slips is vacant for several days. This is very welcome news and, once we get in and meet the owner, Brian, we realize that this is indeed a great place. He takes us on a tour of the facilities, which are beautiful. Nice docks, beautiful restrooms and showers, spacious laundry room, and great boater’s lounge. The grounds are DSCF5940nicely landscaped, and the people here all seem to be really enjoying themselves. It’s in an out of way place, well away from loud boat engines and jarring boat wakes. We learn from Brian that his family has owned and operated this place for more than 30 years. They’ve done a great job developing it.

After we get checked in, we walk over to The Galley, their on site restaurant. Brian’s wife Cathy greets us and takes our order. She brings me a nice cold beer in a special, frosty Georgian Bay beer glass, which she says is mine to keep, a reminder of our visit. I look forward to keeping this glass chilled in our freezer back home, ready for use when I’m really thirsty. We have their halibut fish and chips,DSCF5946 and dinner is excellent. In between caring for other customers and keeping things going in the restaurant, Cathy manages time to visit with us at our table. The conversation is great, and we’re so glad Brian managed to find a spot for us here.

We’re going to take it easy this evening, since tomorrow we have some big chores ahead of us. Sandy will be running a laundry, while I’ll be raising the mast and putting the dinghy back into the water. Once that’s done, we’ll be ready to begin our cruise on the small boat route through Georgian Bay.

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2 thoughts on “Taking a Ride on the Big Chute Marine Railway – 7/30/16

  1. Thank you so very much for writing about our family resort Driftwood Cove. It was such a blessing and pleasure to have severed you both at the Galley. Our conversation will be fondly remembered. Sandy and Mike you are inspiring people. I pray God blesses you both and your dear family. I will follow you on your amazing blog. Thank you for adding us in your great adventure “your life”!!!!

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