Our initial experience in the Trent-Severn Waterway has been somewhat mixed. Admittedly, we entered this system with very high expectations based on the many conversations we’ve had and the research we’ve done.
In Trenton after three weeks “off the hook,” we were still managing our time much as we did while managing our careers. So on the day we entered the Trent we made sure we were up and ready and on the blue line at Lock 1 well before it opened at 0900. We waited for a very quiet hour and a half and then locked through with a couple from Texas, starting the day “right on schedule” but without an actual end point in mind.
The locks are pretty close together near Trenton, and we were busy for the first few hours that morning. The Texas couple stopped at Lock 6. We passed through 5 more locks after that and cruised by ourselves for much of the afternoon.
The terrain surrounding the lower part of the Trent River and Canal is quite flat, and the view consists of modest cottages and campgrounds and long stretches of marsh grass and reeds. The deep greens we had seen in the lakes section of the Rideau were replaced with more muted colors. As the day wore on and the distance between the locks increased, we had more time to enjoy the wilderness. We started getting into a Trent state of mind and appreciated the simple beauty of the river banks as the human population dwindled.
At one point that afternoon I moved to the bow to take a few pictures and noticed a group of four motorboats coming up behind us at a much higher speed than ours. For context, the channels, marked by red and green buoys, are often narrow passages that have been dredged for the transit of pleasure boats and are surrounded by shallow water, reedy banks or rocky ledges. If a boat like ours is going slow (actually, we were going the speed limit for that stretch of water) and another boat is behind it, there’s not much passing room. But there are protocols for this kind of thing, like a slow pass with no wake or radio/horn signaling to get everyone on the same page.
Without any signaling, the first boat - an express cruiser - passed us at a speed that had them “ploughing,” which in most instances creates a big wake that can’t be escaped without room to move. If we know it’s coming and have time to react, we can deal with a big wake by turning into it and taking it at the bow. Otherwise, if we take it midship, we rock. A lot. That’s the way our hull is designed and why Kadey Krogens can cross oceans. But we weren’t in an ocean or prepped for ocean passaging. We were in a very small channel with nowhere to go, so we rocked at least 30 degrees in both directions and listened as our interior house was tossed loose. We were fortunate in that nothing was damaged, and the cool headedness and skill of the Captain kept us in the channel. Nevertheless, we were rattled by the discourtesy or ignorance, perhaps both.
We cruised for a little while trying to let it go but couldn’t get past what seemed like such an overt act. So the Captain called the lock master at the next lock to report the incident and ask that a little safe-boating education be offered since we knew they would reach the lock before us. That was probably why they passed us.
Wakes are not only an issue for other boaters, but also for shoreline homes and cottages as well as the shorelines themselves. There are valuable wetlands in this area. Those using the system are expected to practice common sense and courtesy at all times, and the waterways are full of No Wake signs and buoys.
The result of our call was an apology from one of the boats in the entourage, not the cruiser (the driver of that boat and his companion instead turned their backs on us as we later passed by) and an offer for us to lock through ahead of them. This offer would add at least 45 minutes to their day trip and was not something we expected. We graciously accepted the apology and the offer to lock through but then spent a little time discussing whether to feel vindicated or like the kids who told on the school bully. In any event we left it behind us and took the recommendation of the Parks Canada folks to tie up in Campbellford. Our new friends later tied up in Campbellford as well. Awkward …
Campbellford is a small Ontario town where we secured a cheap mooring and met some really cool people. On tying up we met two “Loopers” traveling together, each on their own boats. Mike is from Stowe, Vermont, believe it or not, and is very close to completing the loop on his own. George is a very warm guy from Alabama who’s doing the loop with his wife. They’ve been at this longer than we have and recognized the symptoms of early looping. George gently suggested that we rid ourselves of the self-imposed timetable and learn to spend some time enjoying the stops along the way. We took George’s advice to heart and spent a second night in Campbellford. And because we did so, we met Rudy and Kay (I’m not even going to attempt to spell her real Dutch name) and enjoyed a delightful afternoon in the park sharing stories and a cocktail. We got a great night’s sleep and thought about staying for a third night, which would have been free.
Wednesday morning we decided to keep going. Because we are committed to following George’s advice and took our time, we got to Lock 13 behind two other boats. There was no room for us to tie up on the blue line while waiting for the doors to open, so we circled for a while and were the third boat in line when the doors opened. Being in the rear position in a lock means you are relying on the boats ahead of you to be tied as far forward as possible and secured in position before you can grab the cables and position yourself. Our situation was complicated by the fact that our mast and antennae are still down, adding another 5 feet of length to our stern. After 60+ locks we were pretty experienced at positioning ourselves within the chamber, but being the last boat in the three-boat passage provided new challenges, including a scolding from a very bureaucratic (the first of this kind we’ve encountered in Canada) lock master whom we later learned seemed to be yelling at everyone. Because of her decision to squeeze us in no matter what, we were destined to lock through with these other two boats until they left us behind in Seymour Lake where we were happy for our slow speed and the leisure to enjoy yet another beautiful body of water.
Seymour Lake (yes Mom, Seymour Lake!) is dotted with islands, some cottages and tiny meandering channels. There are also more conifers which means the greens are greener. There is something about entering an area like this that resembles taking a huge, clean breath of air. And breathe it in, we did. We returned to the Trent state of mind all the way to Hastings where we tied up for the next night.
As I believe I've said before in this blog, our lives before the loop had become too comfortable and one of the goals of this journey was to make ourselves uncomfortable. We got a little of that in this leg of the journey, though it does not diminish the beauty around us.