Trent Severn Waterway: part 1-Toronto to Trenton

Last summer we escaped a flooded Toronto and headed north, we had planned on leaving Toronto for Georgian Bay last year, with the heavy rains and flooding shutting down our favourite cruising grounds, beaches and amusement park (aka the Toronto Islands) the decision to leave was even easier. What was supposed to be a lazy meander through cottage country, with afternoons spent swimming with loons, ice cream in quaint towns, turned out somewhat different thanks to the unseasonably cold and wet July weather. As for the quaint towns, well there was Bobcaygeon, which could be accused of trying a bit too hard.

The trip fell into 4 stages and took us most of July. We only lingered a few places, three days in Peterborough, one in Sutton, but when we moved we moved pretty quickly because of the weather. A total of 18 days in a boat that does about 5.5knots underpower.

  1. Toronto to Trenton July 7 – 9
  2. Trenton to Peterborough July 10 – 12
  3. Peterborough to Lake Simcoe July 16 – 20
  4. Simcoe to Georgian Bay July 22 – July 24

The Trent Severn Waterway is comprised of interconnected lakes, rivers, canals and manmade cuts. It started (1833) as a system of dams and locks, built to accommodate water-powered mills and the movement of timbers cut by local logging companies (many lakes are still filled with “deadheads”). Ultimately, the increasing populations of the various districts saw their influence contribute to the Waterway’s completion with the final leg of the system opening in 1920.Central Ontario map showing Trent Severn waterway

The Waterway is now 386km (240 miles) long featuring; 44 locks, the first and second highest lift locks on the world, 2 flight locks, and one marine railway. As the waters are at varying elevations the locks allow vessels to transit the system from end to end. Boats transiting from Lake Ontario are raised 596 feet (182m) to the summit at Balsam Lake and then descend 262 feet (80m) to Georgian Bay.

Google Map

Toronto to Trenton July 7 – 9

Paul and I pushed off from Aquatic Park Sailing Club on a hazy Friday, mid-morning. Nice west-northwest winds pushed us east to Newcastle. Clouds appeared on the southwest end of the lake late in the day as we entered Newcastle and we didn’t realize they had turned into thunderheads until we headed back out into the lake. At first glance, we immediately turned around and pulled into the slip next to BlueCloud. We spent the night in the pouring rain, hunkered down in the cabin. This isn’t the first time I’ve waited out a storm in Newcastle.

The next day (Sat) was clear and we made it through the Murray Canal, stopping mid-canal for dinner and a very restorative swim. We arrived at CFB Trenton Yacht club to a full moon.

July 9-unstep mast

The mast unstepping went, well, somewhat according to plan. When I called and asked about unstepping, I was told that there was no there was no charge to use the crane, it was DIY, but yes, someone would be there to help. They had no issue with the mast being left for a few days before it was picked up so everything seemed going to plan. That someon turned out to be a nineteen-year-old student, that had helped take one mast down earlier in the season. Luckily, I have done it before with this boat with the very capable Sandy at Kingston Marina. I also read up and watched several videos. I’ve stepped many smaller masts by hand (25-26′ boats), so I wasn’t completely clueless. Malcolm and Paul were equally capable and logical, and Malcom has been messing with keelboats longer than I have so I figured four fumbling punters had at least the total cumulative experience of one slightly experienced rigger.

All went well until we swung the mast over the ground and we ran into difficulties, the bucket on the end of the crane arm (?!) was fouling the backswept spreaders (this is a B&R rig). A couple of old timers came running to our rescue, but we soon realized that they were of little help and soon they were on their way. We eventually got the mast rotated and walked the foot out. (One issue was the center of gravity was unmarked and the lift point was too high. the mast was marked accurately on stepping.)

The crane was powered by a hand crank with an uncovered bicycle chain. The young lad was in charge of lowering the mast. Just as we positioned the mast cart the plastic handle slipped off the crank and the mast descended in a freefall. Luckily, the mast descended in a smooth and controlled manner and the student didn’t lose any fingers, although he did get a whack from the unrestrained handle which surely must have left a bruise. After Paul & Malcolm left with my sails, the boy and I wheeled my mast over to the main clubhouse, where he managed to knock off my masthead light…

I tidied up and got ready for the girls to arrive. I headed into town in the rain on my bicycle. It was odd riding through the base on my bike, last time I was here I was 13 spending two weeks as an air cadet.

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