Fenelon Falls to Orillia

Fenelon Falls to Orillia

Something that had puzzled us since we arrived in Canada was the frequent reference to ‘loonies’. We imagined that they were some sort of token, as there would be notices saying ‘loonies only’ in places like laundromats. A lady in the laundromat at Fenelon Falls enlightened us. Loonies are dollar coins, with the Queen on the front and a loon, an aquatic diving bird, on the back.

‘Of course, we have toonies too,’ she told us. ‘The two-dollar coin. They have a bear on the back, so we say they have the Queen on the front, with a bear behind.’

It was our first sample of Canadian humour and it felt just very slightly disloyal, to be laughing at our monarch’s expense.

We had breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the lock, recommended by the woman in the next boat who had saved the crew’s face the previous day. It was a sort of peace-offering, from the Captain.

We had been wondering what peameal, which seems to feature on all breakfast menus in Canada, might be. I had had a best-forgotten experience with grits in Charleston, and suspected that peameal might be something similar. But it turned out to be lean Canadian bacon, thick-cut like gammon, and delicious.

The channel at Fenelon Falls

The channel at Fenelon Falls

The channel which leads away from the lock at Fenelon Falls is very narrow, with rocks lurking just below the surface on either side, and it was a relief to be out into the open waters of Cameron Lake.

Cameron Lake

Cameron Lake

Looking back to the beach at Fenelon Falls

Looking back to the beach at Fenelon Falls

The day alternated between beautiful sparkling lakes and stretches of the Trent Canal, some very narrow. At Rosedale Lock, the lock-keeper warned us that after Balsam Lake, we would have to call on the radio to make sure that there weren’t any boats on the canal coming in the opposite direction, because the channel wasn’t wide enough to allow two boats to pass each other. There was a small incident of potential canal rage when one boater felt he had been unfairly kept waiting to go through, but it didn’t involve us.

The Trent Canal at the top of Balsam Lake

The Trent Canal at the top of Balsam Lake

Trent Canal, top of Balsam Lake

Trent Canal, top of Balsam Lake

 

Mitchell Lake

Mitchell Lake

The stretch of the Trent Canal beyond Mitchell Lake contained the Kirkfield Lift Lock, and  was the highest point on the waterway. The lock was built to the same design as the Peterborough Lift Lock, but the height is only 49′. It was still quite awe-inspiring though, to see the land, and our westward journey, stretching away from us as we waited for the lock to descend.

At the top of Kirkfield Lift Lock

At the top of Kirkfield Lift Lock

In the lift lock, going down

In the lift lock, going down

The next big thing was Lake Simcoe, a few miles further down the straight stretch of the Trent Canal. Although not as large as Lake Ontario, Simcoe is subject to capricious weather patterns and comes with a serious health warning. So we had to wait for a suitable weather window to present itself, keeping one eye on the fact that we needed to be across the lake and in Orillia in time to pick up a hire car to meet Liz and Nick in Toronto the following Tuesday night.

By now, the weather was sweltering. It was being described on the radio as a ‘heat event’ for the Kawartha Lakes area. Strong winds and thunderstorms were forecast and we tied up at Lock 39 to sit it out. There was no power available on the lock wall, which meant that we couldn’t have the air-con on inside the boat, without running the generator. There were some other boats tied up too and we didn’t like to disturb them. So a hot, sticky night passed rather uncomfortably. The next day the winds and heat persisted but the thunderstorms didn’t materialise until the middle of the night, when we woke to the sound of heavy rain and a welcome drop in temperature.

Although it was grey and raining, the winds weren’t too bad the next day, so we took a calculated risk and set off. The area around Portage Lock was agricultural and the scene not unlike many wet mornings on English canals.

Portage Lock 39 in the rain

Portage Lock 39 in the rain

It was a good move. The 15-mile crossing of Lake Simcoe took only 2 hours as the wind was behind us. We were able to skirt round the northern shore,  passing through the Atherley Narrows before tying up at Bridgeport Marina, feeling rather guilty at the sight of the dockhands getting drenched as they helped us moor the boat.

We celebrated our safe arrival with bacon and pancakes with maple syrup, and were just tucking in when there was a knock on the door, a visit from some fellow Loopers, Susannah and Tim, who had passed us at Fenelon Falls, and who kindly invited us to their boat for a drink later on. It’s always good to meet people and compare experiences.

Evening at Bridgeport Marina

Evening at Bridgeport Marina

We moved round the corner to the town dock in Orillia the next day.

Some other Loopers at Bridgeport were spending the week there, having their props repaired after  a contretemps with some rocks just outside Orillia Harbour. We listened to their cautionary tale and took their advice ‘on board’.

 

 

 

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Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Someone said to us that the Trent-Severn Waterway got even more beautiful, the further up you went. This observation was certainly borne out, as we gained height and the terrain changed from the limestone areas to granite as we moved north and west. The waterway twists and turns through clear, sparkling rivers and lakes, with the locks mainly situated in charming small towns and villages.

Beach at Beavermead Park, Little Lake, Peterborough

Beach at Beavermead Park, Little Lake, Peterborough

Peterborough Marina and Waterfront

Peterborough Marina and Waterfront

Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Peterborough to Fenelon Falls

Peterborough is a lively city and as it was a Saturday night, there was a free musicfest concert in the Millennial Park next to the marina. We went along after dinner to find a large crowd of several thousand already enjoying the show. The group, Spoons, had clearly enjoyed the big time in Canada in the 80s, and had a faithful and enthusiastic following, although we had never heard of them and their music, a little disappointingly, wasn’t of our era.

Spoons performing at Peterborough Musicfest

Spoons performing at Peterborough Musicfest

But the next day, on our way back from reconnoitring the famous Peterborough Lift Lock, and a swim at Rogers Cove on Little Lake, we passed the Holiday Inn where a group called Gunslingers were entertaining ageing rockers and dollybirds while they drank their Sunday afternoon beers and cocktails on the patio overlooking the lake. We definitely fitted the demographic and left the bikes outside, had a beer, and even joined in the dancing.

Approaching Lock 20, Peterborough

Approaching Lock 20, Peterborough

There are two locks at Peterborough, Locks 20 and 21. Lock 21 is the  Peterborough Lift Lock, regarded still as an engineering marvel. Two adjacent holding tanks simultaneously move in opposite directions, to take boats up and down the lock.  No electric power is used and the lock works simply by the weight of water in the upper tank being greater than that of the lower one. The lift is 65 ft – at the time it was built, in 1904, it was the largest structure in the world to be built from unreinforced concrete. It is very quick too – the ascent took only a couple of minutes.

Approaching Peterborough Lift Lock

Approaching Peterborough Lift Lock

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Peterborough Lift lock from the footpath

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Another view from the footpath

At the top of the Lift Lock

At the top of the Lift Lock

 

Ian liked this bridge near Trent University.

Bridge at Trent University

Bridge at Trent University

Waterlilies above Lock 22

Waterlilies above Lock 22

Looking back to Lock 25, Sawer Creek

Looking back to Lock 25, Sawer Creek

Above Sawer Creek, Lock 25

Above Sawer Creek, Lock 25

After several more locks, we tied up at Lakefield, and it was so hot we had a swim from the boat in the narrow channel above the lock.

Just above the lock at Lakefield

Just above the lock at Lakefield

Lakefield was a pioneer settlement established in the 1820s by Col Strickland, whose two sisters, Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie later joined him. They were both writers and their books The Backwoods of Canada (1836) and Roughing it in the Bush (1852) sound like interesting reading. Many old houses remain.

Regent St, Lakefield

Regent St, Lakefield

16 Albert St, Lakefield

16 Albert St, Lakefield

This house was built by JC Sherin and was owned by the family until the 1980s.

We decided to eat at the Canoe and Paddle, a British-owned pub, despite usually avoiding such places when we’re away. The owners had written the menu in a jokey sort of style, presumably to differentiate their clientele from that of their rivals, the Cassis Bistro, which offered ‘gourmet dishes and fine dining’ and which we did not feel quite up to.

We settled on ‘Fingerlickin’ Chicken Curry – England’s national dish!’ and it fell to our charming waitress to regretfully advise us that they had run out of their Madras with coconut sauce, but we could have Red Thai instead. That did not have quite the same appeal, so Ian decided on haddock and chips, and I ordered a Taco Bowl with pulled pork, remembering just in time to pronounce it Tarko and not Tayko, which seems counter-intuitive to a northern British ear. The food, when it came, was very good.

The river at Lakefield in the evening

The river at Lakefield in the evening

Another of Lakefield’s claims to fame is that Prince Andrew attended a private school there, and an island in Lake Katchewanooka, just above Lakefield, bears his name.

Prince Andrew Island, Lakefield

Prince Andrew Island, Lakefield

Lakefield Beach

Lakefield Beach

The Kawartha Lakes area is reputedly the most beautiful part of the waterway. Over the next two days we travelled through lakes and rivers of crystal clear water, stopping at Buckhorn Lake and then Fenelon Falls. The area is a popular holiday destination for Canadians, and there are many cottages on the shoreline, but for the most part they are unobtrusive and don’t detract from the loveliness of the scenery.

Katchewanooka Lake, Lakefield

Katchewanooka Lake, Lakefield

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

Lovesick Lake

Lovesick Lake

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Lower Buckhorn Lake

Buckhorn Lake

Buckhorn Lake in the morning

Bob Channel, Bobcaygeon

Bob Channel, Bobcaygeon

Bobcaygeon is a popular place and we had quite an audience at the lock there.

Leaving Bobcaygeon Lock

Leaving Bobcaygeon Lock

Arriving at Fenelon Falls

Arriving at Fenelon Falls

The Lock Wall, Fenelon Falls

The Lock Wall, Fenelon Falls

We were lucky to get a space on the lock wall at Fenelon Falls, as that too is a popular place for boaters to overnight. Not only did a boat vacate a space just as we emerged from the lock, but a nice woman from the next boat appeared on the dock to take the mooring rope, which was just as well, as the crew had not been having a very good day. At the previous lock, we had to wait some time for the lock to empty, and the Captain had had to turn the boat round three times in a confined area before the crew succeeded in securing a rope round the bollard, and even then only with the help of a passerby.

The Captain was not best pleased with this display of crew rope-throwing incompetence, but Fenelon Falls had an ice-cream shop which sold the famous Kawartha Lakes Dairy Ice-cream, and a cornet went some way to restoring his good humour.