Orillia to Lakefield – Lock 26 – Labour Day Weekend

We left Orillia the Thursday before the last weekend of summer, Labour Day weekend.

It is a huge deal in Ontario, Canada because it really does mark the end of summer. Schools all start up the day after Labour Day, so kids and teachers and everyone are back to the grind.

It turned out to be a really good weather weekend, so there were a ton of people out enjoying the water.

We knew that it would be touch and go whether we could get space on a lock wall or not. We had purchased a moorage pass for the Trent Severn Waterway that allows you to stay on the lock walls, but it does not guarantee you a space.

Day one was no problem. We studied the Skipper Bob Trent-Severn Waterway book and picked what looked like a nice spot that hopefully was available. Turns out, we were the only people on the Talbot Lock 38 wall that night. It was really beautiful with an almost full moon, the maples beginning to turn red, and “smoke on the water” in the morning.

Two locks further on was the Kirkfield Lock, number 36. It is a lift lock, wherein two tubs of water (each tub holding several boats) go up and down using the weight of the water in one tub…plus a bit more added in…to lower one tub while the other rises. Last year about this time, there was a major mechanical failure in one of the gates. (Read about it in the underlined link.) The lock was closed for a while and then they implemented a temporary fix. Instead of the water weight of the opposing tub providing the pressure to raise the other tub, they used a pump to raise the loaded tub. This temporary fix is still in use a year later.

When all is working as designed, the transit takes just a few minutes for one tub full of boats to come down and the other tub full of boats to rise up. With the current temporary system the trip up takes and hour and the trip down takes about 24 minutes. They can only do one up or down at a time, not like before when they could do an up and down concurrently.

Lock master closing the back gate of the tub
Starting up
Need to get up to the top level where that gate is holding back the water in the canal. I think it was this gate (on the other side) that had a mechanical failure last year
Getting closer…
We’re floating pretty high in the sky
Almost there…
Made it!
View from the top

The hour long ride up was interesting. We snapped pictures as we inched up, went below to make lunch, snapped a few more pictures and pretty soon we were up at the top, ready to continue on.

For whatever reason, there is a swimming pool in the non-operational tub.

After Kirkfield lock there are two long, very narrow cuts to traverse. Many people point to this area as one of the most tense.

Narrow, rocky channel after Kirkfield lift lock
A closer look at the rock
A different kind of rock just off the side of the boat
From Lance’s Facebook post: Today we traveled some NARROW channels and lots of shallow water. At the top of the Kirkfield Lift Lock, larger boats are to make a “Security” call on the radio to let other boats know you are entering the VERY narrow channel. The boat in the picture responded that they were headed our way and most of the way through. We waited for them to go past us before entering the channel. We repeated that same process at another narrow channel, with a different result. We had made the same radio call. A few minutes later another boat entered the cut coming towards us and and then did the “Security” radio call. We responded that we were already in the channel and most of the way through. They could see us but kept on coming. Thankfully there was a slightly wider spot where we could pass. I believe we are through with the really narrow places for this part of the trip
This boat in the channel in front of us turned out to be three young boys fishing. By the time we got to them they had moved over enough for us to get by.
From a distance we couldn’t tell what the white object in the middle of the channel was…a boat? A rock? The binoculars told us it was a family of swans. They also moved out of the way by the time the boat got there.

I think the long ride up the lock has discouraged people from travelling below Kirkfield because the locks downstream (towards Orillia) were pretty quiet while the next few locks were packed with people enjoying the long weekend.

We picked a lock to aim for as it is popular among the looper crowd, being right in the middle of a cute town, Fenelon Falls, Lock 34. We knew that it was a long-shot, but decided to go for it, although if we saw an open space on Lock 35, Rosedale, we would stop there.

Well, Rosedale was full. Fenelon Falls was full. (I mentioned lots of people out enjoying the weekend, right?) The next lock was in the town was Bobcaygeon, but even the book said it is almost impossible to get a spot there as it is super popular with the locals who come into town for lunch, dinner, shopping, etc.

We figured we would need to just keep going until we found a spot on the wall. After the locks close, you can tie up on the blue line for the night, so we figured we’d end up on one of those a couple locks down the canal.

But miraculously, as we were pulling into Bobcaygeon around 5:00pm, we saw a spot on the wall! We pulled over and tied up.

Saturday Farmer’s Market
Bobcaygeon sunset
Busy locks, crowded walls
The Kawartha Voyager came by us on the way to the lock. The passengers were on a six day cruise. This is the same ship that was in the Kirkfield lock last year when the mechanical malfunction occurred.

This was a Friday evening. At that lock you can stay two nights, so that is what we did. We walked around town, went to the farmers market, got some Kawartha ice cream (twice), picked up a couple of things at the grocery store, walked through the blow-out sale at a huge shoe store and chatted with other boaters on the lock wall and with people of town who come to the lock park to people and boat watch.

Locals enjoying the busyness of the locks

Sunday morning we walked a couple blocks to a Baptist church. It was a very nice service.

Baptist Church a couple of blocks away

Since we had come to the end of our allotted two days, we headed out down the waterway to find our next night’s lodging after church, aorund noon.

This area is called the Kawartha Lakes region. It has a number of large and popular lakes where people boat, play, and fish. The lakes were crazy with boats going every which way. There are houseboat rentals in the area and the untrained houseboat drivers just added to the crazy!

At one point we counted 19 boats coming towards us. Lots of people enjoying the water.

The locks were also extremely busy. At Buckhorn, Lock 31, we noticed the same phenomenon that we saw at Bobcaygeon; locals, mostly senior citizens, bring their lawn chairs and coolers to sit in the park that surrounds the lock just watching the boats going by and engaging in conversation. We were part of the show!

After three locks that were totally full, we turned a corner into a lake that wasn’t such a good play lake for water toys as there were rocky islands all around. There were still a few boats and PWCs out, but significantly fewer than on the bigger, deeper lakes.

This church is accessible only by boat. We had hoped to go there this summer, but the timing did not work out. We need to research a nearby anchorage to be able to go next year. The church is in a rocky passage called Hell Gate and near an island called Devils Elbow!

The next lock, Youngs Point, Lock 27 had plenty of space on the wall, so we stopped there at about 5:30pm. We were exhausted from the effects of boating, going through locks, dodging boats, and navigating. It was a good stop and we did not get a single picture!

The next morning, this morning, we took it easy and started out about 10:33 am, intending to do seven locks to get to the top of the Peterborough lift lock to spend the night. We got to our first lock just six miles down stream when we noticed that there were power pedestals on the empty lock wall. We took note for next year when we come back that Lakefield, Lock 26 has power…and then we got to talking.

It was going to be a hot day and having electricity meant that we could run air-conditioning and charge up our Bluetti solar generator. So, just six miles after starting for the day, we called it a day. Or two. It is supposed to be hot again tomorrow, so we will use our allowed two days here, too.

There are only a few locks that have power (electricity) available and this is one of them. The electricity (called Hydro in Canada) is not included in the moorage pass but at $9.80 Canadian per day is a great deal. It is much, much cheaper than paying $80 or $90 for a marina somewhere!