Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Today we sailed through seventeen of the forty-nine locks we'll negotiate on the Rideau Canal.

I'm cruising with Ontario Waterway Cruises on board Kawartha Voyageur, a small specially built ship for the waterways of southern Ontario. We joined ship in Ottawa and this cruise takes five days to Kingston.

Forget the typical idea of cruise luxury and loud entertainment, casinos and dancing — this is a 45-passenger vessel without stewards and pools and midnight buffets! Instead, we sail along tree-lined banks, life is quiet and relaxing. Except for a hard-fought game of bocce after the first dinner aboard. We do have amazing home-style meals, three significant snacks a day, and drinks.

I enjoyed seeing osprey fishing and then feeding their young, Great Blue Herons by the banks, and many red-winged blackbirds in the reeds in the wetlands.

Locking through our first lock brought all the passengers out onto the top deck to watch the process. This was Hog's Back Lock just south of the heart of Ottawa. The ship only just fits into the locks, but to do so has to raise it's bow. There's not much clearance on all sides — a matter of inches — and it takes skill to manoeuvre the ship in and out. The photo on the right, taken from the port side of the bridge, shows us approaching a lock . It was a glorious morning and everyone had their cameras at the ready.

The majority of passengers are repeat cruisers; one lady I spoke to had done eleven before this cruise and another had done twenty. They keep coming back because it is so restful and the customer service is second-to-none. They dislike crowds and appreciate being moored alongside at night. The ship is quiet then without the engines running.

We also experienced our first flight of locks, three in a row at Long Island. This is a particularly pretty spot with a chatty lock keeper who rattled off the statistics of water flow, lock capacity, and traffic through per year. Here too is one of the original arched masonry dams built in the late-1820s when Lieutenant-Colonel John By, a Royal Engineer, managed the huge project. The dam is 31 feet high and 700 feet long. The locks lifted us up 25 feet.  From here we went down the Long Reach, the longest lock-free stretch on the canal, sailing by huge mansions and modest cottages of the town of Manotick.

As I finish up this post, the sun is down and the Kawartha Voyageur is moored at Burritts Rapids, just below the lock.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved

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