It is Monday July 5th, and we are writing this as we patiently await the first group of boaters locking up the eight Ottawa locks. We are thankfully underneath the shade of the Rideau Street bridge while we wait for the first lock down of the day. We seem to have picked a heat wave to boat throughout the city of Ottawa; our arrival yesterday was in the upper 30s, and today calling for the low 40s with the humidex. That's ok, we will be done before the sun is too high in the sky and docked at Casino De Lac Leamy for the rest of the day and night.
We are a little tired this morning from the uneasiness of having the homeless sleeping next to the boat, and from the construction that seemed to have started at 5am at the Congress Center. I am not sure we would spend the night in downtown Ottawa again. Its not that it was unsafe, we just weren't perfectly relaxed in the atmosphere late in the night. Our recommendation would be to spend the day downtown, but then go back up the canal to Dows Lake at the marina for the night.
As we think back on the last 4 days, big smiles cross our faces. We could not have had a better start to our vacation. Good times spent with good friends on familiar waters. The stretch of river from the Rideau Lakes to Long Island Lock was our old cruising grounds for at least 7 years. It was great to reconnect and hang out with some of these friends on the water.
We managed to leave home port at Rideau Ferry Harbour the evening of June 30th, traveling 2 hours and staying in the Smith Falls Basin. Watch for tree branches overhanging the dock on the park side of the basin when docking; just saying. We wanted to make as much headway as we could as the next day was Canada day and Merrickville can fill up very quickly on Canada Day.
Heading for Merrickville, between Edmunds and Kilmarnoc Lock stations.Setting off for Merrickville early Canada Day morning, we caught the first lock down. We had checked our messages and already we were notified of 2 good friends at the Merrickville dock and 2 more on the way. It would end up being a wonderful Canada Day, with some of the best fireworks I have seen in Merrickville ever, and we have experienced many Canada Day fireworks at Merrickville.
The next day it was on to Burritts Rapids Lock station, a very popular lock where many boaters from our old marina congregate on the weekends. It was Friday so there would be a good chance we would see some more old friends that night. One couple that came to Merrickville to see us had decided to join us and hang out until Sunday morning, so two of us left Merrickville and waited to lock down the 3 locks in the small village. Thinking it would be a slow day heading down toward Ottawa, since most boaters were heading back from Canada Day in downtown Ottawa, we were surprised to see after 10 minutes on the blue line, 8 mid sized power boats waiting to go down the lock with us. It was a double lock down, where a lock full of boats would go in one lock and when entered into the second lock the lock staff would load up the top lock again and follow right behind with another lock full of boats.
Locking down Merrickville Lock
On our approach to Burritts Rapids Lock we could see that the top of the lock was full, which was unfortunate since the top gets a little more breeze than down below, so down below we went. We took the last two available spots on the lower dock, and good thing too, there was still a few boats heading up the long reach coming from Ottawa expecting to get dockage at the lower dock at Burritts. I believe there ended up being 25 boats at Burritts that evening, boats were anchored out just off from the lower dock and boats were tied to trees as well.
The next day the plan was to meet up with some good friends at Long Island who had just this season upgraded there 26 cruiser, identical to the one that we upgraded from, to a really nice 32 footer. We rafted up 3 boats while anchored at the top of Long Island Lock. We spent a beautiful evening catching up and enjoying the scenery.
Our friends who had decided to travel with us until Sunday morning, had now decided that they were going to travel with us on our last leg to downtown Ottawa as far as they could then turn around and go back home. Like us, they had never been down any farther than Black Rapids Lock, and this was a good opportunity to do so. In the morning we started the engines, lifted our anchor, untied our still bed-laden friends who also had their hook down, pushed them off to swing on their own, and started the journey toward downtown.
It is a beautiful trip into Ottawa, lovely houses on the water, passing under road bridges that you don't think twice about when we drive on them in the car, but now take on a certain majestic aura about them as you pass under. Half way to downtown, in Hogs Back lock, our friends informed us that they too were going into downtown with us, then later in the evening, going back up to Dows Lake to keep their boat there for the week, and cruise back up to home port next weekend. This was wonderful news to us as we love spending time with them, and we really appreciated their spontaneity and willingness share this portion of the journey with us. So the two of us kept on cruising together into downtown. Rounding the final corner into downtown we seen the Chateau Laurier at the end of the canal. Though we see this beautiful building all the time, it was like seeing it again for the first time from a boat. It was a sign of closure for the first leg of this cruise, a sign of something about to finish, and something new to begin.
Later that evening, after an afternoon of shopping and eating, we watched a couple of our best friends leave downtown Ottawa and head back up the canal, under a few bridges then out of sight. Though very sad to see them go and wishing they could stay a little longer, we soon realized that phase two of this trip is starting, and there is a lot more to see, explore, and experience on this already fulfilling trip.