Cruising on Last Dance

This blog archives the adventures of Glen and Jill Moore and provides a means of communication for friends and family. Exploration and adventure have been synonymous with boats and water for centuries. The joy of adventures shared while exploring new places and meeting new people has built a strong bond for Glen and Jill. Last Dance is the platform for the exploration.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine, 354 - 430

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats." The Wind in the Willows, 1908, Kenneth Grahame, 1859 - 1932

"I've never believed speed and ease are conductive to living fully, becoming aware, or deepening memory, a tripod of urges to stabilize and lend meaning to life." River Horse: a log book of a boat across America, 1999, William Least Heat-Moon,1939 -

The Great Loop -- The current adventure is a circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, cruising north up the east coast through New York into Canada, across the Great Lakes to Chicago, navigating multiple river systems south to Mobile, along the Gulf coast to the Florida Keys and back to St. Augustine. This trip by boat is commonly referred to as the Great Loop. Progress and current location are indicated by the red line on the map to the right. It was titled the Traceless Path in recognition of a German sailor we met in St. Augustine who published booklets of his travels with hand-drawn, detailed maps describing his travels across the water as the Traceless Path.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rideau Canal

If the path chosen for the Great Loop includes a trip up the Champlain Canal to Montreal, then up the Ottawa River to Ottawa, the Rideau Canal becomes a part of the path, taking the traveler from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario.  That path was not an option in 2011 as high waters kept the Champlain Canal through Canada closed.  This is an option that many have chosen in previous years, rather than taking the Erie Canal.
Many of the new friends encountered along the northern waters encouraged the crew of Last Dance to experience the Rideau Canal.  To travel down the St. Lawrence River to the Ottawa River, up to Ottawa and then back by the Rideau Canal would be an interesting trip.  It is sometimes called the “Triangle Loop.”  No matter the beauty and adventure of such a trip, the timeline dictated by the changing seasons did not provide sufficient time for that trip.  As an alternative, a trip from Kingston up the Rideau Canal halfway and return was suggested.  The weeklong trip was made up the canal and was an outstanding historical and personal adventure.

The history of the Rideau Canal is quite different.  It was not built to support commerce and trade.  The British were worried that the revolutionaries in that upstart country, known as the United States, would make war with the British and try to take the Canada Colony.  The major artery of military movement was the St. Lawrence River, a border shared with the United States.  The British believed that the United States could blockade the St. Lawrence, cutting off the British forces lines of supply.  To provide another supply route, rivers, creeks, and lakes were connected together by a series of dams and locks.

The Rideau Canal is a living history, with both construction and operation remaining true to the original design.  The locks retain their original limestone block construction.  When the soft limestone blocks wear away to become unusable, the locks are reconstructed using limestone blocks rather than cheaper, less labor-intensive concrete.  The locks are still operated by the original machinery, which is hand powered.  A gate valve controls the water filling or emptying the lock basin.  A hand-cranked gear mechanism lifts or lowers the gate to allow the water to flow.


Wooden construction of the lock doors remains as original.  Another hand-cranked gear pulls a chain to operate the lock doors.  Turned one way, the drum connected to the gear pulls the chain connected to the door, opening the lock door.  Cranked the opposite direction, another chain pulls a long timber which pushes the lock door to a closed position.   A grinder is on each side of the lock, requiring two people to operate each gate.  All of the lock doors have the date of construction engraved on the top timber.  The life of the wooden doors is about 25 years.

A number of the locks have road bridges crossing over a lock chamber.  In one lock, the lockmaster moves the taller boats to the end of the basin and then swings the bridge over the bow or stern to keep from having to stop traffic for the 15 or more minutes required to lower or lift the water level.  With Last Dance, it was a tight squeeze to move the bridge over the bow, missing the flybridge by only a couple feet.
The bridge at lock 4 of the Kingston Mills Lock has to remain open while boats are in the basin.  Traffic is stopped for 15 minutes.  People who live in the area must learn to be patient.  While we were in the lock, some of the people in the cars walked down to the lock to view the locking progress.   One woman held a long discussion with us, standing next to the open bridge.  You will note in the photo that she is standing right next to the bridge and that there are no guard rails or fencing next to the lock.  In the U.S., OSHA would never allow people so close to machinery and the edge of the lock basin.  It was refreshing to see that people were allowed to be close and intimate with the locks.

Some of the bridges remain hand operated also.  One system was just to have the lock staff push the end of the bridge, swinging it around from the open to the closed position.

All of the locks employ the same system for securing the boats to the walls.  Rubber coated cables run from the top to the bottom of the lock basin.  Crew on the boats wrap a line around the cable at the bow and stern to control the boat as is rises and falls.  When the lock basin is being filled, the current of the incoming water moves boats around, requiring much action on the part of the crew.

Traveling the Rideau is an experience in history, but more so, it is an experience in seeing the beauty of this area of Canada.  The canal route often follows narrow creeks so windy in their path that it seems one is always looking at a dead end.  Other times the route transverses lakes many miles wide. 

Jones Falls

There are only two things at Jones Falls, the lock and dam system and the Hotel Kenney.  Either one would be worth a trip to the area.  The lock at Jones Falls is a 4 lock system, with the first three locks in a flight, like stair steps.  The lock doors for the flight locks can be seen in the first photo below.  This photo also shows the blue line, which is the communication system between the boats and the lock staff.  Being true to history, the locks do not use radios for communication.  If a boat crew wishes to lock through, they tie up to a lock wall or dock along a portion that is painted with a blue line.  If they just want to stop for lunch or to stay overnight, boats tie to a portion of a wall or dock painted gray.  It is an easy communications system.  The lockmaster only needs a quick glance to see if there are boats wishing to lock through.

Jones Falls, 4th Lock, Water Down

Jones Falls, 4th Lock, Water Up

At the turning basin, between the flight locks and the fourth lock, an original blacksmith shop remains in operation.  The shop still makes steel parts for the locks and is a living history museum, allowing visitors to watch the process of heating and pounding iron into various shapes.

The dam at Jones Falls was a wonder of the world when built in 1830.  The limestone blocks were positioned vertically, rather than the traditional horizontal, creating an arched wall that held the tremendous water pressure.  The dam still holds the water back 180 years later.  At the bottom of the dam, three large diameter tubes carry high-pressure water to a hydroelectric plant.  These pipes still retain their original structure being built from wood.  They are like long wooden barrels with iron barrel stays securing the wooden planks.  In the close-up, water can be seen spurting out between the seams of the wooden planks.

Hotel Kenney lies across the canal from the Jones Falls locks.  It is a destination hotel requiring patrons to drive long distances from major highways to find this hotel at the dead end of a road.  The hotel retains its original character and hospitality.  The Last Dance crew enjoyed an outstanding lunch that would be classified fine dining.  It was obvious how this old hotel has stayed in business so many years.

Morton Bay

A beautiful bay is south of the river leading to the lower end of the Jones Falls locks.  There is a tricky entrance that discourages boaters from entering, with the red and green markers located in a line within a narrow gap in the rock.  To add to the difficulty, the red and green buoys are located on the opposite side that tradition would dictate.  The granite cliffs are stunningly beautiful.  Photos do not fully capture the amazing sights nor convey the awe that is experienced.  However, a few images will give you some idea of the peaceful beauty of this spot.

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