blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A chilly day on the water

Ready to depart with all aboard, at Chaffey's Lock
My friend Carol took me on a special excursion; her husband couldn't participate that day (12th June), so she had asked me to be his substitute. We rode on a pontoon boat from Chaffey's Lock to Jones Falls and back, along the Rideau Canal route, crossing Opinicon Lake and Sand Lake and navigating some of the inlets and channels between their islands. There were eight people on board, including Captain Ted, whose boat it was.

Our starting point was close to the Opinicon Lodge on the banks of Opinicon Lake, where Carol and I had stayed once, its lawns sloping down to the lake's edge. Once we reached open water in the open boat, Carol's blanket shared across our knees was a blessing on this cold day, unusual for mid-June. I was wearing four layers including a wind-proof jacket with the hood up, gloves and scarf, as well as the blanket, but still felt frozen to the bone! So did everyone else on board. However, the advantage of setting out in the chilly weather was that we had the locks to ourselves, so no delays during our waiting time.

The first hour of our ride was around Opinicon Lake, seeing the cottages on the rocky shores and marvelling at how they'd been built there. We also saw plenty of birds: ospreys, bald eagles, herons and loons.

From Davis Locks, where scouts were camping in tents and paddling their canoes, and where we met the lock keeper, we sailed on to Sand Lake. It was a particularly windy crossing, the spray coming over the side of the boat at one point and soaking Louise who was sitting in an unlucky spot. Ted was driving us full throttle through the choppy waves and past the tiny islands mid-lake, which I found exciting ... not that our boat was exactly built for speed.

At the Jones Falls locks, the Hotel Kenney, where we were to be served a hot lunch ––indoors! –– was a welcome sight. The waterway drops some 80ft, here. Hotel Kenney has a dock on Whitefish Lake and as you sit in the dining room you can see the boats coming and going as well as the outflow from the four locks pouring waterfall-like down the series of gates. As we sat there I had a bowl of "spicy" (very spicy) corn chowder followed by a tilapia filet in an excellent sauce with salad, then a slice of the hotel's homemade lemon pie. It would be fun to stay here some time. The lounge has a log fire and glassed in porch overlooking the water, with comfy chairs and plenty of books to read.

The stone arch dam at Jones Falls, completed in 1831, was the highest dam in North America at that time and the 3rd largest in the world. John Redpath was contracted 1827 to build both the locks and the dam. Originally, rapids fell 60ft down to Whitefish Lake through a gorge 350 ft long. Stones used to build the dam, excavated 9km away at Elgin, and hauled by oxen along a purpose built track from the quarry, were placed vertically instead of horizontally. As pressure was exerted upstream the stone blocks were pushed together (and still are). Sluiceways were constructed to divert the water as the dam wall became 6m and again 12 m high. A permanent waste channel excavated when dam raised to its full height and sluiceways were added to generate hydro electricity in 1947. They are no longer used nowadays, and they leak.

After lunch, and after climbing up the lock steps and down the adjacent rocks, we relaunched the pontoon boat, moored briefly to look at this dam, then re-boarded the boat, and overtook some kayakers setting off towards Sand Lake along one of the channels between the islands. Sand Lake, when we reached it, was still blowy and choppy, little waves breaking on the surface. We whizzed along again before slowing down for the channel approaching Davis Lock, where the same lock keeper, and now his big dog, greeted us again.

The sun nearly came out in the afternoon, but thought better of it, so we were still cold when we returned to our starting point and hurried to our cars to warm up. Carol drove us back along the same roads we'd travelled in the morning, through Smiths Falls, home, an 85 minute drive.

This outing had been sold as a fundraiser for two good causes: Kick in for Kids, an initiative of the Rideau District High School, and the CFUW-Ottawa's Scholarship Trust Fund.

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