Our last day on the canal, between Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay, was maybe our most active. At Orillia we were told this would be the busiest part of the canal system. At Bobcaygeon they told us that was the busiest part, so I’ll just say that today we travelled a busy part. Today, Saturday, was the first day of a three day holiday weekend. The weather was pretty good, which meant a whole lot of boaters were out. Our first lock, 42, opened at 9 and was about an hour away. There would probably be a lot of boaters parked overnight on the blue line that would want to go through first, so we left at 8:30 hoping to make the 2nd or 3rd batch. When we got there the lock appeared full, but the green light remained on, so we squeezed into the last slot, beside a narrower boat. We two back boats were each just a few feet from the back gate.
Fourteen miles later we were surprised that lock 43, Swift Rapids, is the deepest standard lock on the system with a 47 foot drop. It was just finishing locking down a group of boats when we got there, so we had a few minutes to get out for pictures.
About an hour later we got to lock 44, the famous Big Chute marine railway. The blue line was full up, with some boats rafted 3 across when we arrived, so we just floated off the wall and waited. When they could take the next group, the boats on the wall move up in the line, and just enough space for us and an additional runabout opened up in back. It took about an hour and a half while we took pictures and moved our boat up in the line along the wall each time they took another group on the rail carriage.
Finally our turn came. Two small runabouts went on first, then we took up the rest of the carriage. Most boats are suspended on straps, but they asked me if they could just use the straps to balance us and set us on our keel. Thinking about how hard we’ve hit that keel running aground, I told them that would be no problem.
The carriage took us up out of the water, across a road and then down the hill for an overall drop of 60 feet. We stood up on the bow, looking down the hill for quite a ride. On exiting Big Chute, a Securite call was immediately made to warn oncoming boats of our impending passage through the narrow fast current Little Chute channel. With the strong following current we could not stop for an oncoming boat. There was no answer so we passed without incident and soon came to the last lock in the system, the rather normal lock 45.
We sailed right into lock 45, got down to Lake Huron – Georgian Bay level, and headed though the last of the channel to the bay. We quickly neared another choke point, the highway 400 bridge (these points are called out on Active Captain and often by signs along the way as well). Before I could make my Securite call I heard one from a cruiser coming upstream. I answered that we were also close to the bridge and were moving with the current. The other captain quickly answered and said he would stand down until we passed him, and we later exchanged greetings as we passed the spot where he waited.
That was it. We had finished the Trent-Severn canal and were out into the Georgian Bay. Into a lot of wind, that is. The wind had set up some waves that did not seem that high until we passed one of those small bass boats with the a big outboard motor like we often see fishing on calmer waters. He was going our way but this was one occasion we could go faster than him. He was flopping through the waves with his nose rising almost vertical sometimes. Looking down at that the waves suddenly seemed a lot higher. We found later they were about 2 feet, with winds about 25 gusting to 30. Not bass boat weather, I guess. After 5 miles of that we reached Midland Town Docks at 6 PM. We had put in a long but interesting day.