The good weather we had been waiting to savor greeted us the following morning. We began the lengthy process of working our way through the forty-seven locks that transport a boater from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario where Lake Ontario flows into the St Lawrence River. The Rideau Canal system is a popular cruising destination through a stretch of Canadian wilderness that exhibits incredible landscapes and amazing ingenuity.
Following the War of 1812, the British were seeking a way to connect Upper and Lower Canada without the risk of encountering American forces on the St Lawrence River. The Duke of Wellington, who gained permanent fame defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, advocated building what was to become the Rideau Canal Waterway. Between 1826 -1832 a construction force led by Colonel John By built a series of forty-seven locks and fifty-two dams in addition to digging channels to connect rivers and lakes. The end product was a 125-mile artery of water that connects Kingston, Lower Canada, to Ottawa, Upper Canada. The Rideau Canal Waterway passes through a series of scenic lakes, channels and locks along its route. The canal system is a marvel of engineering and ingenuity.
Much of the work was accomplished with pick, shovel and wheel barrow. Stones for the locks often had to be quarried miles away and then transported during winter by farmers utilizing sleds and oxen. Gates for the locks were constructed at the lock sites by blacksmiths and carpenters. Simple mechanical tools like lifting cranes assisted by horses or oxen were used to move stones and gates into place. A single gate might weigh as much as five tons.
Most all of the locks are operated by hand even today. A boat enters the enclosure that is 134-feet long and 33-fe...
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...were sailboats. Kingston was to become the venue for the sailing facet of the 1976 Olympics.
I guided our return through the quiet passages between shoals and islands fronting several waterfront restaurants, four or five marinas and numerous cottages that constitute Ivy Lea. After dodging lightening bolts on the way to Isle Raymond and “deadheads” on the Ottawa River, I yawned as the Consuelo motored serenely through an area that the uninitiated regard as treacherous.
On our approach to the Comfort Island dock, I noticed several members of Mom’s afternoon “discussion group” that had seen us coming and were waiting to help celebrate our return. Our landing was like it was following a script. The clock was striking five, and while Topper went to check for any new smells, the rest of us stayed on board to recount the adventure in the company of a refreshing libation.