|The rain never arrived yesterday although the sky did sneeze a couple of times which had me reaching for my rain gear...false alarms!
With the winds very very light (too light to make headway against the
current), I decided to motor around and take advantage of the relative tranquility afforded by the almost
eerie absence of the plastic powerboat gang. It appears that they take weather
forecasts more seriously than I.
As I slowly puttered along past the rows of silent
quays all boxed in by these plastic powerboats my thoughts drifted around until
finally coming to rest on the awareness of the extremely low water being experienced up in this neck of the
woods. Wishing to explore further the implications of this low water
state, I eased my Micro out of the channel and headed toward some interesting nooks.
Now, normally our water levels in springtime would be about a meter and a half over chart datum and boaters can safely go just about
anywhere without charts right up to a beachhead. Not such a bad thing however an awful lot of boaters seem to forget that the water level
generally goes down as the summer wears on and this leads to some expensive repair work to propellers and lower units for those not
carrying charts! Today, the water level is a scant 39cms(15 1/2") over datum and the big boys better not leave the channel!
My first nook was the bank of the original canal, dug for use by the French and British during the fur
trade. This little canal, no more then a glorified trench really, would later become the Lachine
canal and serve as the gateway for opening up the rest of Canada.
Pointing my bow toward the banks, I idled in toward the location of the Hudson Bay Trading
company's' fur warehouse. This large fieldstone building served as the
"end of the line" for the many couriers de bois (trappers) as they made their way down the Ottawa
River and then down the St. Lawrence (the little stretch known as Lac
St. Louis) with their canoes piled high with beaver pelts. Thanks to the
efforts of various agencies, the building remains intact pretty much in its' original state and one can easily imagine the relief felt by the
trappers when they would finally lay eyes on this structure after months of nothing but forests and streams.
I was a mere 20 feet from the shore when the first dull thud
announced the arrival of the bottom. With virtually little headway on,
my Micro came to a gentle halt. Looking over the sides, the rock strewn bottom was wonderfully visible through the knee-deep
water. Thanks to the early time of season, the weeds have yet to grow to
obstruct ones view! Thanks also to the fact that the boat draws more
than the engine, no harm occurs to the propeller!
Finding myself temporarily "anchored", I reached into the cooler
for something wet, cracked it open and sat down to enjoy the view. With little
effort, my thoughts were filled with imaginary scenes of the banks crowded with large canoes and men shouting as they
hustled their pelts into the warehouse to be sorted. It must have been an exciting moment with the air filled with the busy sounds of
French, English and Iroquois voices! Unfortunately, the air must have also been filled with the ubiquitous mayfly and though the
couriers de bois have long since vanished into the mists of history, the mayfly
lives on to pester romantic fools drawn to the rivers edge. As I take my last gulp of wet and the boat becomes covered in lusty
mayflies, I decide to "weigh anchor".
Starting the motor, I put the gear into reverse. Then, as I make my way
forward, the boat slowly sinks by the head, the keel kisses the rocky bottom goodbye, and we slowly proceed
backward toward deeper water. This particular maneuver is one which I have used time and again
when I have accidentally or intentionally embraced the bottom. It has never failed me and is due to the pronounced rocker of the Micro
bottom combined with the full length keel that rises up to almost zero at the
bow. The robust construction of my keel (see Pouring
a Micro Keel) gives me the confidence to do so with impunity.
Once back in deeper water, I head off toward the newly restored lock gates of the later Lachine
canal. This is the canal built to handle commercial shipping headed toward the Great Lakes and built to
circumvent the nasty Lachine Rapids. Last used in the very early '70s,
its' demise was singled with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958.Today,thanks to the financial support of three levels
of government i.e.; public funds, it is undergoing a major refit and will
see use again as a pleasure boat canal.
As I approach the lock
walls, I am at first impressed with the attempts to re-create the style of construction through the use of cut
rock blocks. No poured concrete here! Inching further into the lock
chamber, I notice that the gates themselves however, have been made from
huge bits of pressure treated lumber. No sickly sweet aroma of creosote to tickle the
memory! Pity really, although I suppose the environmentalists applaud the absence of
creosote leaching into the water.........
In short time I have come to the very end of the lock chamber and find
myself staring up at the huge gates which effectively block my way. Not wishing to linger any longer
than necessary (there may be construction men about and the canal is not
yet "officially" open!) and slowly going deaf from the echoing rattle of my motor on the rock
walls, I put both the motor and helm hard over. As if pivoting on a
pinhead, my Micro spins a neat 180 within her own length and we point our noses right
back out the way we came in. A very handy technique!
As the walls slide by, my eyes see the ever broadening vista afforded by the approaching opening to the
canal. What a treat! This must have represented an exciting vision for the earlier passengers as
they made their way Westward. What adventures and wide open sceneries
awaited those weary European eyes as they were carried ever deeper into the heart of this vast land yet unspoiled by the busy activities
of industry and commerce. With their thoughts filled with stories about
the "wild savages" who live in animal skin tents and wait in the thick
underbrush to ambush the white man, it must have been exciting indeed!
they all remained safely ensconced within the tight quarters of their
cabins, far from the dangers, thanks to the overwhelming presence of......................the mayfly!
And thanks to a reasonably full and very cold cooler, I can remain calm enough to enjoy the luxury of puttering around in my Micro
right through hordes of those pesky critters!