Cruising the Rideau Canal

Despite a hitch or two, this much anticipated boat trip was all we hoped it would be.

Helen At The HelmCourtesy Helen Harwood
Helen takes her turn at the helm.

Neighbours came for the early morning send-off to wish me and my husband, David Clyne, a good trip. Our boat was on the trailer, and the trailer was attached to the truck. The last of the supplies were loaded and the key was in the truck’s ignition.

Then, the unthinkable happened. All we heard was the loud clicking of an engine that wouldn’t start. Thankfully, a boost was all that was needed to get us on our way.

Cruising The Rideau Canal - 1974 Trojan Sea RaiderHelen Harwood
This beauty is a 1974 Trojan Sea Raider.

The Bumpy Start Continues

The country road was rough, and we felt some vibration as we drove along. Dave was a little uneasy about the truck, saying, “I’m not turning off the engine. I just don’t trust it. Oh, by the way, we lost the boat’s trumpet horn along the way.” An hour and a half later, we arrived at the Rideau Ferry Harbour.

The launch went smoothly at first; our boat slip was in a good spot. A relaxing afternoon was planned, to be followed by boating to a nearby restaurant for Dave’s birthday supper. The check of the bilge, however, was an unwelcome sight. We hoped the water in it was rainwater. It was not. There was too much, in fact, several buckets-full had to be emptied. In a disappointed tone, Dave said, “We are going back home.”

Those were not the words I wanted to hear. Dave had spent months restoring, repairing and replacing rotten wood where leaks had been discovered. He was sure he’d fixed them all. For months we had been looking forward to our 12-day cruise on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had to haul the boat back out of the water, which takes time. Factors such as currents, wind and many other docked boats can and do slow down the job. It took about an hour. We were hopeful that in a day or two the boat would be fixed and we would be good to go. Dave is good at fixing almost anything.

The marina owner, John, approached us as we were about to leave. He was sympathetic, suggesting something about a “quick, temporary fix” that could get us back in the water. “I don’t like to see you lose your whole holiday.”

Would Dave consider this idea? Leave the boat for an assessment and agree to let boat mechanics do the job? After what seemed like a long few minutes, the boat trailer was unhitched, and we drove away leaving the boat for repairs with a tired and disappointed Dave saying, “Keep an eye out for the horn.”

Dave At The HelmHelen Harwood
Dave makes good use of his charts.


Although we never did find the horn (we bought a new one), two days later our boat was ready, and our trip began. We had an amazing time cruising the Rideau Canal from Big Rideau Lake to the St. Lawrence at Kingston.

At almost 50 years old, our beautifully restored 1974 Trojan was noticed and received attention wherever we went.

Rideau Canal LocksHelen Harwood

We had made the trip from Ottawa to Big Rideau Lake two years earlier, and our goal this time was to complete cruising all 202 kilometres of the Rideau Canal. Nineteen kilometers of it are man-made locks and canal cuts, while the rest are natural waters.

Boat traffic in many of the waterways, locks, marinas and docks was heavier than we expected, as it seemed many other boaters chose the last week of August and the first week of September for boating trips as well. Fishing boats, pontoon boats, houseboats, big cruisers, small cruisers, all were enjoying some end-of-season time on the water just as we were.

Green BuoyHelen Harwood
The green marker aids boat navigation.

There were some challenges of course, including a tornado warning; extreme temperature shifts; the GPS failing to work, and finally, the fact that turbulent water in some locks was a little scarier than our last experience two years earlier. But in the end it was all worth it; we had a wonderful time. Would we do it again? Yes, indeed.

Next, read up on the fascinating history of the Rideau Canal.

Originally Published in Our Canada