Bonjour mes amis! Comment allez vous? Yes, greetings from French-speaking Canada. After more than 5,800 mile We have now entered the reputational “money shot” part of our Loop – the part everyone says is the BEST! After two nights at Gaines Marina enduring occasional rain squalls and up to 40 mph winds (a 40’ sailboat was blown ashore overnight), we steamed out under fair skies and headed three miles north to the Canadian Border en route to the Chambly Canal.
Once through the border we headed up the Chambly Canal, the entirety of which is a national historic site. The canal covers only 19km (OK we’re switching to euro measures…… aaagghh can’t do it, I meant approximately 12 miles!) with an 80’ drop, but includes nine locks, multiple swing and drawbridges and requires about four hours to transit (in part because the max speed limit is 10kph).
At one point we went through three locks structured like stairs for a total drop of 30’. We literally exited one lock directly into the next and then into the next. Tons of people watching, so we worked hard to look like we knew what we were doing! You might think the whole process would be maddening, but it was fun. What a completely different boating experience. This waterway handles up to 150,000 boats per season, but fortunately we’re here pretty early so we “zipped” right through.
The canal was built in the early 19th century to increase trade by linking Montreal and New York.
The locks themselves opened in 1843 and remain basically as they were originally built. The lock chambers are small (could only handle our 30’ boat and our friends 44’ at the same time), have small lifts and drops and are manually operated by literally cranking on a hand crank to open and shut the doors.
Of course, the most interesting part of the experience is dealing with the language (“ecluse” is French for lock) when approaching the lock…. I mean ecluse. N simply speaks English slowly whereas B likes to chatter along with the lock operators in her Franco-Spanish. Unfortunately for N, he’s the only one willing to go on the radio!
The good news for us is Canada is celebrating 150 years of lock and canal operation this summer so all our lockage is free and a permit allowing us unlimited mooring at state parks was only $200. By comparison, that cost could have easily been $40/night!
So we are really on the international leg of our journey now. The St Laurence Seaway and Montreal will be next up. A toute a l’heure!!!