Jun 17/18, Days 201/202 You Lockin’ Me Crazy

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.


6-18 border
So this is the border with Canada. It’s a very small wall….basically a floating stick! You’ve go to be pretty incompetent to not get around it. Canadian customs only concern was whether we were carrying guns, mace, pepper spray, knives or other forms of offensive or defensive weaponry (our Swiss Army knife was allowed).  


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).


6-17 lock 2
B getting our permits from the lockmasters at the first of nine locks we transited on the day.



6-18 canal 3
Are you kidding me!!? N on phone to Bank of America fraud squad explaining the bank’s inability to process a Visa charge is holding up Canadian shipping (we were in the lock at the time pending the payment getting processed). We now have a “hot line” to the bank on these issues so no more phone trees of obnoxious questions.


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.


6-18 canal 7
Coming out of one lock directly into another and there was another after this one!


The canal was built in the early 19th century to increase trade by linking Montreal and New York.


6-17 canal
Believe me, there was no overnight delivery from NY to Montreal using this route! Cool though. Cars to port, runners and cyclists to starboard!


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.   


6-17 lock
In the lock with our friends. They let us pass after this lock so we didn’t have to eat diesel fumes for the next 4 hours.



6-18 canal 6
How about this for a summer job? Crankin’ lock handles in 90 degrees all summer long!




6-18 canal 2
The lockmasters and bridge guys call ahead so each spot is ready for you when you arrive. This bridge was going up for us as we cane around the bend. In this case, the same guy then jumped in his car and drove ahead to open the next bridge (we saw him go by us on the road!).


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!


6-17 map
Whoa, we have seriously run aground! Nope, we’re on the Chambly Canal route rocking along at 7.8kmph!



6-18 canal 4
These were the first series of locks where N had to get involved with the lines (except cutting them that one time) rather than barking orders from the bridge. The latter role was left to Z.


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! 


6-18 meat_LI
By the time we reached Chambly we were so hungry we could “eat a horse”…. no wait… I thought it was a figure of speech! Bienvenue au Canada!!!

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!!!    


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