Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THE MIGHTY ST. LAWRENCE - June 13 & 14, 2016

Over the next two days we travelled a lengthy section of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It exists as a result of the collaboration of Canada and the US, creating the longest deep draft navigation system in the world allowing large ships to travel 2,300 miles into the North American heartland. The economic benefits have been staggering. Moving goods by ship is by far the most economical and efficient method available. Annually, more than 160 million metric tons of goods are moved through the system (iron ore, coal, limestone, cement and grain are the dominate goods). When cruising this system, every day you bear witness to the benefits of the undertaking. 

However, one also thinks about the enormity of the project of building the seaway and of the impacts on residents at the time it was built. In total:
  • 6,500 people were displaced by the St. Lawrence Seaway
  • 530 buildings were moved
  • countless other homes, schools and businesses were demolished
  • part of highway 2 was rebuilt on higher ground
  • homeowners affected were given three options: take the money; have their home relocated; get a new home

At 8 am on July 1, 1958, a large cofferdam was demolished allowing the flooding to begin. Four days later, all the former townsites were fully underwater. Parts of the New York State shoreline were flooded by the project as well, but no communities were lost on the US side. At the time, many homeowners were upset with the monetary offer believing property values were already depressed well ahead of time as people anticipated the project would proceed. Lost Villages included Aultsville, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, Maple Grove, Mille Roches, Moulinette, Santa Cruz, Sheek’s Island, Wales and Woodlands. 

Created in 1958 from buildings relocated directly from the “Lost Villages” is Upper Canada Village, near Morrisburg, Ontario. Collectively these buildings represent a living museum run by the Lost Villages Historical Society. The Village endeavours to depict life in rural English Canada set during the year 1866. There are over 40 historical buildings including an authentic working woollen mill, grist-mill and saw mill, blacksmith, tinsmith, cabinet maker, cooper, bakery and cheese maker. Staff dressed in period clothing demonstrate all aspects of life at that time and discuss their various roles, routines and rural life. The park also incorporates a memorial to the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm, one of the final battles of the War of 1812. We toured the village and were delighted to see a good turnout of school children enjoying a wonderful educational experience.

Other thoughts we had while cruising the St. Lawrence Seaway:

  • There are seven locks to transit between Prescott and Montreal. On average a lock holds 21 million gallons of water and it takes only 10 minutes to fill or drain a lock
  • The first lock, heading downstream from Lake Ontario (Iroquois Lock)  is called a “control lock” and the “drop” varies with the water level on Lake Ontario. We entered the lock with great anticipation and excitement, receiving two lines from the lock staff to wrap around our cleats and control the boat during the lowering. Just after they collected our $30 fee, the lower gates opened and we were told to exit the lock. We had a great laugh realizing we’d only dropped about 5”. Subsequent locks have much larger drops.
  • At the Eisenhower Lock (the first of two US based locks) we were first in and the procedure is that you use two of your own lines and tie up to a single floating bollard that lowers with you when the water goes out. Wings came in behind us and they were instructed to raft off our boat (tie up to our boat). We had a wind coming in behind us and with the two boats tied together with only one bollard holding us, Wings had to keep her engine going to hold us straight and parallel to the lock wall. It turned out to be quite stressful for the first while before we got the hang of it.
  • Cruising the St. Lawrence, you are in a river with a lot of water moving through it. In wide sections the current is light. In narrow sections, we’ve experienced up to 3 1/2 knot currents so far. So, running the engine at a normal rpm to give us a speed of 7 1/2 knots, in the river we’ve hit 11 knots, which for us was quite thrilling. It becomes a little more tricky getting off the river and into a marina and on a dock. So far, everyone is doing really well. 
  • Following the canals, channels and small lakes by boat is the only way to really appreciate the enormity of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project. We feel extraordinarily fortunate to be completing this trip.
  • This afternoon, we crossed the boarder between Ontario and Quebec and raised our Fleurdelise courtesy flag. Normally a vessel visiting a foreign country will fly a courtesy flag of the country they are visiting. While Quebec is of course in Canada, we were told one will get a much warmer reception by flying a Quebec courtesy flag, so that is what we are doing.
A BIG Laker

A really BIG lock (Snell Lock on the US side)

Two ships passing in the night (well dusk anyway)

Upper Canada Village - a working Saw Mill

A working wool mill

Dinner for two in the cockpit

A perfect sunset to end the day

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