Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Big Chute!

Well it is a sad day, after 240 miles of locks, little channels and wonderful sights our time on the Trent Severn Waterway has come to an end. On our last day on the Canal we experienced what is thought to be one of the highlights of the Great Loop. At lock 44 we encountered the Big Chute Marine Railway, a travel lift on rails that lifted Blue out of the water, across a road and mountain top and back down into the lake at the other side. For the past year I have dreamed of what it will be like to travel this lift, and on this day the time had finally arrived. As Anna and I approached the lift, we could see it climbing out of the water with a full load of boats. With smaller vessels the lift can be manipulated to carry four vessels and a few jet skies. As for us, we would be one of two boats that would be lifted in slings and rise out of the water. With the lift being full, we got a great opportunity to get off the boat and watch as the railway moved its cargo down to the bay below. It was as spectacular as I had hoped. I have to hand it to the men and women that work the railway, they can manipulate the lift to fit almost any hull. It is truly a sight to see as the boats crest the mountain and begin their decent. One cannot ignore a slight fear that if a cable snaps or the brakes fail the lift would race to the bottom on the mountain in a giant crash. As we motored Blue into position the rail hands called out commands, when we hit the right spot you could feel Blue come snug up against the straps below her bottom. We shut off the engines and soon we could feel the big rail way inch forward out of the water. The railway seems to attract a crowd and we soon found Blue to be the center of attraction as people all snapped photos of this one of a kind attraction. As we crested the hill and made our way down the view was spectacular, we were blessed with a wonderful day and we got a great view of the last few miles of the canal. On our trip down, I overheard one of the older railway workers quizzing a younger railway worker as to what order and position they would need to load the boats waiting below. It became clear to me that this was not a job that one can just jump into, one must not only understand the machine, but must also has a vast knowledge of various hull shapes and designs. The whole experience was without question amazing. As Blue slowly kissed the water on the other side of the mountain Anna and I felt a feeling of accomplishment and sadness. We had dreamed of this moment to months, and it had just happened. As the straps released and Blue was free the workers thanked us to traveling the Big Chute Railway and assured us that what lay around the corner in Georgians Bay is truly the best cruising in the world. With the motor turning us at 6 and a half knots we entered Georgians Bay in Lake Huron and what we saw was truly spectacular. I have never seen waters like this before in my life, the water is as clear as can be and the views are breathtaking. This will be the start of a new chapter in our cruising, we have left the safety of the canals, and know find ourselves in mixture of open water and narrow channels. The channels are narrow and unforgiving, it is to be challenge, but one that Anna and I bring on with open arms.

Our First View of Georgians Bay as we exited the breakwater of the Trent Severn.