Archive for the ‘Boating Safety’ Category

It was Monday, June 5th, 1837 – maybe the grand-daddy of the “Friday Night Fights”. Anyway, Lockmaster Jones of Old Sly’s Lock , near Smiths Falls, was a reluctant participant. The steamer, Cataraqui, Captain Chambers, was tying a barge to the swing bars of the lock gates. Jones tried to stop him and was challenged to a fight. Jones described the incident in a letter to Capt. Bolton, the Superintendent–

” I told him I did not wish to disgrace the Public Works with a ruffin [sic] is his caracter [sic], he then spit in my face and immediately a fight commenced, the Challenge he gave was you or any Lock Laborer on the line of the Canal.

I humbly beg leave to state that if such Propossection [sic- proposition?] as this is allowed, I will run great danger at Passing this Boat at night, I am told that some of the men employed on the Boat run [sic] at me with cudgels and it is supposed I would have been severely beaten only for some of the Rafts men who took their weapons from them.”

No word on the number of rounds or the winner.

Captain Bolton responded promptly with By Law Rideau Canal 10th June 1837. The fastening of ropes and chains to any part of the lock gates or machinery was forbidden. Offenders would be charged 5 pounds if they refused to obey an order from the lock staff to remove the rope or chain.

The lock staff must have faced considerable abuse in trying to enforce regulations. It was a rough and ready environment, no doubt about it.

Things are more genteel these days.


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Dad-sketch-5Looking for something to do next weekend ?
Plan a daytrip to Newboro Lockstation. Take #15 to Crosby and then follow the road to Westport. (You’ll get to Newboro first -just follow the signs to the Lock Station).

EVENT:          Newboro Boat Show

WHEN:           June 13th & 14th

WHAT:           Day Trip

HOST:            Rideau Boat Tours

START:          Saturday June 13 @ 10:00 AM

END:              Sunday June 14 @ 6:00 PM

WHERE:          Newboro Lock Station

See you there!

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                                                                                                                                                          May 28, 2009

 Here’s a contribution from Charles Billington, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, with a well-timed update to your New Year’s resolutions.



            Now here’s a mid year resolution to consider: spend more time in the hammock this summer.   Read more.  Sleep more.  Leave the lawnmower and chainsaw in the shed.  Remove less vegetation.  In fact, let your shoreline revegetate itself.  Let nature take its course.  Relax.  Both you and your lake will be healthier for it.      

            After all, Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Those soggy shorelines you see along the creeks, streams and lakes of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys are mixtures of alder, bulrush, sedge, cattail, pickerel weed, Virginia creeper and mud sometimes called “wet scrub”.  These streambank areas are also known as the “Ribbon of Life” because about 90% of the plants and animals living in the water need these scruffy-looking areas at one time or another in their life cycle.  And they are as essential to the health of the river as your kidneys are to you. 

            Plants are right at home here.  Insects, fish, birds and mammals move in where the plants are.  These rich areas are nurseries, food cupboards, hiding places and hunting grounds.  They are a buffer against floods, wind and erosion.  They filter out large quantities of nutrients washing in off the land.  Vegetated shorelines are small pieces of ecological heaven with the best of all worlds: heat, light, water, land and food. 

            These fragile areas are under siege in the urban and rural parts of our local watersheds.  People cut and fill in and “clean up” and “harden” the shorelines with little thought for the health of the stream or lake.  Those types of old-fashioned practices have let us down badly.  Clean water, lots of wildlife and stable shorelines are at risk in many parts of the Mississippi and Rideau valleys. 

            That’s not to say that we can’t use and enjoy our rivers, lakes and streams.  We can but it does take a little shift in attitude towards the unique and fragile Ribbon of Life.  It costs nothing and it pays huge dividends in terms of a healthy river system for future generations.   

            It is time to start respecting our alders.   Leave the natural vegetation along the shore alone.  It has been there through thick and thin for the past 10,000 years and is in perfect harmony with the river environment.  If it’s already gone or substantially changed, let it grow back by not mowing within five metres of the shoreline (ten metres is even better).  Mother Nature will do the rest.    

Avoid using fertilizers and other chemicals on your property.  Common sense tells us that liquids do find their way into either the groundwater (which we drink) or lakes and rivers (which age faster with chemical boosts).   Check that your septic system is up to scratch.   Check with your municipality, Conservation Authority or Parks Canada about permits needed for any shoreline projects such as docks.    A good first step is always the helpful folks at the LandOwner Resource Centre at 613-692-3471 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 28 or ext 32 (or info@lrconline.com). 

            The battle for healthier waterways will be won by thousands of people staying in their hammocks longer on the shorelines of every lake, river and creek in Eastern Ontario.  Power to the people indeed!

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Dad-sketch-5Flash! The great wall of the Rideau is being rebuilt and for only $2 million –  read all about it this morning in the Ottawa Citizen. Minister John Baird is positioning this expenditure as necessary to remain attractive to tourists –  something like Botox ?

I recall reading that the post-WWII Department of Reconstruction paid then-big money to rebuild thousands of feet of concrete wall along the canal and around Dow’s Lake. This was aimed at stimulating an economy just making the transition to peace-time industries and looking for employment for returning soldiers.

When the Canal Basin was abandoned and filled during the late 1920’s, the original thousands of feet of concrete wall went up. There was 1455 feet worth from Connaught Place to Laurier Avenue on the west side; over 6100 feet of concrete went up on both sides of the canal from Bank to Bronson; 655 feet on the north side of Dow’s Lake, and a further 3000 feet planned to join this small wall to the rest of the canal.

The late 1920s was the flourishing era of the new concrete technology – it quickly pushed out the original stone masonry of the canal lock structures. Stone in the necessary sizes had become scarce, and thus expensive – concrete was one-third the price and didn’t need skilled masons, stone-cutters, etc.

Hartwells, Long Island, Burritt’s Rapids, Old Sly’s, Beveridges, Beckett’s Landing, Nicholson’s, Smiths Falls Combined, Chaffey’s, Jones Falls, Ottawa Locks – all had facilities reconstructed in concrete over this period.

I guess that we can’t go back and replace the “heritage” concrete with stone now, even if we could find it and the skills (and the money) to do it. It just wouldn’t qualify as “shovel-ready”.

Sic transit gloria mundi ……

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dad-sketch-5Now there’s an idea with “legs” or whatever ! Maria Cook’s Ottawa Citizen blog, “Designing Ottawa – May 1st, outlines how this might work. There are maps, a photo, and an interview withBen Gianni, an architecture professor at Carleton University.

This might not be quite a “shovel-ready” project, but it sure seems worth considering. Anyone up there on Parliament Hill or at City Hall looking for a sure-fire way to beat the traffic jams? This could easily connect to the latest tunnel plans and to the Transitway.

Seems to me that all it needs are some docks, boats ( think Paul’s Boat Lines), and away you go! Not much good for the winter, but perhaps the big Bombardier tracked vehicles? Just thinking out loud, folks.

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I’ve fallen behind in posting, trying to get to the end of the research for my upcoming book, The Invisible Army.  Anyway, here goes.

1. John Baird, Minister of transport, Infrastructure and Communities will be announcing “Economic Action Plan” funding for “Tourism Infrastructure And Heritage Preservation in Eastern Ontario”.  This takes place at Laurier House, 335 Laurier Avenue East in Ottawa.

I plan to be there  to push for funding for the Friends of the Rideau’s efforts to get a paid position for someone to oversee and manage our information distribution and visitor contact centre in Merrickville at the Depot. We’ve been doing this on a volunteer basis for years but the volunteers are “wearing out”.

We produce and distribute a ton of stuff on heritage, environment, culture, community events, places to see and stay, etc.,  and just plain talking to visitors – we think this is important.  Let’s see if  Minister Baird  is willing to back a proven, time-tested approach or will be seduced by some heavily-marketed proposal with no track record. More to come.

2. As an example of the above, the Friends ( mostly Ken Watson and a sprinkling of volunteers), continues to make available to the general public some important documents on Rideau history that were produced by Parks Canada for their own use. Examples are;

 Forbes Bush’s “Builders of the Rideau Canal, 1826-32” which has been OCr’d, proofed, and reviewed and will eventually be available as a PDF on CD.

Robert Passfield’s report on “Historic Bridges” should be available on CD for our Annual General Meeting in Merrickville.

Larry Turner’s book, “Recreational Boating on the Rideau Canal” is in the process of completion by one of our volunteers, Helen Parson.

Larry Turner’s works on the Tay Canal are in the process .  We want to get them available for the 175th this summer.

Judith Tulloch’s “The Rideau Canal 1837 – 1914 is now on CD.

Ken also has volunteers working on “Industries and Industrialists of Merrickville” and “Commercial Navigation on the Rideau Canal”. They will be available in the fullness of time.

3. A 52 page report, entitled “As Was Said Forum” on the Rideau Canal Landscape Strategy Forum of April 2 has been published.  There is a lot of good insight and food for thought in it.

I say that and I’m a great skeptic of such fora, having taken part in so many over the years – more than I want to remember or count. If there’s any interest in getting copies, call the Parks Canada office in Smiths Falls at 613-283 -7199.

4. A “Watch Your Wake – Rideau Canal Boating Safety Campaign” , meeting was held March 31st  with reps from the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Ontario Marine Operators Association, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Ottawa Police Service, Rideau Roundtable, Parks Canada, and, last but not least, Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Heritage Network.

A Communications Plan of print and radio ads has been started. An Information package has been included in mailings to boaters when they ask for lockage and mooring permits. Gillian Organ of Long Island is vigourously pushing this with her fellow marina operators and her clients.

Four other elements are also being reviewed and prepared: Education, Signage, Enforcement, and Research. They are linked together to see, for example, the impact of the communication, signage and education elements on enforcement. Research will be done on the impacts of wash and wake on shorelines and wildlife habitats ( especially loon nests and sites). The research will also look at erosion damage and identify sensitive areas along the Rideau.

Finally, various sections of the Rideau will be looked at to assess the need for additional speed zones.

An ambitious agenda, but necessary and timely.

5. The Annual Spring Meeting of the Friends of the Rideau will be held Saturday, May 9th, 9:30 to noon, at the Legion Hall in Merrickville. The business portion WILL BE BRIEF. This will give Heather Thomson, Heritage Planner for Parks Canada, lots of time to talk about the Rideau Corridor Landscape Strategy and to answer questions.

Our post-meeting walking tour last year was a great success. Another tour is being set up, even as we speak (so to speak). 

See you there.dad-sketch-55

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