July 12, 2013

Day 260 – July 12, 2013: The Rideau Canal at Merrickville

Most people here get up in the morning and go to work. We get up in the morning and get into a lock! Today we traveled through another 7 locks, making it 23 that we have negotiated so far on the Rideau Canal. We were first on the blue-lined dock overnight, and thus were invited first into this lock and all subsequent locks today. Three other boats joined us for the trip, and it went very smoothly. 

Merrickville is about 40% of the way through the Rideau and considered by the guide books as a recommended stop. It is also very popular with local boaters, as the town has a number of good restaurants and many shops. Our concern was that there are a very limited number of boat tie-ups on the lock walls, and we were arriving on a weekend night. We anxiously pulled in and were very lucky to get the last spot, which was admittedly an overflow area. We were across the dam tied to a floating work raft covered with weeds, and in the middle of a patch of thick algae with no electric or water. No problem, we said, we’ll take it!

On the way we encountered an unusual swing bridge in that it was operated by a young man turning a crank by holding a long handle and walking in circles around it.

Manually operated swing bridge
Great Laker in the overflow area (:-( 
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operating canal in North America. The British military decided to build it after the War of 1812 as a safe way to get supplies to their outposts in southern Canada and the Great Lakes. They feared that in the future, American aggressors might try to close off their only shipping path along the Saint Lawrence River. Col. John By was brought over from England to engineer and build the canal, and he completed this substantial and risky task in just 6 years, with the opening in 1832. There were a series of blockhouses built to defend the locks, and we visited one of them that remains here in Merrickville.

Merrickville blockhouse
We walked the main street, explored restaurants for dinner, found a coffee house with free wifi, and went back to Great Laker and returned with our computers to catch up with the digital world.

The Goose and Gridiron, cira 1856
One of the many country stores 
We ate at the Baldachin Restaurant across from the canal, which featured European style cuisine, two wedding rehearsal dinners and a band. 

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