Port Colborne & Welland Canal

Port Colborne Marina is very well located.  It is near shops, the Welland and Erie Canals.  Its premises are very clean and spacious.  It has a Don Cherry bar.  The only setback is its shallow water, full of salad (weeds growing at the bottom, clogging props and rudders).  

Frank had noticed a decrease in power after we turned a corner.  He put on his diving wet suit and goggles (water was 19 degrees) and dove to investigate.  As he thought, weeds were intertwined around the prop and rudder. 

We were so happy to learn that Frank's cousin from Vancouver - Tom and wife Kelly - could spend a few hours with us while we were in Port Colborne.  Together we visited a couple of wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  One of our favorite is Colaneri that produces ripasso-style wine.  Love it!  The second winery was Two Sisters.  Another good one.  Tom and Kelly are having a house built in Southampton - Kelly's hometown - for their summer seasons.  Tom - an avid sailboarder and kiteboarder - can't wait to enjoy his passion with Frank next summer.

Welland Canal.  Frank and I decided to both write about the Welland Canal experience (a good one).  Frank is writing on its technical aspect (the booking process, some technicalities, etc.); and I'm writing about everything else. 

No time for coffee and breakfast, we had to be at the first bridge by 06:30.  Only one other pleasure boat, motor, named Soggy Dollars (Soggy for short) went through the locks with us.  All day, the pattern was:  sail to a certain location, wait for freighters to pass, enter/descend/exit the lock, repeat.  With this pattern, we had time to prepare and eat our meals, to socialize with the three guys on Soggy and get to know the lock operators (who followed us from the start to the end, 11 hours and 20 minutes for us).  The 12 hours were divided as:  30 minute per lock (8 locks = 4 hours), 20 nm canal at 5 nm/h (4 hours) and 4 hours of waiting for freighters to pass.  All through the day, we monitored Channel 14 - Welland Canal Operations - for instructions.  For example, as we waited and socialized, moored to a wall, the radio operator instructed us to come forward, the green light on the lock would be on soon.

We found out that all pleasure craft go through the locks together.  If you missed the first run, you'd have to wait for the next pleasure craft day (Northbound, Tuesdays and Thursdays only).  They usually have 3-5 boats, the most was 8 boats.  What a mess it must've been!  I say this because, it's a bit hard to keep your boat near the wall as the water level goes down.  If a boat was near ours, it would've required a lot of arm strength to keep it close. 
The freighters don't need assistance from the ground operators.   For instance, instead of having bumpers hanging on the side of the walls for the freighters, there are big 3'x5' (approx.) suctioned-operated pads that come out of the canal wall and stick to the sides of a freighter to keep it in place.  The pads, and the boat, go up or down with the water level.  Cool, isn't it?  Because everything is done remotely, the locks can be operated at night, for freighters only.

Even though the whole process is not physically challenging, the constant state of alertness and the hot sun tired us completely by the end of the day.  It's a feel-good tiredness though.

The three guys on Soggy had just bought this 45-foot used motorboat at Lake St. Clair.  Very nice and friendly guys.  Near the end, one of their engine died.  Because of current and cold/dirty water, they couldn't dive in the canal to find out the problem.  As they had seen Frank dive the night before, clad in scuba gear, they asked if he would dive once on Lake Ontario to investigate.  They were hoping it was not a mechanical problem which they couldn't repair themselves.  Once out of the canal, we anchored beside Dalhousie Marina.  Frank found a big plastic tarp wrapped around their prop.  The three guys were so grateful for our help.  They paid us generously even though we had refused.

Thanks to their generosity, we finished this eventful day with a perfect dinner and a couple of Sangiovese glasses in an Italian restaurant beside the marina called The Twisted Pig.  Aaaaah!

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