Lock On!

“So where are you headed?” asked the lock master, as he handed me our rope.

“To Swift Rapids” I mumbled, barely able to get the words out, with my trembling lower lip.
I was overcome with emotion.
The lock master averted his eyes and wished us a good voyage.
I could tell he was uncomfortable with this clearly unstable boater lady.
But I couldn’t help it.
There is something unrealistic and miraculous about flying in a boat over Big Chute.
A marine railway on the Trent Severn Waterway, which essentially hoists a boat in a sling and carries it high in the air, over rocks and roads, and gently places it back into the water from whence it came.
It’s an engineering marvel that came about when it was decided it was too much work to blast through the rocks and make a canal connecting Couchiching with Port Severn on the Trent Severn lock system.
It was much easier to carry the boats OVER the land.
And so, for the last few decades, the Big Chute marine railway has done just that.
And it is awe inspiring.
Tourists line up to take photos of the event.
I have been over it probably a dozen times – and each time it does not get any less incredulous.
My palms are always facing upwards to the heavens.
There is always a smile on my face.
And I am always incredibly relieved when we make it safely to the other side.
We are in the hands of the Universe, for sure.
The lock masters who run the marine railway have nerves of ice cold steel.
“Just pull your boat up to this line Cap’n, bring up your motors, and turn the engines off please,” they casually say.
It is often a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Placing several boats of various sizes and widths so they all fit.
The signs warn to Please Remain Seated. And that damage could occur to your vessel.
Because, after all, it is a mere sling of nylon that is carrying you over.
But I have seen boaters sit on the very front of their boats, with children and pets, to enjoy the view and experience.
I am much more conservative, and prefer to sit, in the event that a sling should break, or a steel rope should weaken.
Always prepared for the worst, but expecting the best.
This last time we went across, it was my first time in two years.
Last year I had to have a new hip, and the pre-operation pain prevented me from enjoying all boating activities that involved climbing out the front hatch and tying on a line.
So, to say that I was overcome with emotion to be locking through Big Chute with a new hip, and to arrive on the other side of The Chute safe and sound and with nary a wobble, is understandable, I’d say.
When we returned through Big Chute at the end of our vacation, the same lock master remembered me and said “Welcome Back!”
I was happy and smiling this time. I was determined no emotions would overcome me.
A lock mistress was designated to handle my rope and hold us firm as we were carried over.
At the end of the ride, I said to her, relieved, “Always a miracle!”
She laughed and said, “Yep!”
Lock on!


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