Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Wow! Loads of good guesses for our inaugural 2018 “What Is It” quiz. But this one was a stumper.

The mysterious forged iron thingy is a portable boat cleat!  The resident Rideau blacksmith made it for us while we watched, in his stone blacksmith shop, unchanged since 1836. 

A Job That’s Like Time Travel

Why does the canal have a resident blacksmith? Well, the Rideau is a living museum, with lots of antique iron parts: the gears that open the sluice gates, the gears that open and close the lock doors, the fittings on the doors themselves.

The blacksmith works full time keeping all 47 lock stations supplied. Even in the winter, when the canal is closed, he trudges through the snow to spend solitary days, hard at work at his forge.
And if he has any spare time, he makes things that we tourists can buy. Like this cleat.

Why BYOC (Bring Your Own Cleat)?

V  a boat. Usually, when you land at a dock, you see metal cleats every 15 feet or so. You wrap your lines around them in a proscribed way, and the boat stays put.
No cleats, ring a ding ding.
ery handy to have on

Sometimes, though, the dock cleatage is problematical. The cleats are too far apart.

Or they are too small to hold the hefty, thick lines used on a 14-ton canal boat (because they are meant for tying up the little boat you use to go for ice cream).

Don't Be Cleat-less

Here on the Rideau, we’ve seen some docks with NO cleats. There may be iron rings (very hard to tie your lines tight). 

Or odd metal loops that stick up and, bizarrely, have sharp edges, so that you risk cutting your lines.

That’s why this portable cleat is so nifty. Here’s Cap, demonstrating how it works.
  • Slip the straight edge down between the boards of the dock.
  • Turn 90 degrees. Now the iron rod is crosswise to the boards.
  • Tie your line on the loop. Tie up tight, and the pressure holds the device in place.

Now, Speaking of “Stumped” . . .

One of our mottos is “Seek Local Knowledge,” and two days into our trip, a fellow boater warned us about an unexpected Rideau hazard.

“If a big boat’s ahead of you, hang back,” he said. “The wake might wash up a stump.”  What?

To create this canal system, our friend Colonel By built a number of dams that flooded river valleys. (Deep valleys!  We've see water more than 300 feet deep! That's Lake Ontario deep!)

The trees were left in place, and today, nearly 200 years later, some trees have not decayed and are still anchored to the muddy lake bottom. In shallow areas, a big wave can cut one loose.

Being stumped by a puzzle is one thing.  We’ll try to not actually get stumped!

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