I have never climbed Kilimanjaro. I have yet to hike the Inca Trail. But one travel experience may end up topping them all: In the summer of 2006, I successfully navigated the Narrows Lock at the helm of a houseboat.
It was no mean feat. On board the 40-foot-long SMR Cataraqui were six of my closest relatives: my wife, parents, sister, brother and sister-in-law. Meanwhile, along the shores of Eastern Ontario's Rideau Canal, several dozen locals were seated on lawn chairs and coolers, intent on admiring the waterway's many fine vessels, and teasing neophytes on rented houseboats. And it didn't help that beyond the fundamentals of thrust and steering, I had no idea what I was doing. Needless to say, the pressure was on.
My run-in with the Narrows took place during a three-day, 40-kilometre houseboat jaunt between the towns of Smiths Falls and Westport. The family reunion was intended to celebrate my father's birthday — after all, a canal that turned 175 in 2007 seemed a fitting destination for a man who was about to hit 60. Other selling points: None of us had been houseboating before, my dad loves anything that floats, and Smiths Falls was a convenient base for all of us. Last but not least, I wanted to see for myself why this 202-kilometre-long waterway was vying for World Heritage Site status, which UNESCO would go on to grant a year later...
Read the rest of the story in The Globe and Mail.
WHERE TO STAY
Smiths Falls is about halfway between Kingston and Ottawa, and is therefore less than an hour’s drive from the Delta Hotels Kingston Waterfront and the Ottawa Marriott Hotel, both of which overlook the Rideau Canal. Plus, you can down free daiquiris at both properties by exchanging Marriott Rewards for a dining gift card.