Boaters along St. Lawrence River frustrated with lock closure
Published Tuesday, June 2, 2020 5:22PM EDT
BROCKVILLE, ONT. -- Locks along the Rideau Canal and the Quebec seaway system reopened to boaters on June 1st, but a major lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway is still closed to recreational boaters.
Ray Bushfield winters his boat at Crysler Park Marina near Morrisburg and the only way to get to his summer slip in Brockville is to pass through the Iroquois lock.
"Several of us are in that situation," he tells CTV News, noting that he's called the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, which controls the locks, many times looking for an opening date.
"We call them every week and there has been no communication. We were told at one point that once they opened up the Rideau Canal system they would open up the Iroquois lock. Everything should be open at the same time," Bushfield said.
Another boater, Allen Lalonde from Ottawa, is in the same situation, with his boat also in Morrisburg.
"It's a costly situation. We have to pay on both ends. We are paying for extended storage and we are paying for our slip in Brockville, which is not in use," said Lalonde. "For us, it's a place to frankly escape and get away from the stresses of being locked in your home and socially distancing ourselves."
The seaway opened to commercial vessels on April 1, but the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation will not give a date for when recreational boaters can travel through the Iroquois lock.
"If you give me a target date - June 15 - and if you can't live to that target date, I get it, but give me an idea," added Bushfield. "In order for me to get that boat in the water, I've got to organize and coordinate with the mechanic, the hauler, with the marina that I'm leaving, with the marina that I'm coming to. You've got a lot of coordination just to get that boat ready and, unfortunately, we can't get that kind of coordination because we have no idea what the date is."
In an email to CTV News on Tuesday, seaway management stated that plans are "currently being formulated for the processing of pleasure craft at the seaways various locks," adding "we anticipate having news soon" for reopening.
The email also said the "need to preserve social distancing while processing pleasure craft necessitates some modifications to the traditional methods used to process transits. With these safety considerations in mind, the operations team is working to revise the seaway's traditional practices and procedures."
Bushfield said maintaining social distancing through a commercial lock is not difficult.
"In the Rideau Canal, you raft up with the boat next to you and that's how they get everybody through but, in a commercial lock you don't raft. So, when you go through, they open the gate, you prepay, you come in, and they throw you a rope to hold onto. You don't touch anybody you don't see anybody. You're social distanced at a maximum," he said.
Neither Bushfield nor Lalonde can trailer their boat to Brockville because their boats are too high.
"If you have a boat with a fly bridge and are over 15 or 16 feet in height, you can't put it on a trailer because you'll never get it underneath the hydro wires. So, what you have to do is have to go through a lock," Bushfield said. "A 40 foot speedboat, you can put that on a trailer and just go right by the lock, but we can't. We're stuck."
Both men agree that it is a small problem to have during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but they would like to enjoy some of the boating season, after already losing a month.
"For us, we are looking to try and social distance ourselves in the same way as people going to their cottages," said Lalonde.
"Why we live here is because of that river," added Bushfield. Just to get on it, get out and float a little bit, and enjoy what this area brings at this time of year, there is nothing more relaxing than being out on the water."