Click here! Lake Deschênes
( &  Introduction to this part of the river )

Racing on Lake Deschenes. It can get crowded.
Lake Deschenes is the hub the largest sailing community in the National Capital region, and nothing demonstrates this better than the many sailing and yacht clubs which have popped up around this body of water. And while this sailing community is trapped within a 27 mile segment of the Ottawa River, people have learned to make the best with what they have. In fact, they have turned this stretch of water into a self-contained microcosm of the larger sailing world.

This part of the Ottawa River begins with Lake Deschenes in the City of Ottawa's west-end, and it continues up river to the Chat Falls hydro electric dam near the small town of Fitzroy Harbour. It includes a number of well equipped and surprisingly large marina facilities, several strategically
Boats pass each other on Lake Deschenes.
placed overnight anchorages, various racing fleets, and over a thousand sailboats, many of which are in the 25 to 35 foot range. Unfortunately a series of rapids in the east, and the dam to the west, isolates this part of the river from any other navigable waters.

Such limitations mean that Ottawa sailors have become adept at overcoming obstacles preventing access to and from the river. Owners of some of the larger vessels have resorted to a regular routine of transporting their boats to Lake Ontario or the Georgian Bay for one or two months every summer, and the area has had more than its share of boats that have made it to the Caribbean and beyond. And of course, trailer-sailing is popular for obvious reasons, and this is especially true for those who are anxious to find new competition on various racing circuits.

Coming into an anchorage
on the Ottawa River.
The prevailing wind for this body of water is from the west to northwest, meaning anyone sailing up river will probably be working against the wind at least some of the time. Fortunately, the current in this part of the Ottawa River is rarely noticeable (unless you're into serious racing), and water quality is easily good enough for swimming. There are a number of shoals in Lake Deschenes and around Constance Bay, but with a little caution, boats drawing up to 5 feet should not have too much trouble in this body of water. The entire area is covered by Canadian hydrographic chart # 1550.

Trailer sailors will be glad to know that there are good launch ramps open to the public (for a fee) at the Nepean Sailing Club, the Aylmer Marina, and the Port-of-Call Marina. Public ramps exist at Buckham's Bay, Quyon, and Fitzroy Harbour towards the western end of this body of water, and there is always the possibility of finding other facilities, including naturally occurring ramps at the end of public roadways (for light-weight boats).

A return trip between Lake Deschenes and Pontiac Bay means covering 88 kilometres (54 miles), a distance that will satisfy most people out for a short cruise. All in all, this body of water has much to offer local sailors as well as the "trailer-sailors" who may wish to drop by for a visit.

The square-rigger "Blackjack"
The photograph to left shows the square-rigger "Blackjack" which plies the Ottawa River between Lake Deschenes and the Chats Falls Dam. It is based out of the Britannia Yacht Club and is currently used by the Bytown Brigantine Foundation for youth leadership training. It is interesting to note that the Blackjack was converted from the "G. B. Pattee", a tugboat which was used to tow logs from Quyon downriver to Lake Deschenes. The Blackjack is 87 feet long (62 feet on deck), weights 35 tons, has a mast height of 80 feet, and carries 3000 square feet of sail.

Click here!
Text and photos by Michael McGoldrick.
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