How to Boat Through the Murray Canal

A. Brighton Road swing bridge
B. Abandoned railway swing bridge
C. Carrying Place swing bridge
There is also a smaller abandoned bridge between A and B. I believe it connected Hutchinson Road and Pigtail Corners Road.

I feel like we are getting better at navigating the canal and the VHF radio. The western swing bridge, Brighton Road, is now open and they are once again collecting $5 for passage. Just make sure you have the correct change and be ready to drop it into the small brass pot on the end of a huge extension pole as you motor by. Here’s some notes on how we travel through the Murray Canal.

The Murray Canal connects Lake Ontario, through Presqui’le Bay to the Bay of Quinte, or some call it part of the Northern Route. This is a safer, but longer route if you don’t feel comfortable taking the open water Southern route to Kingston and beyond.

Be warned, the canal is not open 24/7. During mid summer it’s opens up at 9am and closes at 5:30pm Mon-Thu. It’s open until 6:30pm on weekends, Canada Day, August Civic Holiday and Labour Day. It follows the same hours as the Trent-Severn waterway locks. See Parks Canada – Trent-Severn Waterway Hours of Operation for official hours of operation. If you arrive after it closes, there are a few spots on the wall you can tie up to overnight.

VHF: Channel 14
Brighton Road and Carrying Place Swing Bridge: 
+1 613-475-1299 (unconfirmed)

You can also find a bit more info on the Murray Canal here: Parks Canada – Murray Canal.

Eastbound

This is how we go through canal (from West to East)

Murray Canal entrance
  • Slow down to minimize the wake. Speed limit is 10 kph or 5.4 knots.
  • After passing the entrance, wait a few minutes and then call ahead on channel 14, “Brighton Road swing bridge this is eastbound sailing vessel Foghorn Lullaby. OVER”.
  • Wait for the reply, it will be something like “Eastbound sailing vessel, this is Brighton Road swing bridge. OVER” and they may give you some instructions (slow down, speed up, …)
  • If they don’t give you any instructions, you can follow up with, “Brighton, this is eastbound sailing vessel Foghorn Lullaby. We just entered the canal. We are monitoring one four and awaiting instructions. OVER”
  • Now that you’ve formally introduced yourselves, radio chatter will be relaxed. If there isn’t a lot of chatter from other boats we stopped the formal “Brighton, this is… ” and just talked normally. If you feel you need to distinguish yourselves from other boats on the radio you can say, “Brighton, this is eastbound sailing vessel, ROGER that. OVER.”
Brighton Road swing bridge in distance as we are heading eastbound on the Murray Canal

After the swing bridge operator has instructed us to advance, traffic will stop and the bridge starts to slowly swing away. There’s also a light that changes from red to green, but I never notice it. I try to have our speed and distance timed so we are getting close as it’s still opening. East bound traffic has priority so we go first, even if there are boats waiting on the other side.

Getting ready to pay at Brighton Road swing bridge on western side of Murray Canal

On the starboard, right, side there’s a person holding a long pole with a copper pot on the end. We slow down, get close to the wall and Lori gets ready to drop our change into the pot as we glide by.

We continue motor eastbound and pass an abandoned railroad swing bridge and then we eventually see the Carrying Place swing bridge. We call out on channel 14, “Carrying Place swing bridge this is eastbound sailing vessel Foghorn Lullaby. OVER”, and continue as before. There is no toll collection here.

As you leave the Murray Canal and if the radio chatter is quiet then I like to call out something like, “Murray Canal Swing bridge operators, this is eastbound sailing vessel Foghorn Lullaby, thanks again for the safe passage and have a great day! Switching to channel one six. OUT.”

Keep an eye on your charts and markers in the Bay of Quinte. It can be shallow and weedy here. Don’t be tempted to take the short-cut to Trenton. There be weeds!

Westbound

As you are heading West in the Bay of Quinte the entrance to the Murray Canal can be a hard to spot until you get to the last bouy.

Going through the Murray Canal from East to West is is pretty much the same but you start with the Carrying Place swing bridge. They are close to the entrance so I call them on 14 the moment I enter the canal. Follow the same steps on the radio as above but you are now “westbound” and you don’t have to pay at Carrying Place.

Remember, eastbound traffic has priority on the Murray Canal. You can squeeze through side by side at Carrying Place. But you will need to wait your turn to pay at the Brighton Road swing bridge. Everyone pays on the South side of the canal.

As you leave the canal you are now in Presqui’le Bay. There will be green buoys on the left, stay relatively close to them but keep them on your port side.

Tips and comments

  • Technically it’s $4.90. If you feel like saving $0.10 then go ahead and give them a bunch of dimes and nickels.
  • Here’s an interesting reference covering radio voice communication, Chapter 2 – Voice Communications PDF (globalsecurity.org). I do have my Restricted Operator’s Certificate (Maritime) ROC(m), but couldn’t find any online refresher material.
  • On one trip we had two jet skis blow past us. The swing bridge operator calmly told us over the radio, “Keep coming slow, have a few eastbound I’m trying to get through the same swing. And don’t rush, I’ll keep those two jet skis here waiting for you”.
  • We radioed ahead to Carrying Place and they said it would be a 15 minute wait. Sometimes there may be the need to keep the bridge open for an ambulance, I think they call this an “EMS hold”. I find it better to circle and wait in the Bay of Quinte rather than in the narrow Murray Canal.
  • You’re not operating on channel 16 so radio chatter is less formal. And I have heard them joke on the radio, so feel free to make it fun for everyone listening. However, if there are a lot of different boats talking then you may want to shorten it up and clarify which bridge you are talking to and who you are.
  • Watch out for kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards, fishing boats and swimmers just hanging out in the canal. Coolest one we saw was a pickup truck up on a small hill backed right up to the canal and kids were diving off the tailgate into the water.
  • I wonder what would happen if you get caught between bridges after they close? There are some spots on the wall to tie up to. Could you anchor overnight?
  • Has anyone ever tried to sail through the canal!?

7 thoughts on “How to Boat Through the Murray Canal

  1. Shaun Clare says:

    This is great, Shane – thanks for putting this together! We’re planning on transiting the Murray Canal this coming Summer (and will probably come back that way as well). We’ve got a 30′ Sailing Catamaran with a 14.5′ beam – it looks like there will still be plenty of room to get through but it could be a little tricky if we encounter oncoming traffic (which sounds likely based on your comments about how popular this channel is). I’m wondering if you’ve ever anchored near some of the nice sandy beach areas around the corner once through the canal heading westbound (just in front of Weller’s Bay, for example). We’d even love to go down to Sandbanks (weather permitting) – I’ve heard the weather on Lake Ontario can change in a heartbeat though, and with these areas so exposed I would assume an overnight stay would typically be out of the question, but am curious what your experience has been? Thanks again. Shaun

    Reply
    1. Shane says:

      Hi Shaun, thanks for the comment!

      You should be fine even with 14.5′ beam. The canal has steep banks so you can get close to shore if needed. Going through narrow sections at the swing bridges is one boat at a time (Eastbound gets priority).

      For anchor spots, I’m part way through creating a post on that topic. There is a nice spot near the Brighton public dock. If that doesn’t work, then there’s a few docks in the area. There is the Presquile Yacht Club (not sure about width limits but it is shallow 5′). There is the Harbourview Marina that also had a nice restaurant. And then there’s the concrete wall on the West entrance to the canal.

      If the weather was nice I would consider anchoring near Sandbanks for the day but would never consider it for overnight.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.