It was July. Our 5th Wheel Trailer was parked in an RV Park in Kingston. We had just finished an early morning game of Pickleball when our daughter arrived with her three children.

Grandchildren, — we have more of them than I have fingers, but three is a manageable number. The oldest two of this group, Bella and Rhys, aged 11 and 12, wanted their grandparents to themselves and camp for a few nights; the baby could not stay. I thought, “Wasn’t that nice?” and said, “Yes.” The smiles on their faces told me they all knew I was being asked.

As fulltime RVers and snowbirds, Linda and I try to plan our summer activities with our children and grandkids. But what activity can you plan with grandkids whose energy level is off the chart? This is one of our stories.

The Instant Plan

We try to spend summer quality time with our kids and grandkids. We all still like each other; this is worth a parent achievement award.

You’re retired and still healthy. Camping is a common ground for learning. A learning experience suitable for both you and your grandchildren. As grandparents, you get good at the instant plan.

  • Day 1: Play in the pool, walk the dogs, play on the beach, and songs around a campfire.
  • Day 2: Rent a pontoon boat, swim out on the lake, visit by boat the historical and operating, Kingston Mills locks on the Rideau Canal, picnic, then cook an evening meal over an open fire when we get back to the trailer.
  • Day 3: Play in the pool, walk the dogs, play on the beach, songs around a campfire.

What could go wrong with these plans?

The Pontoon Boat

Grandchildren getting ready to board the docked pontoon boat

We rented a pontoon boat.

 

On day two we rented the pontoon boat. Once in the deep water, I anchored for a swim. Swimming from a pontoon boat under a bright azure blue cloudless sky is a pleasure, and feels like a Caribbean experience until you hit the water.

 

Grandchildren jumping in the cold lake water.

This could be the Caribbean until you hit the water.

 

We were anchored half a kilometre from shore. A shoreline of short Canadian pine trees, not a house in sight, adds to the grandkids’ adventure. These lakes, trees, and granite formations are like so many paintings of Northern Ontario, immortalized on canvas by The Group of Seven.

 

A shore, lined with short Canadian Pine trees

A shore, lined with short Canadian Pine trees.

 

Watching children play teaches you to be spontaneous. They always find pleasure in what they are doing, whether it is jumping into cold water or waiting for the excitement of a wave in the wake of a passing boat.

 

Grandchildren jumping into cold lake water

Fun jumping into cold water.

 

For you, the pleasure, the experience is increased when they encourage you to laugh and shout as you both cannonball into the cold water of a Canadian lake in July.

Kingston Mills Locks and Lunch

After swimming in the waterway system during the morning, Linda and I added what we thought was the final adventure of the day: the exploration of Kingston Mills Locks and a picnic lunch on the boat.

 

Locks are a system of Water Gates

Locks are a system of Water Gates

 

Kingston Mills Locks is a system of four manually opened locks, operated by a mechanism that look like they fell out of the Mad Hatter’s pocket watch. These locks lower the waterway level to the level of Lake Ontario. While you wait, you can stand on the side of the Canal, talk with pleasure boaters and lock operators, and read the historical markers telling the story of the Canal.

 

Grandchild helping operate the lock gate

Rhys helping operate the lock gate.

 

Rhys was thrilled to help manage the old lock gates mechanism, and in talking with Jane, one of the summer students working on the locks, he realized that he could get a job like this in a few years.

Jane explained. “To pass through the locks in a boat, first you tie up on the dock at the blueline. Then, we ask to see your lock pass or we sell you a day pass. Then, you wait for your turn along with several other boats going through.” Rhys was retaining all the information in his memory for when he would do this job as a summer student.

 

Boat tied up and no blueline.

Stopping for lunch tied up and no blueline.

 

We laughed as both grandkids dreamed of future summer jobs. Rhys was helping work the heavy gate mechanism, and Bella was off with my camera shouting, “I don’t want to work, grandad. I want to be like you. I want to play with a camera and have fun all day.”

Children soak up exciting and fun knowledge, both good and bad. Your responsibility is to deliver the information; you may never know what they retain. During the picnic lunch on the boat, we listened to their experiences. Grandchildren teach you to be observant.

Cruising the Rideau Canal and Losing the Propeller

Rideau Lake is shallow and rocky. Red and green buoys identify the secure channel. We stopped several times to swim before following the river as it winds its way around the hills at the north end of the lake. Waves in the narrow channel cause erosion of the banks. There is a maximum allowed speed. The police boats patrol the canal system; they may stop boaters to confirm they have at least a day operator’s license and are following all the Ontario boating safety regulations.

In this quiet section of the Canal, I stopped to let the grandkids listen to the peace and observe a heron fishing in the shallows as we drifted in the light breeze.

When I restarted the engine, I had no drive. The light breeze was pushing the boat; in doing so, it was taking us towards rocks. Triangular-shaped rocks protrude out of the water, looking like shark fins heading towards the damaged pirate ship.

Once to the side of the main channel, we dropped anchor, and the panic building on board turned back to an adventure. This area had no cell phone reception. We waited for rescue. From children, you will learn how to find adventure in amazing things.

The Rescue Boat and Supper Over the Campfire

The Canal is not busy mid-week, but a boat eventually did come by and towed us back to the rental dock at Rideau Acres. The beauty of rentals! We collected our things, and I handed the keys and the story to the office, making it their problem.

 

Boat towing the pontoon boat back to the dock.

Eventually a boat towed us back to the dock.

 

Michael, our other grandson who’s the same age as Rhys, joined us for supper. The two boys cooked corn and sweet potatoes over an open fire while Bella and I cooked chicken on the gas BBQ. Linda, however, unknown to the boys, did cheat to help them out by partly cooking the corn and the sweet potatoes indoors before handing them to the boys for roasting.

 

Grandchildren cooking corn and sweet potatoes over an open fire

The two boys cooked corn and sweet potatoes over an open fire.

 

Later, while roasting marshmallows, the grandchildren relived their day. With each retelling of every action, every detail became more daring, and more exaggerated than before. We could have been crossing the Atlantic in an open boat, led by a mad pirate captain and attacked by sharks.

As you sit back and listen, you learn from your grandchildren, and you have the satisfaction of passing your knowledge and imagination on to another generation.

5 Reasons Why you Should go Camping with Your Grandchildren

  1. You’re retired and still healthy. Camping is a common ground for learning. A learning experience suitable and ideal for both, you and your grandchildren.
  2. Watching children play teaches you to be spontaneous; they find pleasure in what they are doing.
  3. Grandchildren teach you to be observant of what is around you.
  4. From children, you will learn how to find adventure in amazing things.
  5. As you sit back and listen and learn, you have the satisfaction of passing your knowledge your imagination on to another generation.

The Grandchildren Get the Last Word

The grandchildren told their story to their mother when she came to pick them up. The look she gave me was priceless.

“Grandad took us out for a day on a boat, and the engine broke down. We were out in deep water surrounded by sharks and high waves. The boat might have sunk, and sharks would have eaten us, but another boat rescued us in time; it was fun.”

You Too Can Recreate This Experience with Your Grandchildren

Book four nights camping at Rideau Acres Campground.

  • Call the campground for the availability for four nights.
  • Night one, to set up your campsite without the grandkids help.
  • Night two and three, for you and the grandkids.
  • Night four, to recover after they go home.

You can rent the pontoon boat for half a day at $250.

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