This is the long narrative of our delightful nine-day cruise along the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Georgian Bay, wherein I will present, perhaps in too much detail for some readers, the events of our journey, the places we visited, the people we met, the accommodations we found, the minor problems we overcame, and the good company we enjoyed. In the process of telling the story I hope to acquaint you with the fun of trailer boating, the features of our Boston Whaler boat, the landscape of Georgian Bay's eastern and northern shores, and the marinas and restaurants of the many small towns located there.
For those who prefer less words and fewer details, let me summarize it more concisely: it was a great trip; you ought to try it.
|Date:||Saturday, July 28, 2001|
|Weather:||Warm and sunny|
|Traffic:||Heavy in stretches|
|Departure:||Beverly Hills, Michigan|
|Distance:||305 miles by highway|
Although this is going to be primarily a travelogue of a boat journey, as trailer-boaters our trip first begins on land and on the roads. This is at once both the joy and the bane of trailer boating.
Unlike larger boats which must move on their own bottoms to distant ports, we trailer-boaters can haul our miniature cruisers to far away seas at 60 MPH on the highway. This not only saves us time, but also considerable cost in fuel, as we can travel 300 miles or more in just a few hours on the interstate and only burn perhaps 20 gallons of gas in the process. To move a large boat to our same destination would be twice the distance by water, take perhaps as long as a week if the winds and waves were uncooperative, and burn ten times the fuel or more.
The disadvantage we face is that we must maintain and support two other vital components in the process, our boat trailer and a sturdy car or truck to haul it. And we must load and launch our boats when we arrive. These operations add additional layers of complexity to the already complicated art of cruising by boat.
2001 Cruise to Georgian Bay
Our cruise begins with 305 miles of highway trailering to Midland, Ontario. From there we will travel about 500 miles by boat up and down the eastern shore of Georgian Bay.
On Friday afternoon, I fetch the boat (on its trailer) from its indoor storage and park it in front of the house. A steady marathon of trips from house to curb begins, filling the 1995 GMC Suburban, not the boat, with gear. I don't like to load too much equipment on the boat while still on the trailer, as this increases the trailer weight load. Since most of this gear would have to be stowed in the cuddy, it would especially tend to increase the weight borne by the tongue, which we have carefully managed to keep to a safe minimum. Instead, we fill the rear seats of the nine-passenger SUV with coolers, clothes, and cargo. By the time we are done there is just room for the two of us in the front seats.
Saturday we are up early. We have targeted 8 a.m. as the departure time. There are plenty of last minute things to load. Without wasting too much of the morning we get under way at a few minutes past nine o'clock. There is a great deal of momentum to overcome to get this trip started!
The drive to Port Huron takes about an hour and the traffic is light. Before leaving the U.S.A., we stop at the duty free shop to buy some beer and other goods. The beer isn't much cheaper than it is in the states, but it is a big bargain compared to the price across the border. I think the government of Canada tries to control alcoholism through pricing; a case of beer costs a Canadian thirty three dollars of his currency. Demand seems inelastic.
We are crossing the border at Port Huron, entering Ontario at Sarnia and coming over on the recently expanded Blue Water Bridge. Driven by the large increase in border traffic, particularly trucking, the bridge's capacity has been doubled by the erection of a second, almost identical span, mirroring the graceful lines of the 60-year-old original bridge. Now one bridge carries three broad lanes of traffic eastbound, the second carries three lanes westward. There is no waiting to get on the bridge, and the toll is modest, just a few dollars for the car and a couple extra for the dual-axle trailer.
Unfortunately, Canadian Border Customs and Immigration doesn't seem to be aware of the heavy flow of traffic coming into their country this morning. About three- quarters of the way across the bridge span we come to a stop. The back-up from the customs booths stretches ahead of us for a quarter mile.
After about 20 minutes of stop and go progress, we finally are poised to officially enter Canada. We're next for the customs booth. Unfortunately, we have made a bad choice of lanes. Our booth is staffed by a woman, and a young woman at that. I have this theory about which customs booths to choose and which to avoid. This one would not be my first choice, but it is impossible to change lanes now.
I roll up to the booth, my sunglasses off so the customs agent can see my eyes, my window down all the way so the interior of the car is visible, too.
"Hello," I say to the young blond customs officer.
There is a long pause while she looks are the screen of her CRT terminal. Via mirrors and perhaps a remote television camera, she picks up the license plate numbers of our car and boat trailer and keys them into her video terminal, where they'll be checked against lists of stolen cars and other vehicles to be detained.
This process occupies her attention for some time; from our perspective she seems to be ignoring us. Finally she turns our way. No "Welcome to Canada" for us.
(I have related this story to Jim Gibson, a veteran of even more border crossing than we, and he tells me the problem is my answers; they are too long. "Make them short, and you'll get right through," he says. I'll show his suggested responses in brackets after mine.)
"What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?"
"We're going to put that boat behind us in the water and cruise around on it for a week." ["Vacation"]
"Where are you going?"
"To Midland, then north to Georgian Bay." ["Midland"]
"How long will you be in Canada?"
"Eight or nine days." ["9 days"]
"Will you be leaving the boat in Canada?"
"No, (chuckle) I am not planning on it, the boat will return with us." ["No"]
(Pause, more looking at the CRT screen)
"Are you American Citizens?"
"Yes" (in unison). ["Yes"]
"Do you have any guns or firearms?"
(Emphatic) "No!" ["No"]
"Do you have any alcohol that you are bringing with you?"
"We just bought a case of beer at the duty free." ["One case of beer"]
"Yes, we are not big drinkers."
To Chris she asks:
"Ma'am, are you carrying any MACE or pepper spray?"
We are not accustomed to being interrogated by aloof twenty-year-olds as though we were landless immigrants about to impose a burden on the social services system of the host country and maybe beat up a few of the weak and infirm in the process. A couple more Customs agents like her and they could have a negative impact on tourism in Canada.
Finally we are cleared. I slowly put the Suburban back in gear and we roll through the customs booth, bypass the long line at the currency exchange drive-up, and exit the highway to the Visitor Information Center on the right. Jim Gibson reminded me that this was here and we'd avoid the big lines at the drive-up booth. Good advice.
They have special parking lanes for cars with trailers, a very nice accommodation since there are plenty of them coming across the bridge. We both hop out of the car and head for the tourist information center. Chris goes to the currency exchange window with $200-US and returns in a few seconds with $301-Canadian. At the travel info counter I get the latest official provincial highway map for free, and the very nice, friendly, late-thirties-something woman walks across the room to help me locate a more detailed map and information brochure on Midland that's in a rack on the wall. This will prove helpful when we finally get into the town.
This is the Canada we know and love, not the one that the cold customs agent lives in.
Heading east on Highway 402, the road is being repaired and traffic is constricted to a single lane. We thread the Suburban and boat trailer between the orange barrels on the new asphalt. The construction has reduced the speed limit to about our top running speed, 50 MPH, so we are not slowed by this little inconvenience.
We have a postmortem on the customs crossing. "Your theory was right," says Chris, "never go to the booth with a woman, especially a young one."
"Yeah," I concur, "she was a pain."
"They just take their work too seriously," Chris observes. "They don't know how to do their job but be friendly at the same time."
Although it is just across the river from us in Detroit and doesn't seem exotic, Ontario is in a foreign country, Canada, and there are some little differences. First, there is the money, the bills printed in strange colors and full of pictures of the Queen. Then there are the highway signs that announce the distance to Toronto and other points, but use measurements in kilometers. With Toronto still 200 kilometers away, it seems like we have hours of driving ahead of us. We have to convert to miles in order to get a feel for just how far away a place really is.
It is funny, but here in Ontario everything needs a little conversion. The money and mileage are both deflated about 65%, but you have to double the temperatures and add 30. Gasoline comes in liters and there are almost four of them to a gallon. It takes a bit of getting used to all these different scalar numbers.
After an hour or so the road swings south a few miles and merges with Highway 401 coming up from Windsor. We pull into a service center to take a break. I check the trailer tires and bearings for heat. They are all running a bit warmer than on our previous journeys, but the weather today is much hotter; temperatures are in the mid-90's. I am worried about the trailer tires in particular. They are probably the originals delivered with the trailer 14 years ago, and although the tread is in fine shape, the sidewalls are cracked. Too much exposure to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight has taken some of the flexibility out of the rubber in these tires. They were once high quality tires, but they're suffering from old age.
I also pay attention to the temperature of the tires on the Suburban, especially the rear tires. These are very low mileage, almost new tires, but I don't think much of them. They're the absolutely lowest grade tire made in this particular size, and their load rating is very modest, only 1600# per tire. In comparison, the OEM spare tire has a load rating of 2200#. When the original tires wore, the previous owner put these cheap replacements on the truck. When I bought it from him last summer I failed to realize how limited their ratings really were. They look like nice, rugged tires, but their load ratings are crap. They are also rated as Light Truck tires, not Passenger Car tires. The difference is in the safety standards which the tire must meet.
Having all these anxieties about the tires takes some of the pleasure out of the road trip. It will cost about $900 to replace them all, but with that expense will come freedom from worry about the tires. That is worth something, maybe almost $900.
We pass several cars with trailers on the shoulder of the road, all having tire or wheel bearing problems. Anxiety boosters.
After the merger of the two highways, the traffic is doubled while the roadway remains two lanes and turns back to the northeast, heading for Toronto. The terrain is beginning to climb slightly and we encounter more hills and grades.
In another hour or so we swing north to avoid a huge cliff several hundred feet high. This is part of the Niagara Escarpment, an enormous band of rock that runs from Niagara, through Georgian Bay and Manitoulin Island, and on to western Lake Superior. This geologic feature creates most of the scenery we will enjoy in the next week.
Approaching Toronto the highway widens to six lanes or more, then offers us a branching to the north which avoids most of the city traffic, particularly in the vicinity of the busy Toronto Airport. On more good advice from Jim Gibson we take this "ETR", the Electronic Toll Road. You don't have to stop to pay the toll. Overhead cameras at each entrance and exit ramp record your license plate. From this information the toll authority looks up your name and address and sends you a bill. In a couple of months we will get an invoice for our use of the ETR and be asked to remit approximately six dollars. The smooth ride on the freshly laid pavement and the big reduction in traffic are worth the modest costs.
After twenty minutes on the ETR, we exit and turn left on Highway 400. This is the main artery northward from Toronto, and on this Saturday afternoon the road is packed with cars heading for Lake Simcoe and other resorts. We stay in the right lane and try to maintain our speed up and down the many hills.
We pull into another service plaza and I check the tires and bearings again. They are running warm to the touch, but not excessively hot. Back on the north bound highway, the traffic increases as we leave suburban Toronto. Everyone is heading north for cottage country. As we begin a long uphill climb, the congestion slows travel to stop-and-go speeds. We creep along for five miles until we reach the aftermath of a car accident, the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) on the scene and the wrecks recently cleared from the highway. Traffic resumes highway speeds, then at the big town of Barrie a huge line of cars snakes off to the exit ramp, relieving most of the congestion.
At Exit 121 we leave the main northbound road and take Route 93 toward Midland. After half an hour on this two-lane paved highway we reach the outskirts of Midland.
We descend a long downhill grade into the center of the town, then head west along the coast road. A stoplight and a right turn later, we turn toward the water with Bay Port Marina on our left and the public launching ramp on the right.
Pulling into the ramp area, to our surprise our Whaler mates, Jim Gibson and the two Larry Goltz's, are just in the final stages of launching their boats. A previous communication by cellular telephone had put us almost an hour behind them, but we made up most of that time while their progress was halted by that accident we saw on the roadside. Their two boats are just off the trailers and into the water of Georgian Bay as we pull up.
We have been hauling our boat with only a quarter of a tank of gasoline, which saves considerable weight on the trailer, so our next destination is back to the highway and a gas station. Just around the bend and west of the marina we fill the boat with gasoline at highway prices. The flow rate from this particular pump is slow, and it takes what seems like a half hour to fill the big 77-gallon tank. Finally, after about ten minutes of awkwardly holding the gas pump hose over my head to reach to boat fill spout, the gauge on the boat reads "F" and the pump says 130 liters. Anxious to get in the water, I call a halt to the gassing at that point. At Canadian-$0.69/liter (US-$1.73/gallon) we added $90 worth, but this turns our to be only 35 gallons at a true cost of US-$59.50. The bow-up trim of the boat on the trailer makes the fuel gauge read a bit higher than normal, and I have probably left some room in the tank.
As we prepare the boat for launching it is past four o'clock, and a small crowd of boats and jet skis buzzes around the ramp, loading onto trailers. It takes us a few minutes to get the canvas rigged. (We don't trailer with it in place because it stows in the upright position and I don't like all the extra wind load and wear of hauling it around at 55 MPH.) Then we throw two hundred pounds of gear and coolers aboard. Finally we are ready to back our mini-cruiser into the water.
The process of launching this boat is still a little uneasy for us, as we have only done it a handful of times, and on each occasion it has been on a different ramp. Each time there is some concern. Will the ramp be deep enough to let the boat float off?
The ramp facility has two lanes and decent courtesy docks. We back our Whaler down, stopping just before it enters the water to remove the hold down straps and disconnect the trailer lighting circuit (so the hot bulbs won't burst in the water). Then we back in some more, putting the stern of the boat in the water, stopping next to remove the bow tie-down, the safety chain, and finally the winch strap. Backing in a few more feet allows the boat to float off the trailer, which is now several feet underwater at the transom end. Fortunately, the ramp is pretty steep and the rear wheels of the Suburban are still on dry ramp.
Chris warps (pulls by lines) the boat sternward, and I pull the trailer out from under and up the ramp. I park the rig just beyond the crest of the ramp and run back to the boat. Next problem, will the engines run?
In the three weeks since our last use of the boat, I have replaced all the fuel lines from the tank to the engines, the fuel-water separating filter, and the primer bulbs. I am not sure I got all the air bled out of the system.
It takes a few cranks for the port engine to start, then it fires up. Unfortunately, it sputters and dies right away. Sounds like air in the fuel lines. A dozen squeezes on the primer bulb and it gets a bit firmer. I try again. The engine starts, runs a moment, then sputters again. Oh boy! Is this going to be a problem? More squeezing of the primer bulb. On the next restart the engine stays running.
I prep the starboard engine with plenty of primer bulb action. These new bulbs are very soft, and they never seem to get firm with fuel in them. With twin engines, the noise of the first engine running makes it hard to hear the second engine start, so I have developed a technique where I start one engine, let it warm up a bit, then shut it off while I try to start the second engine. This lets me hear the second engine starting much better, and the first engine usually restarts at the turn of the key once it has been warmed up.
The second engine starts and runs without too much sputtering, and I also get the first engine restarted. I let the two of them warm up at fast idle for a minute. I don't want to back away from the courtesy dock and have them die. Chris brings a few more items down from the truck. Man, this little Whaler is full of gear!
Finally, I motor the 20-Revenge out of the ramp area while Chris takes the truck and trailer over to the marina across the street. There is a canal of about 100 yards in length leading from the ramp to the bay, and from the high water marks along the steel sea wall I can see how very low the water level is this year.
The water level is, in fact, two feet below the long term average for this time of the year. Compared to the high levels of the past decade Lake Huron is missing almost five feet, an incomprehensibly large volume of fresh water. The current levels are almost exactly at chart datum and are close to record low water for this time of the summer when the levels are normally at their peak.
At the end of the canal there are several floating "Javex" bottles (the Canadian brand equivalent of Chlorox) serving as aids to navigation. Exactly how to interpret them I am not certain. Often unofficial markers like these are placed by the locals at hazards like rocks, which means you generally want to avoid them. There is a fellow on a sailboat moored along the sea wall, so I shout over to him to ask for advice on the buoys.
"Just treat them like regular red and green buoys," the local boater replies. As I get closer I can see that one is a red plastic bottle and the other a white bottle with peeling green paint. Okay, it is clear to me now how to proceed. I didn't want to ding my props just exiting the ramp area!
The entrance to Bay Port Marina where we will stay tonight is just a few hundred yards west of the ramp canal, so I enjoy only a short boat ride on Georgian Bay. I shut down for a second to check the fuel gauge level, as it warns that accurate readings occur only when not underway. With different trim on the boat, the gauge now only reads "7/8". I probably should have been more patient at the gas station! Back underway, I enter the marina to look for my Whaler cruising companions.
Bay Port Marina has over 600 slips! I am scanning the docks looking for a pair of Whalers, as I idle farther into the marina. About ten docks down from the entrance I finally spot WHALE LURE and MEMORY, and I back into the adjoining slip. The cruise is almost ready to begin.
With the boat tied up, I head for the parking lot to help Chris with the trailer parking. She has not yet acquired the skill of backing up with the trailer attached, so I anticipate she has probably not put the trailer into its ultimate parking spot.
The launch ramp facility is a public place, and use of the ramp is free, but they don't permit overnight parking of trailers. So we have moved all our cars and trailers over to the Bay Port Marina yard, where for a fee (Canadian-$70) we can park them for a week in a nice fenced-in, guarded, well-lighted boat yard. I find the Suburban and trailer, with Chris and Larry Goltz. As I approach I notice something is wrong: the winch handle is missing and the axle of the front roller has come loose and lost its end cap. Wow, when did all that happen?
Somewhere on the 500-foot ride from launch ramp to marina both of these items have been lost! We immediately begin to retrace the path from parking lot back to ramp to look for them. The winch handle, in particular, is going to be very difficult to replace.
With three of us looking, we cover all the road back to the ramp. No handle. Maybe it came off on the ramp, which has a corrugated surface making the ride a little bumpy. No sign of the handle there, either. Maybe in the water, having fallen off when the boat slid off the trailer? Not there, at least as far as we can see into the somewhat green water of the ramp.
We search the path back to the marina. No sign of the winch handle. I can't believe this! This is only the third time I have used the new winch, and I've lost the handle! Well, it is not an immediate problem. We won't need the winch handle for 8 days, and I can also borrow a handle from either Jim or Larry, as they use the same brand and style of winch on their trailers. I'll just have to get a replacement when I am back in Michigan.
I am somewhat comfortable with the fact the winch handle came off. I was feeling rushed when I opened the back of the Suburban, grabbed the handle, and snapped it onto the winch crank post. Perhaps I did not let the retaining mechanism seat properly, and when the trailer bounced down the ramp the final few feet into the water the handle slipped off and into the bay. And the lost roller axle cap could have been forced off the end by the action of the boat keel rolling on it at a slight angle, working the axle against the bracket with some pressure.
But I do have another nagging theory. I left the trailer parked just beyond the top of the ramp for a few minutes while the boat was getting started. Maybe I should have pulled it farther away and into the parking lot. Maybe I made someone mad that I was taking too much time and space on the busy ramp. Their retaliation was to remove my winch handle from the trailer while I was busy down at the boat, a hundred feet away. This would be totally out of character for the typical Canadian small town, but I do sense a bit of resentment in the folks at the ramp today. The public ramp is right across the street from this rather fancy and yachty marina, filled with gleaming white boats, while the crowd at the boat ramp has been launching and recovering from rusty trailers a rather ramshackle lot of older, well-used, I/O-powered bowriders and runabouts in the 16-19 foot range. I'd like to think that something like this doesn't happen in Canadian small towns, but where the hell is my winch handle? How come I can't find it in the lake, on the ramp, or on the roadside. It's only been missing for five minutes and it can't be far away if it just fell off. Maybe the reason we can't find it is because it's in somebody's car trunk.
It is an odd thing, but I have heard more stories about people getting their winch handles stolen at the boat ramp. In fact, both Larry and Jim carry spare handles to guard against this happening to them.
We give up on finding the winch handle. I make one last broad circuit of the parking lot, but still no winch to be found. We walk back to the marina.
This loss, either through accident or theft, puts a little damper on the start of the trip, but we are still excited about the cruise ahead. We have made a huge transition today. This morning our boat was parked on a trailer in SE Michigan; tonight it is in the water at a beautiful marina on Georgian Bay. The weather forecast sounds encouraging, no rain tonight or tomorrow or really any for the next several days. The gang is all here, the boat is running fine, and we have eight more days ahead to enjoy boating. The preparations are over; the cruise has begun!
|Marina:||Bay Port Marina|
|Mooring:||Slip with finger piers. Floating docks. Rate = $1.35/foot minimum $30|
|Dock height:||About two feet. Very nice. Docks are fendered|
|Bathroom:||26 private washroom with showers!|
|Showers:||Excellent stall showers in individual bathrooms|
|Winds:||Light from SE|
|Waves:||One foot or less|
The first order of business: relax. After all the packing and loading, the long drive up, the little crisis with the launching and the lost winch handle, it is time to enjoy another great part of a Canadian vacation, an ice cold Labatt Blue. It is fun to just sit on the boat for a few minutes and enjoy the harbor view. Then we check in officially with the marina and discover we are in the wrong slip. There are plenty of empty slips on this dock, but they have a policy of not renting out seasonal slips whose boats are away cruising to transient guests. So we have to move our boat to the other side of the dock and down a couple of slips. We can still socialize with our other boats by just moving our dock chairs over to their spot.
After cocktail hour supplemented with some snacks, we all go aboard WHALE LURE for a cruise of the bay and a quick run to the next town around the point, Penetanguishing. Their marina is filled with offshore racing boats, as this weekend is the occasion of a big race event. On the way we pass close abeam to a tall ship approaching the harbour under sail. It is a beautiful sight, the dark 120-foot hull of the gaff rigged schooner HIGHLANDER making good progress in the light breeze and moving silently through the calm water.
Finally, well past 7 p.m., we are back to our docks. Time to freshen up for dinner.
An interesting phenomenon occurs on these vacation boat cruises. About half of our group are from the Central Time Zone, so they're used to eating a bit latter than those of us on Eastern Time. Throw in a bit of inertia at getting a group of people ready to do anything at a particular time. Then add to it the relaxed pace of life when on vacation. The result is we hardly ever are ready to go to dinner before 9 p.m. Most nights we'll end up shutting down the restaurant.
Tonight we strike off on foot toward downtown Midland in search of dinner at about 9 p.m. Town is about a mile away along a nice footpath that follows the shoreline of the bay from the launching ramp to downtown, using an abandoned railroad right of way. It is quite a hike, but after all day in the car a long walk is good exercise.
There is great irony in the conversion of the railroad line to a foot path. In 1872 the Midland Railroad built its Great Lakes terminal on this site, and the town of Midland quickly grew to prominence around it. This excellent and deep natural harbor at the southern extreme of Georgian Bay proved to be the best rail link to Great Lakes shipping and logging. Vast amounts of timber were floated in. On shore great saw mills cut it up to be shipped east on rail cars. There was also heavy commercial fishing in the region, with the catch again shipped east via rail. Now the rail line, the raison d'etre of Midland, is gone and its old right-of-way turned into a pleasant path for evening strollers.
Downtown Midland's shops are long closed by the time we arrive, but we do find our restaurant for the evening, a small place along the main street that is filled with other late diners.
Dining in small Canadian towns can be an adventure. The Riv Bistro, however, looks like it would hold its own even in Toronto. The place has a very inviting atmosphere. The menu offers a dozen or more entrees of unusual Mediterranean foods, and the aroma of the kitchen is wonderful.
|Restaurant:||The Riv Bistro|
|Meal:||Outstanding Greek food. Very spicy; very good|
|Price:||Entrees $16-22 Canadian. Salad $4 extra.|
We have a big meal, including flaming Saganaki cheese appetizers and a round of drinks. Seasoned lamb is the basis for several of the entrees ordered, and everyone is very pleased with their late evening supper. I have a spicy lamb dish prepared in a philo dough shell. Chris has a shrimp dish "with lots of vegetables, lots of garlic, and lots of rice," which she enjoys, too.
It is approaching 11 p.m. as we begin our walk back to the marina. We detour briefly to look at the small municipal marina and town dock at the foot of main street. Our accommodations at Bay Port Marina are better, we conclude.
The downtown marina is flanked by two large industrial operations. To the east there is a huge pile of something, stone or sand perhaps. Larry thinks it is dolomite that has been removed from the Badgeley Island site in the Landsdowne Channel near Killarney run by Indusmin and brought down here by ship.
To the west and along our pathway is a Pillsbury plant running 3-shifts. No one is sure what they are making. Perhaps agricultural products of local farms are processed and loaded on foreign ships for export.
The walk back is a long one, but we are full with dinner and benefit from the exertion. It is a beautiful summer evening--warm, still, humid, the bugs flying in the globes of light that surround the street lamps. Soon we are back at the marina. After the long, full day, we have no problem falling asleep in the cozy cuddy of our Boston Whaler.
|Date:||Sunday July 29, 2001|
|Weather:||Fair but red skies at morning. Hazy|
|Departure:||Bay Port Marina|
|Destination:||Killbear Marina, Parry Sound|
|Distance:||56 miles by Small Craft Route|
Sunday morning finds us comfortably sleeping in the cuddy cabin of our Boston Whaler. Most people--even avid boaters--don't associate Boston Whaler boats with cabins and sleeping accommodations, but we have one of the lesser-known models of Whaler, a REVENGE, which provides a cozy vee-berth under the forward deck. We have augmented the original berthing arrangement by crafting our own filler panel to span the gap between the berths, making the sleeping area much larger and about the size of a queen mattress, although it still tapers toward the bow. On top of the foam cushions which form the bed, Chris has rolled out a thick feather mattress pad, which softens the bumps in the cushions. On top of this we sleep, covered by a tropical weight down comforter. The mattress pad and comforter are encased in soft blue cotton covers that are a perfect match for the shade of our Wm. J. Mills & Co. cockpit canvas and also serve as our sheets. This makes making the bed very easy.
The cabin is not large enough to hold two sleepers and all the gear that is normally stowed there, so upon retiring for the evening we have to toss our duffel bags out into the cockpit for the night to make room.
With two of us in the cabin, the static trim of the boat shifts to be a bit down by the bow, which creates an almost perfectly level berth in the cabin, permitting us to sleep with our feet toward the bow. Were the boat to float right on her normal lines the slope of the berths would be slightly elevated in the bow, which might make you uncomfortable sleeping with your head lower than your feet, or else require you to turn around and sleep with your head toward the bow, a much more cramped space.
When our big filler panel is in place, the floor space between the berths is almost completely covered and the berth begins at the bottom of the companionway. To get in you can gracefully enter by backing down the steps of the companionway and sitting on the edge of the berth, but to get out head-first you have to crawl on hands and knees to the cockpit. If you can spin around on the berth and gain the center of it, you can get out feet-first without crawling, but this is not always possible in the middle of the night when the other occupant is asleep. To ease this transition we keep a soft cockpit cushion handy at the companionway; it takes the pain out of your knees when crawling into the cockpit at night.
After awaking, we roll up the mattress pad and comforter and stow them in big cloth bags to keep them clean, and we move the filler panel to the forward part of the vee-berth where it stows nicely. This returns access to the floor well. In this configuration you can enter the cuddy and sit on either berth. The rolled and bagged mattress and comforter stow forward, on top of the filler panel, and our duffels from the cockpit get tossed back into the cuddy, one on each of the berths.
In the forward half of the floor space between the berths we keep a large Rubber-Maid tub of dry supplies stowed. In the original design, a Porta-Potti was located here, but we have removed it and the brackets that retained it. The notion of sleeping a few inches above the toilet is not an attractive one. On this particular cruise we will find ourselves staying in marinas each morning and night, so shore based facilities will serve our needs, supplemented with a couple of strategically sized and shaped containers in the cockpit for nocturnal use. If you're over 40, you know what I am talking about.
The cockpit is enclosed with canvas, which provides some sense of privacy when you come up from the cabin in the morning in your pajamas, and it also helps to keep dew from forming inside the boat. The full enclosure canvas also protects the gear in the cockpit from any rain that might fall during the night.
The REVENGE model of Boston Whaler has two nice console areas on either side of the cabin companionway. On starboard this area is the helm station, but on port it is just a nice, large, flat surface. While underway we use this as a chart table, but at the dock each morning it becomes the galley.
We have electrical power available from a simple extension cord that is plugged into the marina electrical outlet, usually via a special twist lock 30-A, 125 V connector. This we just run into the cockpit and leave on the dashboard. (We don't have the fuss and bother of an AC electrical system wired into the boat; this is just a 20-foot boat so we try to keep it simple.) Into the extension cord we plug a compact device that can heat and dispense water into a small carafe. Using this we make our coffee every morning, as well as occasional hot cereals like oatmeal if the weather is cooler.
To keep the deck clean, the entire coffee making operation (and the rest of the galley equipment) is contained in its own Rubber-Maid tub. When it is time to get underway, the whole mess is packed and stowed on the floor in the forward part of the cuddy.
Our cruising companions have an even more simple system for breakfast preparation: they just walk down to the marina and get a cup of coffee and an egg and toast or rolls.
Once the coffee is brewed, I usually turn on the Marine VHF radio and listen to the Continuous Marine Broadcasts for the weather forecast. The weather predictions contain generally good news. It will be warm and sunny with light winds from the southeast and only a small chance of any rain. Beside the weather information, the broadcasts also include Notice to Mariners alerts of any changes in navigation or new hazards.
The final step in the morning ritual is to roll up and stow the parts of the cockpit canvas enclosure that won't be needed. Depending on the weather, this might be just the aft drop curtain aft canvas, or could include both side curtains and the windshield. The rolled canvas pieces end up on the berths in the cuddy or on the shelves in the forward end of the cabin.
The rest of the morning slips by with the performance of little chores. There are some things on the boat that belong in the truck, and a few in the truck that belong on the boat. I also make repairs to the keel roller on the trailer so that it will be ready for us in a week when we return. While we have moved onto the boat, we still seem linked to the shore with the presence of our car a few hundred feet away. There's that sense that we are land-based. When we depart this morning, we will make another jump into a more relaxed, detached mode of operation, living entirely on the boat. Until then, I am still a bit on edge.
Bay Port Marina has a nice marine store and a big haul out and Travel-Lift. Just behind the main building there is a 65-foot motor yacht up on blocks getting some repairs done. A boat of this size must be near the limit of their haul out capabilities. It is an impressive example of what they can handle.
In the marine store I browse around and inquire about the composition of that big pile of stuff over in the town's harbor to the east. The older fellow at the service counter does not know what it is.
I find this a bit odd. He lives here and works in the marine business. I just got here. The first question that came to mind when I saw the harbor was, "What is that huge pile of stuff?" Its presence makes the town harbor appear more industrial than recreational to the visiting boater.
I interview some other locals. The salesman in the yacht dealership thinks it is a special grade of sand that is being extracted near Pointe Au Baril. It comes down here on a barge, gets stored on that wharf, and is then trucked out.
"It used to go out on railroad cars but the town has lost its rail spur," he informs me, "so our roads are now being ruined by a continual stream of heavily loaded trucks."
"It's really too bad," laments the yacht broker, "the roads around here are taking a beating from all those trucks. The town council should have kept the railroad line going."
"They say they have about a fifty-year supply of that stuff up there, so I guess we are going to be hauling it out for a long time."
(Several months later I bump into a Canadian ship captain, who happens to tell me that his ship used to haul dolomite from Badgeley Island to Midland. I guess none of the locals know what the stuff on the pier really is!)
He also explains the operation of the Pilsbury plant. It is the reverse of what we thought. The raw material, in this case wheat, comes in by boat from Thunder Bay in Lake Superior. The plant mills it into flour, which is then hauled out by truck. More strain on the area roadways.
Our other cruising companions are also up and about, using the morning to relax and get their boats ready for the long cruise northward. Eventually, we all are prepared. We've filled our coolers with fresh ice, topped off our water bottles, stowed our gear, put up the proper amount of canvas and bimini tops, taken showers at the excellent facilities at the marina, and cleaned up our cockpits and decks. We cast off from the finger piers and head out into the extreme southeastern arm of Georgian Bay. The time is just before noon.
We get about one hundred feet away from the dock, when I ask Chris if she locked the truck on her last trip to visit it. We've left behind a thousand dollars worth of tools and gear and suddenly I am concerned. I guess that missing winch handle is still on my mind. It seems there is a tiny bit of uncertainty about the state of the door locks on the Suburban. Of course, the truck is actually securely locked, but we end up going back to check it so we don't have to live with the anxiety for a week.
Finally underway again, the sun is warm, the breeze is gentle, and the boat engines are running smoothly. We idle out of the marina entrance at no-wake speed. The time is just a few minutes past noon. Now the relaxation of a cruising vacation can begin.
Our nautical highway northward has been provided by two important agencies. First, Nature sculpted the eastern shore of Georgian Bay into a maze of islands and channels, protected from the storms and waves of the vast open water of Lake Huron. There are two theories to explain this. Geologists and other scientists attribute the landscape to the advance and retreat of a series of glaciers, which carved the complicated and varying terrain of rocks and islets and dropped just enough soil and moss to support the growth of a few pine trees, wild blueberry plants, and other low shrubs.
The more romantic explanation of the native Indians credits an ancient God who became enraged and clawed huge holes in the mainland, then flung the excavated dirt and rocks into the bay. The holes filled with water, becoming the hundreds of inland lakes in this region, and the displaced rocks became the thousands of islands along the shore.
Either theory works for me. The results are the same: a wonderful fresh water boating paradise.
With little pressure from the sustenance fishing of aboriginal man, unlimited numbers of perch, walleye, northern pike, whitefish, and lake trout once flourished in these cool and clear waters. The whitefish population was reported to be so great that they could be gathered just by dipping a basket into the water.
European man arrived in 1615, but in the 386 years since, we have had really little impact on the terrain. In the northern portion of the route where the landscape is mainly rock there is virtually no evidence of civilization, and the nearest highway is often twenty miles (or more) from the shoreline. At the extreme southern end, there has been more development inland, but the vast majority of the islands remain rustic and unsettled. Remove a cottage here and there, and these islands, too, would appear exactly as they did to the Voyageurs of the 1700's. However, commercial fishing for several centuries has removed the bulk of the population of several species of fish, but good recreational fishing still remains for many other sport fish.
The First Nation inhabitants (as Canada calls its native Indians) and the early Europeans learned to recognize and navigate these channels by rote, but, for the transient boater, passage through them would be impossible were it not for the work of our second benefactor, the government of Canada. Thanks to accurate surveys, detailed charts, and the presence of a immense number of aids to navigation, recreational boating in these beautiful waters is made possible--not simple, but possible. Hundreds of red and green buoys of the lateral system mark the path among the hazards, and big square- and diamond-shaped daymarks denote the channel from rocky islets along the way.
Maintaining these aids is even more work than one might think. Because of the fresh water, the northern lattitude, and the seasonal climate, in the harsh winters the entire waterway freezes solid. Thus all these floating aids must be removed each fall and replaced each spring. Even the land-based daymarks must need some attention after wind and snow have worked on them for three or four months. It is a wonder that any government can still afford to do this. But support it they do, with excellent charts and surveys, and outstanding maintenance of the aids to navigation. In our 500 miles of travels we did not find a missing buoy or daymark.
At the southern end of Georgian Bay the Small Craft Route begins at the sill of the lock at Port Severn. This is the terminus of another small craft route across inland southern Ontario, the Trent-Severn waterway (and another story). Northward from Port Severn, the small boater can travel about 140 miles along the shoreline of this great Georgian Bay, going as far as Little Current on Manitoulin Island in mainly inshore and protected waterways.
If you'd like to follow along on your own chart, we begin with Sheet 1 of Chart 2202. As we go along the route the proper Chart to track our progress will be mentioned parenthetically.
We have purchased the offical Canadian charts for this trip, while our mates use the spiral bound chart booklet published by Richardson which reprints these same charts into smaller, more manageable segments. The booklet form has advantages and disadvantages.
On the plus side, the bound charts are much easier to handle on an open boat. The larger paper charts we are using would be awkward at the console of a boat like a Boston Whaler Outrage. Behind our large fixed windshield and on our broad, flat dashboard, we can spread out the individual paper charts as needed. In the open breeze of the center console boat, the chart would be difficult to keep and to read. To protect the booklet of charts, they are enclosed in a heavy, clear plastic zip-lock bag. You can read the charts through the clear plastic, and the bag keeps wind and water from damaging them. This design makes them much more manageable in an open boat.
The disadvantage to the bound chart booklet from Richardson is twofold. First, the charts, originally long strip charts and accordion folded, are broken into much smaller pages in the booklet. This means every few miles you need to change pages, which may mean stopping to remove the booklet from the protective bag, flipping pages, and reinserting it into the bag again. Beside the nuisance of having to do this, the division of the chart into smaller panels often makes it harder to see the big picture of where you are. The original charts frequently change compass orientation, not always using north-up, and the smaller booklet charts do this even more often. Also, small-scale details are sometimes moved to different pages from the one containing their larger scale represenations. Searching and finding these detailed insets can become a chore.
A second disadvantage of the booklet charts is their limited color printing. The original charts are issued in four colors of ink (black, red, blue, and brown) and use shades and tints. The Richardson's reproductions use just two colors, black and brown, and substitute a tinted gray for the blue tones. The distinguishing red features are lost entirely, reproduced simply as black. Earlier version of the Richardson's booklet were printed in even less fidelity, entirely omitting the blue tints. For this reason, the Richardson's charts are harder to read than the official charts.
The Richardson's booklet does represent a considerable savings, both in size and money, over purchasing the equivalent information in individual official charts. Actually, we have both, keeping the Richardson's booklet as a reserve should we loose an individual chart overboard.
At 12:15 on a hazy, sunny Sunday afternoon we join the waterway about six miles north of Port Severn. As if to test our navigation, the planners immediately throw several challenges at us. First we must approach close to the shore on a range, threading between some shallow water. Next we must swing through a series of red and green buoys in a chicane of hairpin curves, avoiding rocks and some of the most shoal water in the route. After this little test, the navigation simplifies, following a natural channel that is marked on either side with red and green daymarks and buoys. It is almost as if the designers of this route intentionally incorporated at the start of the trip all the elements to be found later, so that the prospective voyager could become acquainted with them and get a taste of what is to come.
What chart we actually use does not make a great deal of difference at this point in the trip, because we are content to fall in behind the other two boats, leaving the path finding to them. Previously, in our days of solo cruising in open water, I would keep a precise plot of our position using deduced reconning (D.R.) techniques. Now I am content to follow in the wake of the other guys who have been through this stretch of coast before, but I do keep track of where we are with frequent references to the charts and occassional notation of our position and time at particular landmarks.
The initial ten miles or so of the route traverses a region that has been developed into resorts and cottages. There are frequent NO WAKE zones, and we share the waterway with many other small craft, including Jet-Skis. Over a dozen marinas in a one mile stretch near the community of Honey Harbour provide a home port for all these boats. Beausoleil Island to the west, part of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park, is our protection from the open water.
At Mile 16 we leave the resorts behind and enter the Muskoka Landing Channel. (Sheet 2 of Chart 2202.) There are no roads down to the coast here, and just a few cottages are seen on the shoreline. Complex channels lead inland, heading upstream to the lakes and rivers that feed their water to Lake Huron. About two o'clock we diverge from the main route at Mile 22 to explore Go Home Bay. Several miles up we carefully negotiate a narrow but deep gap between the tall rocky shores and enter the Go Home River. Near the end of the navigable water, we stop and raft together for lunch, just drifting in the slow current and light breeze.
This style of cruising is new for Chris and me. We have spent many summers living aboard a sailboat for a week or two at a time, lazily sailing around the many harbors and anchorages of the North Channel of Lake Huron. In the course of these adventures, we developed our own mode of cruising. If we were going to move the boat somewhere on a particular day--and we didn't force ourselves to move every day--we'd get up early and get going. We'd have the anchor up and be underway before 8 a.m. Then we'd sail all morning on the usually building breeze, trying to arrive at the new anchorage before 1 p.m. That would guarantee us a couple of things. First, the sun would be high overhead allowing us excellent vision into the water so we could see any rocks or obstructions as we came into the new anchorage. Second, we'd get there early, insuring ourselves a good spot to anchor for the night, for the good anchorages often became crowded by late afternoon. Once we had the anchor set, we could relax, have a late lunch, take a snooze, explore the harbor in our dingy, go for a swim if it was warm and sunny, and just relax and enjoy being on the boat. We could watch the breeze build as the day wore on, often reaching a peak around 4-5 p.m., and instead of being out pounding in the waves, we could sit in a calm harbor, and watch other guys out pounding in the waves. Our pacing on this adventure is a bit different.
One big change is that we are cruising in a group. This takes a bit of getting used to. Things take longer to happen with a group, and the larger the group the longer it takes to reach a decision or an action. Today we have gotten off to a very late start, underway just about noon. That's when we would normally be closing in on our destination!
In our sailing days, once we got underway we'd head straight for the next overnight stop, sailing for three, four, five or more hours until we got there. Today we're just two hours into our trip up the coast and we are taking a long diversion for lunch. It seems like we should continue on toward our goal instead of taking this side trip. But we go along with the group, and we do have a very enjoyable lunch in the backwaters of Go Home Bay. With our much faster small power boats, we can go five times as fast as our sailboat, so we can make up the lost miles in just a few minutes.
After lunch, we break up the raft and exit Go Home Bay, but instead of coming out the way we went in, we take Devils Elbow Channel. This is the shallowest and narrowest of passages, and with the lake at chart datum level there is barely enough water on some of these rocks for our shallow draft outboards to get over. With our engines tilted up as high as possible, we do manage to get over the initial shoal at the eastern end of the channel. At the western exit we find ourselves looking at a stretch of unmarked water that we know contains some rocks. Just then a local comes around the corner on his way in. His track gives us a course to follow and we escape into North Go Home Bay.
From there it is a simple jump across Outer Bay and we rejoin the Small Craft Route just in time to divert to the Monument Channel, which carries us along the backside of Galbraith Island. Once out of that passage, we divert again to follow the old steamer tracks into Indian Harbour. Then out again to the main track, continuing on to Big David Bay. By quarter to four we have just passed a lovely stretch of coastline with several large, recently built homes near Tully Island and Niblett Island. All the material to build these fine structures must have been brought out by barge, making the cost of construction quite dear. The magnificent setting and beautiful view of Georgian Bay to the west are worth the price, I am sure. (Sheet 3 of Chart 2202)
It is almost 4 p.m. and we are just 26 miles up the coast from our entrance to the Small Craft Route. We can run at higher speeds out here, however, and we pick up the pace, running on plane at about 22-24 MPH most of the time. We pass Twelve Mile Bay, Moon Bay, and Loon Island. We are on the move, I think to myself.
About 4:30 p.m. we come to Frying Pan Island, which is home to a unique eatery, Henry's Fish Restaurant.
"We have to stop and try their fish," radios our leader Larry Goltz, "it's great."
Having just eaten lunch about two hours ago, we can't really be hungry for another meal, but stopping at Henry's is part of the trip that can't be skipped, so we pull into their floating docks and tie up for a late afternoon snack. At the take-out window we all order a few pieces of perch, which we consume at a nearby picnic table. The fish is delicious, I have to concede, but I am still worried about our progress. I am not quite certain how much farther we have to go to make our overnight stop. After about 30 minutes ashore, we are back to the boats and heading northward again.
In this stretch of the route there are islands everywhere. We weave in and out among the buoys and daymarks. It is fun boating. As we run off the end of Sheet 3 of Chart 2202, I turn right and begin heading east toward Parry Sound.
"Hey, you're goin' the wrong way," my mates hail me on the radio. Our marina destination in just a mile or so farther north, tucked into Pengallie Bay (hidden in the corner of Sheet 4 of Chart 2202 near CONTINUATION D). It's Killbear Marina, 56 miles up the route from Port Severn and about the same distance from our start in Midland. With all of our side trips and diversion, however, my knot log shows over 63 miles travelled today. At 7:45 p.m. we arrive and call the dockmaster on the radio for accommodations.
The docks at Killbear Marina have been built for the higher water levels that have been the norm for the last twenty years. They tower above us, a couple of feet above our heads as we stand in our low cockpits. These lofty decks are still workable with larger boats, but they're much too high for outboard boats like our Whalers. The marina has added secondary floating docks along several of the piers and built stairs up to the originals to bridge the vertical gap. We tie up alongside a long floating dock that accompanies the main pier eastward from the marina to the other docks.
We have been underway for almost eight hours, so it is good to shut the engines off and relax. In our cockpit we carry two folding canvas deck chairs. Initially I did not find them very comfortable, but after spending most of the afternoon standing at the helm, they do provide a welcome change of seating. I unfold one of these and take a seat on the floating dock.
The cockpit of our WHALER-20 REVENGE has just two real seats, a pair of swivel bucket seats with cushions in the forward end for the helmsman and navigator. The rest of the modest cockpit is open. At the rear, along the low bulkhead that forms the engine well, we have four coolers. One is a large Igloo Cooler that can also be used as a seat. We use it for dry storage of boat gear. It is full of spare lines, hoses, mops, cleaner, bottles of oil, spare engine parts, and a small tool kit. It is more a deck locker than a cooler. Bungie cords hold it to pad eyes mounted on the deck.
Flanking the big cooler are three small coolers. One of these is marked "JIM" and holds my choice of cold beverage. Typically it is stocked with four beers and two waters. A twin to this cooler, marked "CHRIS" contains her choice of cold drink, typically six bottled waters. The third cooler holds a modest supply of food for lunch, just some cold cuts, cheese, bread, and milk.
|Mooring:||Alongside floating dock|
|Dock height:||2-feet at floating docks; 6-8 feet at fixed docks.|
|Bathroom:||1 urinal, 1 toilet for MEN, 1 toilet for WOMEN; can get crowded.|
|Showers:||3 small shower rooms; not fancy but effective; $2 fee per shower|
Chris and I split the labor and responsibilities of running the boat. Underway, I am usually in charge of the helm and the navigation. At the dock, Chris takes over and handles checking in with the marina, filling out the paperwork, paying the bill, and--most important--getting the keys to the bathrooms. While she is up at the office, I relax and drain some cold beverages from my cooler.
Thanks to the northern location and the summer declination of the sun, we have plenty of daylight even though it is past 8:30 p.m. I don't think sunset is before nine o'clock up here. Although there is a restaurant and bar at the marina, our companions want to go by boat to another harbor just around the bend. All five of us go aboard WHALE LURE for a five mile run up the coast to Snug Harbour. (Sheet 1 of Chart 2203)
It is a beautiful, calm evening, and we motor across the smooth water at 40 MPH, carefully putting our courseline as midway as we can between the islands and rocks. The LOWRANCE Differential GPS is carefully recording our track, which we will use as our guide on the way back. Although the moon is almost full, the skies are overcast tonight and it will be very dark by the time we leave for home.
As we approach the restaurant, the Snuggle Inn at the head of the small inlet of Snug Harbour, lack of daylight is not our only problem. There is a noticeable lack of water here, too. The eastern side of the harbor is completely uncovered and is now a sandy beach. A narrow channel of deeper water leads to the restaurant, reported as dredged to 3-feet in 1980. In the twenty years since then in has silted in a bit. Larry's son (also Larry so we'll denote him by his initials LCG) is at the helm, and he has to tilt the big Mercury 200-HP outboards almost out of the water to keep the props from hitting the sandy bottom.
There is a seawall alongside the restaurant, but the only open space is at the farthest (and shallowest) end. Larry (LCG) puts on quite a demonstration of boat handling as he slowly manuevers and turns the big Whaler around in the confined and shallow water, then brings it right alongside the dock.
It is almost nine o'clock as we get to the restaurant, climbing up the slightly unsteady stairs from the harbor, and it looks like we will be their last customers. In fact, the staff looks a little disappointed that we have arrived; I think they were planning on closing the doors and calling it a weekend. We take a seat near the kitchen and discuss what kind of fish we should order. Without any explicit agreement, from here on everyone will order fresh fish for dinner every night.
|Location:||Snug Harbour, Ontario|
|Cuisine:||Fresh local fish|
|Meal:||Salad, fresh fish (splake, pickeral, whitefish, perch), potatoes, vegetable, dessert|
|Price:||Fish dinner $14-$20 (Canadian)|
There is quite a choice available tonight. Besides perch, pickerel (or walleye), and whitefish, there is also splake available. Splake is a sterile hybrid fish, created in a government hatchery by the union of a Lake Trout and a Speckled Trout and released in these waters to supplement the declining commercial fishery of the other species.
The fish dinner costs $15 to $20, depending on your choice of fish and its preparation, and can be supplemented with an extra piece of fish for an additional $2 charge.
"What's your best fish tonight?" Larry Goltz asks our owner/waitress Renai Perks.
"They're all fresh," she replies, "but I like the pickerel best."
"If I order a pickerel dinner," Larry inquires, "can I get an additional piece of splake for two dollars more?"
"Usually we don't do that," our host confides, "but tonight, Okay."
Chris and I solve the problem of which fish to get by ordering different kinds and agreeing to trade pieces. This is fun dinning.
The restaurant is sited on the sandy shore of the inlet, with access from the water and also from a dirt road leading down from the land. With nearby Kilbear Provincial Park full of vacationers, it is an excellent location. The tables are simple, paper place mats are the menus, and the walls are mostly windows that look out on the harbor. Open rafters in the ceiling hold a couple of fans, and along the perimeter there is a collection of mounted fish of various species native to these waters. The screen door to the parking lot hangs slightly ajar, and a little sand from the road or beach is underfoot on the floor. The family dog is sleeping on the landing of the stairs from the seawall. Near the kitchen there are a couple of birds in cages. It is a very unpretentious place. This is not a suburban recreation of a little fish restaurant in a small harbor, this is that restaurant.
Dinner comes with cole slaw made with several kinds of cabbage ("It's great," says Chris). You also get a potato, either baked, french fried, or cottage fries. In Canada fries are always served with vinegar. Bumbleberry Pie a la mode makes a great dessert.
By quarter past ten we have finished our meal and in the darkness we walk down to the boat to return to Killbear Marina. Our trip home will be guided by two devices, one the amazing high-technology of Global Positioning Satellite navigation, the other the slightly more old-fashioned aid of a flashlight.
While Larry Goltz adjusts the chart plotter display on the LOWRANCE unit, his son Larry drives the boat, watching the track of our new course and trying to make it overlap the track of the old plot as closely as possible. Jim Gibson, who grew up boating in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence, stands in the bow with a small flashlight, locating the unseen buoys using a technique he perfected as a boy, long before a rocket propelled the first GPS satellite into space.
Jim sweeps the beam of the not very bright flashlight across an arc of about fortyfive degrees on either side of the bow. It is a very dark night, but one by one the buoys reveal themselves to us. The reflective tape affixed near the top of each buoy redirects a few of the photons of light from the small flashlight back to the boat, and the effect is amazing. It is almost as if the buoy were lighted. As Jim swings the beam across the waters, little bursts of red or green light appear from the floating aids, clearing announcing their location.
The sky is filled with clouds overhead, and no moonlight penetrates to help us see. Dark islands are almost invisible, but on some a stray light from a cottage helps us see them. One or two small lights from islands in our path appear to me to be boats, and as I concentrate on starring into the darkness they seem to have motion relative to ours. But there are no other boaters out running around on this dark night; we are alone on the water.
Although I am fairly confident in the computational ability of the microprocessor inside the LOWRANCE DGPS to correctly deduce our position from the slight differences in time it marks in the reception of six or more signals from satellites orbiting overhead, the thought does occur to me that if we should hit a rock the unique hull construction of the Boston Whaler will keep us floating until morning. Ironically, Chris tells me later that she had the same notion as she sat in the stern of the boat, watching the twin bubble trails of the big, black Mercury engines disappear into the darkness of the night.
We make it safely back to Killbear Marina, where Larry's son again puts on a boat handling clinic as he precisely manuevers the big Whaler into the space between our other two boats along the dock.
|Date:||Monday July 30, 2001|
|Weather:||Fair. Sunny but hazy|
|Waves:||Less than 1 foot in open lake|
|Departure:||Kilbear Marina Marina, Parry Sound|
|Destination:||St. Amant's Marina, Britt|
|Distance:||55 miles by Small Craft Route|
The morning finds us slowly awakening to a warm summer day with hazy skies. I brew some coffee on the dock and enjoy a cup sitting on our deck chair on the low floating dock. For breakfast Chris and I have just a bowl of cereal and some milk. Our cruising mates head over to the marina restaurant for some heartier chow.
I check the weather forecast on the marine radio:
For Georgian Bay: Winds southeast 10 knots increasing to 15 knots tonight. Chance of showers. Outlook: light to moderate Southeasterlies. Fair. Water levels for 24 July: Lake Superior 0.18 meter ABOVE datum Lake Huron 0.03 meter ABOVE datum.
The marina bathrooms are a long walk up the pier. With precise coordination we all manage to get in for a shower. The three shower rooms are small but there is good water pressure and plenty of hot water.
The marina has a very nice store that has a broad inventory of marine supplies and spares. They also have a big travel lift and haul out. At this moment the lift is occupied with a beamy 40-foot trawler from Toronto that is resting in the slings above the yard. One of the trawler's twin rudders is bent, the result of backing into a rock in some shallow water. Her owner and family are staying aboard, living on the boat while it's on the hard and the repairs are made.
We've been talking about getting underway earlier, so we've set a target of 10:00 a.m. Around that time I get my engines started and head for the fuel dock. Larry recommends topping off the tanks here as fuel is likely to be more expensive as we proceed north. This morning I take on a surprising amount of gasoline, needing 100 liters or 26 gallons to get the fuel gauge reading "F" again. My knot-log indicates 64 statute miles travelled, making my fuel economy about 2.5 MPG. Fuel is $0.84/liter (Canadian dollars), or about $2.08/gallon (US dollars). I also top off the oil reservoir tanks, each engine needing about a quart and a half to reach full again. I am adding the "premium" brand 2-cycle engine oil, the Mercury labeled TCW-III oil that costs $18/gallon. So I've burned about $13.50 in oil, $55.50 in gasoline, making my cost for this leg $69, or roughly a dollar per mile.
The engines are oil-injection and use "precision blend", a Yamaha name for oiling that is adjusted for engine speed. The engines seem to be very lightly oiled at idle, as they produce little smoke. I am curious what the overall ratio will work out to be. We have run through about 26 gallons of gas while only using 3 quarts of oil, a ratio of (26 X 4) : 3 or about 35:1. This is not as high as I expected. Perhaps, like the gas tank, I had not filled the oil reservoirs to the brim at the start.
We pay for the dockage and fuel, also adding a couple of bags of ice to the bill and the coolers, then clear the gas dock to make room for our other boats. Surprisingly, it takes only about 120 liters to top off the tank in WHALE LURE, her twin 200-HP engines having not used much more fuel than my smaller two. And Larry has made two extra runs in his boat that I didn't cover, so WHALE LURE's fuel economy is surprisingly good.
By the time everyone is finished at the gas dock and back underway, it is past 11:00 a.m. as we head out of the marina entrance channel, a short stretch marked by paired red/green buoys that leads to St. Aubyn Bay and the Small Craft Route.
On our way back toward Snug Harbour again, this time we squeeze through the narrow Canoe Channel where the rock sides are 27 feet above the 8-foot deep water. Then we are back into our familiar shoreline route, weaving among the buoys and daymarks just inshore of a string of protective barrier islands. Just past noon the Shebeshekong Channel takes us behind Franklin Island while twin ranges guide us in and out of the tight passage at Frances Point (Sheet 1 of Chart 2203; Mile 19) Around Mile 23 we get a glimpse of the open lake. The winds are light from the southeast and the waves out there are less than half a foot in height. On the small craft route they are even smaller. We turn into the wide protection of Shawanga Inlet and make a beautiful seven mile straight run through the islands and rocks of this large bay before heading more westerly inside of aptly named Turning Island. As we proceed up Middle Channel we pause to watch a float plane take off. Three miles ahead we stop for lunch about one o'clock at the Ojibway Inn, located on the northwest side of Ojibway Island. (Mile 33 of Sheet 2 of Chart 2203)
The Ojibway Inn was once a resort hotel, constructed by American Hamilton Davis in 1906 to provide lodging for an clientele of guests looking for a rustic yet refined vacation. It survivied in that capacity longer than any of its competitors, but eventually the hotel closed, and the facility is now run as a island community center, restaurant and store. It is a hub of activity for all the cottagers in this beautiful stretch of shore. There are about eight floating finger piers emerging from the rocky island into very deep water. We find a spot and tie up our trio of Boston Whalers.
We are greeted by a friendly college-aged young fellow whose summer job is both dock master and store clerk at the island. It is no problem for us to tie up for a while and visit. Passing boats like ours are welcome to come for lunch or dinner, and to shop.
The island is the hub of a large community of cottages, and boats come and go from the docks continuously. Much to our surprise, a very high percentage of them are also Boston Whalers! We see a wide variety of 13-foot and 15-foot hulls, an occasional 17-footer, and even a very nicely restored 21-Outrage. And the island residents see our larger Boston Whalers, too. Several of them come over to chat. Without out any prompting, we get spontaneous comments like this:
From the dockmaster: "I really like these older-hull-style Whalers. The newer hull design is not as good. This older hull really rides nicely."
From a cottager: "My brother wanted a Whaler and he bought a new one. He had it about three weeks and he didn't like it. Sold it and bought a used, older style Whaler."
And from several admirers of WHALE LURE: "I didn't know they made Whalers this big!"
The surrounding islands contain hundreds of cottages, most of them held in the same family for many generations. Young boaters arrive and depart the docks in small outboards. It is a great place to spend your summer as a young boy or girl.
"I feel cheated," I say, "that my great-grandfather did not leave me a place to inherit up here. What a spot!"
"Isn't this the place," says Larry Goltz. "You could really grow up with a Whaler around here."
From all across the States and Canada the descendents of these early land owners return to enjoy the brief summer. We bump into a U.S. family from Chicago, and discover the mom went to high school in our home town of Birmingham, Michigan. It is a small world and here a rather genteel one, too.
We take lazy lunch on the porch at the Inn, looking out through the shade of the tall pine trees at the sun on the beautiful water and watching the stream of boats coming up and down the Small Craft Route just across the little bay. The Ojibway Inn serves up an excellent Gilled Chicken Club sandwich.
About quarter to three we are back under way. Unfortunately, about two miles down the channel Chris discovers that she was so relaxed on the porch at Ojibway Inn that she left her purse sitting there! Oops. We make a U-turn and head back. As I mentioned, it is a rather genteel setting, so when we arrive back about 25 minutes after we left, Chris scampers ashore and finds her purse sitting right where she left it.
At 3:15 p.m. we are back underway, with purse aboard, and heading northward to rendezvous with the other two boats who have been busy exploring the Pointe au Baril Channel inland a couple of miles.
Around Mile 35 (Continuation D of Sheet 2 of Chart 2203) we rejoin our mates and turn toward the exit from the inland route at Pointe au Baril. This is one of the few points along the eastern shore where you can enter from the lake in heavy seas. To mark this passage for the early navigators, a large barrel was placed on a stake at the tip of the inlet, which then became know as Pointe au Baril or "point with a barrel" in French. Now a red-roofed Coast Guard building and lighthouse mark the point, but a replica barrel still stands as well.
To transit here we must briefly expose ourselves to about 100 miles of open water before we can make a sharp turn back toward shore and reenter the protection of the inshore passage. Today it is a "piece of cake" and we negotiate the RGR offshore buoy without difficulty. Turning northeast for a brief leg, we clear Shoal Narrows. Here, in one of the few instances where the chart and the route don't agree, we find three or four buoys added to help us make safe passage.
Just east of Hangdog Point we are again emerging from the route into relatively open water at Red Buoy A68 when we encounter some opposing boat traffic. A rather large express cruiser, a 45-foot Sea Ray, is about to turn into the narrow opening from the opposite direction. Both he and WHALE LURE are making for A68 at about the same distance off. Larry throttles back to let the big cruiser come around the floating aid ahead of him, and I watch from ten boat lengths back with amazement as the approaching boat cuts between WHALE LURE and the mark, forcing Larry to hit reverse and backdown rapidly to get out of the way. Perhaps momentarily confused by the appearance of opposing traffic, the skipper of the other boat has incorrectly applied the "Red-Right-Returning" rule and left A68 on his starboard side, putting his course precisely over the 3-foot shoal that it marks.
"Hey," I say to Chris, "that guy just took that buoy on the wrong side!"
I think he must know it, too, as he goes by us without much of a wave hello, his head down and concentrating on his chart. It is little mistakes like this that keep all those local marina Travel-Lifts busy.
From here we go seaward toward Hangdog Reef, another spot where the Small Craft Route ventures into open water for a sharp turn around, this one almost a 160-degree turn at buoy A74. If there were a large sea running--and there certainly could be--transiting Hangdog Reef would be extremely difficult. The route threads among many rocks and shoals, and with large waves working on your beam it would be impossible to hold to the narrow courseline needed to make safe passage among all the hazards. Fortunately, today there is hardly a ripple on Georgian Bay, and we can zip out, round A74, and return to run up Hangdog Channel, guided through the shoals and rocks by a dozen or more buoys.
North of Pointe au Baril, the number of cottages and the amount of shore or island development noticeably declines. Our boat glides through the water between rocky islands for the most part in their completely natural state of pinkish granite. Bands of golden brown moss mark the limit of the highest rise of the lake water in recent decades. The pine trees that have taken root in the limited soil share a distinguishing characteristic: their windward branches are stunted and bare, while the eastward pointing limbs grow much longer. The whole tree trunk often leans slightly east, inclined by the strong winds that blow off the lake all winter.
The Small Craft Route now proceeds inland about two miles heading for the village of Bayfield Inlet at the head of Alexander Passage. The Naiscoot River drains into the lake here, creating a number of small inlets. We turn seaward again at Gibralter Point, and enjoy a four mile run up a natural channel with Big Burnt Island on our right and Meneilly Island on our left.
Around 4:45 p.m. we again approach open water, and now for the first time in our trip the Small Craft Route cannot provide us with a passage among the rocks and shoals of the shoreline. In many areas of the coast here the hydrographers have given up on soundings and just marked the water with a large # meaning "foul ground." To avoid this we must make a nine-mile passage offshore, running about three-quarters of a mile out but only in water 8-10 feet deep. Fortunately there is no sea running at all, and as we cruise on plane over the calm water we can see a frightening array of huge bolders beneath us, in some spots only five or six feet below.
We proceed northward at about 22 MPH, the speed where our boat and motors seem most at ease. At this throttle setting the engines are running at 3900 RPM, a point where they made a nice gentle sound, and the boat's hull rides smoothly on plane without any hint of porpoising (the repeated bouncing of the bow of the boat up and down in the waves).
At approximately 5:30 p.m. we are making a turn around buoy A126 (Mile 55 on Sheet 3 of Chart 2203) and heading back toward shore. A range guides us eastward, and several sets of paired buoys help us avoid shoals. Once inshore we negotiate some tight spots between Danny Island and its neighbors at Mile 56, before getting into the natural channel of Byng Inlet, our destination for our overnight stop.
The wilderness beauty of the route during the last 20 miles has been magnificent, but now two signs appear, advertising the facilities of competing marinas. As we motor slowly up the Magnetawan River we pass the first of these establishments, Wright's Marina, and continue inland toward the second, St. Amant's Marina, about another mile upstream.
Even though it has less marine facilities than its competitor, we have chosen to stay at St. Amant's Marina because of its location close to The Little Britt Inn, the restaurant we are planning on visiting for dinner tonight. The Inn has some docks in front of it, but the low water level has left them in rather shallow water, making it difficult for us to go there except on foot. Around 6:30 p.m. we tie up at the docks at St. Amant's, which float low in the dark, tannin stained water of the river. Unlike the gin-clear water of the lake, this stuff resembles iced tea.
|Marina:||St. Amant's Marina|
|Address:||Box 10 Britt, ON P0G 1A0, 705 383 2434, email@example.com|
|Mooring:||Alongside floating dock|
|Dock height:||2-feet, floating docks. Steep ramp from floating dock to seawall.|
|Bathroom:||1 urinal + 2 stalls for MEN. Shared with trailer park.|
|Showers:||3, not fancy. Need Loonies to get water going, and it never runs out.|
By staying on the northern side of the Magnetawan River we are in the village of Britt. The better-known but smaller town of Byng Inlet lies on the opposite shore. Neither community is a bustling metropolis. Both have commercial docks for the purpose of accommodating small tanker ships to receive oil and gasoline, which is then hauled out by rail and truck. The chart shows small tank farms just up from the shore on both sides of the river. We are at the well head of the petroleum source for the region.
By cellular telephone we arrange dinner reservations at The Little Britt Inn. They are booked full all evening until closing in the upstairs dining room, but they can accommodate us for dinner served in the bar at 8:30 p.m. As has been our pattern, we enjoy an hour or so of socializing on the dock in our deck chairs, augmented with some adult beverages and snacks. Our discussions always include the topic of our boats and how to improve them, but as we become more acquainted (and have a second beer) we expand our subject matter to include a broader range of issues. A long but well-told story brings out a hearty laugh from all the men. The gathering breaks up. We return to our boats to dress for dinner and to snap on our covering canvas so we won't have to struggle with it in the dark when we return.
It is a pleasant walk up the lightly travelled coastal highway to the restaurant. We're hopeful that there might have been a cancellation and we could be seated in the dinning room, but we are not that lucky. The bar will be fine, and they have a lighter menu there, too. We all order "Georgian Bay Shrimp", a house specialty made from strips of whitefish in tempura batter and deep fried. This unusual preparation of the native fish turns out to be very good.
Today is Chris's birthday, so we raise a toast in her honor. Excepting Larry's son (who is in his twenties), Chris is the youngster of our group, still in her forties. Our senior member, Larry, has recently turned 60, but seems to have more energy than everyone. Good recreation like boating keeps you young.
On the walk back to the boats it is a warm and calm evening. We are moored adjacent to the fuel dock, and the large and still brightly illuminated GAS sign casts a strange yellowish light onto the boats. The ramp to the floating dock from the seawall descends at a steep angle. Its design did not anticipate such low water levels. Stepping safely down it to the docks represents one of the greatest dangers to be overcome in the trip so far! We have moved northward 120 miles by boat in the last two days and been outdoors in the sun and the breeze almost all of that time. Getting to sleep will not be a problem this evening, even in the bright glow of the GAS sign.
|Date:||Tuesday, July 31, 2001|
|Weather:||Warm. Deep blue sky and strong sunshine.|
|Winds:||Light from South|
|Waves:||Less than 1 foot|
|Departure:||Byng Inlet, Ontario|
|Distance:||60 miles by Small Craft Route|
It is much easier to get to the electricity up on the shore, so I move my coffee making operation up the noisy floating dockings to a picnic table along the roadside. I brew a fresh pot and enjoy a little conversation with some passers-by, one a fellow boater with a good tale of cruising in Georgian Bay, the other just a local out for a morning walk. The weather continues fair and warm, with the skies clearer and more blue than any morning so far. This will be a beautiful day on the water. About 10:30 a.m. we are fueling at St. Amant's Marina Gas dock.
The fuel gauge shows we have 11/16th (just below 3/4) tank, so I am encouraged about the fuel consumption rate. Gas prices are actually lower here than down south, so I decide to fill the tank to the brim. I have to add 127 liters of gas at $0.729-Canadian/liter before I can hear it whistling up the filler pipe. That converts to 33.8 gallons, $61-US total, and a bargain at $1.80-US/gallon. The knot-log says we have gone 55.3 miles on this segment of our trip. The fuel gauge now reads 17/16th, i.e., above the FULL mark, so we have refilled the tank to a higher level than it previously held. Fuel economy for this leg computes to a gloomy 1.6 MPG, but it must be better than that due to the variation in the fill levels. There must be room in the tank for about ten gallons beyond the "F" reading on the gauge, and allowing for that brings the fuel economy back to a more reasonable 2.3 MPG.
We lie off the fuel dock and drift in the current while the other boats also take on some gas for the next leg of the trip. The dark color in the river water is from all the old wood still on its bottom. In the early 1900's, the heyday of lumbering in this region, the second largest sawmill in Canada was located here, cutting timber at a prodigious rate and filling whole trainload of railcars every few days with freshly sawed boards.
It is close to 11:00 a.m. by the time we reassemble our flotilla and motor slowly downstream to the Lake. We exit via the North Channel route, a shallower and less well-marked passage. The Small Craft Route proceeds northward, again in the shelter on the islands, and we pass the last cottage to be seen for many miles as we clear a rocky ledge at Cunningham's Channel (Mile 7 of Sheet 1 of Chart 2204).
The scenery takes on a noticeable change, the rock becoming even more rugged and the few trees canted and windblown. To make our passage more enjoyable, we have the fairest day of the trip so far. It is beautifully clear and the skies are a deep blue. We twist our course among the rocks, as always helped by the well-placed buoys and daymarks.
Around noon we take a brief diversion to look at the facilities in Key Harbour. We thought Byng Inlet was a bit rustic, but Key Harbour exceeds it in that quality. To describe Key Harbour you need to use words like "camp", "outpost", or "settlement."
At the mouth of the inlet an abandoned railroad building and ruins of a long pier mark the entrance. For a brief time around 1910 the facility was used to ship out iron ore that was mined north of Sudbury. After about a decade, the harbor's depth could not accommodate the newer, larger ships, and the iron ore trade moved elsewhere. The direction of shipment reversed after that, and the railroad used the dock to receive coal hauled up from the south by ship and destined for use in some of those same mines.
The abandoned spur line runs north, but the long inlet runs straight due east and inland about 7 miles to the even smaller town of Key River, where the highway crosses the river. The controlling depth of this passage is charted as low as one foot, and even at the river bar there seems to be limited draft, especially this year. We leave the upstream waters of the Key River unexplored on this trip, and we return to the Small Craft Route.
From here, our compass swings westerly for the first time. We have reached the extreme northeast corner of Georgian Bay. At Mile 18 we divert from the main route and follow the old steamer track northward, into the maze of islands near Fox Island and through the tight passage at Dorés Run.
Everyone must have had a light breakfast because at 12:30 p.m. we stop for lunch and anchor just below Parting Channel on Obstacle Island. Don't you love the names of these places? (Obstacle Island-to-Gateway-Island detail on Sheet 2 of Chart 2204) We drop our hook and the other boats raft up to us, the light breeze from the southeast keeping us nicely taunt on our anchor rode. These rafted lunches become little picnics, as everyone passes a favorite dish or shares sandwich ingredients. A group of four small I/O bowriders cruises by headed south as we eat. They are the only other boats on the route today.
After lunch and hauling the anchor, we resume our passage and face the challenge of Parting Channel, one of the narrowest points on the trip. It is no problem for our nimble Boston Whalers, although it might prove a bit more difficult if you were piloting a larger yacht.
In this section the channel runs through deeper cuts in rather tall islands, and we wind and twist our way among them. At 2:25 p.m. we reach the northernmost point in our journey as we enter the Main Outlet of the French River and turn southwesterly for a run down to the Bustard Island Lights and Georgian Bay (Mile 25 of Sheet 3 of Chart 2204).
For this next leg of the trip you want to pick a nice day, as there is no inshore passage available and you must traverse the northern extreme of the bay for about 15 miles in open water. If the wind is from the south, there is a hundred mile fetch and the waves can build to impressive heights by the time they roll up here. Today the breeze is moderate and the seas are running 1-2 feet from the southwest. It is not a bad passage, but after days of running in dead calm water it is definitely a change of pace for us.
To clear all the rocks and shoals, the Small Craft Route runs about three miles or more offshore, and it makes stingy use of buoys, which are several miles apart and generally cannot be seen from one another. From our starting point at buoy DJ, I know we are at the most southern point in the offshore passage, so I head due west and hope to pick up the next mark. Guided by his GPS and some previous waypoints, Larry (and Jim) head more offshore. I figure any mile to the south is one we'll just have to retrace, and I hold to a more inshore courseline, about 3/4-mile closer to the Ontario mainland shore.
After about six miles we are approaching easily seen Grondine Rock, a ten-foot high pinnacle with an unlighted daymark, but the 3-foot shoal on nearby Simpson Rock is nowhere to be seen. To solve this dilemma I turn on my handheld GPS for the first time in the trip and check our position. We alter course to approach Grondine Rock from due east, a safe bearing, and wait for the GPS to tell us we must be clear of Simpson Rock. In the process we get a close up look at Grondine Rock's shoreline.
There is something about seeing the color of the water change from indigo blue to a light creamy turquoise and watching the waves curl up and break on the shoals that gives rise to fear. This is not some subtlety of navigation learned after decades at sea, but a visceral reaction, something programmed into our DNA. We watch the elemental forces of wind and waves trying to push us onto the rocks, defeated only by the overcoming thrust of our propellers, and suddenly the air temperature seems colder, the water darker and more concealing, and our faith in the boat more in question. The lake does not seem as friendly and benign as it did a moment ago.
The twin outboard engines, mechanically ignorant of the closeness of the shoal, continue to run perfectly, and they power us past the hazard without missing a beat. By now our mates have rounded buoy DB2 a mile or so further offshore, and their course line turns northward to converge with ours. Soon we sight D84 and much larger D86, the sea buoy marking the inlet to Beaverstone Bay.
There has been a recent change in the entrance channel at Beaverstone Bay, and the one shown on my 1983-Edition chart is no longer used. Generally in this area there is little need for up-to-date charts. The terrain and lake bottom are all composed of rock that has not moved for millenia, and in some cases the hydrographic surveys themselves are almost 200 years old.
Motivated perhaps by economics and also good seamanship, the government has moved the entrance to Beaverstone Bay to an entirely new path. The old passage, with a limiting depth of about 7 feet, was a marvel of navigation, requiring four ranges and taking you within inches of rocks awash and 2-foot shoals. The new channel follows a much simpler route, needing only four buoys to mark the turns and maintains almost ten feet of water the entire way. We head downwind and enjoy a simple run into the protection of Beaverstone Bay. Suddenly we are back in the calm water of the Small Craft Route again.
(If you don't have the updated buoy positions, you can get them from another section of this website)
As we cruise rapidly up Beaverstone Bay's eastern shoreline, I notice my well-worn chart is filled with annotations of visits here in 1992, 1994 and 1997. (Mile 44 of Sheet 4 of Chart 2204) I recall those pleasant days of sailing with my children when they were still children, but both Chris and I wonder if we would be able to summon the energy needed to duplicate those live-aboard sailing marathons again.
Beaverstone Bay shoals as we proceed north and inward, eventually needing a dredged channel to connect us to our exit. Five sets of paired buoys guide us across the mud shoal. Then we turn west again, and enjoy the fabulous scenery of Collins Inlet.
Collins Inlet is not a river estuary, but a beautiful inland extension of Lake Huron which forms huge Phillip Edward Island. Its clear water runs at least nine feet deep along the 12-mile passage. In this section the shores are steep vertical clifts of cleanly cleaved rock which reveal massive upthrusts of layered granite. The sunlight filters through tall pine trees on the tops of the bluffs. The water is clear and free of hazards. You cannot find a nicer setting. After about five miles the passage opens and forms Mill Lake, with depths to 80 feet and more. We continue westward, exiting into an even narrower gorge-like waterway. Eventually the shoreline elevation drops, the water widens, and we return to the mouth of Collins Inlet and the final leg of our journey along Georgian Bay's eastern shore.
(While stopped for a moment in Mill Lake, I inadvertently reset the knot log to zero. It had been indicating about 179 Miles travelled.)
As we head westward behind the shelter of One Tree Island, we again face open water. Our course line is a half mile offshore, and for some curious reason this stretch seems to be one of the roughest passages in the whole voyage. Perhaps the shoreline's shape or underwater contour is to blame, for it acts to reflect the waves back into the lake, where they add and subtract from the incoming rollers to form a nasty mixture. It is like sailing in a blender, as the curling water seem to come from all angles and strange standing waves exist in the middle of nowhere. The four mile run west-southwest to Killarney is a rough little trip, and we are extremely glad to round the lighthouse at Red Rock Point and enter the shelter of Killarney Channel.
It is about 6:30 p.m., rather late in the day for cruising boats to arrive at such a busy location as Killarney, and we pass a number of marinas which seem to be filled to capacity. At busy Sportsman Inn, however, they do have a small dock open which can accommodate our diminutive boats. We pull in and tie up, but we find the floating dock a little too small. It sits only a foot or so above the water, and our boats stick out several feet beyond the end of the pier. The narrow dock rocks back and forth, and fendering the boats is a problem. Next we discover that the entire marina facility shares a single bathroom and shower! There must be a hundred boats here, and even at 7 p.m. there is a line for the Men's room.
Larry pulls me aside and advises to delay registration for a minute; he's going to reconnoiter the facilities at the adjacent Gateway Marina and see what they have available. I take off to find Chris before she plunks the VISA card down for the night.
To our surprise, Gateway Marina has three fine slips available and brand new laundry, bathrooms, and showers, with a much lower boat-to-shower ratio. We cast off our lines and move 100 feet upstream to Gateway's docks for the night. Because of the low water, harbour master Fred personally directs each boat around the high spots inside the break wall and helps us into our slips.
|Marina:||Gateway Marina, 29 Channel Street, Killarney, ONT P0M 2A0, (705)287-2333|
|Mooring:||Slip with finger piers. Floating docks. Rate = $1.25/foot|
|Dock height:||About two feet.|
|Bathroom:||2 toilet/shower rooms. Very nice. Also laundry available.|
|Showers:||Total of 2. Excellent stall showers in individual bathrooms|
We moor CONTINUOUSWAVE on the up wind side of the dock, next to a similarly-sized, 2001-model cuddy cruiser from Ohio, powered by a big Mercury Optimax engine. There is a noisy family of four aboard, but I soon realize they're just using the dock for the day--they'll be heading back to their cottage in a few minutes. When the captain starts up the engine, it exhausts a huge plume of oil into the water, first noticed by the young boy on board, who points excitedly at the greenish sheen of oil flowing from the engine's lower unit. Having heard several horror stories regarding 2001 Mercury Optimax engines, we offer some counsel about keeping an eye on the engine and its performance. The Optimax powered cuddy-cabin departs, leaving me with an oily scum line deposit. The rest of my mates are fastidious boat keepers, so I have no choice but to immediately break out a long-handled brush and try to scrub the strange oil off the sides of my boat.
Dinner tonight we be even more casual than normal: fish and chip take out.
"They close at nine so we gotta go now," say Larry Goltz, who has picked up some local knowledge on our restaurant tonight.
We walk a hundred yards down the waterfront to an old red school bus parked on a pier that houses Killarney's famous fish and chip carry out, HERBERTS FISH. I have been hearing about this place for years, with people telling me it's run by someone with the same last name as mine. It is a bit of a disappointment to finally get to the source and find that it is not HEBERT'S but HERBERTS.
When I get to the head of the line to place my order at the window, I mention to the folks in the hot and busy interior of the bus that I can't believe their name is Herbert instead of a good French-Canadian name like Hébert.
"No, it's 'Herbert'," says the nice woman in the school bus, as she hands me an enormous serving of fresh deep-fried whitefish with a ton of french fries. We sit down for dinner at a picnic table under an awning, enjoying the view on the waterway, the nice breeze blowing up the channel, and the warm golden glow of the sun declining in the northwest sky. Chris has thoughtfully brought me a cold BLUE reinforcement for the one I'm drinking in a plastic cup, so we have the perfect dinner.
After nine, with the window finally shut on the bus, the proprietors begin the process of closing up for the night, and I get a visit from one of them.
"I heard you mention 'Hebert' at the window," says a woman about my age, as I stretch my legs on the pier. "That used to be our name, but my dad changed it to Herbert."
"No kidding," I reply, now finally satisfied that I am getting the real story. "I didn't think there'd be a 'Herbert' up here. 'Hebert' is much more common in Canada."
"Yes, says my new-found distant cousin Ida, "if you go up to the cemetery you'll find grandfather's grave and it says HEBERT on it."
"I bet his name was Joseph, too?" I inquire.
"Right," she says a bit surprised, "Joseph Hebert."
"That," I tell her, "was my great-grandfather's name, too: 'Joseph Hebert.'"
From the genealogical research that I've done, it's the most common name for a male Hebert in eastern Canada. There are hundred of Joseph Hebert's in Ontario and surrounding areas going back many generations.
"We are probably cousins, fifth or sixth cousins, perhaps," I conclude.
"Originally grandpa was from Cheboygan, Michigan," she confides, "so if you want to do some more research, look around there.
Her dad changed the name to end years of misspellings and perhaps a bit of anti-French attitude in this predominantly Irish fishing village.
She spots my LABATT can and warns that I'll get her in trouble.
"Better get rid of that," she chides, "we're not licensed for beer."
I toss the can into the recycle barrel that supports a local charity. By the way, the fish at HERBERTS nee HEBERT'S is out of this world. If you ever get to Killarney, you have to try it. I'd put my name on it any day!
|Setting:||Red schoolbus on the pier|
|Ambience:||Outdoor Picnic table|
|Cuisine:||Deep Fried Fish Carry Out|
|Meal:||Best Fish and Chips on earth|
|Date:||Wednesday August 1, 2001|
|Weather:||Warm and sunny|
|Waves:||3-foot in Frazer Bay|
|Destination:||Little Current, Manitoulin Island, and return|
|Distance:||50 miles by boat|
This morning we are really at our destination already, as we plan to return here tonight, but we invent a mission to go boating. We'll head west to the town of Little Current on Manitoulin island and then run up to Neptune Island to drop in on our fellow Boston Whaler enthusiast, John Flook.
We exit the Killarney Channel on the western end and head across to the Landsdowne Channel (Sheet 1 of Chart 2205). This stretch of the Small Craft Route is very familiar to me, as we have been up and down these passages many times in our twenty or more trips up here.
One thing we have learned in cruising this area is that the wind generally blows either west or east. Today it is from the west, and it is blowing up the Landsdowne channel with some power behind it. Heading into it at 20 MPH creates a gale of apparent wind across the boat. We struggle up the Landsdowne and turn into the shelter of another Snug Harbour for a little tour of one of our favorite anchorages.
I am curious how much water there will be at the entrance bar, as this year is the lowest lake level we've experienced, but we find at least six feet under our bottom as we enter. Inside there is a large collection of boats, almost all sailboats with a few trawlers mixed in, and they seem to eye our little fleet of Boston Whalers with suspicion. After three days of passing dozens and dozens of anchorages like this on the way up, Snug Harbour seems to have lost some of its allure. And sharing the beauty with 40 other boats, after being virtually alone for a hundred miles, also takes some of the charm away. We make a fast circle of the anchorage and return to the channel and our westward course.
The Landsdowne Channel opens to Frazer Bay, and with the 20-knot westerly blowing we are facing a strong head sea. It is a rough ride across to Strawberry Island, and then on to Little Current. It's fun to go under the bridge without having to wait for it to open. We motor through the rapid wind-driven current running under the bridge piers, and come to the town of Little Current.
I was up here last summer at the Whaler Rendezvous, but Chris has not seen Manitoulin's main town since 1997. I ask her if she is excited to see it again after a four-year absence. It's funny, but her reaction is muted, too. I think all that beautiful scenery on the way north has taken the edge off the appeal of Manitoulin and the North Channel.
Our party divides for a while at this point, as Chris and I go to the town dock to do some shopping. I need a spark plug gap gauge so I can install new plugs in the engines, and Chris needs to send some postcards. We'll divert to Little Current while Larry and Jim head to Neptune Island to see if John is still there. We'll check in via radio in about 30 minutes.
On land again we discover how hot the day has become. Without the cooling 35 MPH breeze from the boat, it is swelteringly hot ashore. After a couple of stops, I am directed to an auto parts store on the eastern edge of downtown, where for $4-Canadian I get a funky little gauge that sells for 99-cents in most American auto discount stores.
On my way back to the boat I stop at Wally's Gas Dock, where the rather famous yacht CHANTICLEER is fueling. We have seen this boat cruising many times in our previous visits to this area. A beautiful 110-foot Burger motor yacht, CHANTICLEER has just arrived from a month long trip from her home port of Jensen Beach, Florida. The owner is on board, in fact she is having lunch on the fantail. Still looking like Hollywood, 88-year-old former movie star Francis Langford is wearing sunglasses, a white sweater, and a gold lamé hair covering as she enjoys her noon meal, prepared by her cook and served by her steward on the screened-in aft deck of the gleaming yacht. Married to outboard engine pioneer Ole Evinrude (who died in 1987), she and the big yacht have been annual visitors here every summer for decades. As soon as they finish fueling they're off to their anchorage at the tiny twin islets they own in The Pool, a beautiful spot in the extreme northeast end of Baie Finn. It is quite a sight to see her and her famous CHANTICLEER. What a way to go! I hope I am still game for cruising when I am 88-years old.
We rendezvous with our returning boats, who found no one home at Neptune. As it turns out, we have just missed bumping into John Flook as he departed from Neptune Island after a ten-day stay, but we do run into his cousin piloting their new boat, a very nice 25-foot Parker hardtop. We stop to chat and admire the new boat while drifting in the channel. With that big westerly blowing today, you'll need a 25-foot boat to ride out there comfortably.
We turn east and head back to Frazer Bay, the wind graciously behind us. The time is just past the hour so a gaggle of sailboats has just departed on the bridge opening, and we scoot through them as we head east. Passing one 40-footer close abeam we get a little more than we bargained for. Crewed by Europeans, a couple of the men are sailing in the nude. The sight of bare buns on the stern rails gives us a chuckle.
For lunch we divert to another old favorite anchorage, Browning Cove on Heywood Island. The main harbor is filled with sailboats but we turn down the little channel to the east and anchor in the lee of the island with a beautiful view to the north of the La Cloche Mountains behind us. The water is deep, about 17 feet, and it has that typical sea green color. Just enough breeze to keep us cool comes off the land, and we raft up for lunch again. It gets so hot that after lunch Chris and I dive in for a swim around the boats, using the built-in ladder on the stern of MEMORY to get back aboard. It is late afternoon by the time we get dried off and ready to go.
The skies are still clear and the sun still fairly high in the sky, so I suggest we take a try at going to Dreamer's Rock. This is one destination that has eluded me in all previous visits, as the entrance channel is unmarked and tricky to navigate. As we run north and downwind I see the breeze is backing to the south, and there are some big rollers coming across Frazer Bay. It will be a rough ride back upwind.
Dreamer's Rock is located on the Whitefish River Indian Reservation, at the far southeast part of the La Cloche Peninsula. To reach it, you must enter from McGregor Bay and traverse the Boat Passage route. This requires a very careful entrance. The problem is the extreme variation in the water depth. You can have 100 feet of water at your stern and be looking at only a foot of water at your bow. We tried one aborted attempt at coming in here many years ago in our 5-foot draft sailboat. That day the sunlight was of no help due to overcast skies. Today there is plenty of sunshine, but we have waited until too late in the day to take advantage of it. Coming slowly up the entrance I cannot see a clue to water depth from the color of the water.
I am on the verge of aborting again when by a stroke of good fortune (for the second time in this trip) a local fisherman and a pal come flying by us in small outboards. We watch their course through the entrance narrows, where they take a sharp turn to the left. Immediately I fall in behind them, following their wake while it still shows in the dark water. Once clear of the unseen shoals, I glance behind me to see if the other guys have followed. They are coming in, too, but WHALE LURE seems to be straying too far to the right.
The locals in the fishing boat see this, too, and they make an abrupt turn and begin waving at Larry to turn sharply left. He takes their direction and avoids the nasty wall rising from the depths in front of him. The fishermen take off again at high speed and disappear around the bend, while we motor more slowly into Boat Passage.
Finally I get a glimpse of Dreamer's Rock, the long awaited destination. It soars about 200 feet above the water, offering an excellent site for observation of the whole region. The rock is characteristically white, but it has a strange texture, giving it the appearance of a huge cranium. I think I understand its appeal to the First Nation culture.
In Indian tradition, a boy coming of age would encamp for a week of solitary fasting on the top of Dreamer's Rock, searching for his Vision Quest. Sleeping and meditating on this sacred ground would perhaps permit the spirits to reveal to him via dreams and visions the young Indian's future role in life. He would be guided by this insight and conduct himself as a hunter, a warrior, a farmer, or fisherman, as directed by the Spirits' guidance.
We circle around to the south of the peak, coming to a small lodge. Our new friends in the fishing boat seem to sense our reticence to proceed, so they come out from the dock to guide us through the rocky passage. In the process, they also display a couple of huge northern pike they have caught in Baie Fine. These are monstrous fish and would be a thrill to land for any fisherman.
I inquire with them about climbing to the top of Dreamer's Rock.
"That may not go too well with the Indians, eh?" replies one of the fellows. "That's sacred ground to them, and they don't let people up there any more."
Even if it could be arranged, it is too late in the day to start such a climb now, so I hold that goal in reserve for another visit. Time to get back into deep water before the sun drops behind the bluff on the way out.
"Just keep to the right, all the way up the bay and on the way out," advises our friendly Canadian fishing guide, "there are some big rocks in there."
We exit from Boat Passage and return to the well-charted depths of McGregor Bay.
McGregor Bay had been for decades an uncharted collection of rocks and shoals known only to the local cottagers, but finally in June of 1997 the Canadian Hydrographic Service published Chart 2206. Reflecting many summers of surveys in the bay done between 1985 and 1996, the new chart was a welcomed addition to the small-scale, detailed strip charts of the Small Craft Route series. Unfortunately, there are several things about Chart 2206 that make it a pain to use.
First, instead of continuing the accordion folded strip charts of the 2200 series, Chart 2206 was published as one large sheet printed on both sides of unusually heavy coated paper stock. Arranged on the single sheet were six smaller panels, three on a side, and laid out in such a way that they could be cut into three smaller sheets that would contain a complete sub-chart on each side. These new sheets could then be folded to become the same size as the rest of the 2200 series charts. It would have been much handier if the agency had performed the cutting and folding for the chart buyer, and presented the chart in the over-wrapping card stock folder that the rest of the 2200 charts make use of. But this matter of presentation is a minor problem compared to the second issue with these charts.
Reflecting their country's conversion to the metric system, the Canadian Hydrographic Office issued Chart 2206 of McGregor Bay with all the distances and depths in metric units. Instead of sailing over water that is 6-feet deep, we now give a cautious eye to water 2-metres in depth or less. The problem is not so much one of conversion from unit to unit, but rather the fact that in the shallower depths, those less than 10 feet, the chart maker now must use two digits to provide the same information that a single digit previously conveyed. Water depths can't be shown with a solitary number, like "3" for 3-foot depths, but now the chart is cluttered with two digits for every sounding, and that 3-foot patch is denoted with "0.5".
Using the metric dimension and two digits actually provides more resolution, but it is unnecessary. If the water were 0.5 meters in depth is this better than 0.4 meters? There are 3.1 more inches of water in the former case, but this is hardly of concern to the recreational boater. It is much simpler to announce the changes in depth in increments of one foot rather than in tiny steps of a tenth of a meter. It is a case of more data but less value.
We decide we'll take a brief exploration of McGregor Bay, but since I am the only one who has the new chart (the others are using a Richardson's Chart Book which was published prior to this new chart's release), I must take over the navigation.
As we are cruising up the north shore of McGregor Point, I am staring at the chart trying to find a safe route through all the shoals, when I get an excellent idea. Since the chart is in metric units, I will change my depth sounder display to metric as well. This will make correlating the depths I see on the chart with the readings on my sonar much easier.
We cut in toward shore at an unnamed group of islands (46-02-00 N; 081-38-38 W) and idle among their many cottages, rocks, and shoals. From there we take a leg due north and cross the bay, approaching Pardsay Crag Island, where the locals have built a range. I try to deduce the bearing on the range so I can chart it to see where it leads. This area is a mine field of rocks awash, and it is not clear how to utilize the range's guidance to avoid all these hazards. By my plotting, the course on the range leads almost directly over some rather shoal water, although it does avoid most rocks in the area.
By now the western horizon is filled with glare from the declining sun, so I decide not to chance a new route across the rock laden bay. Instead we revert to following our path out the way we came, again assisted by the chart plotting ability of Larry's DGPS. We retrace our course and return to the exit at McGregor Point.
As I predicted, there are nicely developed rollers coming up Frazer Bay, and we have to pound directly into them to get back to the Landsdowne Channel. It is a rough ride across, but after about thirty minutes of slogging upwind we reach the protection of the Landsdowne. There we are again in calm water, and we proceed back at planing speed.
Tonight's dinner plan take us by foot down the road a few hundred yards to the Killarney Mountain Lodge. This is a wonderful resort, built originally as an exclusive executive retreat for a major corporation, but eventually sold off in the corporate streamlining of the 1980's to a private operator. Built for entertaining and feeding large groups of corporate clients in elegant camp style, the place has successfully continued life as a resort, a marina, and a restaurant.
We sit down at a large round table in a big log cabin, bare wooden floors underfoot and a hint of a breeze off the lake coming through the large screened open windows. We are one of the last tables to be seated tonight, as it is now 9 p.m., but our waitress doesn't seem to mind the late addition to her section. She gets us a round of drinks while we read the menu.
The kitchen is geared to feeding guests who are staying for the week, so each night there is a different special on the menu. Tonight's featured whitefish dinner sounds good to all of us, and we order five of them.
"I was watching them clean fish down at HERBERTS," notes Larry Goltz, "and they were removing the lateral line from the filets."
We have had many discussions at our dinner tables this trip about the need to remove the lateral line from the fish. This is the darker line of flesh that runs down the center of the filet. The lateral line contains less desireable tasting portions of the fish, and it should be removed, preferably before cooking. If the chef failed to do so, it should definitely not be eaten. This is the unanimous advice of our table of experienced fishermen.
"So I asked them [the people at HERBERTS] if they always removed the lateral line," continues Larry, "and they said 'yes.'"
"It looked like they were cleaning some fish for delivery elsewhere, so I asked them where that fish was going. 'Killarney Mountain Lodge' was the answer. So you're eating HERBERTS' whitefish here tonight."
The fresh catch, minus lateral line, prepared to perfection in the kitchen, presented in the beautiful setting of the old log cabin dining room, and eaten in the good company and fellowship of our mates makes one of the best meals of the trip.
We have really enjoyed our dinner at the Inn, and we are in no rush to leave it. We wander down the hall into the "Carousel", a tall-ceiling, octagonal lodge, with a big central fireplace, a bar, and entertainment. We grab a drink and a seat, and enjoy the singing and guitar playing of tonight's featured performer, a unknown but decent Canadian singer.
This set is almost over, so we stay through the break and hang-in for another half an hour, enjoying the lodge and the additional entertainment of a group of rather boisterous and intoxicated guests. There is a full moon rising over Lake Huron to the south, we are in a lovely setting, we are really in relaxed-vacation-mode now, and it is just plain fun to sit in the Carousel, have another drink, and people-watch.
Two bartenders and three waitresses keep the drinks flowing. Behind the bar a series of seven flags are hanging from the rafters. After a few minutes of concentration we deduce all of their nationalities, except one. The flags are from the nations of Australian, US, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands (that's the one we couldn't identify).
Eventually we wear ourselves out, but the crowd in the Carousel keeps roaring and the folk singer is still singing as we walk back to our boats through the quiet town.
|Restaurant:||The Killarney Mountain Inn|
|Setting:||Shores of Georgian Bay|
|Meal:||Nightly Fish Dinner Special|
|Date:||Thursday August 2, 2001|
|Weather:||Fog and Mist|
|Destination:||Byng Inlet, Ontario|
|Distance:||65 miles by Small Craft Route|
The fair weather that we have been enjoying has momentarily left this morning, replaced by fog and mist. I am confident that once the sun comes up a bit higher and a little breeze blows in from the lake, the fog will clear and we'll have no problem navigating. We relax most of the morning, only finally getting underway about 11:00 a.m. First stop, as always, is for more gas. I add just enough expensive gasoline ($2.20-US/gallon) at the Sportsman Inn fuel dock to ensure that I can make it down to Britt tomorrow, where the fuel sells for 60-cents-US/gallon less.
Around eleven-thirty we depart for Collins Inlet in the fog. The lake is calm, and once we turn east at Red Rock Point we are enveloped in the mist. Our three boats run parallel courses abreast, this way we are more likely to spot the entrance buoys at the inlet. Larry is piloting with GPS assistance; I'm just running on a compass course. A couple of westbound sail boats materialize in the fog ahead--we must be on the right track as they surely just left Collins Inlet. As the knot-log ticks off the distance, the entrance buoy appears out of the mist right on schedule.
Inside the inlet, the fog lifts a bit and we can easily run up the still water. We enjoy the quick trip along the rugged shores, stopping about ten miles up at Mill Lake for a brief gam about 11:30 a.m.
While we are drifting together in Mill Lake, I notice that my starboard engine has died. I try restarting. No luck. The engine shows no sign of life. The darn thing was just running fine, and now it won't start. This is a problem. I had just changed the spark plugs in the other engine yesterday--they were getting pretty fouled--and I have noticed since how much easier that one starts. Maybe the plugs are finally too wet to fire in the starboard engine.
Drifting in the calm of Mill Lake, I quickly change the three plugs in the starboard engine. Still no sign of life. The thing refuses to start. Now we are in a dilemma. On a single engine the boat cannot get up on plane, which means a long, slow boat ride to where ever we decide to go.
"Let me see how fast I can go with just one engine," I holler to the other guys.
We discover that with just 70 HP available, we can get the boat up to displacement hull speed, about 6 MPH, and not much further. You can go faster, but it produces a terrible wake and causes the engine to sound like it is going to hemorrhage.
Our destination today, Britt, is about 40 miles to the southeast. We toss some numbers around, computing how long it will take us to get there. We've made many long passages in our sailboat at speeds like that. We have to decide what to do: continue on or return to Killarney
There are a number of factors in this decision. Killarney is only fifteen miles away, but if we cannot repair the engine and are forced to leave the boat there we will really be in a fix. Killarney is next to impossible to reach by road, an extra 200 miles of driving north from Britt. We'd have to rent a car, drive to Midland, come back with our truck and trailer, and then repeat the drive south again. It would be an awful end to what has been a delightful cruise.
Going to Britt is a better plan, I think, because there we could try to fix the engine, and if unsuccessful our trailer in Midland is a much shorter distance away.
I start up the port engine and set off down Collins Inlet at 6.5 MPH. We get about 100 yards away, when I realize, as boaters, we have changed. We do not feel at all at ease loping along at this speed, and the thought of eight hours of it seems intolerable. I turn around and announce we are going back. It is just past one o'clock.
Larry Goltz goes aboard MEMORY, and he and Jim take off at full speed for Kilarney, planning to find an outboard engine mechanic for us and to arrange for overnight docking for our three boats. Larry (LCG) sheppards us back on WHALE LURE.
The weather clears as we head west again on Collins Inlet, the sun coming out bright and the day a beautiful clear blue. At least that is improving. It takes us about two hours to reach Killarney, and about 3:20 p.m. we are making the dock at Gateway Marina. Harbourmaster Fred has very kindly found us enough space to tie up for the night, although it requires that we lift our engines and glide over a one-foot shoal. He stands on the dock to catch our bow as we coast in.
We get the boat tied up along side the pier, taking up the spot where Fred normally keeps his rental boats--they're all out at the moment.
About 4 o'clock the mechanic arrives, a sharp young fellow who works for the auto shop a block or two up from the river. In a small town like Killarney, their mechanics also work on marine engines and outboards, too.
We get the cowlings off the engines and start looking for the problem. A spark tester confirms: no trace of spark on the starboard engine. There are two likely causes, either a bad ignition module or a bad stator coil. The mechanic proposes swapping ignition modules between the engines to test them.
"Let's put the suspect ignition module on the good engine, rather than the other way around," I say. That way we won't damage the good module by putting it in the bad engine. Working together, we remove the ignition modules from the two engines and attach the possibly bad one to the known good engine. I go to the helm to try to start it.
The port engine, equipped with the starboard engine's ignition module, fires right up and runs perfectly. This is both good and bad news. It means the problem is not the ignition module. That is good. But it leaves as the only other candidate for repair the stator coil. That is a problem.
The stator coil, if bad, cannot be replaced with the boat in the water. We'll have to haul it up the their shop--they have a special "universal" boat trailer--and they'll work on it there. Then there is the question of finding a replacement part. The nearest dealer is in Sudbury, about 150 miles away by car. If they don't have the part, it might take 3-5 days for it to be sent in. Things are not looking good.
The young mechanic, just out of school and first in his class at the 2-year vocational college where he majored in marine engines, is running down a mental list of some other possibilities, besides this ugly stator replacement option, when suddenly something he says about "bad neutral safety switch" gives me an idea.
I turn to look closely at the engine remote controls, and I see the problem instantly. I lean forward and replace the safety lanyard switch, which after several hundred miles of banging around in the boat had chosen that moment at Mill Lake to just slip out.
We install the ignition module from the port engine onto the starboard engine and give her a crank. She fires right up. Problem solved.
There is joy on CONTINUOUSWAVE! We can continue the cruise. There was nothing really wrong with the engine. It is running again, as reliable as ever. There are no expensive rides to Midland and back with the trailer, no leaving the boat behind and getting it in a month, no ugly repairs in the small town auto shop, none of that. We are back on vacation, the boat is running great, the weather is beautiful, and as a bonus, we are staying an extra night in Killarney, the nicest little town on Georgian Bay.
There is the little problem of paying the mechanic. The young fellow is a bit disarmed by the fact that he overlooked the most obvious solution to the problem, and allows that were it up to him, he wouldn't even charge me for the house call. However, he does work for another fellow who owns the shop, so we'll have to go see him to get the final figures on the cost of this "repair."
I hop in his pickup truck--which ironically runs rough as hell and bucks a bit as he releases the clutch--and we drive three blocks up the road away from the water to the shop. The owner dings me one hour of labor, which when reduced by the currency conversion come in at less than $50. Considering all the other potential expenses this problem could have generated, $50 seems like a bargain to get it resolved. I hand over my VISA card. The bill settled, the kid drives me back to the boat. I give him a five buck tip for the taxi service--my mood that good about this outcome!
Deprived of our daily 70 mile dose of boating, Larry insists we go out for a short cruise. It will also give me a chance to test the engines. At 5:30 p.m. we slip the lines, give our boat a big shove to clear the shoal, and head out for a circumnaviation of St. George Island.
The engines are running fine, just as they had been and perhaps a bit better with all the new spark plugs. I should have changed them before the trip, but it was one of those things on the list that did not get done. The big lake is delightfully calm tonight, and we enjoy our sunset cruise.
After our evening run I stop at the fuel dock to top off my tank. With the thirty miles out and back to Mill Lake and about ten more on this little jaunt, I am down to an indicated 1/4-TANK on the gauge. (Unfortunately I have omitted the knot-log reading, probably subconsciously not wanting to discover the true fuel economy) Watching the gauge rise, I learn the following characteristics of its calibration:
1/4-TANK to 1/2-TANK = 14.4 gallons 1/2-TANK to 5/8-TANK = 9 gallons 5/8-TANK to 3/4-TANK = 9 gallons
In all I add 122 liters at $0.899/liter, or $72.40-US for 32.5 gallons, at $2.22-US/gallon. That should be enough to get us down the lake tomorrow.
Back at Gateway Marina, Fred's fishing fleet is back, and he has re-arranged the docking assignments so now we can stay in some deeper slips with finger piers. His kindness is very appreciated. We put CONTINUOUSWAVE to bed for the night, and get ready for dinner.
We had such fun at the Killarney Mountain Lodge yesterday that it is the unanimous choice for dinner again tonight. We reprise our evening, having another excellent meal, and ending up in the Carousel Lounge for a couple of sets of songs. Several of the same crowd from last night are there again, including one particulary animated (and intoxicated) woman who proves quite entertaining.
"You know," I say to my fellow Boston Whaler mates, "if we had to end up spending an extra night in any town along the shore, this is the best place to spend it."
|Date:||Friday, August 3, 2001|
|Weather:||Fair, beautiful sun|
|Winds:||E-10 going to N|
|Waves:||2-foot from East|
|Destination:||Parry Sound, Ontario|
|Distance:||100 miles by Small Craft Route|
The Gateway Marina runs a little carry out grill, and people come from all over town and other docks come every morning to have coffee and breakfast. In fact, this morning we are treating ourselves to eggs, pea-meal bacon (or Canadian Bacon as we call it in the States), cottage fried potatoes, and heavily buttered toast. It is the kind of food that puts chloresterol in your arteries, but a couple of times a year while on vacation you cannot resist it.
I take a few minutes to yack with some of the other boaters staying at the marina, Canadians for the most part, who have been having breakfast at the picnic tables adjacent to the docks every morning that we've been here. They are an interesting lot of characters. There's a big fellow with a gravelly voice, nicknamed "Red Dog" after his boat name. In his youth he might have played football--too big for hockey--and his hair might have been red, although now it looks like perhaps it maintains its current shade with some assistance. He is a gregarious fellow, easy to talk to. We briefly discuss the differences between American and Canadian politics, covering issues like the Clinton Presidency and the Secession of Quebec from Canada.
He refers to his boat or himself in the third person.
"Red Dog's gonna do some fishin' today, yes Sir. Come on, mum, let's get ready to go fishin'."
I think he is referring to his wife as "mum", but then I realize it really is his mother. A woman in her eighties comes up the dock and heads for the bathrooms.
"Okay, mum, we're gonna be out for three or four hours. Get yourself ready." says Red Dog in his low-pitched, gravel voice.
Red Dog and his mates have been part of the morning entertainment at Gateway Marina. We'll miss them. Finally it is time to go.
To make up the lost day of travel south, we'll have to skip a stop at Britt, and instead we are heading for Killbear. To cut down the mileage, we will also skip past Collins Inlet, which we saw for several hours yesterday, and then bypass the French River leg north of the Bustards. Instead, we will head out into the lake and take a due-east run to the Bustard Island Lights, then cut across the North East Passage route, going to Key Harbour. From there south we can resume the Small Craft Route.
The wind, which was forecasted to swing to the north, has not gotten the word, and it continues from the east, building head seas that we have to run into. We bounce along for about 25 miles, until we can turn briefly north, run inside to the shelter of the Bustard Islands, turn east in The Gun Barrel, and take the North East Passage section of the Small Craft Route. We omit a stop at Key Harbour, round Bigsby Island, and head south along the coast.
We can't skip everything interesting on this leg, so we take a half an hour to explore Henvey Inlet. This beautiful and deep passage leads inland several miles, surrounded on both shores by the Henvey Inlet Indian Reservation. Except for a modest home or two, we don't see much sign of the First Nation residents. We loosely raft up for a short chat, just drifting in the broad inlet and enjoying the gorgeous day.
Exiting from Henvey Inlet, we then pass through Rogers Gut, another narrow spot with its own very small-scale detail on the chart (Sheet 1 of Chart 2204). A few more miles under our keel and we pass Byng Inlet. Next we are back to the big water for that ten mile run offshore, fortunately again today in very calm water, the breeze having swung to the north and coming from our stern. The miles are just flying past us, so we have enough time to take a look at the small harbor and facilities at Bayfield Inlet. We give it just a glimpse, then we are back underway again.
We transit Hangdog Reef at high speed, make that U-turn around A74, and duck back into shore. Next we are approaching Pointe au Baril from seaward, a nice benchmark because south of here we are on the inside passage all the way home.
A few miles beyond Pointe au Baril we stop again for another lunch at the Ojibway Inn--you can't let a good meal like that go by. After a leisurely hour ashore, we get back in the boats and continue our marathon southward, enjoying a delightful run across Shawanga Inlet and through the Shebeshekong Channel.
We fly past Snug Harbour, duck through Canoe Channel again, and head up Parry Sound to Killbear Marina. Wow, that was a run!
Kilarney = 0 Buoy RW = 25 miles _________________________ Offshore Total = 25 Miles Buoy RW = 28 Mile Mark Byng Inlet = 4 Mile Mark _________________________ 2204 Chart total = 24 miles Byng Inlet = 58 Mile Mark Killbear = 11 Mile Mark _________________________ 2203 Chart total = 47 miles ____________________________________ TOTAL RUN = 96 miles!
With those diversions at Bayfield Inlet and Henvey Inlet we probably put well over 100 miles on the boat today, by far my longest leg of cruising in one afternoon. The best part is we have reached Killbear Marina and it is still mid-afternoon; there is time for some relaxation and a swim.
On our second visit to Killbear we get assigned to the docks we were hoping for, the ones that look out over the bay. We take the last three slips on the end of the pier, tie the boats up, and relax.
Out come the deck chairs and the LABATTs. The afternoon sun is still warm and it is hot enough to go for a swim. We get everyone in the water except Larry Goltz, senior. Son Larry taking a scrub brush to his boat's hull while Jim, Chris, and I just enjoy splashing around in the cool water off the dock.
There is young Canadian boy swimming off the pier, too. He eyes us cautiously then asks, "Are you Americans?"
"Yes, we are," I explain, "and we don't have any guns on us."
I don't know where in Ontario this pre-adolescent is from, but he seems to take meeting five Americans as quite an international event. He has twenty questions for us. Finally his mother chides him for his precocious behavior and hauls him out of the water.
We pass the afternoon in the usual activities: showers, cleaning the boat, cocktail hour, long discussions on the fine points of Boston Whalers, and exclamations of how much fun the cruise has been.
Dinner again takes us to the Snuggle Inn, and there we enjoy another fine meal of fresh fish. This time we are not quite the last customers to leave, but it is past ten o'clock when we depart for home.
It is another run in the dark back to Killbear, but this time there is a hitch. The DGPS Chart Plotter has somehow lost our track from the voyage over here. We won't get any help from it tonight.
We are forced, instead, to depend on the beautiful full moon and the very clear skies, augmented with a powerful hand held search light borrowed from my boat. For back-up we also have Jim Gibson and the plain old flashlight, and to tell the truth, the weaker light works as well as the high power one. Turning on the big beam creates so much back spill of light that it can affect your night vision. The little flashlight illuminates the buoys sufficiently to see them but does not create a penumbra of light around the boat.
Without any trouble, really, we get ourselves back to the Marina. It is another beautiful night, one of the best for star gazing, and we have no problem getting a good rest in the calm protection of the bay and the marina seawall.
|Date:||Saturday, August 4, 2001|
|Winds:||Northerly, Light and variable|
|Waves:||Less than 1 foot|
|Departure:||Killbear (Parry Sound), Ontario|
|Destination:||Honey Harbour, Ontario|
|Distance:||55 miles by Small Craft Route|
The fair weather is still with us as we awake to another beautiful day. We fall into our usual morning routine, converting the cabin from sleeping to storage, taking down the rear canvas and rolling it up, making coffee, having some cereal breakfast, and just enjoying being on the boat.
Running our engines six hours a day or more consumes enough gas that we generally need to refuel each morning, too. On the trip northward I was trying to keep the gas tank full, but now, with only one more long leg ahead of us, I try to anticipate how much fuel I'll need so that I will end with the tank near empty as I haul the boat onto the trailer. This will keep the boat as light as possible on the trailer, and also save a few dollars by not buying expensive Canadian marina gasoline.
Our mates need gasoline, too, and for a change they beat us to the fuel dock. Eventually we are all topped-off with fuel, and we get underway at the usual hour of about 10:30 a.m. Our destination today is relatively close-by, just 40 miles to the south, so we begin by immediately taking a diversion.
The wide water of Parry Sound is just to the east, a lovely protected expanse of fresh water whose northern shoreline is Killbear Provincial Park, a favorite spot for campers and beach-goers. We cruise inland and explore the many islands and passages, spending about an hour navigating our way to the head of the inlet, the town of Parry Sound, the largest municipality on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay.
We cruise past the Ministry of Transportation's Marine Depot, the base from which the aids to navigation along this entire shore are maintained. Past Salt Point the chart denotes "decayed timber bottom" in Parry Sound Harbour, an artifact of all the lumbering once done in this water.
I am thinking we'll have to turn around and retrace our path back to the coast, but there is a second route available, the South Channel to Amanda Island. This is a very pleasant cruise, although we are now in the company of many other boats, including several larger tour boats that take a hundred or more passengers for trips among the islands on this portion of the Small Craft Route. The shoreline is filled with marinas and cottages, and even an ice cream stand, an irresistable attraction for Larry Goltz who stops WHALE LURE for a noontime treat.
After about ten miles of relatively narrow passage on the South Channel, we return to the main track and more open water at Mile 43 (Sheet 3 of Chart 2202). We are heading for lunch at Henry's Fish Restaurant at Sans Souci, when Larry suddenly diverts from the channel east of C181, and heads for Totten Island on our left. The cause of this diversion: a black bear in the water! We all idle over to see this unusual swimmer, a young black bear paddling across toward Toten Island. It is quite a sight, and we watch from a safe distance as he climbs ashore and shakes the water from his fur. He must weight at least 300 pounds! He turns to give our boats an eye, then nimbly climbs the rocky island slope and trots off into the woods. After this excitement, we move our boats to the floating docks at Henry's and take a seat in one of their several dining rooms for lunch.
After lunch we resume our trip southward, but take another immediate diversion into the rocky water of Moon Bay. This segment has been nicely surveyed but not as well marked as the main route. About two and a half miles up the old steamer track, we are on the verge of being lost. One group of rocky islands begins to look like the next, and we decide to get back to the mainline. Around 4 o'clock we pass west of McCurry Rocks and rejoin the Small Craft Route at Mile 38.
The wanderlust for exploration hits again just a few miles further, and our mates propose cruising up Twelve Mile Bay. I look at the gas gauge and see that my fuel reserve is getting somewhat low, so we decline. Instead, we just drift in the broad open water of the mouth of the inlet, relaxing in the afternoon sun, while our fellow Boston Whalers make an exploration inland for about 30 minutes. When our mates return, we head back to the O'Donnell Channel, then turn inside Gooseberry Island for a three mile run down a beautiful stretch of coastline.
About 5:00 p.m. at Mile 28 we divert to pass through Indian Harbour, now filled with boats at anchor on this pleasant Saturday afternoon. Back into coastal water, we are moving at high speed, on plane at about 25 MPH, and the miles are rolling past as we enjoy the boat ride in calm water. Just as the sun starts to decline, we are back in the busy stretch behind Beausoliel Island, slowed to idle in NO WAKE zones. We know we're almost back to the start, as we have to turn to Sheet 1 of Chart 2202, the first--or in this case last--chart of the trip.
We motor slowly by the six marinas on the shore at Honey Harbour and enter the back water of South Bay. There a privately maintained string of buoys leads us to the docks of South Bay Marina, our last overnight destination.
|Marina:||South Bay Marina|
|Mooring:||Alongside very long floating dock; Rate = $1.35/foot minimum 30 feet|
|Dock height:||About three feet. Very nice aluminum dock system, but rather tall for small boats. Needed extra fenders to keep our boats from going under the dock!|
|Bathroom:||Two MENS/WOMENS large bathrooms with multiple stalls and sinks.|
|Showers:||A dozen or more individual shower rooms with very nice showers.|
The marina is quite a nice facility, but it is geared to larger boats. Transient dockage is available only along their long pier. All the slips are seasonal rentals and filled with big cruisers in the 40 to 60 foot range. The aluminum floating dock sits so high that the gunwale of Jim Gibson's 18-Outrage goes right under it. Two helpful young dock attendants in crisp khaki uniforms bring out some large ball-shaped fenders to improve the mooring, running back and forth on the long dock using golf carts.
Initially we are weary of the cost to stay at such a yachty place, but even with an assessment of a minimum 30-foot fee, the price turns out to be quite reasonable. Dockage includes the usual showers and bath facilities--which are excellent--but they also throw in free ice, free coffee, free breakfast rolls and cereal, and a morning newspaper. The dock attendants also come by to collect any garbage right from your boat. The biggest surprise occurs when we go to the office to prepay our fees. The marina manager welcomes us to South Bay Marina with a gift: a very nice rigging knife, easily worth almost as much as the docking fees!
We get a late seating reservation in the marina dining room, a nice restaurant with an elevated view westward across the harbor. Dinner there turns out to be another bargain. We have a huge meal which takes us almost two hours to consume, and the tab runs only about $16-US per person. Tonight we are truly the last table to leave. We are just having dessert and coffee at quarter to eleven. Chris, Jim, and I take a long stroll an the docks to walk off some of that food. It is another beautiful night, a continuation of the eight consecutive days of fair weather we have been blessed with on this trip.
|Date:||Sunday, August 5, 2001|
|Weather:||Fair, sunny, hot|
|Departure:||South Bay Marina, Honey Harbour, Ontario|
|Destination:||Bay Harbour, Midland, Ontario, and then Beverly Hills, Michigan|
|Distance:||16 miles by Small Craft Route; 305 miles by highway|
Our last morning finds me getting anxious again, worried about a number of potential problems. Will the boat be easily recovered on the trailer? Will the tires be okay? Will I have enough gas to get to Midland?
When I filled up at Killbear two days ago, I was hoping to have just enough fuel to get to Midland. It turns out I was right, I have just enough. The gauge is reading about "1/8" which probably means less than five gallons. It seems silly to go the the bother of stopping to buy just a few extra gallons, so I decide to go for Midland without adding any gas.
We depart early, telling our mates we plan to go most of the way at slow speed to save fuel, and we'll see them when they catch up to us. Running only one engine to further help conserve gas, we idle our way across South Bay and head back to the Small Craft Route. We have only about twelve miles to go to Midland, and I am fairly confident we can make it if we run at displacement speed.
About an hour into the trip we are just approaching Present Island and the last three miles of open water before Midland when we see WHALE LURE and MEMORY coming up behind us. The fuel gauge in CONTINUOUSWAVE is still just above "E", so we start the other engine and get the boat on plane. It is just three miles to the ramp; if we run out off gas out here they'll have to tow us in! On plane the fuel gauge now reads below "E", making us a bit nervous, but we keep our throttle setting and continue at 25 MPH.
Larry and Jim go flying by us--they must be running about 45 MPH--and we fall into their wake and follow them into Midland Bay and the boat ramp.
By late morning on Sunday the ramp is pretty busy, so we end up waiting along the seawall for a chance to load the boat on the trailer. After about twenty minutes delay, during which Chris has walked over to the marina yard and driven the Suburban and trailer back to the ramp, I idle down the last few hundred feet and tie CONTINUOUSWAVE to the courtesy dock.
Larry Goltz relieves Chris at the wheel of the tow vehicle, and he backs my trailer down the ramp. I line up the Whaler and take a run at power-loading it. We are on the trailer in no time flat. I raise the engines and Larry hauls us out. Opps, we are not quite all the way on. We dunk the boat back in the lake, and I winch her up the last few inches until the stem is firmly planted in the bow rollers, then we are out of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay for the last time.
The trio of boats reconvenes in the marina yard, Lar' (LCG) having found a good spot to park near a water faucet where he has connected a hose and nozzle. The three boats are scrubbed down, with all signs of residue removed from the Dessert Tan gelcoat of the hulls. We fold and stow our flying top, and we remove most of the gear and bedding from the cabin. After about an hour of work, we all are ready for the trip home on the highway.
The final knot/log total shows almost 500 miles travelled by water, a grand adventure and one that we enjoyed immensely. We already are talking about doing it again next year!
After some fond farewells and hugs goodbye, we are on the road by one o'clock in the afternoon. We have an uneventful drive back, fortunate to be heading south as heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic clogs the northbound lanes of the highway. We cross into the States at Port Huron, clear customs in a few seconds, and head south on the Interstate highway for our home.
By eight o'clock Sunday evening we are back where we started nine days ago. It has been a fabulous, long, week of cruising, blessed with fair weather, reliable boats, grand scenery, interesting adventures, excellent meals, and--most important of all--good company. Amazingly, we covered almost five hundred miles of water, cruising from Midland to Little Current and back, and had a very enjoyable time.
Here is a summary of the fuel used in liters and the price paid in Canadian dollars, converted to American dollars and gallons. Fuel economy for the trip averaged about 2.5 miles per gallon. Fuel cost averaged about $2/gallon.
DATE PLACE $Ca/LITRE LITRES $Ca GALLONS $US $US/GAL K/L MPG 7/28 Midland 0.689 130 $89.57 34.3 $59.71 $1.738 0 7/30 Killbear 0.819 100.3 82.12 26.5 54.74 2.066 64 2.4 7/31 St. Amant's 0.729 127.3 92.80 33.6 61.86 1.839 119 1.68 8/02 Sportsmans 0.899 122.5 110.13 32.4 73.41 2.268 * * 8/02 Sportsmans 0.899 100.8 90.59 26.6 60.39 2.268 * * 8/03 Killbear 0.819 78.8 64.54 20.8 43.02 2.066 * * TOTALS 659.64 $529.75 174.3 $353.13 500 AVERAGES 0.803 $2.026 Fuel at Start= 30 Fuel at End= 5 TOTAL FUEL BURNED= 199.26 TOTAL MILES= 500 2.5 MPG Conversion Factors $ U.S. = $ 0.6666 Canadian 1 gal. = 3.7854 Liters