First some details of boatkeeping, the Small Craft Route, and the charts we will use. Then we depart Midland. Ahead today are sixty miles of coastline to navigate and explore. Now the fun begins! (Twelve photographs)
|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 arrangement makes it very easy to stow and unstow the bedding. We just roll it out and the bed is made.
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. In November of 2002 I get a letter from a fellow Georgian Bay sailor, Murray Conron, who points me to some information from Michael Dumont that suggests the material is from Badgeley Island, but is a special grade of sand! "Lump quartzite from Badgeley Island in northern Georgian Bay is shipped by lake boat to Canadian destinations for the manufacture of ferrosilicon. The finer material, produced by crushing, is shipped to Unimin's plant at Midland, south of Georgian Bay, where it is further processed to a glass-grade silica sand and silica flour for ceramic and other uses." At this point I am still not one-hundred percent sure what that stuff on the dock is!)
The yacht broker 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. (This overview shows the charts needed and gives some indication of the area being cruised.) 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 cabin top, 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, large-scale details are sometimes moved to different pages from the one on the smaller scale main chart. 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.
Go Home River
Chris watches for rocks ahead while I look at rocks we just missed.
Photo Credit: Jim Gibson
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.
Go Home Bay
Instead of coming out the way we entered, we took this really small craft route to exit. In all about $3,000 of stainless steel propellers spun through this rock field unharmed. Thus we can say we had "fun" doing it.
Photo Credit: Jim Gibson
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.
This well preserved 21-Outrage was just one of many Boston Whalers we saw along the Small Craft Route.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
Slow Speed Passage
Parts of the Small Craft Route are a self-imposed NO WAKE zone as you traverse auxillary channels and inlets. The 20-REVENGE idles along at the back of our pack.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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.
Henry's Fish Restaurant
On Fryingpan Island this small rustic restaurant serves some of the best fish in the world. Locally caught perch and pickeral are pan fried to order and served with delicious fried potatoes. Their multiple floating docks were filled with boats both times we passed by.
Our Whalering Crew
My wife Christine, Larry Goltz, his dad Larry Goltz, and Jim Gibson enjoy a late afternoon shore snack of fresh fish at the outdoor tables at Henry's. The famous fish restaurant is located right on the Small Craft Route. All its customers come by boat as the eatery is the only establishment on the small rocky island.
Trio of Whalers
Our three classic Boston Whaler boats are tied to the floating docks. Just the bow of MEMORY, a 19-Outrage is visible on the left. CONTINUOUS WAVE, a 20-Revenge with twin 70-HP engines lies on the far side of the dock. WHALE LURE, a 25-Outrage with twin 200-HP engines is moored on the near side of the dock. Beyond are miles of fresh water, pine forest, and rocky shoreline of the Georgian Bay Small Craft Route.
Three Whalers and another classic, a locally made wooden boat, at the dock at Henry's Fish Restaurant.
Larry Goltz (LCG) pilots WHALE LURE past us on a stretch of relatively open and hazard free water.
Small Craft Route
We follow the charted courseline through hundreds of hazards. Most are well-marked with buoys and daymarks. The low water level exposes many rocks that would otherwise be awash.
Hundreds of charted but unmarked channels divert from the main route.
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.
This privately run marina is located just a few hundred feet off the Small Craft Route near Parry Sound. There is a good ship's store at the marina.
Killbear Marina Docks
To allow smaller boats to moor, Killbear Marina added the floating dock seen here. Behind us is the fixed dock, its height set for the usually more abundant water levels of the past two decades. The perpetually messy cockpit of our mini-cruiser shows all too well in this view. That's me, Chris, and Jim Gibson enjoying our second day of cruising.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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 Boston 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 SNUGEL-IN restaurant 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 it 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. Tel.: 705-342-5552|
|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.
The nine-day narrative continues in Day Three.
Copyright © 2001 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared September, 2001.