More fun awaits us as we continue northward along the beautiful shoreline of Georgian Bay. (Ten Photographs)
|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.
Just north of Parry Sound we take a shortcut out to the main channel. The Canadian flag flies as a courtesy ensign from Jim's bow rail, a reminder we are cruising abroad. As we go north, signs of development like that telephone pole on the shore will disappear.
Photo Credit: Jim Gibson
Snug Harbour lighthouse in the background, and continuousWave in the foreground makes a nice picture of Georgian Bay boating. Even though it is mid-summer we had our canvas up almost the whole trip. It was a much appreciated gift from website visitors.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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 Club, located on the northwest side of Ojibway Island. (Mile 33 of Sheet 2 of Chart 2203)
The Ojibway Club was once the Ojibway Inn, 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 in the cool summer temperatures of Georgian Bay. In the days before air-conditioning, it was the place to be in August. 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 club and community center, with a restaurant and store. It is a center of activity for all the cottagers in this beautiful stretch of shoreline. 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 Club restaurant serves up an excellent Grilled Chicken Club sandwich that we enjoy on the pine shaded patio overlooking the water.
The floating docks at this island center are in about 30 feet of water. This view shows the relative sizes of 25-foot and 20-foot Whaler hulls.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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 Club 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.
Pte. Au Baril
Historically a barrel on a stake marked this safe inlet, a tradition maintained even today.
Pte. Au Baril
Coming off a stormy Georgian Bay, this is what you are looking for to locate the deep water inlet at Pointe Au Baril.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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.
Small Craft Route
MEMORY passes one of thousands of daymarks and floating aids-to-navigation which allow transient boaters like us to travel in this endless maze of rocks and channels. This is Shoal Narrows just east of Nares Inlet.
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
Sharp Rocks, Sharp Turns
North of Pte. Au Baril and still following the Small Craft Route, WHALE LURE leads us across Nares Inlet and through a nicely marked 90-degree turn along the otherwise undeveloped shoreline.
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.
Small Craft Route
Between Pte. Au Baril and Byng Inlet, the route often runs just inshore of a protective barrier of rocks. Chris takes the helm for a while.
Photo Credit: Jim Gibson
Small Craft Route
Just north of Hang Dog Reef, we wind among the rocks and buoys. It is hard to keep track of exactly where you are, even if paying careful attention!
Photo Credit: Larry Goltz
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, firstname.lastname@example.org|
|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.
|Restaurant:||The Little Brit Inn|
|Setting:||On the waterfront. Dinning Room upstairs, bar downstairs.|
|Ambience:||In the bar: better northern bar. Dining Room: looks out on river setting; nice.|
|Cuisine:||Canadian-American with fish specialties|
|Meal:||Georgian Bay Shrimp (tempura battered deep-fried whitefish strips), cottage fries with vinegar, and cold Canadian beer|
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.
The nine-day narrative continues in Day Four.
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Copyright © 2001 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared September, 2001.