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Georgian Bay 2011

A Perfect Cruise Around Georgian Bay

by Jim Hebert

A narrative profusely illustrated with many photographs by the author and his cruising companions, and detailed accounts of boat movement and of expenses for fuel, docking, dining, and travel, of what I call "a perfect cruise" of Georgian Bay—"perfect" because the weather, the cruising companions, and the places visited were all so very pleasant and enjoyable.


Date:Saturday, July 30, 2011
Weather:Warm and sunny
Traffic:Moderate in USA, heavy in Canada
Departure:Beverly Hills, Michigan
Destination:Lions Head, Ontario
Distance:245 miles by highway

For our 2011 Summer cruise we are again heading to Georgian Bay, for what will be our fourth trip along the wonderful small craft route, but this time with an entirely new approach. Previously we have cruised up and down the Eastern shore of the bay, going back and forth along the same general route. This trip has been carefully planned to permit a circumnavigation of almost the entire bay, and we will make a 370-mile counterclockwise loop, visiting each port only once. We'll start at Lions Head on the Western side, jump straight across to the Parry Sound area on the Eastern shore, run North to the French River, run West to Little Current, come back East and South to Tobermory, and return eventually to Lions Head.

Graphic: Map showing highway and water routes to and from Lions Head, Ontario
Map by Jim Hebert and

I worked out the itinerary for this trip after our 2009 cruise in these waters, where we felt we ended up staying too many nights in the same ports. Over the winter, via many emails, we have been discussing the plan with a group of fellow Boston Whaler owners who have expressed an interest. At one point, it looked like we had too much interest, as there were perhaps ten boats that indicated they'd be joining us. Having had some unpleasant experiences trying to conduct a long cruise with so many boats, I began to worry that perhaps we'd have to pull out of our own planned trip. However, as often happens, several of the other boats had to drop out for one reason or another, and, ironically, at about a week before the trip, it looked like there might be only one other boat joining us! Eventually, the group settled down to four boats, which is a very good number for these types of cruises.

Having already made two cruises this summer where we overnighted on the boat for two to five nights, you would think we would be completely prepared for this trip, and all the bugs in the boat and gear would have been worked out well in advance. But that's not the case. During the three weeks prior to our departure I have been working like a mad man on a complete overhaul of the boat's rigging. I have torn out all of the conventional engine controls and the existing electronic instrumentation, and replaced it all with new electronic remote throttle and shift controls, along with an entirely new electronic instrumentation system. We will be setting off on this trip with a completely new helm system, giving it a shakedown cruise in a fairly remote region, and far away from our fabulously supportive local dealer who assisted with the installation. As a result, getting ready to go has required a strenuous push to get everything done. That's usually the case, it seems, with these complex boating trips.

The vacation begins on the road, hauling the boat to Lions Head, Ontario. We depart from Southeast Michigan on the highway at about 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful morning. Traffic is moderate, and we reach the border crossing at Port Huron on schedule. Thanks to our NEXUS cards, we are able to clear customs in Sarnia with no delay. Coming across the border by car is much more straightforward than by boat. About 25-miles East on The Queen's Highway, we depart the limited access road and begin a long trek North on two-lane roads to Lions Head.

This particular weekend is a three-day Summer holiday in Canada, and it seems to be more popular than ever with Canadians. Driving to Lions Head allows us to avoid going through Toronto, where the traffic is perpetually slow and congested, and in addition frees us from the similarly heavy traffic Northward from Toronto into cottage country, which can also be very slow on a Saturday. Unfortunately, the traffic today through all the small coastal towns along Lake Huron is also very heavy, and we find delay after delay. In all, it takes six hours to reach Lions Head, and we arrive about 3:30 p.m.

One of the reasons for embarking at Lions Head was a desire to avoid the holiday frenzy we experienced in Tobermory (45-miles to our North) the last time we visited there on this weekend. It turns out, however, Lions Head is not exactly a ghost town; it is jammed with people and trailer boaters, too. We are lucky to get to the launching ramp without much delay, and, with more good fortune, a parking spot for the truck and trailer opens up just in time for us to pull in.

Photo: Trailer boat launch ramp at Lions Head marina
The boat launch ramp at Lions Head can handle two boats at once, is nicely paved, and leads to deep water. This photo and all other by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

We're the third boat to arrive at the rally point. Kevin on ADEQUATE, an 18-footer, has also driven up from the Detroit area. David and Kathy on WALKABOUT, a 21-footer, have arrived via boat from Detour, Michigan after pushing hard for two days of cruising. We are all assigned slips on the same dock near the break wall.

It's a beautiful, sunny, very warm Summer afternoon, and we are enjoying a bit of relaxation on the boats. The marina is filled with activity. Kids are jumping and swimming off the main pier, boats are coming and going, and it seems like there is always a boat at the fuel dock. Like our Canadian hosts, we are now on holiday.

Photo: Georgian Bay at Lions Head Breakwater Pier
Looking Southeast from the breakwater pier at Lions Head, the Bruce Peninsula reveals its geologic backbone, the Niagara Escarpment. Photo by Kevin Albus.

On WALKABOUT there is talk of amazing fuel economy on the long leg coming down here. David began with his fuel tank topped off, and has just refueled here. He reports his calculated fuel economy is an astonishing 6-MPG or more. Kevin and I are privately skeptical, but David insists he had the dock attendant here just fill the tank, and it would only take 20-gallons. (More on this saga later in the narrative.)

Today is Chris's birthday, and we celebrate by going to dinner at the LIONS HEAD INN. It's a few blocks away from the marina, and we've had a good meal there before. Kathy, David, and Kevin join us, and we all enjoy an early evening dinner on the screened porch of the inn.

Photo: Marina filled with boats at Lions Head, Ontario
Lions Head Marina is filled with boats on this holiday summer weekend. Photo by Kevin Albus.

We are back to the boats by 8 p.m., and we're wondering where is our fourth boat in the group—HOLLY MARIE—who's coming via a 1,000-mile highway haul from Minnesota. I think it speaks to the attraction of cruising in Georgian Bay that they are coming from so far away. Cellular telephone coverage is marginal in the marina, but I find a hot spot along the shore, and I give John a call. After a broken and static-filled conversation, John's wife Holly communicates their ETA for Lion's Head to be about midnight; they're still in Michigan, but close to Port Huron.

With all the travel, launching, and setting up of the boats, everyone is tired, and by 11 p.m. it is lights-out for most of the group. I volunteer to wait up for the Raby's to arrive, and I spend an hour or so relaxing and prowling around the marina and along the shoreline of Georgian Bay, enjoying the beautiful warm Summer evening.

While we were at dinner, a very large (about 80-feet), very modern, and very luxurious pleasure yacht has arrived at Lions Head, and it is now shoe-horned into a spot near the fuel dock. Among the other night-owls still wandering around the marina docks at midnight, there is some interesting speculation about who the owner may be. One young fellow tells me he thinks the yacht is owned by Goldie Hawn—I think he's confusing cinema and real life. Prowling the docks is one way to pass time while waiting for our fourth boat to arrive.

Photo: Marina filled with boats at Lions Head, Ontario
Smaller boats coming to Lions Head Marina will appreciate the low height of the floating docks, but this large yacht will need an eight-foot embarcation ladder to reach them. Photo by David Hart.

I must confess that I was on the verge of giving up and going to bed myself, when, about 12:20 a.m., the HOLLY MARIE arrived on its trailer, being towed by a very tired family of John, Holly, and their young daughter Emmarie. It is much too late and they are much too tired to launch the boat, so we agree they'll just spend tonight sleeping aboard with the boat on the trailer. We'll resume preparation and launching tomorrow.


Date:Sunday, July 31, 2011
Winds:Moderate Westerly
Departure:Lions Head Marina, Lions Head, Ontario
Destination:Killbear Marina, Parry Sound, Ontario
Distance:68 miles by boat


We awake to more gloriously fair and warm weather. The winds are moderate South-Westerlies, forecast at 10 to 15-knots with waves one-meter or less. This is exactly what I had hoped for and expected. Today we will have our longest passage in open water, a run of about 55-miles across the full width of Georgian Bay. This segment will be much more pleasant if it is downwind and down-sea, which it should be with the normal prevailing winds and waves. The weather cooperates beautifully. We will have good conditions for our long offshore run.

Before we can begin, we have to get HOLLY MARIE in the water, but there is a minor problem. Due to the boat's rather significant size and weight, John has towed her up to Lions Head with very little fuel in her tanks, and he needs to find a highway gas station where he can top-off before launching. The complication is that the boat is currently sitting in the last parking place available in the marina area, and the minute he pulls out someone will take his spot. We devise a somewhat unethical but necessary solution: I will separate my truck and trailer, and take up two spaces, one with the truck and the other with the trailer. I know this is going to provoke the ire of the next trailer-boater to arrive, but we really don't have too many other options at this point. On the theory that most men won't get into a big confrontation with a woman about something like this, Chris volunteers to remain on-guard and to explain why we've been so rude as to occupy two parking spaces. HOLLY MARIE goes to the highway in search of fuel, Chris stands guard, and I cross my fingers.

About an hour later, HOLLY MARIE is back, laden with gasoline in her tanks, and without too much fuss slides off her trailer for her maiden exposure to the pure, clear, and cool freshwater of Georgian Bay. We un-do all the shenanigans with the parking situation, and confirm with the marina staff that they're comfortable with us leaving the trucks and trailers there "for a few days," as we describe it. (We had been more than willing to move to some offsite parking, but the marina staff seems adamant that it won't be necessary.)

By now the best part of the morning has passed, and by the time we finally depart it is about 11:30 a.m. The wind has come up from the Southwest, and this puts a small sea on our starboard stern quarter. We head roughly due-East across Georgian Bay, a bit later than expected but otherwise exactly according to our plan. As often happens, as we get farther offshore and away from the influence of the land, the winds and waves settle down to a more consistent and even pattern, and we have no problem running on plane at cruising speed, which is anywhere from 25-MPH to 33-MPH.

Photo: CONTINUOUSWAVE and HOLLY MARIE in Georgian Bay open water.
From Lions Head we run East in open water, heading for the opposite side of Georgian Bay. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: WALKABOUT running in the wake of ADEQUATE.
David and Kathy fall in behind Kevin, running in his boat's wake. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: CONTINUOUSWAVE in the Western Islands, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.
We make our first landfall at the Western Islands, a group of uninhabited rocks about ten miles offshore. We take a break from running on plane and let the group reassemble. Photo by Kevin Albus.

At our fast pace, it only takes about two hours for the Eastern shoreline of the bay to come up on our horizon, and we pass just north of the Western Islands. From there we alter course to the Northeast and make a careful approach to the rocky shoals near the shoreline. Our first destination is Wreck Island, where we hope to be able to stop for lunch at a park dock.

Wreck Island is much too popular today to offer us any space at its dock, so we improvise our own anchorage in the protection of a small bay just to the South on the East side of Falconbridge Island. We raft up for lunch, and take a break.

Photo: Four Boston Whaler boats rafted for lunch in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.
We raft up for lunch about 1:30 p.m. Four boats and four different brands of outboard motors. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: First Aid administered to a young swimmer.
Emmarie's toe found a sharp edge somewhere on the boat. Her father administers first aid. Seven-year-old Emmarie was a real trouper on this cruise, and this was the only mishap of the eight days we were asea.

After our lunch anchorage, we resume our passage and enter the small craft route—at about Mile-38 on Sheet 3 of Chart 2202 if you are following along. From there we follow the main track all the way to Rose Island, divert a bit off track, cross Parry Sound, head for Pengalie Bay, and then to Killbear marina, arriving about 5:30 p.m.

Photo: Boston Whaler 23 Walkaround HOLLY MARIE.
HOLLY MARIE navigating the small craft route on the way to Killbear marina.

Photo: Boston Whaler 21 Walkaround WALKABOUT.
WALKABOUT on the small craft route to the South of Parry Sound.

Photo: Boston Whaler 23 Walkaround HOLLY MARIE.
ADEQUATE underway on the small craft route, looking West to the open water of Georgian Bay. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: Boston Whale boats transiting rugged coastline inshore route.
We are clipping along on plane on a very scenic route—this is small craft boating at its best! Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Traffic approaching narrow portion of small craft route.
In the Long Sault a trawler pushing white water at her bow approaches a narrow passage with no indication that she will give way to us. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: Killbear Marina seen from seaward.
Approaching Killbear Marina, Pengalie Bay, Parry Sound area, Georgian Bay, late on a beautiful Summer afternoon. Photo by John Raby.

First order of business for CONTINOUSWAVE is to visit the fuel dock. Although we were at Lions Head for a lengthy time, every moment I glanced at their fuel dock there was a boat there, and we never did manage to top off our tanks. I probably have enough fuel to continue, but to be prudent, I put 46-liters (12-gallons) of gasoline aboard here. With all the new instrumentation, I am not certain precisely how much fuel we've used, and I don't want to chance running low tomorrow.

We've come too late to get our favorite spot on the wall dock, but the attendant lets us tie up together on another set of floating docks usually reserved for cottagers coming in and out of the marina. We set up a grill or two, and we have a fine cook-out at dockside. I think this is a great way to start a trip, rather than dashing off to a restaurant. The pass-a-dish supper is a great way to create a group identity and spirit, and I think will become a standard feature of our cruises.

Photo: Dockside at KILLBEAR Marina, Pengalie Bay, Parry Sound area.
CONTINUOUSWAVE in the foreground, with David, Chris, Holly, John, Kevin, and Emmarie.

Photo: Dockside at KILLBEAR Marina, Pengalie Bay, Parry Sound area.
As the sun begins to lower, we have a very nice cook-out at the dock in Killbear Marina.

Today's Sailings

On prior trips I had a very simple way to log and record each day's travel, and I would summarize that information here. But, due to the total change in instrumentation, I am afraid I am not being as diligent with my record keeping on this trip. Some days I have a bit of data, and some days no data at all. For today, we travelled about 80-miles, but I have no idea of the time underway, fuel economy for the leg, or any average values. I do know we had 59-gallons of fuel on departure at Lions Head, and on arrival at Killbear we added 12-gallons.


Date:Monday, August 1, 2011
Weather:A beautiful but cool morning
Winds:West veering to Northwest
Waves:1-meter or less
Departure:Killbear Marina, Pengalie Bay, Ontario
Position:45° 21.454' N; 080° 14.363' W
Destination:St. Amant's Marina, Britt, Ontario
Distance:59 miles by boat


Each morning we generally begin by listening to the continuous marine broadcast from the Canadian Coast Guard. They give wind speed in knots.

MARINE FORECAST for Georgian Bay
Today: winds West 10, increasing to West 15 this afternoon, then 
decreasing to Northwest 10 tonight.
Tuesday: winds South 10, showers in the afternoon. 
Winds Tuesday through Friday: light

Waves 1-meter, decreasing to 0.5-meter

This morning at Killbear we have a heavy dew as the temperature has fallen significantly overnight, and a light wind from the North comes up in the marina after sunrise. We depart Killbear at approximately 10 o'clock, and follow the small craft route Northbound. As we approach Georgian Bay there is a stiff Westerly breeze blowing, but inshore the waves are about 1-foot.

Photo: Killbear Marina on a cool Summer morning.
Kevin was up early to take this picture about 6:30 a.m. on a cool Summer morning. I am usually good for at least another hour of sleep. Photo by Kevin Albus.

As we proceed through Canoe Passage one or two other boats join our group and overtake us. Off-plane we are only making about 5-MPH, and these larger boats want to run faster at their displacement speed. Later, when we get on plane, we overtake them a few miles farther down the course.

Photo: Looking West through Canoe Passage.
We begin the day's trek under clear skies with a Westbound transit of Canoe Passage. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Looking East back at Canoe Passage.
Here is the view of the West entrance to Canoe Passage. It's not as easy to find this portal as the Eastern one. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Holly Marie aboard HOLLY MARIE.
The Boston Whaler HOLLY MARIE and her namesake. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Sunday morning drivers.
There is a lot of local traffic in the Parry Sound area, and everyone seems to want to go faster at displacement speed than we are.

We work our way North, arriving at Point au Baril, where we have a short leg out into the Lake, make a hard turn, and head back inshore. At this point the seas are running about 1-meter, and there is breaking water all around us in the narrow fairway. It makes you feel like you are doing some big time boating. But the spell is broken when a rather elderly gentleman and his wife appear on the opposite course line, heading out into this mess in a 14-foot aluminum boat with an 8-HP outboard on the transom. Perhaps the seas were not as big as they looked, I think to myself.

Photo: Heading out to Georgian Bay from Pte Au Baril, Ontario.
This inbound trawler did not leave much room for us to make a standard one-whistle pass at the lighthouse at Pointe Au Baril. We ended up very close abeam to him when he converged with us at the rocky point. There was a quarter mile of room to his right. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: The famous barrel marking Pointe Au Baril.
A replica barrel still marks the proper entrance at Pointe Au Bari. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: HOLLY MARIE transits Shoal Narrows
Photo: HOLLY MARIE transits Shoal Narrows
These two images were taken almost simultaneously. They show HOLLY MARIE transiting Shoal Narrows from both sides. Photos by the author and Kevin Albus.

Photo: Whaler fleet overtakes small boat.
Here is the older couple in the small boat we encountered going Southbound just outside Pointe Au Baril. They apparently decided the seas were too rough and came back inside. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Heading to Georgian Bay from inside passage at Hang Dog Reef
North of Pointe Au Baril we head out to open water to get around Hang Dog Reef. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Returning to inside passage from Georgian Bay at Hang Dog Reef.
We return on plane from Georgian Bay to the inside passage, having safely negotiated Hang Dog Reef. Photo by John Raby.

We repeat the offshore leg and turnaround at Hang Dog Reef, a few miles further North. Then we look for a spot to drop the hook for lunch. I want to try a protected area just inshore and right after Hang Dog, but my co-pilot Chris does not like the situation, so we abort. We push on Northward, and try again about ten miles farther. This time we find a nice unnamed bay among a slew of small, unnamed island, but it seems to be filled with cottages. Quite a few of the cottagers come out on their porches to observe our entrance to their pristine wilderness domain. They look at us like we're an invading fleet of rusty Russian trawlers come to steal their fishery. No smiles, no waves. We get the message, and we abandon that anchorage, too.

Finally, now well past lunch time and getting hungry, I get back on plane and run a few miles at a good clip to an old favorite spot in Alexander Passage, on the North shore of Meneilly Island. Finally, we have the lunch hook down in a nice little cove. The other boats come alongside to raft.

Photo: Four Boston Whaler boats rafted for lunch in wilderness anchorage, Georgian Bay.
The Fleet at anchor for lunch. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Four Boston Whaler boats rafted for lunch in wilderness anchorage, Georgian Bay.
A stern view of our lunch raft. Photo by John Raby.

After settling in and enjoying a relaxing lunch, David on WALKABOUT says to me, "Hey Jim, did you know it looks we are right on top of three electrical cables?"

I go over to my helm station to look at my chart plotter. David is right. My chart plotter also shows that, given our present location, it looks like we are anchored atop the underwater meeting of two electrical cables. I am afraid I navigated the last 100-yards into this cove by eye, from the bow, and I was not aware of the electrical cables shown on the chart. Also, there aren't any of the usual signs ashore warning of their presence. I have to say, this news has me alarmed.

Plot: Track of CONTINUOUSWAVE in remote anchorage, Mennilly Island.
This screen capture from my chart plotter shows the track of CONTINUOUSWAVE in our lunch anchorage. It looks like my anchor missed the underwater electrical cables by about 50-feet. That's not much insulation.

It is a very warm day, and going for a swim was already on my mind. With this news of the electrical cables, I decide to take an underwater look at just where my anchor might be lying on the bottom. I dig out my mask and snorkel, and I go exploring.

The water in this cove is not particularly clear and there is a lot of organic (green) material that reduces visibility. Also, my vision needs corrective lenses, and with my mask on everything is a bit blurry anyways. I swim down my anchor rode, following it to the bottom, toward where the anchor should rest in about ten feet of water. As I near the anchor, what I see gives me a shock—so to speak. It looks like my anchor has become fouled on a large cylindrical object that appears to be about 8-inches in diameter, and the anchor's shank is lying in what appears to be a break in the object. In other words, at first glance, it looks like I just cut an electrical cable in half with my anchor!

Photo: Underwater view of outboard engines.
This underwater view of the outboard gear cases shows the turbid water in the anchorage and explains why it was hard to see precisely what lay on the bottom near the anchor. Photo by Kathy Hart.

I come up to the surface to compose myself. This is unbelievable! I am worried that perhaps I should not even be swimming around this mess. But my curiosity gets the best of me. I have to go back for a closer look.

On second inspection, the electrical cables turn out to be just two old small logs on the bottom, and the anchor is not really fouled on either of them. It should be able to be retrieved without any problem. That lets me off the hook, so to speak. I am much relieved. I swim back to the boat to continue my post-lunch relaxation. But I have learned a lesson: take a better look at the chart plotter before going to the bow to anchor around these electrified islands in cottage country.

After the lunch, the swim, and some relaxation in the cockpit, our little fleet gets underway for the final leg of the day. We leave the protection of the inshore route, and head out into the open water of Georgian Bay at Alexander Passage, MILE-47 on the route. Today we are again on a lee shore. There is a fresh breeze from the West, and we have enough wave action to make the ride uncomfortable for our small boats. The eight-mile offshore passage wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the shallow water. Most of the time we are in water that at best is about 12-feet deep, and at some points shallows to just five-feet. The waves come rolling in from the West with a 50-mile fetch, and they create a steep and confused sea in this stretch.

Photo: Moderate seas offshore in Georgian Bay.
The eight mile offshore passage in the late afternoon breeze is in moderate seas. The buoys are small, and they're hard to spot. A half mile astern ADEQUATE is having a rougher ride. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Narrow buoyed channel leads into shore on Georgian Bay.
In this portion of Georgian Bay the coast is foul with rocks and shoals, and we head inland via this narrow passage that threads through them. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Looking seaward to Georgian Bay.
The fleet regroups after the offshore run.

The re-entry to the inshore passage is always a pleasant experience, and we enjoy the calm water once more. We cruise inland, enter Byng Inlet, and go upstream to the town of Britt, on the North shore of the Magnetawan River. The wind funnels up the inlet, and there is a strong cross wind at the fuel dock of St. Amant's Marina, where we head for the night and to take on more gasoline. One-hundred-forty-nine liters and $208.54 later, we have a nearly full tank. We move to one of the transient docks, which, again this season, seem to be mainly vacant.

Photo: Relaxation at the dock.
After a day of boating, we enjoy our afternoon tea time at the dock. We set up in the lee of a larger boat to get out of the wind. Blue CROCS were the dress code for the day. Photo by John Raby.

While I fiddle with boat chores, Chris walks down to THE LITTLE BRITT INN and makes arrangements for dinner. We have enjoyed the food there many times and never been disappointed. And later, about 7:30 they come through again with another tasty and well-prepared light dinner in the bar room. Good food; cheap fuel—what's not to like about Britt?

As the sun sets and darkness comes on, the wind dies down, and we have a peaceful night at the docks. There is only one other group of small cruising boats staying here tonight, a group of French speaking Canadians from three small sterndrive-powered cruisers and one big offshore boat.

Today's Sailings

All I have for today is an approximation of the distance, about 60-miles. On arrival we added 39.4-gallons of fuel.


Date:Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Winds:East and light 15
Departure:St. Amant's Marina, Britt, Ontario
Position:45° 46.295' N; 080° 34.060' W
Destination:Killarney, Ontario
Distance:70-miles very carefully by boat


From Environment Canada:

MARINE FORECAST for Georgian Bay
Today: wind Southeast 10 knots increasing to East 15 by noon,
then becoming light tonight, and veering to West 10 by Thursday afternoon.

Waves 0.5-meter

Chart 2204
Buoy D42 located 30-meters West of station

Latest water levels for the Great Lakes:
Lake Huron is 0.3-meters above chart datum.

The notice to shipping has my attention. We will be going that way today. I find the affected buoy on my chart and note the discrepancy. It's in our planned course on the small craft route about ten miles ahead, at Rogers Gut.

Photo: Boats at the dock, Magnetawan River, Britt, Ontario.
Tuesday morning—a beautiful summer day. Another 6 a.m. photo by Kevin Albus.

The fuel dock at St. Amant's traditionally has the least expensive gasoline on Georgian Bay, and that's still true. Everyone has topped off their tanks here. David on WALKABOUT deferred his fueling to this morning, and he received a bit of a surprise. Apparently the dock attendant back in Lions Head did not actually give the tank a fill-up, so this morning the pump ran a bit longer than anticipated. The fuel mileage for WALKABOUT is going to need a re-calculation—to a much lower number!

Photo: Boats at the fuel dock, St. Amanats Marina, Britt, Ontario.
WALKABOUT finds just enough room at the crowded fuel dock. Photo by Kevin Albus.

We head down the Magnetawan River at no-wake speed, although it seems like there isn't an official No-Wake zone here. We take the North Channel exit to Georgian Bay, pick up the track of the small craft route, and head North.

Photo: CONTINUOUSWAVE underway, Britt, Ontario.
CONTINUOUSWAVE at displacement speed on the Magnetawan River. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Passing through the narrows at Cunninghams Channel, small craft route, Georgian Bay, Ontario.
Inclusion of Nun D14 in the foreground confirms HOLLY MARIE is transiting Cunninghams Channel. This outpost is about the last cottage we'll see today. As we proceed farther North, the shoreline becomes increasingly wild and unihabited, consisting of First Nation Reserves or undeveloped Crown Land. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: Sky and clouds.
By mid morning these Mare's Tail clouds appear. They're a good predictor of rain in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Screenshot: Navigation screen approaching ROGERS GUT.
Buoy D42 marks a shoal on the approach to ROGERS GUT. The suggested track is shown by the violet dashed line, and our track by the black solid line. From my chart plotter's trail log file.

Photo: Passing D42 on the wrong side.
In this morning's Notice to Mariners broadcast, we learned that D42 is off-station 30-meters to the West, and that is why we take it on the wrong side, as seen here. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Boat transits ROGERS GUT.
WALKABOUT transits Rogers Gut with the aid of a well-marked channel. Photo by Kevin Albus.

It's another very nice day. We take in the scenery, working our way along the inshore passage. We are on schedule, and elect to take a long detour into the labyrinth of islands and channels in the French River delta, which takes us to interesting places like Obstacle Island. Around noon we are returning to the open water of Georgian Bay, coming out the main outlet of the French River at the Bustard Islands. Ahead is another long stretch where we are exposed to wind and waves, but today there are neither. The wind is calm and the big lake is like glass. We head West at planing speed, toward Beaverstone Bay, and have a delightful 20-mile run in hazy sunshine.

Photo: Marbled rock, leaning trees, Georgian Bay.
To really appreciate all the fascinating rocks seen in this trip we should bring a geologist along. Beautifully marbled granites form the shoreline and Eastward leaning pines provide the backdrop for much of our trip today. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Three boat at Obstacle Island.
Our intentional detour Northward takes us on a very slow zig-zag past Obstacle Island. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Boat on plane in open water of Georgian Bay, looking South.
Georgian Bay is remarkably calm for our run West on plane to Beaverstone Bay from the Bustard Islands. To the South there is 75 miles of open water. As bays goes, Georgian Bay is a rather large one. Photo by John Raby.

Once inside at Beaverstone Bay, we stop for lunch at a favorite place, Muskrat Bay. We first stopped here in 1992, about 19 years ago. The only change in appearance is the construction underway of what looks like footings for a small cabin on the Southwest shore. We take a slow and relaxing meal break, followed by a swim and some dingy exploration. By mid-afternoon, the weather becomes a concern for the first time in the trip. The Sirius Satellite Weather receiver aboard WALKABOUT shows some rain moving in about 100-miles to the West. We haul anchor and continue toward Killarney, taking a slow trip along Collins Inlet to burn off the rest of the afternoon. The scenery is wonderful, just like the weather.

Photo: Ladies swim in Mustkrat Bay.
We repeat our daily ritual of lunch at anchor in a beautiful setting, followed by a swim, always in warm sunny weather. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: View from the shore looking East in Muskrat Bay.
Muskrat Bay looking East, with the fleet at anchor for lunch. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Close-up of century old iron mooring ring.
This old iron mooring ring on the shore hints at commercial activity here about 100 years ago, when lumbering and commerical fishing were at their peak in this area. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Boston Whaler boat CONTINUOUSWAVE.
We motor slowly along Collins Inlet, taking photos of the scenery and each other. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: HOLLY MARIE underway in Collins Inlet.
HOLLY MARIE cruises along Collins Inlet. Emmarie goes forward to join her mother on the foredeck.

Photo: Boats in Collins Inlet
Our pace through Collins Inlet is slow, allowing us to enjoy the scenery and the passage. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Rock wall of Collins Inlet, Georgian Bay.
Even without a geologist, we can perceive the layers of rock and their re-orientation in the walls of Collins Inlet.

At 5:15 p.m. we make the South entrance to the channel to Killarney, and I get on the radio to see what accommodations are available. GATEWAY Marina has but one slip available; SPORTSMAN'S INN has only two, and they're both on the remote side of the channel. ROQUE'S MARINA responds to my radio inquiry and says they have room for four boats.

Photo: Boat traffic at Killarney
By our arrival at Killarney the weather has deteriorated, and cloudy skies threaten rain for the first time in our cruise. There is plenty of boat traffic in the main channel. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Docks at ROQUES MARINA
ADEQUATE is tucked in for the night at the dock at ROQUE'S MARINA. Photo by Kevin Albus.

We've never stayed at ROQUE'S MARINA before, and the place is a bit funky. Its appearance is what you'd call "rustic," but it does have some charm. The folks there are extremely nice, and they give us plenty of help getting the four boats secured. The docks are just fine, they have power available, and the laundry and shower rooms are very modern. I am surprised at just how many boats are here in Killarney in the middle of the week. The place is packed. Boating seems to be picking up again around here, after a couple years of decline.

Of course for dinner we trek to HERBERT'S FISHERY and their red school bus take-out for fabulous fish-and-chips. It looks like it could rain any moment; we break out our foulies for the first time this trip, but they're not needed.

Photo: HERBERT FISHERIES, Killarney, Ontario.
The famous schoolbus fish-and-chips take-out in Killarney, and seven satisfied customers. Photo by John Raby.

Today's Sailings

I am getting more familiar with the new instrumentation, and have this data for Tuesday:

MILES = 70.0
HOURS = 5.33
GALS = 21.38

MPG = 3.20
GPH = 4.01
MPH = 13.13


Date:Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Weather:Cool, misty, and fogged in
Winds:Calm, but building to strong Southeast
Waves:1- to 2-foot
Departure:Roque's Marina, Killarney, Ontario
Destination:Neptune Island, thence to Little Current, Ontario
Distance:55-miles by boat

We awake to a misty rain and fog. No hurry to depart this morning. We take our time getting underway. By cellular telephone we almost get in contact with John Flook, whose cottage on Neptune Island will be our initial destination today. We finally get a two-way connection to Neptune, and make some plans for a visit and cook-out dinner. Around 11 a.m. we are ready to depart, but there's a snag. It seems that an expensive pair of sunglasses has gone missing. The town of Killarney is so small that it only takes ten minutes to revisit everyplace we've been since our arrival, but the elusive sunglasses stay missing. We'll have to press on without them.

Photo: Main channel of Killarney, Ontario, on foggy morning
Today I am up early—before 6 a.m.—and take the obligatory morning dock picture. The rain has politely fallen overnight, and left behind a low cloud ceiling and heavy mist.

Photo: ROQUES MARINA at Killarney, Ontario, on foggy morning
The office and store at ROQUE'S MARINA, Killarney Channel.

Photo: Downeast yacht atROQUES MARINA at Killarney, Ontario, on foggy morning
Everyone admired this beautiful Down-East style yacht at the docks of ROQUE'S MARINA.

We head out the North entrance and get on plane to catch up to our mates, who left about 20-minutes ahead of us. Soon we are regrouped and cruising West in the Lansdowne Channel, heading for the sometimes choppy water of Frazer Bay.

Photo: ADEQUATE on cloudy morning, East of Little Current.
ADEQUATE exits the Lansdowne Channel on a cloudy morning. Unsettled weather is still present to our East. This view looks South into Manitowaning Bay. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: CONTINUOUSWAVE passes lighthouse.
CONTINUOUSWAVE cruises past the Strawberry Island Light on the way West to Little Current from Frazer Bay. The first touch of blue sky appears. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: WALKABOUT passes lighthouse
WALKABOUT heads West past the tip of Strawberry Island with a following sea.

Photo: ADEQUATE passes lighthouse
ADEQUATE inbound from Frazer Bay. Photo by John Raby

The wind is picking up from the East and Southeast, blowing away the fog, and also fortunately blowing in the same direction we are heading. We cruise easily into Little Current. Not needing to wait for the swing bridge to open on the hour, we motor past the fleet of larger boats idling in the current, and make a stop at Wally's Gas Dock for some more fuel.

Photo: Wally's Gas Dock at Little Current.
Wally's Gas Dock provides fuel for the fleet. Photo by Kathy Hart.

After taking on about $100 of fuel (17-gallons), we resume our trip toward Neptune Island. I have calculated the fuel required for the rest of the trip, and I don't think I will need to add any more to make it back to Lions Head. The rain and fog are long gone. We're back to delightful sun and warm temperatures. We make some arrangements with the dock master of the Little Current town docks for our return later, and then head for Neptune Island.

I have been calling John on the VHF Marine Band Radio for quite some time, but we don't hear him comeback until we are just a mile or two away. It seems he's had some antenna trouble at the camp, and while he can receive OK, he can't transmit more than a mile or two on the stub that is left of his antenna following a big windstorm. Our four-boat fleet invades the big dock at Neptune Island, where the afternoon breeze is really blowing through the narrows from the East. It must be clocking 20-knots at the end of John's dock, making it the windiest place in the North Channel at the moment.

Photo: Many boats at dock on Nepture Island.
The long dock at Neptune Island is once again full of Boston Whaler boats. Our arriving four Boston Whaler boats join two others already there. By late afternoon the strong East wind has finally blown out the dark clouds, and some fair weather cumulus clouds appear in a blue sky. This view looks East into Bell Cove. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Boston Whaler boat owners chat at the dock on Nepture Island.
John Flook and Dave Hart discuss some fine points of Boston Whaler boats, while John Raby and the author check out the Parker 25 NEPTUNE. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Boston Whaler boat owners at the dock on Nepture Island.
John Flook and the author discuss the Boston Whaler 22-foot hull. Photo by John Raby.

We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at Neptune, enjoying a long gam with John. The ladies pitch in to prepare some food for dinner. John fires up the grill. We have a very hardy meal of various hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers, salads, vegetables, salsas, chips, and so on. Everyone was so thoroughly engaged in eating that no pictures were taken!

Finally, we depart Neptune about 7:30 p.m. to return to the municipal docks in downtown Little Current. The dock attendant, Jeff, has reserved four adjacent slips for us, and we tie-up for the night.

Photo: A group of Boston Whaler boat owners at the dock on Nepture Island.
David, Kathy, Chris, your author, Holly, Emmarie, John, and Kevin pose for this group shot at Neptune Island . Photo by John Flook.

Photo: A group of Boston Whaler boat owners at the dock on Nepture Island.
Before departing to the West into a low sun, John Flook shows David Hart the proper course line to avoid the sandbar. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T Whaler Drive heading West into setting sun; golden silhouette.
CONTINUOUSWAVE heads West into a golden sun. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T Whaler Drive heading Eest with setting sun astern.
The approach to Little Current from the West is via a buoyed channel. A local boat overtakes us at high speed. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: A group of Boston Whaler boats approach the docks at the Little Current town marina.
We were able to obtain four adjacent slips at the town docks in Little Current, despite our late arrival. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Boston Whaler 23 WALKAROUND approaches dock.
HOLLY MARIE approaches the dock at Little Current, and seven-year-old crew Emmarie hands the bow line to the waiting attendant. Photo by David Hart.

Today's Sailings

Sorry, but there's no good data for today. We've been having too much fun to record information.


Date:Thursday, August 4, 2011
Weather:Fair, warm
Winds:Shifting to Westerly
Waves:Building to 1-foot
Destination:Club Island, thence on to Tobermory
Distance:65 miles by boat


The fair weather and fair winds continue to follow us around Georgian Bay as we continue our circumnavigation. We've reached our most Westerly point and arrived on an East wind. Now we are heading back, going East then South, and the wind has obligingly clocked around to the West.

We have a long run ahead of us, and we will have covered about two-thirds when we reach our lunch stop. But before we can shove off from the dock at Little Current, we are surprised to be joined by Don and Gail MacIntyre, who have been following a similar course around Georgian Bay in a 25-foot Boston Whaler, but about two days ahead of us. They've been farther West, out to the Benjamin Islands for a few days, and they're now heading back to their embarcation point, Parry Sound. Briefly the fleet swells to five boats.

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 25 Walk-Through approaches dock.
We are taken by surprise by the arrival of Gail and Don aboard this fine REVENGE 25 W-T about 9 a.m. at Little Current. Photo by John Raby.

We have a good reunion at the dock for about an hour, and then it really is time to get underway. Also, at this point, we're going to say goodbye to David and Kathy, as they're heading further West and going back to their embarcation point, Detour, Michigan. Four boats head East under the swing bridge, while WALKABOUT heads West. A few miles further, Don and Gail break off for Killarney, while CONTINUOUSWAVE, HOLLY MARIE, and ADEQUATE bear right and go for the Eastern tip of Manitoulin Island.

Photo: Boston Whaler boats at the dock, Little Current, Ontario.
Five Boston Whaler boats at the dock in Little Current.

Photo: Boston Whaler boat owners enjoy a morning conversation at the dock.
An hour long gam among the Boston Whaler boaters on a beautiful summer morning in Latitude 46 North. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Boston Whaler boats approach the swing bridge at Little Current, Ontario.
Our fleet of Boston Whaler boats heads East under the closed swing bridge. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Close-up view of the repaired foundation of the swing bridge.
The swing bridge center foundation has been very nicely repaired. The bridge was built in 1913 and is 98-years old.

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 25 Walk-Through underway.
Gail and Don on a fine REVENGE 25 W-T.

After four days and hundreds of miles following narrow buoyed channels, we are now in mainly open and deep water. My vigilance as a navigator slips a bit. After clearing J15 off Kanigandibe Point, I turn slightly to the right and plan to cut inside J13, about three miles ahead, to shave off a few miles of our trip. I cut a bit too much inside J13, and suddenly notice that we're in depths of five feet and looking at monster boulders on the bottom through the crystal-clear water. Oops—we take a left to deeper water. You must pay attention all the time up here—you are sailing on a rock bottom everywhere.

Graphic: Screen capture from chart plotter showing vessel track
Here is the track of CONTINUOUSWAVE as it came a bit too close to the Burnt Island Bank shoal.

Once clear of Burnt Island Bank, we run down the Eastern shore of Manitoulin Island, enjoying an easy run. To break things up, we briefly swap boats with HOLLY MARIE, giving us a chance to drive the big 23-footer for a few miles. Around Cape Smith, we switch back to our own boats. Next we head directly for Club Island.

Photo: Boston Whaler boaters swap boats at sea.
CONTINUOUSWAVE and HOLLY MARIE swap crews in a calm sea. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: New skipper at helm of Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T Whaler Drive.
John at the helm of CONTINUOUSWAVE. Photo by Holly Raby.

Photo: Relaxing on bench seat.
Holly tries out the bench seat. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: HOLLY MARIE with new crew.
HOLLY MARIE with new skipper and crew. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Boston Whaler boats in Georgian Bay.
Approaching Club Island in Georgian Bay from the North. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Club Island harbour.
We raft up for lunch in the remote anchorage at Club Island.

The run to Club Island is in very small seas and almost no wind in the shelter of the lee of Manitoulin. In spite of the late start, we are there in good time, and I anchor in the Southeast cove of the harbor, close enough to the wreck the lies behind Fishery Point that it won't be a long swim to reach it. While Chris works on the luncheon meal, I go for a swim to the wreck.

The Club Island wreck is in about eight to ten feet of water and not far from shore. The water is quite warm at the surface, but down a few feet it is noticeably colder. I make a quick pass over the wreck, then I dive down for a closer look. I am swimming rapidly because it's darn cold, and, while concentrating on what's below me on the wreck, I fail to see a very large dead-head piling—I swim right into it, hitting it head first! Ouch—that hurt. That ends my diving on this wreck. I swim slowly back to the boat. I can feel the headache starting already.

We have another grand lunch with our three-boat raft. I borrow the dingy from HOLLY MARIE and row over to explore Fishery Point. Emmarie wants to come with me. When we reach the stoney beach, I caution her to be careful where she walks. Some of the islands in this area are known to have rattlesnakes. I don't know for certain that Club Island does or doesn't but it is very prudent to be careful. Sightings of the Massasauga Rattlesnake are common around here.

Although I don't specifically mention the word "snakes," seven-year-old Emmarie is no dummy, and she intuits what I mean. She gets a little spooked and wants to go back to the safety of the big boats. Before we cast off, I encounter two of the biggest Great Blue Herons I have ever seen. These are enormous birds, much larger than any of that species I've seen before, and they take off in flight with giant wing spans. They're so big they look almost pre-historic. Now I am spooked, too. Let's get off this eerie land and back to the boats!

Photo: Fishery Point as seen from anchorage at Club Island, Georgian Bay.
The anchorage at Club Island and Fishery Point, looking seaward. That tall mound of stones is believed to have been put ashore by a self-unloading freighter that wanted to lighter in rough seas. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Jim Hebert and Emmarie Raby in inflatible boat.
Your author and passenger Emmarie head for shore in the inflatible boat. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Old dock footings in clear water.
The stone crib of an old dock remains just underwater at Fishery Point. It is another reminder that someone was here before us, perhaps 100 years ago.

Photo: Great Blue Herons in flight.
Look closely to see two very large Great Blue Herons in this image. These are very large birds.

We have made the 42-mile run to Club Island from Little Current in just two hours, a fast pace. It's only 23-miles more to get to Tobermory. We laze around at anchor for a while, enjoying the beautiful day and the remote anchorage.

In mid-afternoon we get back underway and run on to Tobermory, passing close abeam to Flowerpot Island. The island shore is filled with tourists—hundreds of them. After spending several hours alone in a wilderness anchorage, we are a bit taken aback with our return to the mainland and its many residents and visitors.

Photo: Flowerpot Island seen from the Northeast
At Flowerpot Island the Niagara Escarpement stood its ground against the glaciers. The vertical scale is enhanced by noting the small imprint of CONTINUOUSWAVE against the shoreline, just below and to the left of the lighthouse. The water here is very deep and incredibly clear, with the bottom visible at depths of 50-feet. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Photo: Flowerpot Island shoreline with many visitors.
On this hot summer day the shoreline of Flowerpot is overrun with visitors. Only two of the famous rock formations that give the island its name remain standing. Photo by John Raby.

From Flowerpot we race across to Tobermory, arriving just after the inbound Chi-Cheemaun ferry. Our three smaller boats are assigned to consecutive spaces along the dock in what they call "the alley", a narrow channel off the main harbor that can accommodate only smaller boats.

Photo: Ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN at Tobermory dock.
The roll-on roll-off car ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN has just arrived at Tobermory as we cruise in around four in the afternoon. Photo by John Raby.

We enjoy the late afternoon in the harbor. For dinner we get take-out from the Fish-and-Chips restaurant on the South side of Little Tub, and consume it at a picnic table overlooking the harbor. It's a good, outdoor, easy meal. After dinner we take a short cruise to watch the sun set.

Photo: Sunset in Latitude 46 North.
Our after-dinner cruise concludes with this wonderful sunset sky.

Photo: John Raby, Jim Hebert, Chris Wilson aboard CONTINUOUSWAVE in Tobermory, Ontario
At the dock in Tobermory: thanks to digital cameras, memory cards, and laptop computers, we can enjoy some of our earlier photographs while still on the cruise. Photo by Kevin Albus.

Today's Sailings

MILES = 65.1
HOURS = 3.25

MPH = 20.0


Date:Friday, August 5, 2011
Weather:Warm, Fair, Beautiful
Winds:Light and variable
Departure:Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory, Ontario
Destination:Cove Island, then return
Distance:15 miles by boat

The weather is wonderful. It's warm, there is no chance of rain, and the wind is light. The seas are calm. It's perfect.

Photo: Car ferry CHI-CHEEMAUN loading.
A standard feature of Tobermory's Little Tub Harbour is the loading of the CHI-CHEEMAUN for the 7 a.m. sailing. She always makes a long blast from her ship's whistle before departing the dock—the cruising sailor's wake-up alarm when in this harbor. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Our fleet of Boston Whaler boats at the dock in Tobermory.
The sun has just risen while our three-boat fleet sleeps cozily in "the alley" section of Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory. Photo by John Raby.

We have a relaxing morning in the harbor, and then we depart late for a cruise to Cove Island. We head to Tecumseh Cove, finding that we have it all to ourselves, as there are no dive boats there this morning. The water is like glass, and we can see the bottom in detail at a depth of 20-feet. I idle into the cove, find a good spot on the sand bottom without any debris from the wreck, and drop my anchor there. The other boats raft up, and we're good for about three hours of relaxation. Chris and I go for a long swim to view the main portion of the wreck, which is about a 100-yards away along the South shore of the cove in about 16-feet of water. The wreck is very easily seen in the clear water, but the cold water keeps us close to the surface.

Photo: Inflatible dingy and its bottom shadow.
The inflatible dingy and its bottom shadow in 20-feet of depth serve to demonstrate the water clarity. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Swimmer under water.
Kevin can tolerate the cold bottom water better than most. This image was taken from the surface, again showing the remarkable water clarity. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Three Boston Whaler boats at anchor in remote cove, Cove Island, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.
We spend most of the afternoon relaxing in this beautiful setting. Photo by John Raby.

After having been moving these boats 50 to 70-miles every day for a week, it is fun to just relax and enjoy some time at anchor. The weather could not be better, the water is like glass and clear as gin, and we have the place to ourselves—no dive boats, no tour boats, and no other boats. It's paradise. I think I will break the rules and have a beer at lunch.

We have some fun fiddling with the AIS receiver on HOLLY MARIE. It can "see" the Chi-Cheemaun ferry coming about 15-miles away.

Photo: Tecumseh Cove, Cove Island, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.
Her appearance foretold by AIS, the CHI-CHEEMAUN motors past on her way to a 3:15 p.m. arrival at Tobermory, while Emmarie and her father explore the Tecumseh Cove wreck from the surface. Photo by Kevin Albus.

After several hours of pure relaxation, we haul the anchor and resume the mini-cruise of Cove Island. We head for Gig Point and the famous Cove Island Light. There is a small boat dock there that I have been eyeing for years, but it has always been a bit too rough to make a landing in what looks like very shallow water. But today is perfect. We slowly inch our way into the dock. With the present relatively low water levels, there is only about three feet of water at the end of the pier. But that's enough for us. We make CONTINUOUSWAVE fast and I go exploring. Chris stays with the boat.

Photo: Dock at the Cove Island Light near Tobermory, Ontario
This small wharf and marine railway were used to supply Cove Island Light and its lightkeepers. Today there is only about three feet of water at the end of the dock. We make fast to it only for a few minutes.

Photo: The imperial tower of the Cove Island Light near Tobermory, Ontario
The Cove Island Light is one of six Imperial Lights built in the 1850's on the Canadian Coast of Lake Huron. This structure was finished in October, 1858. One-hundred-fifty-three years later, it still stands guard. Considering the winter storms that have blown through here, its design and construction were for the ages.

The island looks uninhabited at the moment. The light station has been automated since 1991, and there is no one around. Technically, I am trespassing, but I'm only here for a quick look and a few pictures. It is good that I don't have plans to stay. There are about five million black flies around the Lighthouse, and, with me the only human, I am literally "fresh meat" for them. I take a couple of quick pictures and beat my way through the clouds of flies back to the boat. We cast off and head out to sea, but unfortunately I have now brought a few dozen flies aboard with me. The next ten minutes are spent trying to swat them all.

We head back to Tobermory, again taking a turn around Flowerpot, which this afternoon appears to be back to normal, that is, almost devoid of tourists. One of the several very large RIB tour boats comes by, its twin diesel engines throwing an impressive wake in the otherwise calm sea. It still a hot afternoon. We stop for a swim in the lee of Flowerpot Island.

We made arrangements with the Harbourmaster to keep our same dock positions, but as you know, the best way to guarantee no one will take your dock space is to have your boat in it. We get back around 4 p.m. and squeeze back into our positions. An adjoining boat moved about three feet down the dock while we were gone, and everyone is going to fit a little more snuggly now in the remaining space.

The boat that moved is a seasonal slip rental, and the skipper is in a bad mood. It seems a day or two prior his boat was bumped by a transient boat, and he's intent on making a bit more room for himself. There is more to the story, too. The boat that bumped him was a very large sport-fishing yacht, a 65-footer with big twin diesels. Apparently there was a mechanical problem with the engine controls, and the skipper was having a terrible time maneuvering in the tight confines of the harbor. The sport-fisherman skipper lost control and his bow drifted into the gunwale of the much smaller seasonal boat, leaving a bit of a nick. We got wind of the story this morning when the two skippers tried to iron out their differences and obligations. I've got to tie-up next to the seasonal boat. John calls me on the radio and says, "Jim, whatever you do, don't hit that guy's boat." You've got that right!

The take-out from last night was so good we repeat it tonight, with slight variations in the orders. In our trip plan we have allowed for one day to be weathered in someplace. Since we did not need that day for weather, we elect to spend two days in Tobermory, a good place to visit and see the sights. Tomorrow we will start early and make our run back to Lions Head.

Photo: View from our picnic table dinner in Tobermory, Ontario
We enjoy another fine take-out dinner from a picnic table with a nice view of Little Tub Harbour.

Today's Sailings

Again, no real data has been recorded, and I estimate we probably cruised 20-miles today.


Date:Saturday, August 6, 2011
Weather:Warm and sunny
Winds:Light Westerly
Departure:Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory, Ontario
Position:44° 45.950' N; 079° 56.895' W
Destination:Lions Head Marina, Lions Head Ontario, thence by car to Michigan
Distance:55 miles by boat, 245 by highway
Highway Traffic:Insanity

Saturday is another perfect day for boating. There is some overcast this morning, but the sun will burn it off. The winds remain light and the seas are still calm.

We start the day with a quick jog from Little Tub Harbour to Big Tub Harbour. At the far end of Big Tub there is the wreck of a large ship, lying just a few feet underwater. It is a popular attraction, and between visits by glass-bottom tour boats, we take a look for ourselves at the sunken iron ship.

From Tobermory we run East along the coast of the mainland, to Cabot Head, a tall headland where the Niagara Escarpment stands out into the Lake. We enter Wingfield Basin, and drop the lunch hook. Apparently we really have just dropped the lunch hook as it is not holding well. Curiously, there is more wind inside the basin than on the lake, an effect probably produced by the headland. I reset the anchor and we're good for the rest of our lunch break.

Photo: Coastline east from  Tobermory, Ontario
This section of the coastline east from Tobermory contains some sea caves. It is a popular place to visit by boat or by hiking in a few miles from a park. Photo by John Raby.

Photo: Entering Wingfield Basin from seaward
A buoyed channel and an illuminated range guide visitors into the protected harbor at Wingfield Basin, at Cabot Head, Georgian Bay. Photo by John Raby.

After lunch it is a relatively short run down the coastline to Lions Head. In this portion of Georgian Bay the cliffs of the escarpment are right on the shoreline, making for interesting scenery. Along the way the fleet separates a bit, staggering our arrival at Lions Head. This avoids a bottleneck at the ramp. Kevin gets there first, and he's backing his trailer in as we arrive. We're not far behind him, and soon CONTINUOUSWAVE is out of the water and back on her trailer. Kevin and I give John a hand with HOLLY MARIE—she is a big boat to get on a trailer, but fortunately the ramp at Lions Head is a good one, and soon she, too, is out of the water. My electronic fuel manager shows 11.2-gallons remaining—that's just about the right margin of safety for this last leg—and the boat won't be full of fuel for the highway pull.

Photo: Boat on trailer and hull being washed.
After eight days in the pristine water of Lake Huron, the hull can be made clean with just a gentle wipe down with a bucket of water that has few drops of boat soap mixed in. Chris transfers gear to the truck. Photo by John Raby.

It has been a great cruise. The weather has been perfect. All of the boats have been running perfectly. And all the crews are muy simpatico. It is hard to declare an end to the fun and get on the highway. After about an hour of preparation, a bit of boat clean-up, stowing gear, and some good-bye hugs and handshakes, we are back on the highway, all heading South to Sarnia and the bridge to the United States of America.

Our drive home is for the most part smooth and uneventful, except for a scary incident near Port Elgin when an insane driver in the oncoming traffic pulls into our lane and heads right for us, trying to pull into a driveway before we reach it. We have to slam on the brakes and screech to a halt, stopping only inches from his car, which was sticking halfway out from the driveway into our lane. This was so damn upsetting we had to pull off the highway and compose ourselves for a few minutes before we could continue—a close call. Fortunately, no one slammed into the boat and trailer when we made our panic stop, either. It was, by far, the most dangerous part of the entire trip.

Eventually we reach the bridge, and again our NEXUS cards make the crossing go without delay. By 10 p.m. we are back home, finished with a perfect cruise of Georgian Bay.

Summary Data

The total of miles run, engine hours, and fuel used are shown below, along with an accounting of most expenses for the trip.

Fuel Consumption

        MILES  GALS   MPG 
TOTAL   370.6  116.3 
AVERAGE               3.18 

OIL Used = 2.25 gallons (approximate)
GAS:OIL ratio = 116/2.25 = 51:1

Boat Fuel Purchase

Highway   $4.099  23.18 $95.00 (pump cut off at $95)
Highway    4.199  10.83  45.46
Killbear   5.34   12.15  65.00
St Amant's 5.29   39.37 208.54 (CA$1.399-per-liter)
Wally's    5.64   17.01  95.98 (CA$1.489-per-liter)
TOTAL            102.54 $499.98
AVERAGE   $4.876/Gallon

Oil 2 x $30 = $60
TOTAL Gasoline and Oil = $559.98

Boat Dockage

Lions Head    48.00 (includes launch)
Killbear      33.00 (perhaps undercharged in clerical error)
Britt         27.50
Killarney     37.30
Litl' Current 43.50	
Tobermory     42.25
Tobermory     48.00 (charged me for 25-feet by mistake)

DOCKAGE     $279.50    


LIONS HEAD INN            $55
Killarney, HERBERTS 	   25
Tobermory, TAKE OUT        25
Tobermory, TAKE OUT        28
TOTAL                    $167

Highway Expenses

550-miles at approx. 11-MPG = 50-gallons
50-gallons at approx. $4.50
Gas   = $225
Tolls =   14
TOTAL = $239



I invited my fellow cruisers to comment on the trip. Here are some of their remarks.


(Transcribed exactly as written in the truck on the trip home to Minnesota from Lions Head.)

Gorgan bay is the ultament place for a boat trip but be cairful for
minaetagua ratle snaiks and bears.

Their are lots of recks, fairies and tour boats. And there are water snakes.

And for your security doo not step in the weeds !!!!!!! 

Their are lots of ilands to explore and if you like hiking their are hiking
trails and lots of seinarie.

Their are lots of marinas and stores. Their are blue harons, loons, oters
and Ducks.

Kevin Albus

(Kevin sent details of his fuel usage on the trip, which I had solicited from him.)

7/31/11 Lions Head     Killbear   88     20       4.44
8/1/11  Killbear       Britt      51.67  12       4.31
8/2/11  Britt          Killarney  70     15       4.67
8/3/11  Killarney      LC         37.45   7       5.35
8/4/11  Little Current Tobermory  65.62  14       4.69 
8/5/11  Tobermory      Local      21      4       5.25 
8/6/11  Tobermory      Lions Head 40.67   9       4.52

TOTALS                           375.2   81       4.63 average

DATE     LOCATION                  VOL        PRICE     TOTAL					
7/30/11  Marysville, MI            34.6-gal    US$3.729  US$129.14
8/1/11   Britt, ON, St. Amant's   124.1-liter CAN$1.399 CAN$173.97
         Mairina                   32.1-gal    US$5.80   US$186.36
8/3/11   Little Current,Wally's    72.2-liter CAN$1.499 CAN$108.34
         Gas Dock                  19.0-gal    US$6.05   US$115.71
Total fuel cost and average cost per gallon:
US$431.21 for 85.73 gallons, average of US$5.03 per gallon
Note that not all fuel purchased was consumed on this trip.

A couple of notes on the fuel numbers from the 2011 Georgian Bay trip

John Raby

(John Raby describes the process of preparing his boat for the cruise and the 1,000 mile highway road trip to reach Georgian Bay.)

Getting Ready

Any other year, getting ready to spend a week on the boat would have been easy. But this year we did not put the boat in the water until the last week of June. We had not spent a single night aboard, nor had we used the trailer except for spring launch. On the first of July I pulled the boat and took her to my canvas guy and wasn't able to pick her up until July 12. The new canvas was going to be really nice on the trip, but now we only had 16 days to get ready.

Before we could leave, I had to get nine-hours more break-in on a new SEI lower unit, which I managed to finished up just three days before we left. During the last hour of the break-in, my port engine volt meter jumped to 16-Volts and held there. I called my mechanic, he told me that it was probably the engine rectifier, but it did not need to be fixed right away. When I explained that I was leaving in three days for a 350-mile cruise he told me to fix it now.

First thing Wednesday morning I got on the phone with every Yamaha dealer I could find in Minneapolis--no one had the part in stock. I finally found a dealer who promised they would have the part in their shop at noon on Friday, four hours before we are supposed to leave.

I thought my trailer brakes felt a little weak, so on Wednesday evening I pulled the hubs, changed the bearings, and tried to bleed the brakes. After having to dismantle all the hubs to get the bleeders open and reinstalled, I came to the conclusion that my brake actuator was not working. After hunting for one, I finally found the same unit but it is a weld-on, so I have to move all the insides to my bolt-on unit. But it is too late to drive to Minneapolis to get it. It is getting late, but I have a buddy coming over Friday morning to help me bleed the brakes and load the boat.

Friday morning we bleed all four brakes. Later, as we get underway on HOLLY MARIE, we find her voltage gauge is still reading 16-Volts. On the way from the boat launch to our house, I feel the trailer brakes fail. I pull the left front hub and notice that the brake cylinder is leaking. Apparently the new coupler is working and it blew out a weak cylinder. So I am again off to downtown to pick up four new brake cylinders. After losing about two-hours more driving, I get home with the new cylinders. We replace the left front cylinder and bleed the brakes again; just as we get pressure, we blow the left rear cylinder. After replacing that one and again bleeding the brakes we have pressure.

On The Road

At 10:30 pm Friday, we start the 1,000 mile drive to Lions Head. We drive until 2:00 a.m., stopping at a rest stop for a four hour nap; we are on the road again by 6:30 a.m. We choose to go through Milwaukee to avoid road construction and tolls, but traffic in Chicago costs us about two hours. (At one point as we are sitting in stop and go traffic, a horse runs down the eastbound lanes coming straight at us. He passes by about 10-feet beside us and we never see any signs of anyone trying to catch him.)

Once we are out of Chicago, the traffic never slows down, and, as we hit the USA-Canada border at 8:00 p.m., we are the second car in line and are though the gate in about five minutes. One good thing about arriving so late is the drive up the Bruce is almost deserted; it takes us just four hours to get to Lions Head from the border. We get into the town of Lions Head to find the road closed due to a street dance. The detour is a little skinny but we make it through, only having to slow down and watch some tree branches skim the hardtop.

As we are driving in to the marina at 12:20 a.m., looking for a parking spot, we are pleasantly surprised to find Jim standing in the parking lot waving at us. After guiding us to our parking spot and saying our hellos, Jim gives us the all important bathroom code and we all get some sleep.

After a hot shower Sunday morning, I am ready to start getting the Holly Marie in the water. Besides getting organized we still have to replace the rectifier on the port engine, reinstall the Navman fuel flow meter and fill the fuel and water tanks. Having traveled with this group previously, I am well aware of the 10 a.m. departure time, but some slack is given to us this morning. Fortunately, the rectifier and the Navman are installed without a hitch. Road gas is about $1-per-gallon cheaper than the marina, so it is worth the hassle to drive two miles into town to add 150 gallons to the tank before launching.

A very short time after getting back from the gas station we are launched and moving slowly out of the marina. With our hasty depart I have no waypoints in the GPS. I have not even looked at a chart. We are heading blindly off on a 60-mile open water run trusting Jim knows what he is doing. On the radio I get a compass heading and a target on the other side, but it is too rough to find the island and set up a way point, so I am going to have to trust my tour guide. The port engine is still running a high voltage but it is manageable. Without using the boat all summer, I found I had some problems with the Garmin instruments receivers. First, the depth sounder range had been inadvertently set to 10-feet from automatic ,thus it never worked in any water over 10-feet deep. My electronic charts did not have the detail I thought they were supposed to. I did not have the small craft route on the chart plotter, which made the paper charts much more important.

(Jim's narrative can take over from here.)

The Long Road Home

The return highway trip was slow to start; about 10 miles after we started, the weld on the repaired trailer fender let go. I had to stop and tie it in place. Then about 20-miles down the road the winch strap broke (I even priced a new one before the trip, but I did not think it was an immediate issue). I tied it to the eye bolt and then added a second safety strap. The old winch strap and two safety straps worked just fine. Then about 20-miles further I noticed the bow roller looked wrong. I found that the bolt holding it together had worked loose. After tighten it up we were off. No problems, no traffic in Chicago at 8:00 a.m. Sunday, and we never had to stop for road construction. At 150-miles from home the fender moved. I had to pull it off the trailer to keep it out of the tires. We finally arrived home at 5:30 p.m. Sunday night.

Copyright © 2011 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!

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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared December 26, 2011.