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Author Topic:   Georgian Bay Northern Triangle
jimh posted 08-08-2010 02:20 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I am just back from six days and five nights in northern Georgian Bay. Here is the short version of our trip.

Northern Georgian Bay Triangle:
Tobermory--Killarney--Little Current

We arrived in Tobermory about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, expecting the town to be winding down from the weekend, but instead it was a mad house of tourists. We got the boat launched and the trailer parked, and the harbourmaster squeezed us into a spot between a few other boats for the night. We had a late dinner at 8 p.m. on the boat with a few beers and some fantastic fish and chips take-out.

Monday we got underway around 10 a.m. on a blustery day with mixed sun and clouds and a southwest breeze at 15-knots. We ventured into head seas for a few miles to check out the Cape Hurd channel entrance, a passage we had never been through before. We thought we might need it as an approach to Tobermory one day from the south off the big lake, and we wanted to familiarize ourselves with it.

After we reached the open lake, the three-footers were enough influence to reverse course. We headed to the eastern side of Cove Island and went wreck hunting with our new SONAR. We cruised out to Cove Island Light, and slowly approached its old dock, but the wind and waves were not favorable for making a landing. We settled for some pictures. We went over to Flowerpot and eased our way into the big government dock at Beachy Cove. With Lake Huron about one-foot over chart datum we had about four feet of water at the dock and a few spots with a little less on the way in. The tour boats can't make it in any more and have resorted to using big RIB Zodiac boats to get people to the island.

Back in Tobermory for the day we got another slip, and spent the rest of the afternoon on boat work. At dinner time a light drizzle started. A skipper on a fancy boat at the dock with weather RADAR came out of the cabin and announced that it looked to him like this rain would let up in about 30 minutes. We walked to dinner at THE LIGHTHOUSE INN AND TAVERN, about five minutes from the harbor. We had a nice dinner, and it was good to get out of the cool damp weather and sit indoors for a few minutes. The rain continued during dinner, and by the time we had paid the bill the rain increased to a downpour. We had our foul weather jackets, but we had neglected to bring our rain pants with us. By the time we made it back to the boat we were drenched. So much for weather RADAR on boats and amateur meteorologists.

Tuesday were we getting bored with Tobermory. The weather forecast was not wonderful. Winds were still southerly and now 15 to 20 knots. The only reasonable choice was to go north. We waited for the fuel dock to clear for an instant, ran over quickly, and added some $4-per-gallon Canadian gasoline to the tank. We departed about 10 a.m. and headed north to Club Island, about 23 miles out into the bay. There we stopped for lunch, the only boat in the beautiful little harbor. The sun finally came out and we really enjoyed swinging on the anchor and feeling like we were on vacation. After about an hour I noticed the wind had come up, and we hauled anchor. We continued north across Georgian Bay, heading generally for Killarney. About ten minutes out of Club Island the weather turned very rapidly. The sun disappeared, the wind died, the visibility went to pot, and we appeared to be heading into rain. I slowed down to about 5-MPH to see if we could stay south of the rain shower. It obligingly moved off to the northeast, and we just caught a short sprinkle from it. Although we were only a few miles from Manitoulin Island, we couldn't see a trace of it. We were in a bank of mist and fog. The new chart plotter led us to find the only two floating aids in the area, so we kept track of where we were electronically. About 3 p.m. we raised Killarney's south entrance, where the fog horn was blowing.

We got a slip at GATEWAY MARINA. Fred, the harbourmaster and owner, helped us into the last open slip he had. Another boater told us the weather here in Kilarney had been cloudy and misty yesterday and today, and they had a heavy rain earlier. We had a progressive dinner. We bought some salad from Fred's restaurant at the marina, brought our own beer along, and walked down to HERBERT'S nee HEBERT'S FISH AND CHIPS for the main course. The fish and chip there are the best in the world--well the best in Georgian Bay. We sat on a picnic table at their wharf, watched the boats go by, and watched the fishermen unload today's catch and clean it. I think the fish we had for dinner were swimming in Georgian Bay just a few hours ago. It was tasty stuff. Back at the boat Chris pulled out a surprise dessert she'd bought at Fred's bakery--two slices of delicious home made blueberry pie. Blueberries grow like weeds around this part of Georgian Bay. They make great pie.

Wednesday the morning weather forecast was filled with high wind warnings, 20-knot westerlies veering to 25-knot northwesterly. Heck, it was sunny and nice, so we motored north and west. There was some wind up in the morning, but nothing a Boston Whaler couldn't handle. We ended up at a new spot for us, Rat Portage, in the eastern end of Frazer Bay. We had another beautiful anchorage all to ourselves for about an hour. We swam and snorkeled to work up an appetite. Chris made her usual fantastic boat lunch sandwiches. Two more boats showed up and anchored in the cove. We took another swim and idled away another hour or two in the dead calm of this great spot.

By three we noticed white caps rolling around the corner and decided we better get underway. We explored a mile further east into the southeast corner of Frazer Bay, then turned west and faced the wind.

We had to go upwind about 15-miles to Little Current against three-footers and a strong head wind, but the old Whaler was more than capable of this. When we got to Little Current the wind was really howling though the narrows. It also brought with it quite a current. We stopped at WALLY'S GAS DOCK to top off the fuel tank. The deck height at their wharf makes fueling a small boat difficult, but we managed. Fuel here was only four-cents a gallon more than in Tobermory, a pleasant surprise.

We took an end slip on the new town docks at the western end of the channel. I wanted the boat to face west, so I backed into the slip. There was a 5-knot current running and a 25-knot cross wind, so the docking was a bit exciting. All I can say is I am impressed with the strength of the receiver track on the rub rail.

Safe at the dock we had our usual ration of 4 p.m. grog and cleaned the boat up. I got her all spiffy and took some pictures in the fading sunlight. The new town docks at Little Current are really first class, and they have attracted a lot of fancy boats. Our Boston Whaler looked like it was a tender for a big yacht, that is how out of place it was there.

We had a not-so-wonderful dinner at the ANCHOR INN. I guess we were riding a high-streak of great fish, so in fairness the pickerel was not really bad, but just not as fantastic as the two-hour-old whitefish we had the night before. The weather was still sunny and it was actually nice to step indoors into an air-conditioned room. There are not that many days in Little Current when you need an air conditioner. When we got back to the boat we had ours--the 25-knot westerly was still blowing.

We got up Thursday and listened to the weather. More high wind warnings. The westerly was supposed to veer to northwest, but it seemed like it was being reluctant. There was still a touch of south in the wind. We added some ice to the cooler, then cast off. We passed eastward under the swing bridge at 10 a.m., pushed along by the current and a good tail wind.

We loped along on a nice easy plane at 24-MPH getting 2.85-MPG. At this rate we could run the 70-miles back to Tobermory in three hours and have tons of fuel left. At Cape Smith we turned into the open water of Georgian Bay at its northwest corner. We were in luck. There was enough westerly component to the wind that the near shore water along Manitoulin Island was relatively free of waves. We maintained our nice plane and ran south in about 20 to 30-feet of water just off the Manitoulin shoreline at 24 to 26-MPH. The weather was very clear and mostly sunny. The high winds had blown out all the fog, and visibility was fantastic. We had a great 25-mile run south in mostly small head seas.

Finally we ran out of lee shelter from Manitoulin at Tamarack Cove, and we had to cross about five miles of open water to jump over to Fitzwilliam Island, where we planned to stop for lunch. Fortunately the angry four to six-foot white caps were a beam sea. We motored across at about 14-MPH, but took more spray and water than we've ever encountered before. Without the full Mills weather canvas system, we would have been drenched.

At Fitzwilliam Island we entered Rattlesnake Harbour, a place we had not visited in over twenty years, but one that had many fond memories for us from past cruises and visits there. We had heard there had been some changes--and how! What was once an abandoned and rustic wilderness anchorage has been turned into a working commercial harbor. It looks like there is logging and wood cutting on the island, and there are two new large docks, several tug boats tied there, a barge or two, and three or four new buildings on shore. The ruins of the old fishing sheds are still visible, but a big signs announces PRIVATE NO TRESSPASSING.

Although a very well protected anchorage, with the big southwesterly blowing there were even white caps in the harbor. The only calm spot was behind a little spit of land, where we dropped anchor in 7-feet of water and carefully set the 13-lb Danforth into the sand bottom, visually checking for any old timber that might foul the anchor. The wind was so strong that I decided to let the engine run during lunch. If the anchor let go, we would be blown ashore in 20-seconds, and I did not feel like taking any chances.

We had a quick and uncomfortable lunch. There was just too much wind and the boat was sailing around on her anchor rode. After about 20-minutes we decided to get out of there. In that time the Danforth had buried itself, and we had a heck of a time retrieving it. It took a big pull with the boat to break it out.

Back in open water we turned east and cleared the northeast cape of Fitzwilliam Island, then stayed in her lee for another 6 miles or so in a pleasant run down the coast. Here we found more flowerpot formations. Although not as high as on Flowerpot Island, there are dozens of them along the eastern coast of Fitzwilliam. It is too far for the tour boats to come to bring people to see them, but we got to enjoy them.

Eventually we ran out of lee from Fitzwilliam and we had to cross the open water of Owen Channel. Here the waves were rolling in with a very long fetch, and the wave heights were impressive. Six-footers were common, but now our course line of due south put these seas just on our starboard bow quater. Visibility was so good we could see Cove Island Light's tower about eight miles out. I put the E-TEC throttle at 3,100-RPM, giving us a boat speed of about 14-MPH, and we just drove around and across the waves for the ten miles of open water crossing.

Getting to Cove Island was a delight, for again we ducked into a lee on her eastern shore. We stopped at Tecumseh Cove to rest for a bit after all the high wind and seas of the past two hours. We picked up a painter off a buoy marking a wreck, and avoided having to anchor. After a 30-minute respite we headed for Tobermory. We made the harbor about 3:30 p.m., just in time to get one of the last available slips without having to raft up with another boat.

Even deep in Little Tub Harbour it was still windy, but that was appreciated as it cooled off what would have otherwise been a hot and sunny afternoon. By the way, high seas are easier to tolerate if the weather is warm and sunny, we decided. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and working on the boat. We got more take-out for dinner--this time Fish Tacos, which were excellent--and we ate at a picnic table overlooking the harbor. The wind continued to blow, finally turning northward as forecasted. By late evening a big sea was running and we were glad we had completed the long leg southward when we had. If you are still out boating at 4 p.m. up here, you started too late.

Friday morning we were so tired we both slept through the 7 a.m. departure long whistle blast from the CHI-CHEEMAUN ferry. We slept to 8:45 a.m., our laziest morning of the trip. After coffee and breakfast, we headed out. The fuel tank showed 5/16-FULL, so we had some extra fuel to burn. We circumnavigated Cove Island in a clockwise direction. Heading north along her western shore we reduced speed to 7-MPH and took the remnant swell of yesterday's big blow. There were some giant swells still working down from the north. That northern air brought the temperature down, too. We had on sweaters and fleece for the first time this trip.

We had a nice lazy lunch in Tecumseh Cove on the western side of the island, again picking up a dive buoy painter instead of anchoring. We headed back to Tobermory, took a slow tour of Big Tub Harbour and its two huge wrecks, then headed for the launch ramp.

By 3 p.m. the boat was on the trailer and we were headed home. It was a great six-day five-night visit to northern Georgian Bay.

prj posted 08-09-2010 11:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Thanks for the narrative, Jim, it made for a fine Sunday night read. As mentioned in previous articles, I love to follow along on these trip narratives using Google Maps. This was one of the first that I could follow consistently as the area traveled seems much better noted/named than your typical wilderness route.
Buckda posted 08-09-2010 11:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Jealous. Sounds like a great trip Jim!

jimh posted 08-11-2010 08:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here we are about midway between Fitzwilliam Island and Cove Island, running along at a slow plane of about 14-MPH in rather large beam seas. To starboard there is 150-miles of open water to the Staits of Mackinaw, and the the wind has been blowing at 15 to 20 knots for several days. The water color was a fantastic deep blue.

Photo: Looking aft toward Fitzwilliam Island from the open water of Georgian Bay on a blustery day.

There was a lot of motion on the boat in this seaway. I was braced against the lee side of the cockpit, and I took about ten shots with the camera, trying to get one where the horizon was level and the picture reasonably framed and composed. This one shows the conditions well, but, like all photographs, the waves do not look as big as they were.

L H G posted 08-11-2010 08:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
Jim - That's a great story and good reading. Sure reminds me of the North Channel 2000 Rendezvous and a lot of good memories. Having been there and covered that same wilderness water, I've got to say you and Chris are brave souls to do it alone, with only a single engine and no kicker backup.
home Aside posted 08-11-2010 09:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for home Aside  Send Email to home Aside     
Confidence comes with a Great Engine Larry!
dfmcintyre posted 08-11-2010 09:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Jim -

As you and I conversed earlier, just to bring you up to date; we just got home late afternoon from a trip along much of the same route.

We launched from Tobermory this past Saturday morning, after passing you on the road Friday afternoon (I wasn't 100% positive that was you heading southbound, almost pulled over). We had not launched from Tobe since the early 80's with our 22' Outrage, and decided against a major dollar outlay, and instead opted to launch there instead of at Little Current.

Stopped at Club Island for a light lunch then on to Little Current. Stopped and wandered the town, Gail hit Turners, still the icon in the area. Was amazed at the new finger docking at both ends of the town. Talked with a dock attendant who said they've been decently busy. Then off to the Benjamin group, with a detour to Neptune Island along the way. John was not in.

Decided that our favorite anchorage, Porcupine Island might be a bit too exposed, instead stayed tucked back into the bay on the north side of North Benjamin.

Rain started right after breakfast. And really started in earnest once we broke camp and began heading towards Gore Bay. At times, it was raining so hard, along with some hail, that our visibility was reduced to .10 mile for most of the run in. We took 75 gallons at G/B, and one of the locals who's been there six years said she had never seen it rain that hard and long. I believe her. It was intense for that hour. We decided to make dinner on the dock and dry out that evening. Sun out by late afternoon.

Monday we left and paid a visit to the North Channel weather bouy to toast and old departed friend. Then shot due east at 30mph to overnight at Porcupine. Nice overnight and a sunny sky greeted us Tuesday morning. We stopped at Spider Island Marina and walked into town, looking for items we had forgotten; good paring knife and cutting board, and a flyswatter or two. We walked the whole town looking for a swatter...they must have run out of stock earlier. Hit four stores then had a great breakfast at The Anchor Inn.

After walking back to Spider and a quick shower, we were again on the water, and headed through the Hole In the Wall, then south down along the east coast of Manitoulin towards Club Island. Once around the corner, we started taking fairly heavy water and fog. My first thought was to head towards Rattlesnake Harbor, but looking back it was probably best that we ended up at Club. Heavy winds out of the west that day and finally abated around 4AM this morning. We shared the anchorage with one of the dual masted "tall ships" and eight sailboats, all were riding out the weather. I think Rattlesnake would have been surging with that wind.

We left the harbor about 6:30 and ended up in 1/10 - 1/4 mile vis fog all the way to Tobemory. Took longer that usual as once I got close to Flowerpot Island, I reduced to a high idle and came into the harbor. Pulled the boat, showered and a good breakfast and headed home. Fueled upon arrival in PH...90 gallons.

Good times....


jimh posted 08-11-2010 11:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Welcome back, Don and Gail.

On Friday about 5 p.m. we were southbound on Hwy-21 along the eastern shore of Lake Huron (in Ontario) and Don and Gail were northbound. It's a two-lane road, and the speed limit is 50-MPH. Somewhere between Port Elgin and Goderich I looked up just in time to see this big Boston Whaler boat coming north, then recognized it was also a REVENGE, then got a flash of twin engines on the transom as we passed each other at a closing speed of 100-MPH.

I immediately said aloud to Chris, "That has to be someone we know, there just are not that many big REVENGE's with twin engines around."

Later, following a email from Don, we figured out it was Gail and he who had passed us.

L H G posted 08-12-2010 12:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
Don - Glad to see you're back in the cruising world with Walt's Revenge 25. I figured you didn't do that trip in the 21!

This must be the year for North channel cruising. This coming Monday a group of us are launching at St Ignace for the same thing, and heading East. I'll have my 25, and a 25 WD Revenge will be in the group. With all these big Whalers, we all should have co-ordinated our timing better and met at Little Current and Killarney. I had no idea either you or Jim would be up there this time of the season.

dfmcintyre posted 08-12-2010 04:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Just did the totals, and we averaged between 1.5 and 1.7 mpg. Not too shabby for twins that are old technology, 1991's.

Trying to estimate how many hours are on them, Tim and I figured somewhere around 150 hours, never in salt. All Walt ran was about a tank of fuel a year, with the exception of one year where he ran back from Manitoulin Island to Port Huron by water.

As a testament to that era, all Tim did was to empty the fuel that had been sitting in the tank since 2003, replace all the fuel lines and fired them up. Took about 8 minutes of "nudging" them before they ran well, and finally settled down.


jimh posted 08-12-2010 08:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I think we burned 75 gallons and covered about 210-miles. The average fuel economy was 2.8-MPG.
jimh posted 08-12-2010 08:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Larry--You and Russ, et al., should have the place to yourselves. Everybody was there the week we went. Never saw such crowds.

Glad to see you are actually getting out on the boat!

jimh posted 08-12-2010 09:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This image shows the fine new docks put up by the town of Little Current. You can seen the fancy stainless steel mooring bits in the lower right. That classic Boston Whaler REVENGE looks good, too, I have to say.

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 Walk-through Whaler Drive at the dock in Little Current, Ontario, August, 2010.

Jeff posted 08-12-2010 09:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     

I lust for your boat and that image does not help the situation. Great narrative as always. I can not wait until the little guy is old enough to make the trip and I have a Revenge W/T to do it in.


I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the cruising with 25 Revenge W/T compared to the Whalers you have cruised with before.

Sincerely and with Revenge evny,

home Aside posted 08-13-2010 01:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for home Aside  Send Email to home Aside     
We spent some time on the New Docks at Little Current on the 2008 cruise....nice indeed
Photo Link
jimh posted 08-13-2010 08:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As I mentioned in the narrative, the fancy new docks at Little Current have attracted a few fancy new boats to stay at them. Our Boston Whaler was by far the smallest boat among them. It was not long after I took the picture of the Boston Whaler seen above that a non-boater family came along the docks for a stroll, looking at all the boats. A young girl, perhaps about 10 years old, spied our Boston Whaler at the end of the dock, after passing all of the yachts. She turned to her Mum and declared, "That's a cute little boat." She then noticed that I was aboard, so she came cover and said, "Mister, you have a cute little boat."

About then I was thinking maybe it was time for us to move up to a bigger boat. Of course, to stand out among the others in Little Current that day, I would have needed a 65-footer.

jimh posted 08-13-2010 09:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
We were staying on B-Dock, where there are 40-foot finger piers. On C-Dock the finger piers are 60-feet, giving the outside berth 120-feet of dock space. There is 20-feet of water under the dock so you can see that rather large yachts will have no trouble in this marina.

For Jeff--Here is another view of the REVENGE. Fortunately no one was in the adjoining slip, so I was able to shoot across from the end of the next finger pier. I held the camera over the pier and down near the water to get this view:

Photo: Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T WD

dfmcintyre posted 08-13-2010 02:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Jeff -

RE: 25' W/T:

Uh, she's a big one to tow. Noticeably heavier then the 25' Revenge Cuddy. High enough to mandate the premium center section of the Chichi, which is why we launched at Tobemory. Our Yukon handled it fine, along with Walt's custom designed load leveling hitch setup.

Some issues with the canvas and some excessive water ingress into the cockpit. Designing a workaround. Decent enough storage with two 48qt coolers. One more waterproof plastic container contained the cooking equipment. Need to replace it with one that will fit under the bench seat along with the plastic milk crate container that held more water bottles. If we need more storage, 86's will fit fine. We forgot (duh!) fenders, and a ladder. Ladder is on order, need a long one due to freeboard height.

I liked the additional headroom in the cabin, and the ability to walk up the deck.

Need to explore additional cushioning in the sleeping area. My...ahem, built in padding or lack thereof was causing some pain when rolling over and hitting some of the ridges and seams. You do not need a sleeping bag, it gets warm enough in there.


dfmcintyre posted 08-13-2010 07:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Larry -

We were set in cement to go this past week. We would have enjoyed meeting you guys up there.

If your looking for some detail on where we were, hit the below link for some information:

dfmcintyre posted 08-13-2010 08:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Here's a link to some photos: ?albumview=slideshow

jimh posted 08-15-2010 08:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Don--Those are great pictures. I recognized most of the places and have visited them, with the exception of Clam Cove. That rain was certainly torrential.

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