0800 I am up after a great night's sleep in my big suite of rooms at the Shaftesbury Inn, one of the island's oldest lodges that dates back to 1884 when Little Current was known as Shaftesbury. Exactly how I arranged these accommodations is a little story in itself.
Until about a week before today, I was still undecided about where and how I would transport myself to the Rendezvous. After hemming and hawing about it, Larry Goltz decided for me that I would have to meet him and the others in Tobermory and come by boat with them. They weren't going to allow any other option.
The only problem with this approach was where could I sleep? The boats were essentially full, and without a car I'd be limited to shore accommodations within walking distance of the marina. I called a few places, but due to the coincidence of our Rendezvous with the island's annual "Haw-Eater Weekend" festival, every place in town was booked full. ["Haw-Eater" is the name for a native Manitoulin Islander, from the Hawberry, a strawberry like fruit found on the island.]
After I publicly lamented about this on the Rendezvous Forum Thread, Tom Birdsey came to my rescue. A change in his plans left a room he had reserved for Friday night available for me. And conveniently, it was at the Shaftesbury Inn, about the closest lodging there is to the marina.
I called Tom on the telephone and we confirmed the switch. I decided not to let the Shaftesbury in on the change, since I feared they might disallow it and give the room away to someone else. I'd just show up and take the room, and we'd settle the identity of its occupant later. "By the way," I said to Tom on the telephone, "how much was that room?"
"Oh," says Tom, "I don't remember exactly, but I seem to recall it was modest."
That was all I knew about the price when I got up Saturday--"modest."
I am relaxing in the sitting room, jotting a few notes down about the events so far, and I get curious. This is a nice place for the back woods of the North Channel. I've got a big couch, a writing desk, a little coffee table, plenty of nice glossy picture books about the region to browse through; it's good stuff. There's a television, a VCR, a video-game of some sort to entertain the kids. That's just in the sitting room. Back in the bedroom I have a big bed, a dresser, a lounge chair--all vintage hardwood furniture--more books, nice pictures on the wall. It is very well done. The bathroom is big, with separate shower and commode rooms. This place is starting to look fancy. Usually there is a price on the back of the door. I check. No price. Oh well, too late now to worry. I head down to check out. That's when I meet Osvald.
"Gutt Mohr-ning," he says to me as I come down the stairs to the lobby. I recognize his voice and (German) accent from the telephone last night. He's an older gentleman, short and stout, with close-cropped white hair, and certainly not a native Canadian. He seems to run the place. "Ready for breakfast?" he asks.
To tell the truth, I was going to have a cup of coffee at the marina and maybe a donut for breakfast, but there is something in the way Osvald beckons me to the dinning room that conveys the notion that breakfast might be included with the lodging. In any case, the coffee smells great and the cooking bacon odor from the grill in the kitchen is irresistible. I take a window seat and Ol' Oszie brings me a cup of delicious java.
"Now," he says, "vhat can I git you? Eggs? Bacon? Toast? Whatever you want!"
I order up a couple of eggs, hash browns, toast, and bacon. I don't go too nuts, just in case this isn't included in the lodging.
"Very gutt," says Osvald, and heads for the kitchen.
After a couple slurps of coffee, I am looking at the china , the silverware, the linen tablecloth, and I start thinking back to Tom's description of the price.
"'Very modest' he said," I think to myself. But then Tom is from the East Coast. Geez, everything is expensive there, especially in New York. My mind wanders back to the two weeks my wife and I spent in Nova Scotia, staying in all kinds of lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, and inns. We generally paid about $60(Canadian)/night; that's modest. And on Manitoulin, we usually stay at the Hawberry Inn down the road. I think that was about $75 (Canadian) the last time we were there (1997). And those prices are for double occupancy.
Soon Osvald is back with breakfast, a very nicely prepared plate, and the eggs are perfectly done to order. He leaves me to eat, and turns to another table-- there seems to be only about six or seven rooms available en toto in the Inn so there is not a large crowd at breakfast yet--and picks up his conversation with them.
I guess I was hungry, after all, as I have no trouble finishing my breakfast. As he sees me cleaning my plate, ol' Oszie comes back to ask, "Vud you like some-ting else?" "A sweet roll? A donut? Cereal?"
No, I am full, plus I still harbor this fear that the whole breakfast is a la carte and not already on the tab. That's it for me. I get up and head for the lobby. Osvald follows to the little counter in the front of the hall, and I break the news to him: I am not Mr. Birdsey. There's been a change in plans, but Mr. Birdsey will be here tonight with his family.
"Zis is not a problem," he says. "I vill just charge you the single rate for zee room for last night!"
That works for me, and now the moment of truth. How much was that room? I am still thinking about that time in Nova Scotia my wife and I accidentally ended up in that tacky road house on Cape Breton on a Friday night, where we hardly got a minute's sleep. I can still see us in that place. Oh, we laughed about it later, but it wasn't funny at the time. I think it was only $25-Canadian that night.
"Zee bill," interrupts Osvald, "comes to one-hundred-twenty-three dollars."
"Oh my God," I am thinking to myself, "wait until Chris sees that on the VISA bill next month!" I spend five times more on myself in a single on Manitoulin than we spent for a double in Cape Breton! That is not going to play well.
"Just put it on this," I say, as I hand over the VISA Platinum Card, my mind racing to do the currency conversion in my head.
"Vill you be needing a room for tonight?" asks Osvald.
Actually I might, and it turns out the only thing available is a very little single. "Vee sometimes rent it to students," he explains.
Well, that sounds better, and Osvald insists on showing it to me before my taking it, so I follow him back up the stairs for a peek. The room is fine, you just have to use the bathroom across the hall. It might be good. "How much is this one," I ask him.
"Zis room I can let you have for just eighty dollars a night," he explains.
I decline graciously, but he warns me, "If you don't take it now, I vill have it rented by tonight, I am sure."
I still pass, having blown the entire weekend's lodging budget in one glorious eight hour snooze in the Shaftesbury Inn's finest accommodation. I grab my duffel bag and head down the hill for the marina.
If you're ever on Manitoulin and need a room, give the Shaftesbury Inn a look. The rooms are nice, and you'll have fun chatting with proprietor Osvald Argmann. He's kind of a character, and part of the charm of the place. And he's got a story of his own, too. It starts with him arriving via boat from Germany in Montreal on June 7, 1955 with $20 in his pocket. It wraps up with him buying the decaying Inn in 1992, spending about a million dollars renovating it, and reopening it with his daughter Angela in 1997. You can get the details in between from the four volume, folio edition, self-published book chronicling his Canadian adventures, available in the lobby.
0915 I get to the marina, but it doesn't look like I've been holding up the parade. There is hardly anyone from our group in sight; they're all still sleeping. (Half of them are still on Central Time.) I leave my duffel on the finger pier and go prowling around Spider Bay Marina. I thought I saw one of the sailboats from my old sailing club here last night.
I kill 45 minutes yacking with some old sailing buddies while I explain the virtues of using gasoline instead of wind to make the boat move where you want it to go. By then, some of the Whaler Rendezvous gang has awakened, and there is a little activity over on Dock-8, where they're moored. I bid farewell to the sailboat crew, and head back to the Boston Whaler fleet.
Spider Bay Marina
Here's T/T WHALE LURE with the forward shelter and flying top from Wm. J. Mills & Co. That helicopter in the background was giving rides as part of "Haw-Eater Weekend", an island reunion held annually. The Whaler Fleet was assigned to Dock 8, the pier with the least depth in all of the marina. This would prove to have an impact in a couple of days.
1015 Jim Gibson's up and MEMORY is ready to go, and so is LCG and T/T WHALE LURE. The Farnsworth's have scrubbed down the deck of BACKLASH, and they're ready to head out. LHG and Lynn are getting WHALE LURE shipshape for sea, but the hold-up seems to be Patrick. He's just awake and needs a shower before he can go.
I also have to mention that everyone has broken out a fresh set of sportswear that features logotypes from previously-attended Boston Whaler rendezvous. I did notice yesterday that tee-shirts, polo's, and baseball caps from previous events were the uniform of the day, but now I am starting to wonder how long this can be kept up. I feel kinda stupid wearing a plain Polo shirt; next time I've gotta come dressed.
While we're all milling around the dock, the delay allows us to hook up with Bruce Boehle and his family. They've just pulled up to Spider Bay Marina by car, with their Classic 1971 Boston Whaler Nauset in tow. They came over on the Ferry, which, reflecting on yesterday's trip, is looking like a good decision on their part. Bruce, wife Sarah and sons Matt (15) and Robert (12), are heading ultimately for Meldrum Bay and White Sea Lodge for a week's vacation, but they've paused on the drive to the western end of the island (about 60 miles away) to see if they can find us.
The weather is absolutely perfect today. It's warm, sunny, and the wind has backed to the south, allowing Manitoulin to form a giant lee for us. There is no big westerly running like late yesterday afternoon. In the motion-picture business (in which I sometimes free-lance), we say "we're burning daylight" when we waste great conditions like this. The hold-up still seems to be that long shower Patrick is taking.
1130 Patrick still showering, we decide to abandon him at the Marina, leaving LHG and Lynn to wait for him. I hop aboard T/T WHALE LURE with LCG, and the Boehle's hitch a ride with Jim Gibson.
Spider Bay Marina
MEMORY, Jim Gibson's 19-Outrage-II departs late Saturday morning for Neptune Island carrying half of the Boehle family. Notice that bag of groceries still secure on the cooler seat.
Our three-boat flotilla departs Spider Bay Marina and heads west, bound for Neptune Island. I've made this trip a zillion times, so there is no worry about the navigation. Instead, I get to concentrate on running another new boat. With 230 HP on the transom there is so much power available that this 18-Outrage responds like a Ferrarri . I let Larry handle the twin throttles while I just steer. Remember, up until three years ago I drove an 11,000-pound sailboat with an 18-HP diesel engine. This machine has a little better horsepower-to-weight ratio.
Westward from Spider Bay, you have a mile or so of NO-WAKE buoyed channel to negotiate, including a couple of narrow spots about 100-feet wide just off the northwest tip of Picnic Island where the natural channel had to be augmented with some dynamite to maintain a minimum 20-foot depth. Back when the giant silver ore smelter in Sudbury had an insatiable appetite for coal, lake freighters hauled it in here to be unloaded and trans-shipped north by rail, but it has been a few years since that coal trade was in full swing. I don't think the Algoma Eastern Railway line even runs on those tracks anymore .
The NO-WAKE zone ends with the buoys. The south breeze is hardly rippling the water, and LCG moves the twin throttles forward. The boat just jumps on plane, and I look down to locate the speed-indicating instrument, another GPS device. We're breezing along at 35 MPH, and I check the TACH's. The twin in-line sixes are loafing at 2400 RPM! There's over 3,000 RPM left to go to redline, and we are already flying across the water. We head northwest to round the little red unlighted spar marking the shoal off Flat Island, and turn for the Waubuno Channel.
Up the Waubuno Channel we fly, the pretty white quartzite mountains of Lake Huron's north shore still standing about 1200 feet above the lake, their primordial rock having survived the erosion of all the ice-ages since the beginning of the planet, but having lost 10,000 feet in height in the process. They're as close as you can get to mountains on the rim of the Great Lakes, and we enjoy looking at them, even if others think them just hills.
1145 At these speeds the eight miles to Neptune Island don't take long, and soon we are pulling into John Flook's long floating dock, which stretches from shore to the deeper water and lets him keep his 22-Outrage ready to go from the end of the pier. We've come around the eastern end of the island, which allows more draft than the western passage. The low water has altered things quite a bit, and there are several new rocks currently visible that I've never seen before.
Neptune Island Approach
MEMORY leads us in to John Flook's dock on Neptune Island. The weather this Saturday morning was absolutely perfect for boating--fair and no wind.
John's been on the radio with BACKLASH, and Steve yells over to us to avoid the shoals and rock marked with the white floats. This is a North Channel tradition, where the locals augment the very sparse government supplied buoyage with some danger marks of their own. If you see a white plastic bottle floating in the North Channel, there is probably a hazard underneath it.
BACKLASH Saturday at Neptune Island
Carolyn Farnsworth waves hello as we stand off Neptune Island. The 1991 Walk-Around-21 was a new model for Boston Whaler by newly hired chief designer Peter VanLancker. Its heritage to his former Black Watch boats is evident. It is high-quality all the way, but was an expensive boat to produce and only made for a few years.
We get the fleet tied to the dock, and everyone introduces themselves, as John has not meet any of us previously except LHG, who is still back at the Marina waiting for Patrick to finish that shower. LCG grabs a towel and wipes down the Mercs on the transom, removing all the water spots from the trip over.
I take a quick survey of the island, looking actually for someplace to toss my sleeping bag for the night, and John's big screened-in porch looks like just the ticket. Having seen John's place from the water as far back as 1988, it is fun to finally come ashore and meet him--the wonders of the internet and virtual on-line communities at work. Everyone does as one does at a Whaler rendezvous--you go around and look at everyone else's boat--and that fills up the next hour or so. The topic gets around to "What exactly are we gonna do today?", and after a short caucus we decide to take advantage of the fine weather and make a run back east to Baie Fine (pronounced "BAY FIN" but spelled more romantically), going all the way up to its very head, The Pool. This is a grand attraction of the North Channel/Georgian Bay, and one of those locales you have to visit if you are in the area. I've only been all the way to The Pool once, and that was in 1986, a year, incidently, of the highest water on record in the last one hundred. This year, a near record low water mark, should be more interesting to try to get in there.
Everyone grabs a bite to eat from their food locker on board, and we are set to shove off for Baie Fine, except we have still not seen the arrival of LHG. By now, Patrick must have showered himself into a gelatinous mass!
The group assesses this problem and determines that we can leave now because we'll have to run into LHG on the way out, or we'll catch him still in the marina. The subject of fueling comes up, too, as we have gone about 80 miles since Tobermory, and everyone decides this might be the best moment to top off tanks. We cast off and head back around the eastern tip of the island, with John to follow us in a minute.
1245 By the time we get turned back to the west and abeam Neptune Island's western end, we are amused to see two Boston Whalers coming out the channel: John plus Larry Goltz! LHG got here just in time to go back! On to Little Current we go.
Trio of Whalers
The deep-vee design of the 21-Walk/Around creates a steady ride. Ahead are a 25-Outrage and 22-Outrage, as we run back to Little Current on our way to Baie Fine. The cold and clear fresh water of northern Lake Huron provides a smooth ride. We're just north of Great La Cloche Island, with the hills of Manitoulin in the background.
As LCG and I cruised back to Little Current, we passed close abeam my beloved sailboat, VOYAGER III. About ten milliseconds after I snapped this picture my four old friends saw our wakes rolling into them and started yelling at me! But I have to point out, their sails are furled and they are motoring...
Well-Scrubbed Boat and Crew
A freshly showered Patrick joins Lynn and LHG on WHALE LURE.
We make Little Current in a flash, and our now five-boat flotilla splits up to accommodate the passengers and fueling. OUTRE, BACKLASH,and MEMORY head to Spider Bay for fuel and drop-off, while WHALE LURE and T/T WHALE LURE go on to Wally's Gas Dock, on the east end of the government wharf in downtown Little Current. By the way, I've seen plenty of 100-footers or longer fueling thousands of gallons at Wally's, so don't misjudge the modest little shack he runs the fuel dock from. Wally has probably the best cash flow on Manitoulin Island.
Fueling T/T WHALE LURE is a little more complicated than you might think at first glance. The outboards are not oil-injection style motors, so the fuel must be pre-mixed into the large 63-gallon tank built into the hull, which LHG prefers to do by mixing oil into the gas as it goes down the filler pipe. The technique is to introduce the gasoline into a funnel so that it swirls down the throat, while simultaneously pouring oil into the swirling gas at approximately the appropriate rate for the desired gas:oil ratio. Larry once had a nasty problem with oil going straight to the tank bottom and remaining unmixed. The fuel pickups carried the pure oil into the fuel line and on to the engines. This fouled all the fuel filters and killed both engines. Mixing the oil to the gas while fueling like this avoids that nasty problem.
It's a three handed operation to hold the funnel, operate the gas nozzle, and pour the oil in at the proper rate, and to make it more sporting, the pump at Wally's--like most in Canada--is calibrated in liters instead of gallons. But LHG has done his homework, and he has already calculated how many liters of fuel each quart of Mercury 2-stroke oil should be mixed with. While LHG hands over the credit card, LCG adds the gas and I try to meter the oil in at the proper rate.
While we are occupied with the fueling, the other boats have been in Spider Bay Marina, and a curious thing happens. Two more Rendezvous-bound Whalers, Don McIntrye's WHITEWATER and Walt Steffens 25-Revenge W/T are seen launching. Somehow, in the confusion, those two slip out of the marina and head west to Neptune, while the flotilla reassembles and heads east to Baie Fine. They're going to be up all week and staying over on Bayfield Sound, and John will be able to bump into them again, but it is a shame we missed them!
1315 From Little Current, we take the five boats on a run east, skirting the north tip of Strawberry Island again, with John Flook taking the lead, since these are truly his home waters. East of Stoney Point he throws me a curve when he ducks behind West Mary Island, where I've never taken the sailboat, but we find it plenty deep for the Whalers.
East to Strawberry Island
With fresh fuel, the fleet runs east toward Baie Fine, here approaching the quaint lighthouse on the north tip of Strawberry Island. The La CLoche Mountains are in the background along the north shore of Lake Huron.
As the five, gleaming, classic Boston Whalers, all sporting blue canvas, cruise northeast at 35 MPH, we overtake a fellow out in a classic Whaler Sport-13. He must be getting a kick out of seeing all these Whalers, as he gives us a big wave, then slows to take a couple of pictures. [If you are that guy--send me those pictures! I had one of you but it was on the roll that was lost.--JWH]
At the NE corner of Frazer Bay, the Okechobee Lodge sits on Frazer Point, which forms the southern side of the narrow entrance to Baie Fine. Unfortunately, the Lodge has been closed for several years. In its heyday it was a popular stopover for boaters, and in the winters a mecca for snow-machine (as Ski-Doo's are called in Canada) enthusiasts.
PhotoCredit: Steve Farnsworth
Across Frazer Bay we continue, then past the Okechobee Lodge at Frazer Point, which seems to have about a dozen guests although all the signs still say CLOSED-KEEP OUT. At this point we enter Baie Fine, a fjord-like arm of Frazer Bay that extends a good ten miles inland. On either side of the narrow waterway, white quartzite hills rise 500-700 feet, creating a very unusual place for fresh water boating. The Ontario government has acceded to the public outcry and decided not to remove the half-dozen small spar buoys that guide you past the shoals at the entrance.
This view shows the fjord-like nature of Baie Fine, seen here from just west of the entrance in Frazer Bay.
Photo Credit: LHG
1400 LCG is back at T/T WHALE LURE's helm and I've been enjoying the ride so far, snapping pictures like mad with a variety of lenses and from all different angles. The cloudless sky and brilliant sun are perfect for photography, and I settle on the 85-mm lens as the best focal length for shooting the other boats. Unfortunately, I have misloaded this roll and not a single picture comes out! This has happened only one other time in the 25 years that I have owned this Nikon SLR; I guess I was getting excited about the Rendezvous. It was a good thing I shot the entire roll off in about half an hour; I missed some great pictures but I didn't leave too big a gap in the photographic coverage of the event.
With the unique white quartzite hills of Baie Fine's northern shore in the background, two 18/19-foot Outrages enjoy a perfect boating afternoon. Notice the difference in trim and planing attitude between the two similar hulls. That's the older classic hull in the foreground.
John keeps the pace up and we're to the narrow turn about 3/4ths of the way up the fjord in no time. This is the most shallow spot, but even in this low water year it looks like there is at least 7 feet of water here. Now the trip turns more riverine, until we reach the end at The Pool.
Extreme Eastern Baie Fine
The water narrows to more of a river-like setting as we continue eastward in Baie Fine toward The Pool.
PhotoCredit: Steve Farnsworth
The hill-enclosed anchorage at The Pool contains a small islet, on which the Evinrude family has a rustic cabin. They often come up here via boat in their 118-foot Motor Yacht CHANTICLEER, which moors its bow to the islet's dock and its stern to another tiny islet. They run power cables from the boat to the cabin to provide it with power. It is really quite a sight to see, and you can frequently find them here in Summer, which in these parts is the last two weeks of July and the first week of August.
Our trip over here so rapid, we are faced with the old dilemma of "What do we do, now that we are Here?" I've got the answer.
"Let's anchor and go ashore. We can try to hike up to Cave Lake," I suggest. This seems like THE PLAN, but how to get ashore?
I have LCG manuever the 18-Outrage into the perfect spot, then I drop the danforth anchor stored on the bow into the weedy lake bottom. This is a recent problem up here at The Pool. The infestation of Asia-milifoil weed has created a difficult anchoring situation. The weeds have grown right to the surface over most of The Pool.
We back down on the anchor, giving it a very long scope, and it seems to set well. At the moment, the wind is light, and it looks like it will hold us. Next move: head over to the steep rock walls and drop me off. LCG looks at me like I am brain-addled, but he goes along with my idea. I step ashore with about 150-feet of 3/8-th inch line, one end made fast to the Outrage's stern and the other about to wrap around the trunk of a sturdy pine tree ashore. VOILA! We are moored in The Pool.
Everybody rafts up to the anchored 18-Outrage, leaving WHALE LURE for last, which we use as a taxi to shuttle everyone ashore. Then LCG gladly consents to remain aboard the raft, so he can pick us up later. He's taking a dim view of this land adventure as part of "boating." The Rendezvous Party strikes out on shore, in search of Cave Lake.
Raft at the Pool
Four of the five boats have joined the raft, while Larry Goltz takes this picture. I'm the only one ashore at the moment (background center), but LCG will soon ferry the rest of our party over to join me. If you ever had doubts about the theory of glacial movements, one look at these rocks would convince you. The evolution of the Whaler hull form is also evident.
Photo Credit: LHG
Rafted five-abreast, our fleet of Whalers remains generally in position while we explored ashore. LCG stayed on-watch in case a problem developed. Interestingly, everyone lined up more or less in order of size, although that was not specifically orchestrated during the tie-up.
Photo Credit: LHG
Our shore party at The Pool. Over Patrick's shoulder on the right you can see the small rustic cabin that belongs to the Evinrude family.
CAST: Steve and Carolyn Farnsworth, Jim Hebert, Jim Gibson, Lynn, John Flook, Patrick
Photo Credit: LHG
The first thing I notice is that it is hotter than hades! The "shore" of The Pool is composed entirely of massive metamorphic rock, heated in the sun all day, and covered with at most with a quarter-inch of topsoil composed of pine needles which have collected in the deep glacial grooves that run NE/SW across the rocks. A short way inland--actually upland--I run into a fellow camping.
"Can you get to Cave Lake from here?" I ask. He informs me that it is much easier to get up to Cave Lake if we were to go back to the lake level and take a dingy to the little stream which runs down from Cave Lake to The Pool. I knew of that route, but it was out of the question getting ashore with one of the Whalers there, unless you didn't mind letting its keel go aground on some rocks. I didn't think anyone was that interested in Cave Lake that they'd give up some gelcoat to see it.
"How about climbing up to it from here?" I continue. He replies that it can be done, but it is a steep climb and descent from the rock face we are standing on now. Sounds like not the best adventure, considering we have already almost lost one of our party just coming ashore. We settle on just climbing around on the giant rock we are standing on now. Lynn goes looking for blueberries, which grow wild in every little crevice in the rocks where some soil and water can accumulate. Patrick is off upland like a rock hound; this might be the best part of the trip for him so far. The rest of us just hang out for a while and enjoy the view.
While we're are ashore for about forty minutes, the wind seems to have come up. When I get back to our landing spot, I can see from the orientation of the boats that the raft of five Whalers has dragged the anchor about thirty feet or more downwind. The raft is really holding mainly on the shore line, and dragging the anchor around with it. The effect of this is to slowly pivot the raft and bring it closer to shore. Getting unrafted is going to be interesting.
We take a bit of a dangerous approach to this problem. By easing the shore line, we bring the downwind end of the raft, WHALE LURE, almost to shore, so close in fact, that everyone can step aboard her stern quarter, and that's how we get everyone back aboard. Except me. I've gotta cast off the line from the pine tree, and get down about twenty feet of rock to the jump-off point in a hurry.
With the shore line off, the raft really starts to drag the anchor, with the effect that the stern of WHALE LURE is heading into the rock face. I get down there as fast as I can, while Larry (LHG) holds the boat and the outboard lower units off the rocks. The other boats start their engines and apply some thrust to help hold us off. We shove off and out of danger just in time. No harm done, but a bit too exciting for me. I can imagine Larry's state of mind, looking at those gleaming stainless Merc LASER props and that granite wall coming together!
The raft breaks up in a hurry, leaving LCG and I on T/T WHALE LURE to retrieve the anchor. We haul it up, but it brings five bushels of weeds with it. Leaning over and hand picking the zillion stalks of Asian-milifoil off the flukes, we recover the anchor and get it stowed. Larry gives me the helm while he mops up the mud on the foredeck.
The trip back proceeds apace until we get to the narrows at Frazer Point. The afternoon wind has built up again, until it is back to its normal roaring 20-knot westerly, blowing across seven to eight miles of Frazer Bay with some strength behind it. A westerly like this really funnels through that narrow opening at the mouth of the fjord. I came out of here once with the wrong headsail up and had to go on the bow to change it; I was nearly pitched off the boat. The next year we got a roller-furling jib. It can get ugly right outside the mouth of this calm fjord.
1700 We decide that this would be the time to put up some of the canvas, and there are the handy unused docks of the closed Okeechobee Resort to temporarily tie up to. While on the pier, I take my leave of LCG and cast my lot with his dad on WHALE LURE. I'm no dummy. It is going to be a rough ride back and this is the biggest boat!
The rest of the gang is far off in the distance by the time we get ourselves organized and depart the dock. I've been waiting to get a chance to take this big 25-Outrage for a spin, and this is going to be a good test. At the mouth of the fjord there are solid six footers rolling in. Aboard are LHG, Lynn, Patrick, and me. Lynn is well positioned in the stern, but Patrick is curled up under the forward shelter reading an academic tome. We encourage him that the ride is not going to be pleasant in that part of the boat.
As we clear the big rock at the point (protected by the usual tiny red unlighted spar buoy), Larry turns the helm over to me. The waves really build right here, as the bottom shoals up underneath them. We are still at idle as the first couple of rollers come under us. We can't idle all the way back, so I give the throttles a little push forward. Four-hundred horses respond. The boat surges forward, but the timing is terrible. That "third-wave", the big one, rolls up under the boat, the bow flies up, and to make things worse, the next wave is even bigger. BLAMMMM! The port side of the bow comes slapping down right into this huge wave, in the process nearly propelling Patrick down through the deck liner and into the foam substrate.
Patrick, amazingly still able to walk, crawls out of the forward part of the boat and gives me a bit of a sideways glance as he seeks shelter in the stern. "That was a big one," I comment quietly.
Larry explains how the worst attitude for the Whaler hull is to take big waves right on the bow quarter. "They will really slap against that flat part of the hull," says LHG. "It's better to take them more head on." I just gave a great demonstration of that, unfortunately.
Like it or not, we have to hold this course with the waves on the port quarter for about two miles to clear some shoals ahead. Then, finally, we can turn and go almost straight into them. I'm getting more feel for the boat by now, and we get the big Outrage-25 moving into the rollers. The boat is long enough to stay in contact with at least two waves at a time, and it leaps along from wavetop to wavetop with a surprising good ride.
Getting around the tip of Strawberry is another spot where the wind is concentrated. As we approach, we've caught up with the rest of the guys, but we're all astounded to see a 25-foot boat coming up from the southeast that is literally flying through this stuff. LHG bumps the throttles up a little to pace this new arrival. It looks like he is doing over 35 MPH in this stuff! Impressive. A little race to the swing bridge breaks out. We beat the fleet under the old railroad line, and then head for Spider Bay for gas. Our new friend is headed to the same place, where we find out that his hull was made in a Bertram mold. No wonder it was riding so well.
After gassing up--WHALE LURE has newer engines with oil-injection technology, so it's just add-gas-and-go, no oil to mix--we head back to Neptune for our big Saturday Night Cook Out.
1830 By the time we're back at Neptune, the gang is all there and John has the grill going full-blast. It is a beautiful evening, there are seven whalers on the dock, and there must be thirty people on the island. There's a new arrival, too.
By coming to Tobermory a day later, Tom Birdsey, wife Karen and son Scott (15) were able to make the crossing in fine style, riding a gentle southerly breeze and one-footers downwind all the way. They started out Friday from Albany, New York, rolled their 1984 Outrage-18 off the trailer in Tobermory this morning, and here they are at the Rendezvous tonight. Tom is an old friend and student of LHG's, and it's a reunion for the two of them.
While John Flook grills hamburgs, hot dogs, and bratwurst on the outdoor grill, his wife Katie organizes all the side dishes in the big kitchen in the cook cabin. The front porch seems the popular spot for the women, who lend a hand in the food preparation, while most of the guys lurk on the docks and talk boats. I wander around with a camera around my neck, and a notebook in my hand. This is fun!
Saturday Night Cook Out
John Flook grills up a hot dog for Steve Farnsworth on the shores of Neptune Island.
1930 When the meat is all cooked and the beans are warmed through, Katie gives the giant fire bell on the front porch a yank and its ring echoes across the water. The dock empties and the eating begins. After another long day on the water, everything tastes sensational. I don't have too many notes in the notebook, but I do remember having a helluva good time.
2115 The fun can't go on all night. There is this matter of getting five of the boats back to the marina. Another coincidence of the planning has put us out here on the weekend of the new moon, so it is very dark when the sun goes down. It is getting to be nautical twilight at 9:15 when the last of the flotilla casts off. I'm staying on Neptune tonight to sleep, and I give them a Bon Voyage as they leave. By 9:30 p.m. it is pitch-dark.
The fleet heads back to the marina as dusk settles in.
John, Katie, and I have a few minutes of quiet conversation on the porch, then everyone turns in for the night. Day Two of the Whaler Rendezvous has been another great success.
The narrative continues with Day Three, but I also include some comments about the boats below:
The 1986 18-Outrage T/T WHALE LURE is the classic of the classics assembled at the Rendezvous. The boat comes from a great decade for Boston Whaler, the 1980's, when they made some of their finest boats. And this particular boat is in fabulous condition, having been stored indoors for its entire life, most of which has been spent in fresh water.
It is hard for me to make direct comparisons between the ride or performance of the Outrage versus the Outrage-II, because the conditions in which I have ridden on them have been so different. Today's boating on the "18" has all been in calm water, and the biggest waves we've seen have been the wakes of the other boats. The hull forms look similar, and the feel of the boats seems to be the same. For 18-foot boats, they both have a much bigger boat feel to them. One noteworthy difference is the weight; the Outrage-II is 650-pounds heavier than the classic Outrage. That's three 215-pound friends going along with you whenever you go boating!
The classic Outrage has a wide transom, capable of accommodating twin engines or a main and auxillary engine set up. This turns the whole stern width into a splash well, depriving you of the storage compartments or bait wells built into the stern of the newer Outrage-II. In the case of T/T WHALE LURE, Larry has returned the splash well to useful space by mounting the twin engines on twin brackets, setting them about ten inches behind the transom. This moves the cables and control lines out of the splash well, opening up the space for use as storage. Larry uses transom jack/setback brackets made by Springfield Marine and highly recommends them.
It is typical on a Whaler for the splash well to have its lowest drain hole submerged when the boat is at rest, permitting some water to almost constantly remain in the deepest sections of the well. To keep the splash well dry, the drain holes through the transom can be plugged, and an automatic bilge pump rigged to remove any water that does come aboard and pump it right over the transom. This will keep the splash well free of water in all but the most extreme conditions, where it may be prudent to remove the plugs to provide additional drain capacity. By the way, the transom splash well needs plugs that are 1-1/4-inch diameter, and they are hard to find.
With the splash well free of remote control cables and now dry, it becomes available for use for storage of a couple of small coolers or other covered containers. The floor of the well is covered with tan "dry-deck" matting, giving the surface more of a non-skid texture.
Of course, having twin engines does add another dimension to the operation of the boat. In just a few hours of use, I can already see that there are advantages and disadvantages to the twins. The main advantage is redundancy; the main disadvantage is cost and complexity.
With twin engines, you do get a sense of greater reliability. If one engine fails, you still have another. The overall set up may or may not have greater actual reliability, as the additional complexity of the two engines and the duplication of many systems may increase the possibility that something will malfunction, but the probability that both engines will fail simultaneously is likely lower. I'll leave the preceise analysis to the statistical experts. That said, there is something comforting about looking behind you and seeing two engines when you are in the middle of big water like Georgian Bay.
The twin engines also distribute the thrust across the transom, which works to produce a steadier ride. By applying their thrust with an offset from centerline, the twins reduce the tendency of the hull to yaw left and right as it crosses waves. The reduced tendency to yaw is quite noticeable and a definite benefit of the twin engines. At slow speed operation, they also eliminate the annoying tendency of many deep-vee hulls to wander continuously left and right of track.
The two lower units probably do, however, create more hydrodynamic drag than a single larger unit, and thus they are not quite as efficient. But using the set back brackets gets some of this back by raising the lower units a little farther out of the water. I don't know what a naval architect would say about the relative efficiency of the props, that is, two smaller props versus a single larger prop. But again, by using special props designed to run in shallower (and thus slightly aerated) water, drag can be reduced while prop efficiency maintained.
Twin engines also demand hydraulic steering, an expensive option but one well worth it. The hyraulic steering reduces engine torque on the wheel, making steering much easier, and it also permits the boat to continue on track without constant addition from the helm. You can walk away from the wheel for a few seconds and the boat just keeps going where it was pointed.
The cost of twin engines is a big consideration. The price of two smaller engines is significantly more than one larger outboard. Plus there are two of everything: remote controls, gauges, batteries, fuel connections, everything is double and adds to the cost.
At first I found having to deal with dual throttles a bit of a bother, but after you run the boat for a while, you get quite accustomed to the dual controls. If they are well set up, they become no more difficult to operate than a single engine. And there is that undefinable factor of grabbing twin throttles and pushing them forward; it's fun!
One additional chore with twins is keeping them closely synchronized, which is important. You don't want one engine really doing all the work while the other one just goes along for the ride. Thus, it is necessary that the two engine speeds be closely matched. This does entail some on-going fiddling with the throttles, but after a few hours even this gets to be second nature. Initially, however, it can be a little tedious and intimidating.
To assist in synchronizing the engines, a separate "sync" gauge is installed which features a zero-center meter that deflects left or right to indicate which engine is running slow. The helmsman can see at a glance which throttle needs adjusting. These cost about $100, but are well worth it in maintaining matched engine speed.
In the case of T/T WHALE LURE, the twin engines are really a bit of over powering. The factory lists the maximum horsepower rating for the boat at 150-HP. With dual 115-HP Mercs on the transom, you are a bit above the original ratings, to say the least. Larry's philosphy is that with a twin-engine powered boat, each of the engines should be at least the horsepower of the MINIMUM recommended engine in the factory specifications. That will ensure adequate performance when forced to operate with a single engine. For the 18-Outrage, the factory specification is for a minimum single engine of 75-HP. Although we didn't try it, I am sure it would be quite easy to get T/T WHALE LURE up on plane with just one of her 115-HP engines.
In the event that it is necessary to run on a single engine, Larry carries a spare prop of lower pitch. The twin-prop set up uses 23-inch pitch props. If one engine is disabled, Larry can change to a 19-inch prop on the remaining single engine and get excellent performance. Since the engines are not counter-rotating, a single spare suffices for either engine.
When running with twin engines, the extra power doesn't have to be used constantly, either. You can keep it in reserve and loaf along at 30-percent of full throttle instead of the more typical 90-percent. That will increase your engine life substantially.
Although I never got first-hand experience of wide-open throttle with this boat, I am sure it is quite a ride. We did get her up to about 40 MPH, and that seemed very fast to me--old sailor that I am. To say that there is plenty of reserve power available is an understatement. The only comparable experience I have was a brief ride in a 427-Vette with two 4-barrel carburetors back in the late 1960's.
And there's nothing that says you have to have twins on the wide Outrage transom. You might want a main engine and a trolling motor. There is plenty of room to set that rig up, too.
Moving forward from the transom, the classic Outrage has teak wood topped gunwales. This really adds a touch of "yacht" class to the boat. The dark wood trim and the Desert Tan gelcoat are very nicely combined. It just gives the boat a woody look that you don't get with the all-gelcoat, all-white boats so common today. Of course, you have to remember that I am looking at a boat whose wood is in perfect condition. On some older Outrages, the wood has gone to pot and it does not contribute to the appearance of the boat. For Larry Goltz, working with wood is a pleasurable pastime. For others, it might be something that ends up being totally neglected. You have to choose your style accordingly.
The Outrage center console is not as tall as the Outrage-II model, but Larry, being well over six-feet tall, has raised his boat's console about four inches. The added height did not feel excessive to me, and I am just under six-feet tall. The console is molded but trimmed with plenty of teak to contribute to the yacht appearance of the boat. With twin engines there are double the number of gauges, plus a synchronizer gauge, so space on the console is at a premium. The layout on T/T WHALE LURE is beautifully done, with everything symmetrical and arranged with a pleasing eye. The console also has a lockable storage compartment built in.
Seating for the console is the classic Reversible Pilot Seat [RPS], with the wooden back support section, but again there are some Goltz customizations. First, the seat has been raised 6-inches, which creates more comfortable seating for (the quite tall) Larry, and also raises the seat enough to permit an Igloo 72-quart cooler with Whaler cushion to fit underneath it. This new cooler is retained using Boston Whaler Montauk-style cooler cleats. The cooler provides needed dry storage, and it can be pulled out and used as a seat for two in the stern cockpit area.
If fuel is a greater priority than either seating or storage, the space under the RPS can be used to store two additional gas tanks. Larry has made a teak frame just for that purpose that will hold a single 28-gallon to two 13-gallon tanks.
Forward from the console, the boat is open, and the deck changes height slightly, raising toward the bow. Larry has built a beautiful teak riser that levels out the floor, and this creates an area in the bow that is large enough for sleeping. With the forward shelter canvas raised, there is a cozy forward cabin for overnighting.
Depending on whether the teak forward platform is installed or not, there are two different size Igloo coolers than can be installed. If the deck is in place, a standard 86-quart Igloo cooler is used. If the deck is removed, the large 162-quart cooler can be installed and used as a large lounge seat (as well as for storage).
When it is time to sack out in the forward part of the boat, the cooler--whichever one is in place--is moved to the rear to extend the sleeping area right up to the console base.
The teak platform is a beautiful addition to the boat. It is very well designed and made with yacht joinery style construction. If you're thinking about duplicating it, plan on spending about $350 just to buy the teak wood!
The Outrage-18 is a very versatile boat. It is small enough to be trailered and launched without needing a behemoth truck for towing, yet it is seaworthy enough to be able to go out in almost any conditions, and it is large enough to cruise and overnight on. You can operate it either sitting or standing. With the smaller Boston Whaler boats, like the 13-foot or 15-foot hulls, you are obligated to sit to steer. With the 18-foot Outrage, you can steer while standing, which is much preferable in all but the calmest of conditions. This makes for a giant leap up in comfort.
The Outrage-18 also has a built-in fuel tank. In my mind, this marks another huge step in the transition from little boat to big boat. The fuel tank is designed into the interior hull space. This is a big refinement.
First, the large interior tank allows much greater endurance. The boat can carry 63 gallons, which permits many hours of operation between refueling, and makes possible longer trips, like the 80 miles or more we have run since launching at Tobermory. Carrying this much fuel above-deck would require at least four separate tanks, with the accompanying tangle of fuel lines and hoses and the need to switch tanks as they ran dry.
Second, the weight of the fuel, which at 6-pounds per gallon is considerable, is carried as low as possible in the boat and along the keel centerline. This reduces the boat's center of gravity and improves the lateral stability compared with the use of on-deck tanks. The fuel is also located in the stern half of the boat, improving fore and aft trim compared to the typical on-deck tank located close to the transom.
And finally, having a built-in tank removes much of the clutter from the deck itself. There are no plastic tanks and fuel hoses to take up space in the cockpit.
A large well is molded into the hull to accommodate the tank. This area is finished and gelcoated just like the cockpit floor, so it is completely water tight and protects the structural foam interior from any water intrusion. Rubber mounting pads are placed under the aluminum tank, and stainless steel bands secure it. There are also tunnels for remote control cables and wiring that run through this area. After the tank has been installed, a closed-cell waterproof foam is applied to bed the tank securely in position. The entire well is then covered by a large molded deck assembly, which is retained mechanically by numerous screws and then caulked watertight.
Just aft of the center console, a clear plastic circular access plate is installed, located so that a mechanical fuel level gauge on the tank is visible to the helmsman. This is a nifty design, another typical Boston Whaler solution to a problem. Electrical remote fuel gauges are notoriously unreliable, so this approach uses a simple mechanical gauge, located right on top of the actual tank. You just look down through the clear access port to see the gauge. Of course, there is a refinement, an extra touch added by the engineers in Rockland, Massachusetts: the mechanical gauge itself is mounted to the tank using springs, which allows a slight adjustment in the height of the gauge. The gauge is raised until its glass face is just high enough to come into contact with the clear plastic access cover. When the cover is installed, it pushes the gauge down slightly, making a perfect fit. This keeps condensation--which will typically form on the underside of the access cover--from obscuring the gauge.
In what should by now seem to be natural Goltz fashion, Larry has precisely calibrated the gauge on the boat by running the tank dry, then slowly filling it up--while afloat in the water--and recording the precise number of gallons added at each dial division. With this data he can accurately tell at any gauge reading precisely how much useable fuel remains in the tank.
At the stern, several additional access plates are incorporated to allow the fuel pick up fittings and hoses to be accessible for service, if needed.
Water which inevitably accumulates in the tank well is channeled aft and collects in a sump. A drain plug allows removal of the water while underway, or an optional electric pump (highly recommended) pumps it overboard. The drain sump is located on the starboard stern side of the well, and it is covered by a drop-in mahogany cover. In some Outrages this wooden component is replaced by StarBoard, but on the Goltz's boat it is varnished to a high gloss.
Should the unthinkable happen and the aluminum tank suffer corrosion or leak, it is possible to unscrew and remove the large molded deck assembly that covers the tank well area, exposing the tank completely. Digging out the tank would require removing the bedding foam, not a fun job but certainly possible. Thus, the tank is completely removeable or repairable. (Compare this to the situation with the tank on the Outrage-II)
The bow of the boat is wrapped with a stylish and functional stainless steel bow railing, and there is the optional teak pulpit and bow rail extension. A lightweight Danforth anchor is stowed on the pulpit, ready for use. A single locker holds the anchor rode and other gear. Overall there is not as much concealed storage space in the Classic Outrage as I found on the Outrage-II. The older boat has more open cockpit space, however, which may be filled with gear or containers as needed. Often one or more coolers are used as storage bins, and being able to remove the cooler from the boat may actually make this a handier way to go. You can haul the cooler back to the house and pack it with the stores and gear needed, instead of hauling everything down to the boat and stowing it away.
Larry has installed several extra rod holders and there are bases for some down riggers, but on this trip all fishing gear stayed home. The residual parts of the fishing installation are inconspicuous and don't get in the way while cruising.
The hull and liner gelcoat color is Desert Tan, a very pleasing color which enhances the wood trim of the boat. The black Mercury engines even have an accent of light brown, coordinating the color scheme on the vessel. The pacific-blue Wm. J. Mills & Co. canvas blends nicely with the boat's hues, adding to the traditional motor boat look--no Euro-style here, thank you. On the port stern a highly varnished wooden staff carrries the U.S. National and other flags. Visually the boat is very attractive, the classic Whaler lines and colors coordinating well. With the weight of the big twins, the static trim is a little down by the stern, raising the bow and giving the boat a "let's go" look while at rest.
T/T WHALE LURE is a true Classic Boston Whaler, and in her exceptional condition she looks like new, maybe better!
The narrative continues with Day Three.
Copyright © 1999, 2000 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!
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Author: James W. Hebert