The 4th of July in Canada was exceedingly anticlimactic. We left the Mariposa Landing Marina in the morning, with Nanc yelling at us from shore that she had butter tarts for us – a local specialty. She met us at Bridgeport Marina next door where we stopped for fuel and delivered them to us. Such service! And they were out of this world! No fireworks, but we had our butter tarts!
Our last day on the Trent Severn (after defrosting the fridge) was very memorable, as we went through the marine railway, better known as the “Big Chute”. You drive your boat into a “railway car” which has train tracks into the water. The railway takes you up and over a road and a high point with rapids alongside, then down the other side, back into the water, where you drive your boat out (pronounced “ouwt” in Canadian), which I’m catching myself doing all the time. Via osmosis, the local lingo has taken hold, eh! Jim has a video on the Big Chute on U-Tube if anyone is interested in checking it ouwt.
The Big Chute was exhilarating, and after emerging, we came to some tricky rapids with a narrow channel, then through the Little Chute, where we had to announce our presence on the radio, because you can’t see the other end, and it isn’t wide enough to pass other vessels of our size.
In no time at all we were at the last lock #45 on the Trent Severn – the smallest of all of them, and we didn’t realize at first that the doors were open. We went through that one faster than any, and entered Georgian Bay in a narrow channel with many switchbacks.
Georgian Bay is without a doubt the most breathtakingly beautiful fresh water cruising I have ever experienced. The 30,000 islands along its eastern shore offer the most scenic boating possibly anywhere on the planet.
We headed to the town of Midland for re-provisioning, showers, and pump-out, and ended up spending three nights there, (3 for the price of 2). I especially enjoyed all the murals around town (39 of them) painted outdoors on buildings by a man name Fred Lenz, now deceased. All of them depict the history of Midland between the 1700’s and early 1900’s. My favorites were the postal stamp mural at the post office, the butchers at the meat market, the Girl Guides of Canada, the Trumpeter swans, and the shop with all the bolts of fabric. Some of the murals are falling into disrepair, but most are being restored to preserve this inspiring art form.
We enjoyed our time in Midland, especially the live music we could hear from our boat. One of the dice from our many backgammon games ended up overboard. We got some great navigation guidance from a local named Steve on vacation there, and got much accomplished. We toured the town, got groceries, went to the LCBO, did laundry, and enjoyed a couple of evenings at the Boathouse for dinner and drinks.
On the evening of July 6th we watched a big ship leave the grain elevators (with the big mural) and head out toward Lake Huron en route to Thunder Bay. It was an impressive sight, and many were on the pier to watch its departure.
July 7th was a day to get things done. Jim changed the oil and transmission fluid, getting rides as needed from live-aboard Larry – thank God for the locals who understand your situation.
The next morning we departed, stopping at the nearby marina for a pump-out (whoa – $22.70). We did a short stint to Beausoleil Island, a Canadian National Park, where we rafted up with Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time” for most of the day.
We enjoyed their company, watched a slide show of our pics, played a card game, and grilled on their boat between the rain showers. Just before sunset, we went into the docks at Cedar Spring.
The following day we walked the trails at the National Park, making sure to stay on the path so as to avoid the prolific poison ivy. The winds were strong, so no cruising that day. “Cat Call” arrived, and that evening we enjoyed a campfire with them and a nice family from Barry Sound who made smores and entertained us with their stories.
On Thursday the 10th of July we left Beausoleil (can you see the French influence here?) and went out into the open waters of Georgian Bay. Along the way we encountered about 20 big cruisers, making their way to Parry Sound for some rendezvous. We held back and followed behind, through the narrow channels, curving our way around big rock outcroppings and little islands of granite.
Eventually we made our way into a lagoon anchorage near Echo Island where we dropped the hook, then tied the stern with lines to shore on a close rocky island with the help of nearby boater Bill. Many other boaters were rafted to each other, people were swimming and enjoying a beautiful summer Ontario day!
After taking the dinghy down, we drove it to Henry’s for fresh flown-in fish dinner. Afterward, we dinghied to a nearby convenience store, the only LCBO anywhere nearby, then back to the boat via some little channels by old quaint cottages and rock islands.
After arriving back at the boat, Bill drove up in his dinghy and invited us aboard “Therapy Too” for some local navigational advice. We donned our life jackets, and carrying the chart book, arrived at their boat where we were warmly welcomed aboard.
We went through all the chart pages of the remaining Georgian Bay, and even into the North Channel. He pointed out many great anchorages and routes to take that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. A poor deserted baby Mallard swam around the anchorage, peeping as it went in search of its lost mother.
The following morning on the 11th of July, we got a late start after a hearty breakfast. It was a beautiful clear day with blue skies and low winds, but on the chilly side. Big dragonflies buzzed around, landing on the boat, then abruptly flying onward. We made our way past rocky outcroppings through narrow channels dotted with charming cottages and lighthouses. Hang Dog Channel was especially challenging, then through Pointe of Baril to the Byng Inlet.
We rode up Byng Inlet a long way through many no-wake zones to a free government dock. We walked a short way to the nearby marina (and local LCBO), then back to the boat for burgers on the grill and planning our next day’s cruise.
At the government dock there was an old green sailboat, and Jim talked to the owner on Saturday morning, and got some great local knowledge of a channel further north through some isolated and protected islands to a great anchorage, as rough weather was heading our way.
After going through many tight switchbacks, we made it to the cove in the middle of Dock Island. At first we didn’t know if our boat would fit into the narrow opening, but we made it inside, and tied lines to a stake in the rocks at the port side, originally used years ago for a fishing fleet. It was the perfect hidey hole from the weather, and the most remote and pristine setting yet. Needless to say, it has been my favorite campsite on this entire journey!
You could step right off the boat onto the steep rocks alongside, and I just had to go exploring! Right off I got hissed at by a mink who didn’t appreciate that I had trespassed on his terrain. Back at the boat we spotted a mama bear with her two cubs across the river, and saw an otter swimming from a nearby rock out into the river.
The next day we swam (skinny dipped), sunbathed, and I took a more extensive tour of my surroundings. Blueberry bushes were everywhere, so I picked them to my hearts content (ignoring the nearby bear poop). Back at the boat I made a nummy blueberry crisp, and cooked up stir-fry for dinner using our generator to power the electric range. We went to sleep with the rain pounding on our roof – the bow of the boat. All day we saw only one other boat go by – local fishermen, and were thankful to be in our amazing little cove to wait out the winds.
We said our goodbyes to Dock Island in the morning and traversed some of the most narrow and switchback channels of the trip. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, with white-quartz mountains in the distance, clear azure water below, and rock islands and shores with evergreens surrounding us.
We went through some open water along the way, making our way to Kilarney, a small old settlement where we disposed of our trash and bought ice. Kilarney is officially the beginning of the North Channel of Lake Huron, but other’s claim it to be further at the town of Little Current.
We drove through big Frazer Bay with following seas, not a good thing in our Mainship as it makes steering difficult. Through Frazer Bay, we made our way into Baie Fine (a Norwegian name pronounced Bay Fin), one of only a few fjords in eastern North America. The deep water was crystal clear blue-green with high white quartz bluffs on both sides. A few miles in we went to a popular anchorage spot, dropped the hook, and Jim took the dinghy in to tie a line from the stern to a nearby tree, preventing the typical swinging we get when only anchored from the bow.
It was another gorgeous spot, although we had plenty of company. Eight other boats were anchored in the cove, around the edges and in the middle. High winds and thunderstorms were in the forecast for the next day.
So we enjoyed a pajama day to ride out the foul weather. I never got dressed the following day – can’t even call my outfit “day-wear”. Jim rested his strained sciatic nerve running down his right leg, and we watched movies, I cross-stitched and managed to heat up leftovers. It was really refreshing to have a down day like that when nothing had to be accomplished.
This morning we left our anchorage after a mild May Fly hatch. We drove up Baie Fine almost to ‘the Pool’ at the end, then turned around and made our way to the town of Little Current. We are here for a couple of days to re-provision and gain some local knowledge of the North Channel, and are hoping to reconnect with Canadians Terry and Anne, and Ron and Lynne, loopers we met back in late 2012.
I can’t come close to expressing the beauty of Georgian Bay and its 30,000 islands. Many consider it to be the 6th Great Lake because of its immense size, and I can see how many spend an entire summer cruising here among the many channels and islands. The remote cottages remind me of the northern cabins in Minnesota. You can hear the call of the loons at night, the water is deep and clear, and the stars are aligned as I’m used to. I have not felt this connected with nature since my teenage years on canoe trips with my Dad in the Boundary Waters.
Our plans are to spend a week or so exploring the islands of the North Channel, then to enter the US via Drummond Island. From there we will head to the big waters of Lake Michigan. It will be good to be back in the USA, but we will be sad to leave behind the many Canadians we call friends, and the unsurpassed scenery, beauty, and remoteness of Ontario.
Until next time, ARIVERDERCI!