Reflections on the North Channel

Those weather gods have a lot to answer for! Due to their capricious nature, their fickle winds and wave height, rolling storms and currents, we were only able to visit four places in the time we visited.

Baie Fine – the two miles we saw, we loved. The colour of the water was a beautiful sea-green. The steep sides and vegetation closely resembled Scandinavian fjords. The pool at the end of the nine-mile long bay was unfortunately missed, as strong winds were forecast and we needed to get to Little Current.

Little Current – a total misnomer, if ever there was one! The current that ripped through the narrow passage between Goat and Manitoulin Islands was truly frightening! At one stage with the strong current combined with big winds we thought we would not be able to manoeuvre Bushranger out of her berth (slip). Nights we were tossed about in our berth with Mark on one particularly evil night, having to get up three times to check and triple the mooring lines.

However, Little Current was a very needed and welcome place of refuge for the big blow. It is a cute little town, attracting the big ships. Due to the weather we ended up staying four nights, which curtailed our exploration of the North Channel. It is also where we met up with fellow loopers and boaters whom we first met at Big Chute, then Killarney… I wonder where next? It is the forging of friendships, no matter how short, that is such a wonderful aspect of looping.

The Benjamins – when we did finally ‘escape’ Little Current we headed for the Benjamins. A delight pink granite outcrop of rocks dotted with trees. These islands are heavily visited, with each cove packed with boats.

We found a gorgeous little cove on South Benjamin which had seven power boats rafted together. We dropped the pick and had a lazy lunch, listening to birdsong while gently bobbing under the sun.

Gore Bay – after lunch at South Benjamin we decided to head for Gore Bay. Another strong wind warning was two days away and we wanted to be in a position to move on, if necessary, and not be forced to stay at an isolated anchorage. Another delightful town which offered shelter. We wanted to try a fine dining restaurant, but found due to Covid had shut its doors.

Re-entering USA – sailing westwards just about as far as you can go, we entered USA at DeTour in Michigan. We experienced the gamut of the weather gods today: sunshine and smooth waters, cloud and rolling waves on our beam, wind and rain. We tolerated the waters that produced a washing machine action, as well as greatly appreciated the smooth sailing periods. The colours of the sky and water were dramatic.

North Channel reminded me of home… sailing in parts of Australia. The water is the colour of the Whitsundays. The low lying trees reminded me of parts of Broken Bay. The air is clean and fresh. It is an expanse of pristine water enjoyed by many, and I am grateful we had a taste of it.

Oh, and there are no bears in all of Georgian Bay and the North Channel! I know – – – I’ve looked!

Such is Life!

Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…

After waiting out rough weather in Killarney for four nights, we ‘escaped’ early on Friday morning to beat the next round of strong winds.

We headed for Baie Fine, a fjord-like inlet mentioned in all the water guides. We entered the narrow and circuitous entrance and sailed two miles into the bay. The scenery was beautiful with green water, high rocky sides with trees clinging precariously. I was on bear watch duties.

Baie Fine is nine miles long and with only one entrance, we decided not to sail to the end. To sail to the end and back would add another two and a half hours to our trip with conditions supposedly worsening. The key word is ‘supposedly’ – the high wind forecast did not eventuate that day. Nor the thunderstorm.

We sailed to a marina for safety, but unfortunately it did not meet our expectations. After sussing out the marinas in Little Current, we moved this morning for better access to facilities.

We are hunkered down for the big blow, which still has not occurred. It has been very warm and humid today, with hardly any wind. No clouds anywhere. Locals assure us winds in excess of 25 knots will hit this area tomorrow.

So Mark has put the time to good use – more varnishing and brightwork. I did the laundry and finished my book, as well as a touch of socialising.

We want the big blow to happen and get it over and done with! So much to see, so much to do, so little time! This waiting is tiring as well as character-building!

Such is Life!

Reflections on Georgian Bay

We have finished sailing the 175 mile-long Small Craft Route, from Port Severn in the south to Killarney in the north. What a journey! A journey which tested piloting skills while traversing some seriously beautiful country. We are now on the Canadian Shield with pink granite and pre-Cambrian rocks: unforgiving and dramatic in equal measure.

There are many sheltered coves and rocky outcrops which have been rounded from the scouring effects of ice sheets. Trees have a windswept stance from the prevailing westerlies. Stark, haunting wilderness. The air is fresh and clear, enabling glorious sunsets.

What has amazed me is the climate. Days are warm and humid. Nights are still with hardly a movement of air. The water temperature is very pleasant – enabling both of us to have a swim in Frying Pan Bay. And the water is clear, so clear you see the boulders lurking beneath the hull. I wrongly assumed Canada would be much cooler, being so far north.

This part of Canada is known as cottage country. Cottages dot the landscape, sit atop rocky outcrops, some perch precariously over water. Canadians love their cottages and the islands they inhabit, so much so, that most islands are private, meaning boaters are not welcome to go ashore or drop anchor close to their piece of paradise.

The bugs are merciless. Mayflies are not May flies. They do not bight, just land everywhere on the boat and die! Mozzies are annoyingly everywhere and do not heed bug spray. Horse flies and deer flies are gigantic killers – killers of peace and calm, as we madly hop about trying to kill them. They do not die – they bounce back and attack, again and again. They are brutes!

The towns, bays, coves, inlets and passages we touched on in Georgian Bay are:

Midland – a lovely city covered in murals made all the more memorable by the kind hospitality of Evan and Ruth Cameron, and a much needed hair cut.

Penetanguishene – a French speaking town briefly visited with the help of our host, Evan.

Beausoleil Island – Frying Pan Bay – a happenstance rendezvous with friends from the Trent-Severn. What fun we had!

Potato Island Passage, Monument Passage, Cunningham Passage, Rogers Gut – all incredibly nerve-wracking, but so worth traversing. Scenery stunning, boulders too close, shallow in places, twisty and narrow… what fun!

12 Mile Bay – we anchored in gorgeous Wani Bay. We explored the bay and islands, and visited other boaters in our dinghy,

Snug Harbour – Canadians like good food even in remote places! We used the dinghy to reach Gilly’s Restaurant. Oooh yeh! Canadians like good food! We dined well.

Pointe Au Baril – striking lighthouse but tortuous piloting.

Byng Inlet – necessary but apart from laundry run and restocking supplies, would give this a miss.

Beaverstone Bay – an ‘oh my gosh’ series of moments. After sailing past Bustards Islands and sailing in deep water in Georgian Bay, to turn into this bay took our breath away. If not for the windy weather warning to seek shelter, we would have anchored here and explored at length.

Collins Inlet – at the top of Beaverstone Bay and after negotiating an extremely tight turn in an extremely narrow channel in extremely shallow waters, we entered this fjord. The sheer pink granite walls, the lush vegetation, the colour of the water, the narrowness – all the ingredients of a picture postcard vista. The only thing missing was the sighting of a bear.

Killarney – and now we are sitting, cheek by jowl, boat bow to boat stern, packed in like sardines due to the weather alert, seeking safe harbour while the thunderstorms roll over us and the wind abates. This is not a bad spot to be holed up. Food in abundance. Boating friends in abundance. Even did a little boat work before the rain!

Georgian Bay is beautiful and challenging, a thoroughly new and enjoyable experience in our boating career.

Such is Life!

Hard decisions…

Where to go? When to go? Our sail plan has anchorages and places we want to experience, as well as provision stops and bad weather boltholes. We want to do it all… BUT… wind and weather warnings are making us choose what we can get to and what we will miss.

It is not simply a matter of going and finding a safe anchorage, as the forecast is for strong winds and thunderstorms until Saturday – five days hence. Food supplies and pump-out are our big issues, as is the integrity and safety of anchorages we have not personally visited before. And then there is the issue of what to do on a boat for six days in crappy weather with rolling seas.

Hard decisions were made last night. Hard decisions were made this morning. Hard decisions were made during the day. The following is what unfolded.

We left Byng Inlet at dawn, sailing on smooth waters. We entered Cunningham’s Channel to darkening skies. Our thoughts were to reach the Bustard Islands, 3 hours sail away, for safe anchorage. Weather reports were now revealing a closing window of sailing: from 2pm down to 11am.

We sailed through an aptly named channel called Roger’s Gut. It was just like passing through intestines, all narrow and twisting and at times gut-wrenching.

We made the Bustard Islands by 9am. Stay Cool had spent the night at anchor in a protected bay, but advised us not to stay as they experienced windy weather overnight. What to do? The clouds had dissipated and the sun shone. No sign of rough weather anywhere.

Another hard decision made. We pushed on to Beaverstone Bay 2.5 hours away. The passage was all smooth sailing. And Beaverstone Bay was glorious. As we traversed we checked out anchorages for the big blow coming. Nothing seemed suitable. By this time it was well past the expected arrival of the strong winds.

Another decision made: enter Collins Inlet and seek shelter there. After negotiating a narrow, shallow right-angled turn, we beheld a breathtaking fjord. The majestic pink granite walls towered over us. This looked like the promising anchorage to wait out the big blow.

Unfortunately, the three main anchorages were either too exposed or already taken. Friends from My Time Too had left one of the anchorages that morning and advised us against staying. The Canadian Coast Guard issued radio warnings regarding the approaching wind. Another and final hard decision: run the exposed 6 miles to Killarney and shelter in a marina.

We are now hunkered down in Killarney for the big blow which was suppose to arrive at 11am then 2pm and now tonight. We were amazed to find so many fellow loopers and friends also here for safe anchorage. The weather may turn out crappy but we are assured of a good time!

Such is Life!

A little piece of paradise

Frying Pan Bay on Beausoliel Island – what a little gem! And how serendipitous that we ‘bumped’ into our friends on My Time Too and Stay Cool in the little bay. We have developed a wonderful camaraderie with both boats on the Trent-Severn, and now we are experiencing some of Georgian Bay with them.

We started out on what we thought was a short bush walk with Kathy and Charlie from My Time Too. Two and a half hours later, extremely hot and thirsty, not to mention foot-sore and leg weary, we finally found the bay where we left our boats!

We are in bear and rattlesnake country… and I am constantly on the lookout. Others may laugh, but I take it seriously. Canadians and Americans think Australia is dangerous! Honestly, we have seen more notices for poisonous plants, bears and rattlesnakes, not to mention flesh-eating flies, ticks and snapping turtles, than for any wildlife in Australia! The size of the flies could carry you off your boat and they don’t die when you swat them. The mozzies are in plaque proportion and seize the night hours. And when I went for a swim after our bush walk (at all times on the lookout for bears and rattlesnakes – did I mention that already?) I was told the rattlesnakes swim in the lake!

The saving grace is the absolutely stunning scenery and amusing place names. Loved sailing through the maze of Potato Passage; past Tomahawk Island; holding our breath in the challenging Monument Channel (we didn’t want to become another monument!); in and out of Indian Harbour; past The Pig; and now in a divine anchorage a few miles up Twelve Mile Bay.

Such is Life!

And just like that…

We have been stuck for one week in upper Ontario, and it was great fun, even though it was not planned. A week ago things were not looking good for the Big Chute, the second last lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway.

On Friday 8 July we moved down to Big Chute. A wise move, as Parks Canada allowed one other boat behind us before turning boats away from the small staging basin. 23 large cruisers tied securely to walls, docks and in a small craft marina. Locals had not seen the like before. Some boats waited one week, we waited five days. The weather was sensational prompting members of our cohort to make use of the delay by explorations in dinghies, kayaking, stand-up paddle boards and swimming. Camaraderie was developed through interactions at social gatherings, docktails and around the fire pit.

Mark and I made use of the time and perfect weather to finish the lower deck varnishing, including the anchor platform and bowsprit. We finished polishing the the superstructure. We worked hard and the results were worth it. Compliments have been forthcoming.

We also made time to explore in the dinghy – ‘discovering’ the hidden lake gained by lifting the outboard engine and rowing in extremely shallow waters under a low bridge and across a ‘secret’ lake. Quite exciting and very scenic. We also motored up the Pretty Channel. Thought we would look at the dam from the land.

After tying the dinghy to a tree, we stepped ashore in thongs (flip flops), only to be nervous where we placed our feet: me with the possibility of rattlesnakes; Mark with poison ivy! Decided to cut our land exploration short.

Mark and I have enjoyed this time of socialising and getting to know other boaters. Not all are loopers, but all wanting to get to Georgian Bay. The laugher has been loud and the conversation boisterous. For a short time we were bound together, sharing hopes and stories. Now, we are dispersed and all have gone their merry way.

Some of the people we have met are the ‘salt of the earth’. At Swift Rapids lock five days ago, we socialised with Scottish Canadians who live on Georgian Bay. Evan and Ruth were able to give us wonderful advice on where to go. During the days at Big Chute, our food stores dwindled. Ruth organised a way for me to be taken to Midland town for a restock of provisions, and then drove me back to the boat, before heading back to her home in Midland. Each way was 45 minutes. And tomorrow night we have been invited to their home for dinner. The friendliness and generosity of Evan and Ruth are humbling. Through hardship friendships are forged.

Today we made it over the Big Chute – a marine railway which is a 7-minute ride on the giant travelling carriage from one lake to another. And just like that… everyone has gone their separate ways. I am sure we will cross paths with some as we journey onward. But for now, what to some was a real downer, has been a rewarding time of doing jobs on Bushranger and meeting new friends.

Such is Life!

Troubling times

Things are not looking good on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Well, actually, the scenery is pretty spectacular but we have come to a complete stop. Let me start at the beginning of the day.

We headed out of the Trent Canal into Lake Simcoe. After hearing all the horror stories of crossing this lake, I can report we had a smooth-as-glass crossing. ✅

We had no trouble negotiating the locks en route. ✅

We did not wait long for the two swing bridges to open and speed us on our merry way.✅

We enjoyed the varied scenery along the way: canal, lakes, Canadian cottages, pink granite channels and forests edging the waterway. ✅

All good, so far. We sailed for a little over 7 hours today, from Portage to Swift Rapids. And now we are here, tied to the lock wall with nowhere to go! Our last lock to negotiate, Lock 44, is known as the Big Chute just short of Port Severn (and the entrance to Georgian Bay). It is closed to vessels over 30ft. We are 38ft. At present there are 25 plus boats waiting at Big Chute. There is no room at the inn. We are 8 miles away at Lock 43 with no facilities. The buzz is boats our size will not be carried through until after Monday.

But, we all know circumstances change. We will assess tomorrow as to whether we move down to Big Chute or stay and do more maintenance on Bushranger. So far when we have time, we have varnished her rails, polished half her superstructure and cleaned the eisenglass. She’s looking good. It is rewarding to hear compliments about her appearance.

New mottos to live by: No worries! Stay cool! As well as…

Such is Life!

Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, Portage

Three days ago we left Lovesick Lock and headed for Bobcaygeon. Bobcaygeon is a busy town in the heartland of the Kawartha Lakes district. The canal goes right through the middle of the shopping district. We tied up on the lock wall and investigated the area. I had almost forgotten how to shop! We ate lunch and then headed out to our next destination: Fenelon Falls.

Again, the canal bisects this quaint town. We decided to stay two nights as the weather closed in and I needed to do the laundry. Our friends secured a place for us which had power, so no running of the smelly and noisy generator.

Today we headed out under grey skies. We crossed a few lakes, some man-made and very shallow. Our depth indicator on occasion read under 4 feet – we draw 3ft 11 in.

We sailed through a hole in the wall.

We entered the very scenic and extremely narrow Trent Canal. Before entering the canal boats over 40ft in length are requested to call a securite over the radio and ask for other vessels to wait and allow a clear passage. One boater did not have his radio on the correct channel which meant a canal confrontation. The passing went smoothly but with such a narrow, shallow canal with rock shelves protruding from both sides, my fingernails are a little worse for wear!

We experienced the second lift lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. At Kirkfield, this is the first lock for us to be lowered after having reached the highest part of waterway. We felt as if we were on top of the world!

And now, we reside at the isolated Portage Lock. Our friends have joined us for the continuation of wonderful conversation over tea and wine.

A black bear cub was sighted earlier today. I have been on bear watch since arrival, but alas, no sighting for me. Of course, if baby bear is near… I wonder where mumma bear is?

Such is Life!

Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, Portage

Three days ago we left Lovesick Lock and headed for Bobcaygeon. Bobcaygeon is a busy town in the heartland of the Kawartha Lakes district. The canal goes right through the middle of the shopping district. We tied up on the lock wall and investigated the area. I had almost forgotten how to shop! We ate lunch and then headed out to our next destination: Fenelon Falls.

Again, the canal bisects this quaint town. We decided to stay two nights as the weather closed in and I needed to do the laundry. Our friends secured a place for us which had power, so no running of the smelly and noisy generator.

Today we headed out under grey skies. We crossed a few lakes, some man-made and very shallow. Our depth indicator on occasion read under 4 feet – we draw 3ft 11 in.

We sailed through a hole in the wall.

We entered the very scenic and extremely narrow Trent Canal. Before entering the canal boats over 40ft in length are requested to call a securite over the radio and ask for other vessels to wait and allow a clear passage. One boater did not have his radio on the correct channel which meant a canal confrontation. The passing went smoothly but with such a narrow, shallow canal with rock shelves protruding from both sides, my fingernails are a little worse for wear!

We experienced the second lift lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. At Kirkfield, this is the first lock for us to be lowered after having reached the highest part of waterway. We felt as if we were on top of the world!

And now, we reside at the isolated Portage Lock. Our friends have joined us for the continuation of wonderful conversation over tea and wine.

A black bear cub was sighted earlier today. I have been on bear watch since arrival, but alas, no sighting for me. Of course, if baby bear is near… I wonder where mumma bear is?

Such is Life!

Lakefield to Lovesick

A much better day was had by all. Yesterday was a boater’s dream.

It started off with a lazy morning, enjoying coffee and reading emails and newspapers in the idyllic setting of Lakefield. Tired bones were rested after the gruelling day.

We set sail in sunny but slightly windy conditions. We are now in ’cottage country’. Canadians have a different meaning of ’cottage’ to Australians. I think of a shack, a modest dwelling used as a holiday home… not so, the Canadians. There are modest holiday homes, however, there are amazingly huge mansions with all the accoutrements of playthings for the rich and famous. One ’cottage’ even had a water plane tethered to its pier. And to think these homes are used as holiday bolts for a couple of months of the year!

The scenery is drop-dead gorgeous. The islands are scattered with shoals and boulders hiding just beneath the surface. The channels are well marked and circuitous. Many times Mark had to navigate with caution close to islands. I wisely chose to relinquish the helm.

We saw a church on an island, where the parishioners attend by boat. So cool!

We tied up to the upper wall of the Lovesick Lock with two other boats. We are an international flotilla: Aussies, Canadians and Americans, with a Scotsman from the lower wall. We enjoyed docktails with a gorgeous view. And after dinner, we resumed our socialising around the blazing fire pit, courtesy of Parks Canada.

I have been on bear watch since arriving in Canada. Although I did not see one, it was a good day.

Such is Life!