Friday, August 31, 2012

Baie Fine, North Channel, Ontario

July 30-31, 2012
When we left Killarney, we entered another exceptionally beautiful body of water, the 70-mile North Channel of Lake Huron, separated from the main part of the lake by Manitoulin Island, the largest island in a freshwater lake in the world.
Our first destination was Baie Fine, a 9-mile-long freshwater fjord, one of few in the world.  As we cruised across the large Frazer Bay, we were able to see that the range of white quartz hills that we had been seeing in the distance for days are the hills that rise from the shoreline of Baie Fine.
Our first stop was Mary Ann Cove, a small bay about two miles into Baie Fine, hidden behind a small island.  We anchored there for the night with Marc’s Ark.  We first tried the recommended “Med tie,” where you anchor your boat off the bow as usual, then run a line from the stern of the boat to a tree onshore.  We found this difficult to do.  Craig stayed on Blue Heron  while I rowed to shore in the dinghy with a long line tied to the big boat on one end and a heavy anchor on the other.  When I got to shore I climbed up a pile of rocks, (pink quartz, very pretty), wound the anchor line around a tree and then tried to pull the line taut.  After many instructions shouted back and forth from boat to land and vice versa, we felt we had a sturdy tie.  I brought the dinghy back to the boat to collect Craig and the dogs for a walk on shore.  While we were walking the dogs, we heard an alarm going off on somebody’s boat. As we got closer to Blue Heron, we realized it was our boat! Our anchor alarm was telling us we were drifting. So we untied the Med line, pulled our anchor and prepared to start over.  When we pulled our anchor, we brought up an enormous pile of seaweed, which Baie Fine is noted for.  We figured out that the reason we drifted was the anchor never was set on the bottom but was just resting on a pile of weeds. Here’s a picture of one of our neighbors pulling their anchor the next morning.  Our pile was twice that size!
Once we were confident the anchor was set, (we gave up on the Med tie, and just anchored the normal way), we took the dinghy to the far end of the cove to a trail head that leads to the top of Frazer Bay Hill.  It was a long walk uphill but worth it.  What a view from the top!  We could see out to Frazer Bay, much of Baie Fine, and other hills and lakes beyond it.
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When we got back, we took a short swim to cool off, the Marc and Michele joined us on our boat for wine time.  Later we grilled burgers for dinner.  What a beautiful spot!
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The next morning as we rode back to the boat in the dinghy after taking the dogs to shore, we saw a large red fox pop out of the bushes right where we had been walking the dogs.  I’m sure he watched us the whole time we were there and waited until we left to come out. He walked along the shore as far as we could see, looking for his breakfast, no doubt. Our dogs never did see him.
As beautiful as it was in Mary Ann Cove, everyone said that The Pool at the end of Baie Fine was even more spectacular.  So in the morning we pulled anchor and traveled the remaining 7 or so miles through some very narrow, rocky channels to the end of the Baie. Pictures can’t do justice to the beauty and serenity of this place. We learned that the night before, The Pool had 25 anchored boats, with a few partying loudly into the night.  We were lucky to have only 5 or 6 boats, all enjoying the peacefulness as much as we did.
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After we were anchored and the dogs walked on shore, we took a walk with Marc and Michele through Killarney Provincial Park to Topaz Lake, hidden above The Pool.  The water was incredibly crystal blue and clear.  We all went swimming.  It was brisk but not as cold as it looked, and on a warm day it was a perfect break. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soaked in the gorgeous scenery.
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That night we had wine time on Marc’s Ark and were joined by Jerry and Janet from Wind Song, Loopers we hadn’t met before this. We all had dinner on our own boats, and Craig and I sat up on the sundeck well after dark, watching the beautiful sunset and nearly full moon.
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In the morning, there was a light mist on the water that lifted quickly. Mark’s Ark left early (as usual!) while we got ourselves organized for the day.  When we got back to the boat from walking the dogs, I noticed a huge turtle floating alongside the boat, staring up at us.  Obviously, previous visitors to The Pool have fed him and now he’s a beggar.  I dug out my Canadian turtle guide that I picked up on the Trent Severn and confirmed that our visitor was a snapping turtle. Nonetheless, Craig jumped in the water on the other side of the boat to take his morning bath.  I opted for a nice safe shower on board!
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On our cruise back out to the entrance of Baie Fine, we passed a few Loopers heading towards The Pool.  Celeste on Say Good-Bye was kind enough to take our picture and send it to us. Too bad we hadn’t taken those fenders in first!
Craig and I (and probably most Loopers) agree that it will be hard to find another spot on our trip as beautiful as Baie Fine.  We feel grateful to have been able to spend a few days there.
Next, Little Current and the Benjamin Islands.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Collins Inlet and Killarney, Ontario

July 29, 2012

We were reluctant to pull anchor from our beautiful spot in the Bustard Islands, but it made sense to move on.  Between the Bustards and our next stop in Killarney was Collin's Inlet, a long, narrow body of water lined by granite walls on both sides.  Marc's Ark and Quest opted for the traditional route from east to west, but we were concerned about reports of very shallow water in the eastern Beaverstone Bay entry. Because Blue Heron tends to cruise faster than most of the other boats we travel with (shocking, I know), we decided to shoot across the open waters of Georgian Bay and enter Collins Inlet from the far end, cruise about halfway up at a leisurely pace and then turn around and retrace our path back out again.  And probably still get to Killarney before the others!

On our way though the open water towards the west end of Collins Inlet, we passed Green Island, which is reputed to be a huge blue heron rookery, with hundreds of herons and their big nests visible from the water. I knew we were probably several weeks past prime nesting season, but we hoped to see at at minimum the empty nests and maybe a few stragglers still lingering on the island.  We circled the whole island, and saw lots of gulls, but not a single heron or nest.  Not one.  But we can’t complain because we’ve been pretty lucky overall with our blue heron sightings. We are sure we can count on one hand the number of cruising days we’ve had since the beginning of our trip when we haven’t seen at least one blue heron.

We reached the western end of Collins Inlet in good time and took a pleasant ride through the beautiful waterway. We confused a few other Loopers who passed us coming from the opposite direction and wondered if we were lost.  After about 8 miles, we turned around and retraced our path back towards Killarney.

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Killarney is a formerly quiet fishing village that wasn’t accessible by road until 1962 but has become a busy cruising destination, lying as it does along the narrow waterway that connects Georgian Bay and the North Channel.  Practically everyone crushing in this part of the world comes through Killarney.  The first thing you see upon entering Killarney is the Killarney East lighthouse.  When we went past the light, there were lots of tourists climbing on the light and the surrounding rocks.


Almost immediately past the light, we found ourselves in the busy traffic of “downtown” Killarney, complete with a seaplane zooming alongside us. The entire Killarney channel extends for no more than about a mile, but there is a lot of activity in this confined area.IMG_7460 IMG_1111

We had a reservation at the highly recommended Sportsman’s Inn marina towards the far end of the channel. but they weren’t quite ready for us.  There had been a big boaters’ rendezvous from Michigan at the Sportsman’s over the weekend, and not all the slips were vacated yet. So we told them we would go to the fuel dock first and get diesel and a holding tank pump-out while we waited.  Turned out we had to wait at least a half hour, dodging traffic in the middle of the channel, to get a spot at the fuel dock.  We weren’t impressed with the organizational skills of the Sportsman’s staff!  And all this time we were forced to listen to the loudly amplified music broadcast for our enjoyment by an off-key singer stationed on the Sportsman’s big front deck.  This wasn’t the peaceful Canadian back-country we had become used to!

We finally tied up to the fuel dock and got our business taken care of, but they still weren’t quite ready for us to move to our assigned slip, as the last few rendezvous boats were getting ready to leave.  That turned out to be an unfortunate combination of events, because while Craig was up at the marina office paying for our fuel, I watched helplessly from the fly bridge while one of the last rendezvous boats, a brand new 60+ foot, multi-million dollar boat, lost control and despite his wife, me and everyone on the dock yelling for him to reverse, slammed into the fuel dock right in front of us.  In the process, he hit our bow pulpit (the part that sticks out in front and holds the anchor) and lifted our bow several inches.  It felt and sounded much worse from where I was standing and frankly I feared the worst and had visions of our Loop ending right then and there as I ran down and around to the front of the boat. Everyone in the area heard the crash, including Craig up in the marina office, who fortunately didn’t realize our boat was involved.  To top it off, our dog Joey was standing out on the bow through all this, but seemed to take it all in stride, as Joey does most things. (The story isn’t over yet.  Although visually the bow pulpit seems OK, there are some vibrations that we are going to have checked out as soon as we get to a boatyard capable of assessing it.)

Anyway, between the traffic, the waiting, the music and the crash, our first impressions of Killarney weren’t great.  Things did improve, though. Killarney is famous as the home of Herbert Fisheries, where they bring in the daily catch, clean the fish and serve it up as fish and chips from a red and white school bus on the dock. So after a brief walk through town, we joined Carl and Ricki from Quest and Mike and Kathy from Queen Kathleen for a huge dinner at Herbert’s.  I took home more than enough to warm up for fish sandwiches for lunch the next day.  But it was good!

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This is Herbert’s fishing boat, typical of the fish tugs that have been used for generations of commercial fishermen on the Great Lakes.


We were kind of curious to see if they would run a movie at the “boat-in” movie theater right across the channel from us, but we were really tired and glad they didn’t.  Marc’s Ark signed off with a conch serenade, though.

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Having felt that we had experienced all that Killarney had to offer – and then some! – the next morning we headed into the North Channel for a quiet and peaceful anchorage!

Next, spectacular Baie Fine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Georgian Bay, Ontario

July 21-28, 2012

After a fun evening in Port Severn with Marc’s Ark, Quest and Rickshaw, we were the first boat through the Port Severn lock the next morning. It’s the last lock we would go through on the Trent Severn, and also the smallest. It can only take one boat our size at a time, so we wanted to be first through and on our way.

Almost immediately we encountered some of the winding, rocky, narrow channels that Georgian Bay is noted for.  In fact, the cover of the cruising guide we used for this area was captioned, “Completely updated!! New routes, new rocks!!” The water levels are really low this year, which means more rocks are closer to the surface (and therefore closer to our props, shafts and keel!) This is what our chart looked like that day.  All those stars are rocks!


Our first stop in Georgian Bay was South Bay Cove Marina in Honey Harbour, where we knew there would be some other Loopers. We were surprised to see how many Loopers were there, but especially excited to see our friends from Columbus, Craig and Ginny on Brown Eyed Girl.  Craig and Ginny started the Loop last summer on Lake Erie and we hoped we would connect eventually.  We missed each other by just hours in Norfolk! But they took the Erie Canal route and got several weeks ahead of us while we went up into Canada, and we feared we would never catch up.  Then they had the misfortune of meeting one of the Georgian Bay rocks, which required them to spend a week in a boatyard in Midland getting repairs. So here we all were, about a week from the end of their Loop, finally getting together.  Such a nice surprise!  Very sorry our meeting was a result of their mishap, but a silver lining for us, to be sure!


There were seven or eight other Looper boats there and we had a big communal “docktail” hour and cookout. A very festive evening!

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While most of the boats moved on the next morning, a few of us stayed another day in Honey Harbour.  We decided it was time to try getting Bailey in the dinghy, as we hoped to do some anchoring out in Georgian Bay, and we would need to be able to take the dogs to shore. She didn’t love it at first, but acclimated pretty quickly.  I think she feels it’s a huge improvement over the big boat with it’s rumbling engines!

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We enjoyed our stay at South Bay Cove.  It’s a pretty marina with a large and very helpful staff of young people zooming around the docks on golf carts (oh, those heart-stopping 3-point turns inches from the edge!). They even brought us morning newspapers and collected trash at the docks several times a day. And as one of the locals said, “better than average sunsets.”


The next day, we left with Marc’s Ark and Quest and headed for Henry’s Fish Restaurant on Frying Pan Island.  Henry’s is famous up here for its pickerel/walleye dinners.  They have overnight docking available on a first come, first served basis, so we left early and were among the first boats in.  Good thing, because within an hour, their overnight berths were almost full. The first thing we did was go have lunch!



Henry’s also has dockage for seaplanes, and Georgian Bay Airways flies people in for lunch or dinner, waits for them to eat, then flies them out again.  The planes docked right next to our boat and it was fun to see them coming in and out. But I decided I wouldn’t want to fly in a plane smaller than our boat!

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Near the dock at Henry’s we saw a line-up of propellers that had run into trouble with Georgian Bay’s famous rocks.  We hoped we wouldn’t add to the collection!


There’s not much on Frying Pan Island besides Henry’s but there is a small store about a mile through the woods, so Marc, Michelle, Craig and I walked there after lunch to see what it had to offer.  The answer was “not much,” but it was a nice walk.

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They did have beer, though, so after we got back, Craig and Marc borrowed Henry’s aluminum boat and went back to the store to get a case of Molson’s Canadian. Success!

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We were so happy to see Mike and Kathy from Queen Kathleen arrive at Henry’s!  We hadn’t seen them since Yorktown, VA. They are very fond of Joey and Bailey, so they had a nice reunion with our pups.  And then we all ate more fish at Henry’s because this is what you do on Frying Pan Island!


We all decided to stay a second night at Henry’s because reports of the wind and waves outside our protected harbor sounded pretty rough.  So we enjoyed a second lazy and relaxing day in Henry’s pretty harbor.  We had fish for lunch again the second day, but then just couldn’t do it again for dinner, so after wine time with the gang, we ate on board and watched the seaplanes come and go.

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Next stop was Killbear Marina.  It had been recommended by some people we met at Henry’s, but we were disappointed to find absolutely nothing to do there except a small restaurant.  And like Henry’s it had no internet.  We were sorry we hadn’t gone on to the town of Parry Sound as we had originally planned. But they did have a helpful mailman who really didn’t know what the postal rate to the US was, but promised that my mother would receive her birthday card on time even if he had to put more postage on it himself. (And she did!) We took an enjoyable dinghy ride, ate a German dinner at the restaurant and made plans to leave in the morning.

The next day we took a pretty ride to Wright’s Marina in Byng Inlet.  Once again we cruised through lots of rocky islands and marveled at the homes and cottages built on solid rock.  A lot of tricky navigating through the narrow, often twisting channels and rocky areas.

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Snug Harbour Lighthouse (left) and Point au Baril Lighthouse.  Point au Baril got its name from the barrel planted on a pole that, in the days before the lighthouse, was the only indicator of the safe route through the narrow channel.  There is still a barrel on a pole today.

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Wright’s Marina was a busy place, and they really packed the boats in. We enjoyed their very helpful staff.

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That night the owner of the Britt Inn restaurant down the road picked up Marc and Michelle and Craig and me to bring us to the restaurant for dinner.  What a charming place, and a great meal! One of our most enjoyable yet.


That night Marc blew his conch shell at sunset, as he often does – a sound not often heard in these northern climates!


Next day, we moved on to our first anchorage in the Bustard Islands!  More rocks and careful navigating, but a very pretty ride. When we arrived in the little cove where we would anchor for two nights, Marc’s Ark, Quest and Blue Heron were the only boats there.  A few others would come, but it was beautiful and very peaceful.

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The dogs – BOTH dogs – adapted very easily to going to shore by dinghy. I think they quickly realized that the dinghy represents a chance to get off the boat, run around a bit and maybe go for a swim.

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There were fun places to explore by dinghy in the Bustards.  One day Craig and I took a picnic ride up a narrow inlet and just drifted for awhile.

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One of our constant neighbors was a young gull (left) who cried incessantly for its mother (right). She came around from time to time, but she was clearly trying to give her youngster the message that he was old enough to fend for himself. He was not happy, but he was about the only sound we heard for two days!

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We really enjoyed finally discovering the pleasure of anchoring in a beautiful spot away from the bustle of a marina.  Very relaxing, watching birds, playing with the dogs, visiting with passing kayakers and enjoying another pretty sunset.

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After a couple of memorable days in the Bustard Islands, we made our way towards Killarney, the town on a narrow channel that divides Georgian Bay from the North Channel.

Next, Collins Inlet and Killarney.