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.

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