This is an unbelievable place of beauty that pictures will never be able to show….but we will try. Here is the latest of what we have been doing this week.
Thursday (7/23) – Leaving Port Severn – It was so nice to wake up to a calm day and the sun shining without the wind fiercely blowing. As had been predicted, the wind died down overnight and it looked like it was going to be a great day to cross the southern part of the Georgian Bay.
Our marina was in sight of the last lock (#45) of the TSW and so we could see the boats that were already on the blue line in queue for the first opening. Knowing it would be a mad dash by all the boats that were waiting the weather from the previous day, we untied our dock lines and got up to the wall as well; we too were anxious to get through this very last lock on the TSW.
When we arrived, there were two big trawlers in front of us; fellow loopers on “Ivory Lady” and “Next Chapter”. Also coming up were two small run-about boats and “Snug Tug” who ended up rafting to us. We had been in communication with TiKa and advised them not to leave the marina as there would be at least 3 lock openings before they would be allowed in. You see this lock is the smallest lock on the TSW and only so many boats can fit in at once. Big boats (like TiKa) who are greater than 50’ in length have to lock by themselves; sometimes smaller craft (like jet skis) can go with them.
So we waited our turn, and finally an hour later we were able to go into the lock with “Empty Pockets”; a SeaRay 46 who had been at our marina in Port Orillia, as well as Starport Marina last night. Snug Tug had gone in the lock-down before us, and when the other trawlers left another one came in as did TiKa. Of course it was chaos again trying to negotiate around all the big boats, little boats and the current into the lock, but we finally got tied up ok.
While in the locks we were (once again) visited by Canadian Border & Customs. While it is not uncommon for them to check on the boats leaving the TSW, we were the only ones they asked questions of. As usual, they asked us the standard questions; where are you headed, what is your boat name (duh – it is on the back of the boat), when are you leaving Canada, etc. All the while they are writing our CANPASS number on their handwritten notepad. I guess technology hasn’t arrived at the Canadian Border & Customs agency yet! We (of course) passed without issue but we were beginning to wonder if we had a target on us.
It was our good fortune to have “Empty Pockets” in the lock with us, as they are from Midland and we were headed in that direction, and they agreed to let us follow them to the Bay. The exit out of the lock gets really squirrely with the current from a dam and an under-construction bridge that has a narrow channel to get through.
But also because the “Potato Channel” route to the bay is extremely narrow and there are rocks on both sides. It is a very common problem to hit a rock in this area, and all the marine services are geared for quick repair of props, hulls and even complete rescue because boaters hit them all the time.
We crossed the bay in about 30 minutes and arrived in Midland at the Wye Heritage Marina, pulling up to the fuel dock for a fill up and a pump out. – There is some kind of irony in that! Snug Tug was there as they too had to make a fuel stop, but had encountered a major issue with the wrong fuel put aboard their boat. Long story short, it all got resolved and the marina took care of them with free services and dockage for the night. However, it cost them their afternoon of fun and provided a lot of worry in the process.
Once we moved to our slip, we got our bikes and went to the marina office to check in. We took our bikes because this marina is HUGE; the largest fresh water marina in North America, with over 700 slips. We also rode down to our friends on “Renegade” who called us on the VHF radio when we were at the fuel dock; they had spotted us coming in and wanted to let us know they were there. So we made plans to have dinner together at the marina restaurant (Henry’s); the only one in the area of the marina.
Since hearing about this area of Canada, Denise has wanted to go to the Martyr’s Shrine. It is Canada’s tribute to 6 Jesuit priests who explored this area in the 1600’s and were killed by the Indians; but not before converting many to Christianity. Subsequently it has included many who have sacrificed their lives for their faith, and who are now saints. Pope John Paul II visited here in September 1984 and the place is a frequent site of pilgrimages by Catholic and non-Catholics alike.
Originally we thought we would ride our bikes there as it is less than 2 miles from the marina. However, the road is all highway and there is a very huge hill we would never be able to ride up. The marina offers free transportation into the town of Midland for loopers, and they were willing to take us. However, before they could get to us, some other boaters whom we had met in Port Orillia had shown up and offered to take us as they had a car and this was their home marina. So, Phil & Erica (“Fiji North”) dropped us off at the front of the shrine at the top of the hill and we got to explore the entire place.
The main church is huge and the grounds are quiet and inspiring. There is a “Stations of the Cross” walk with the 14 stations all cast and painted with an automotive paint to withstand the elements. You would swear they were bronze, and knowing they were done in the 1920’s makes it even more impressive. There is also a lookout where you climb up and see to the Georgian Bay, including our marina; which we did. And throughout the entire grounds there are numerous side alters and statues, including one for the very first canonized Pilipino saint. This made us think of our nephew-in-law, Dan who is of Pilipino descent. Sorry Dan the picture of it didn’t come out as it was in the shade of a tree.
We had a chance to meet the head landscaper and designer of all the shrine gardens (Steve Smith) who told us a lot about the history, JPII’s visit, and gave us lots of suggestions of things to see there.
Unfortunately, it was late afternoon and we would not have time to see it all. When it was time to leave the staff in the information office called the marina and they came and got us. But not before we got to put a pin in their world map of visitors; we were the first from the Orlando-area to do so.
That evening we went to dinner with Donna & Bill (“Renegade”), and Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) at the marina restaurant “Henry’s”. It is the second site of a famous restaurant in Frying Pan bay which we have plans to visit tomorrow. Our friends on TiKa had eaten there for lunch, so they chose to eat aboard their boat.
After dinner we hung out around the picnic tables near our boats and watched a spectacular sunset over the Georgian Bay. It had truly been a beautiful day to be on the water and we felt very blessed to be able to be on this great adventure.
Friday (7/24) – We had an early morning appointment with Mike (the General Manager of the marina) who agreed to go over the Georgian Bay charts with all of us, and make recommendations for routes and places to see. After about 90 minutes of his time, we were equipped with knowledge and collectively (TiKa, Snug Tug & us) decided to leave and head across the bay. As we had some work to do which required an internet, they left before us, but we left 30 minutes late and caught up to them in the Small Craft Channel.
It is so hard to describe the beauty of this area, and pictures will not do it justice. There is lush greenery surrounded by beautiful clear (fresh) water, thrown in with a few rocks. Navigating around it all takes deep concentration and you must stay in the channel or you will run aground. The rule is to stay in the channel and follow the paths on the charts.
We made our way to Frying Pan Bay and Henry’s Restaurant (the original) for a late lunch. Mark and I got the fish sandwich instead of a full meal, but it was a big enough portion we could not eat all that came with it. The popular fish everyone eats here is pickerel, but it is the same as walleye in the mid-west. It is a tender white fish that is delicious, but seems to be mostly fried. In addition to the restaurant catering to boaters, it also caters to those flying float planes. It is not uncommon to see them, and while we were there two left and two more came in. We were told that many movie stars will come in on their planes, but we did not get to see any while we were there.
We all decided we wanted to anchor out, so we left Frying Pan Bay with a destination in mind; Echo Bay which was just a short 1.5 miles away. However, when we got there we found it to be already crowded with weekenders and we were all looking for something more remote. So we came back out of the cove and were attempting to locate another anchorage when TiKa drifted from the channel and ran aground. Fortunately for them they reversed right away but not before damaging their propeller.
While we were waiting to see if TiKa was ok and were making plans to go to another anchorage, Snug Tug was approached by a man and woman in a dinghy who had been at Henry’s as well. Come to find out they are Gold Loopers (John & Marsha Belford aboard “Kadadi”) who were from the area, and agreed to show us the way to a great anchorage. So we followed them into a really cool cove where they too were anchored, and we all set up for the night. First TiKa anchored, and then we rafted to them on their port (left) side, and Snug Tug rafted on their starboard side (right).
Mark launched the dinghy and took everyone (eventually) around the area to see some very cool cottages and the landscape.
Everyone pretty much ate dinner on their own boats, but afterwards TiKa invited us on their boat and John & Marsha joined us for a few hours of local knowledge-sharing, and getting to know each other. It was another fun day in this beautiful land.
Saturday (7/25) – We woke up to a light rain and overcast skies…but not a ripple on the water. By the time we left the anchorage the rain had stopped and we had a nice day slow motoring to Parry Sound and the Big Sound Marina. Here we saw several other loopers including Sam & Beverly (“Perigee”) a young couple from Troy, NY who were doing their loop on a sailboat. We also ran into “Next Chapter” and met a couple on “Yolo” who were awaiting arrival of guests.
In the afternoon the forecasted rains came just as Mark was finishing up washing the boat. Denise had been down below vacuuming (a daily chore) and cleaning up the bathroom and galley. Fortunately, the rains stopped and we were able to get all our boat chores done.
We located “St. Peters” and hit the 4:30 evening mass so that we could have time options open for leaving in the morning. The church was one-mile away and we chose to walk instead of taking the bikes, in case the rains started again. Of course Mark thought it was more like 10 miles, but Denise kept reassuring him it was not. Our route took us past the performing arts center and the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. Parry Sound is home of the world famous hockey player Bobby Orr.
After mass we met up with Snug Tug and TiKa and we went to dinner at the “Bay Street Café” and discussed our next day’s planned adventure.
On the way back to the boats we had an opportunity to see a beautiful sunset near the performing arts complex. Back at the docks, TiKa invited us aboard for a nightcap where we stay for a little while, and then we made our way back to our floating home for the night.
Sunday (7/26) – Hopewell Bay Anchorage – At 7:30 the ladies met for a quick taxi ride to Wal-Mart to buy some groceries needed for our few nights of anchoring out. We left Parry Sound around 9:30 in the morning and headed out of the harbor as a float plane was taking off behind us. This is a very common method of transportation around here, and we have passed numerous cottages that have such planes tied alongside their docks, like Floridians have boats. You have to watch your nautical charts as they are frequently marked with float plane landing areas and they mean it.
We traveled almost 30 miles today; one of our longest days in a while. However, we had no locks to contend with, the skies were clear and the Georgian Bay was calm. It made for a peaceful morning on the water.
We headed into Hopewell Bay; an anchoring area that was identified in “Active Captain” as being a nice place to anchor. It was and we liked the cove we were in. However, we had a very difficult time trying to get the anchor set, and after a frustrating hour ended up rafting to TiKa again (who had no problem). Snug Tug was also able to set their own anchor and therefore they did not raft to TiKa. It was a beautiful spot and we again felt so blessed to be able to see this great place.
That night we fired up our bar-b-q and everyone cooked hamburgers & hotdogs, and we shared salads and desserts (store bought cake & Oreos). We also discussed plans for the coming few days, including where we wanted to be on Wednesday and Thursday when the wind is supposed to blow a good 25 knots with gusts to 35+. We decided we did not want to be at an anchorage and that we should plan to be in Killarney by then. Denise agreed to call The Lodge in Killarney after they open in the morning, and make reservations for all.
Our three boats are really developing a great friendship as we spend more time together and get to know each other more and more.
Monday (7/27) – Bustard Islands – First thing this morning was to make reservations at The Lodge in Killarney, which was accomplished successfully. Of course they are one of a few marinas that have a $25 cancellation fee so we are pretty committed to going there for Wed. & Thurs. nights.
Again the weather was beautiful and it was an awesome day to be on the water, so we made the decision to go out on the Georgian Bay again. This meant bypassing the Northeast Small Craft channel that would take us past more beautiful cottages, but also rocks. It was a safer route in great weather and also was much faster as it didn’t entail the winding around rocks and we could go 15 knots, not 8. We arrived at the anchorage in time for lunch, but the ground here was very rocky so it took us lots of attempts to set an anchor by all of us. Finally we were successful and we later watched several other boats struggle as well.
After lunch we launched the dinghy and followed Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) on their paddleboards through some coves and to the other side of the island. There we discovered another anchorage and found “Next Chapter” and “Ivory Lady”.
We stopped to talk with them for a bit all the while watching another boat come in and try to anchor; finally successful after 3 or 4 tries. We didn’t feel so bad after all.
Later that afternoon when we back on our boat we were visited by Gail & Jeff Dunham (“YOLO”) whom we had met in Parry Sound. They are from Ft. Monroe, VA and we had a lot to talk about, as Christen & Shannon (Denise’s nieces) and their families now reside in that same vicinity. We enjoyed sharing our information and trading boat cards.
Also in the afternoon we did a little bit of work, and communicated with family as to our whereabouts and what our plans were for the coming days. We met at TiKa for drinks with Snug Tug, then went back to our own boats for our respective dinners.
It was a fun day and the weather could not have been more perfect.
Tuesday (7/28) – Burnt Island in Beaverton Bay – After being woken up in the early hours by a very loud mating call of a loon in the anchorage, we feel back asleep and slept in late (Denise – 6:30; Mark – 7:30). We had made plans to depart at 9:00 so we could get up to our next anchorage in sufficient time to get a good spot, and again break out the dinghy and paddle boards.
As we pulled up anchors Snug Tug got stuck on a rock and could not get their anchor freed up. We ended up staying behind to help them, while TiKa pressed on. However, we were successful at getting it lose right away and were only delayed by about 15 minutes.
Again the weather was sunny and the winds were calm. We had mapped out several possible anchorages in Beaverton Bay, but were lucky enough to find plenty of room at the first one; behind Burnt Island. Originally there were two boats in the cove when we arrived, but one was leaving and the second (Fleming 55) stayed. It provided plenty of room to anchor, and all three of us did so without any difficulty. Before lunch we had dinghies and paddle boards in the water and we were anxious to check out the surrounding area.
After lunch Mark & Denise got in the dinghy and went to talk to the Fleming 55. They are from Michigan and come to the Georgian Bay a lot; they are planning on staying here until mid-August. They gave us lots of suggestions for places here, as well as the North Channel and provided insight into facilities at Drummond Island. We educated them on the “Predict Wind” and “Active Captain” apps and then ended our visit.
We then went to get Ginny & Bruce to further explore a rocky island they had paddle-boarded to earlier. There they had found a message in a bottle underneath a pile of rocks. It appears it was part of a scavenger hunt with a cryptic message inside. What a terrific scavenger hunt you could have in these parts – it would be quite fun and involved.
As is becoming a custom with the three of our boats, we had happy hour; but tonight it was aboard Island Office. As the weather was breezy and so pretty, we opened up the whole back of the boat and enjoyed planning for the next day’s venture up to Killarney.
Other pictures from Georgian Bay:
Stay tuned for more adventures to come!