Imagine if you will life without your cell phone, email, internet access, or tv. That has been our life since we first left Killarney and headed into the North Channel. Yes, we have had withdrawal and felt a little vulnerable not being able to communicate with family. But what fantastic places we have seen and we have enjoyed every minute of it. Here is what we have been up to:
Wednesday (7/29) – Killarney – We left the anchorage on Beaverton Bay (Burnt Island) around 9:00 am and headed toward Killarney, a very small town that has a population of less than 500 people. It really is the place that divides the Georgian Bay from the North Channel and is a big boating town. There are only a handful of marinas, but only two that can handle bigger boats; The Killarney Mountain Lodge & Marina (aka “The Lodge” – where we stayed), and the Sportsman’s Inn (aka “the Inn” – a place that is over 100 years old and caters to the sport fishing crowd.
Our journey from the anchorage to the town was one filled with spectacular beauty. The route took us through the “Collins Inlet” which is a channel cut through the quartz rock that is so prevalent in this area. There are a few fish and hunting camps along the way, but mostly it is pristine water that is surrounded by high cliffs of rock and trees. It really is amazing that anything can grow in these rocks, but the trees that do seem to thrive. Along the way we were followed by TiKa and we were able to stop and take pictures of our mutual boats in a few spots. Snug Tug had left the anchorage about 30 minutes ahead of us as they wanted to cruise at a different speed and wanted to get into town to do some work on their boat.
We arrived in Killarney just before lunch and were tied up on an end dock on the western-most part of the marina. After a fuel up and pump-out TiKa docked right in front of us and it helped to block all the waves from the boats in the harbor. We had reservations for two nights and decided to check out the weather before checking in. Transient slips in marinas are a pay in advance arrangements, so before we paid we wanted to make sure we would stay the second night. Once we confirmed that the wind was really going to blow on Thursday and we wanted to be tied to a dock, we went ahead and committed to just that.
After lunch aboard our boat, we went exploring the town. It didn’t take very long, but we did discover one of the small marinas had a ships store that included some locally made jams, sauces, pickles and beef jerky. We purchased a jar of pickles and a dipping sauce and scoped out their ice cream for later that night.
Walking further down the street we visited the Sportsman’s Inn and discovered a huge Yacht Club from Michigan (Grosse Point) was having a big rendezvous there over the weekend.
As a result, there were dozens of sport fishing boats in the marina and the dining room would be closed to the public on Friday night. We were kind of disappointed as we had wanted to eat there, and we had already made plans to dine at our marina (The Lodge) with TiKa and Snug Tug for tonight.
Next we walked back to our marina stopping at the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) to purchase some gin for Mark. Unfortunately, the store’s shelves were really empty and their truck was delayed in Toronto; it would be tomorrow before they had more. We agreed to wait and come back tomorrow.
After we got back to the boat and got our showers, it was time for dinner. We joined TiKa and Snug Tug for a nice meal at The Lodge dining room. The food was good, but not great and afterwards we went into the lounge area and continued our conversations. There was a local music artist who came in and played songs and we enjoyed the music until way past our usual bedtime.
Thursday (7/30) – Killarney – The day began with an early morning run by Denise who was anxious to get back on the roads. It had been a while and she wanted to run more than the little town of Killarney could offer; after two loops up and back to the highway and through town and back, she had to quit at 3.10 miles.
All the weather predictions for the day were on target, and by 9:00 the wind started to pick up. By lunch time it was really blowing and at 5:00 pm it was blowing 25 knots with gusts to 35 knots. We were so thankful we were at the dock and not spinning on an anchor somewhere.
In the morning we took advantage of the internet connection we had and tried to get some email and work done. However, with the wind, the coverage out to our end of the dock was spotty and we kept losing the connection. Denise finally decided to take her computer up the lodge and sit in a chair to get the last blog post done.
While she was gone, Mark decided to wash the boat as it was quite filthy from all the bugs we have encountered. Once he finished, all the boys (Mark, Bruce, Tim and Tim’s son – the other Mark) went and played tennis on the courts at the Lodge. Bruce is a huge tennis player, and Mark the younger played on his high school team, so they split up allowing the four guys to play doubles with neither side having too big an advantage. Despite the wind, they played successfully and had a good time.
For lunch we decided to visit Herbert Fisheries and have their fish and chips. This is an institution in Killarney where the fisherman drop their fresh catch and it is processed right before your eyes. It used to be housed in an old converted bus, but this past year they built and moved into a building and now can serve more people. It was the freshest and most delicious fish & chips we have had in the area.
We were joined by Tim and Karen and there we ran into our looper friends on Ivory Lady and Next Chapter. They had arrived in our marina that morning and were there for two nights. We discussed plans for looper docktails that night, but we were not sure where to hold it as the wind would keep everyone inside and off the dock. We agreed to check out the game room at The Lodge and planned for a 5:30 start.
After that, we went back to the LCBO so Mark could buy that needed bottle of gin.
In the afternoon we started to plan what our next day’s journey would be. The wind was going to die down a bit, but pick up again in the afternoon, and we thought we might try to stay one more day. The dock master “Red” advised that they were very full up for the holiday weekend (Monday is a provincial holiday in Ontario) but was willing to let us stay if the 85-footer coming in cancelled. So, we were hopeful but also started to consider options for if we couldn’t stay. Eventually we want to get to Little Current, but after a few phone calls we learned their marinas were also booked up for the weekend. We really wanted to stop at a few places before Little Current, so we decided to put a contingency in place that would take us to one of these such spots, in case we would not be able to stay in Killarney.
That evening we had docktails in the game room with all the loopers (AGLCA members). In addition to TiKa, Snug Tug, Ivory Lady, and Next Chapter, there were two other boats “Melodee” (Mark & Becca) and another boat. As they didn’t have boat cards and we don’t remember names (of people or boats), we cannot name them here…..and of course alcohol was involved. It was quite fun and we really enjoyed getting to know everyone.
Afterwards we went with the folks from Snug Tug and TiKa to the lounge and ordered appetizers for dinner. The service was really slow, but the food was good and we enjoyed the company of each other. We left just as the evening entertainer was setting up for another night of singing.
The Killarney Mountain Lodge & Marina reminds us of the place in the movie Dirty Dancing. It is a great vacation spot visited by Canadians as well as Americans, mostly from Michigan. They have beautiful grounds with an outdoor fire pit and grill as well as sport venues (tennis courts, horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet, etc.) In addition to the marina there are cabins to rent, a (warm) pool, restaurant, lounge, kayaks and canoes. You could see families come here for a whole week and enjoy the area and all it has to offer.
Other sights from Killarney:
Friday (7/31) – Baie Fine – This morning the wind had died down a lot compared to last night, but we knew we were in store for more wind today. We had visions of the Cape May 5-day storm, but realized this was not such a bad place to get stuck if you have to be stuck somewhere.
Unfortunately, we were quick to learn that we were not going to be able to stay as the 85-footer (“Lady O”) would be coming in after all. “Red” advised that the owner gave him some grief about challenging his reservation, and as he was coming up from “Okeechobee” he expected to have his reserved slip available. He was going to have to ask us to leave. This was not a problem as we had already planned for this eventuality and decided to make the 20+ mile trek up to Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin) where there was a very protective “pool” we could anchor in. We had discussed also going to Covered Portage Cove, about 5 miles away, but Red told us he came from there last night and there were already 15 boats at the anchorage. Therefore we ruled it out as a destination for today.
Of course this only affected us and TiKa; Snug Tug was ok to stay another night. As they are really trying to make it to Michigan for the family reunion starting on the 8th, they were also hoping to move further west and decided not to join us. However, as we left the dock they were undecided if they would stay or leave Killarney altogether. Once off the dock and into the open Georgian Bay, we called back to them to let them know of the conditions; time was of the essence as the waves and wind were already building. We got their voice mail and left our message and don’t know what they decided to do.
On the way to Baie Fine we passed through the Lansdowne Channel a long stretch of water surrounded by islands on both sides. In some areas here the channel can get narrow and boaters usually yield to the smaller craft, many (unlike in the ICW) do not slow down and their wake can send your boat rocking. When we came around the point and headed in the Small Craft Channel toward Frazer Bay whom did we encounter but “Lady O”, the 85-footer that was headed into Killarney. Of course he did not slow down and his wake rocked our world a bit!
We made our way through Frazer Bay and up into the long channel that takes you in to Baie Fine. Around the very first point we encountered “Okeechobee Lake Yacht Club” – a private club that is not on any waterway guide or Active Captain posting. Obviously, the comments from Red at Killarney Mountain Lodge and Marina made a lot more sense to us now.
We arrived at Baie Fine and were able to anchor in a very weedy, but spectacularly beautiful place.
There were some boats already in the anchorage, including loopers Gail & Jeff Dunham (“YOLO”) whom we met in Parry Sound and talked with again at the anchorage in The Bustards. They came by our boat to let us know there would be a concert in the anchorage tonight. They have guests on board and the woman is going to serenade us on her cello later this evening.
As per the guide book and what we learned from the speaker at the AGLCA rendezvous, we wanted to take a hike up the hill to Lake Topaz; it is a turquoise colored fresh water lake that has a high concentration of Sulphur, and therefore no fish live in it. However, many people go there for swimming and love the way their skin feels afterwards. We contemplated going, but storm clouds were building and by the time we got in the dinghy to go, it was a very dark and threatening sky. So we just rode around in the dinghy for bit until Denise saw lightening; that ended the adventure and we headed back to the boat. Since we had already decided to stay here for two days, we made plans to go to the lake in the morning.
Well the storm came in and rained for about 5 minutes, the wind blew a bit and our boat swung on the anchor, but held us well. Within 45 minutes everything cleared up and the sky turned gorgeous once again. TiKa invited us over for a game called “Cross – cribbage” – a form of cribbage you play with 4 people and a “board” of 5×5 squares. It was quite fun, but since we were novices at this form they beat the pants off of us.
We went back to our boat to prepare for dinner when the concert on “YOLO” began. What a treat for all those in the anchorage as she was quite good and played popularly-known songs. All the while, Denise made fajitas for dinner and Mark vacuumed, then made chocolate chip cookies. These are the things you do when the generator is running as you want to max out the load on the generator when you can.
After dinner we saw Tim & Karen out fishing in their dinghy so we invited them over to share our cookies. We discussed future stops in the North Channel, if we could get reservations in Little Current for Sunday, and what if we could not. There were several options on the table, but without communications we would not know any more until Sunday when we were to leave.
Saturday (8/1) – Baie Fine – The wind had totally died down overnight and the anchorage was incredibly still and beautiful. Last night the moon had been a “blue moon” and provided lots of light over all the boats. It was a spectacular sight.
After breakfast we embarked on the adventure to Lake Topaz. We had to take our dinghy across the “Pool” and tie it up on shore. We then hiked up the hill about two miles to the lake, stopping along the way to take pictures and talk to others.
The hike was about 1000 feet in elevation on a well-marked trail over rocky (granite & quartz) terrain that could be slippery if you didn’t plant your feet properly. Along the way we met a group who had been camping and canoeing all the surrounding lakes; they were carrying their canoes down the trail when we were climbing up.
On the way to the lake we found the rocky ledge that overlooked the anchorage that Jeff & Gail (“YOLO”) had told us about the day before. We were able to take some pictures of our boat at anchor, as well as the other boats in the “Pool”. We then climbed all the way to the lake and stuck our feet in the clear water that really was turquoise as advertised. It was a bit chilly for these Floridians, so we did not go in the water.
On the way down we met Karen, Tim & Mark the younger, who were about 15 minutes behind us. We took Tim & Mark up to the ledge for more pictures with all of us and our boats in the background.
Tim was able to get a slight cell signal on his phone; just enough to get a few emails downloaded. However, since we had not brought our phones up the hill, we couldn’t do the same.
After that it was a quick trip down the hill, back in the dinghies, and back to our boats in time for lunch. What a spectacular morning.
That afternoon we went back to TiKa for another round of Cross-Cribbage with Karen & Tim. They (once again) annihilated us in a short time so we switched to a new game that was like a cross between Spades, Hearts & UNO. We were more successful on this game, and enjoyed our conversations.
We also discussed our plans for leaving the next day. We had been unsuccessful at getting a marina reservation for Little Current, our next planned destination, as there was a big festival of some kind going on. As we had no cell phone or internet signals in The Pool, we decided to try again after we got under way in the morning.
So it was back to our boat for a pasta dinner, reading our books, and then turned-in for an early morning hoisting of the anchor.
Other sights from Baie Fine:
Sunday (8/2) – Gore Bay. We planned to begin pulling up our anchors at 8:00 as we wanted to stay ahead of inevitable building winds on the North Channel. We knew it would take a while to clean all the weeds off the anchor chain, so Tim and Mark – the younger, got in their dinghy and helped us with ours. It took only 15 minutes (not the predicted 30 minutes) to do this, so we were underway by 8:15 and headed out the 10 mile channel of Baie Fine. During the freeing of our anchor, we noticed that Mark – the younger had shaved his beard that morning and we enjoyed teasing him of his youthful appearance.
The run up to Little Current was not far, but we did have to cross a large open bay and the winds were building. The passage ended up being a little squirrely, but not bad. Our boat performed great and we were happy that the fuel vacuum pressure continues to hold in the “good” range.
Before entering Little Current Harbor there is a swing bridge that we could easily clear, but TiKa had to wait for the on-the-hour opening. While TiKa waited for this, we called all the marinas in Little Current on the VHF & Cell phone, but were still unable to get us both in anywhere. This was the first time we have ever not been able to get into a place we have wanted to stop at for at least for one night during this whole trip.
Therefore we pressed on to Gore Bay; a small town that was further west on the island called “Manitoulin”. Just as we got passed the last channel mark leaving Little Current we could see a squall and thunderstorm on the water. So we made the decision to seek shelter in a little anchorage off Picnic Island – just west of the town. We called TiKa and advised them and they joined us in the anchorage. No sooner had they put their anchor down then the wind kicked up and the storm blew through with winds gusting to 46 knots. We were grateful we were not out on the bay!
We sat at the anchorage for about 1.5 hours, having lunch in the process until the storm passed. Then we had a window of time to cruise the remaining miles into Gore Bay. This passage was uneventful and we ran the boat pretty fast (about 17.5 knots) so that we could get in before another storm could hit us. We arrived at the fuel dock for some diesel and a pump out and were in our slip by 4 pm.
After settling our boats we had docktails aboard TiKa to discuss our plans for the next day and then went on to dinner. Because it is a holiday weekend in Ontario, our choices were limited to the only open restaurant in town. “Buoys” is a very small place located just north of the last dock at the marina. The place has seating for about 25 inside, and another 25 or so outside; which is where they also will put you until a seat inside becomes available. The owner Rich was terrific and his chef David provided us a delicious meal. They had a singer who was going to perform at 8:00, but had pushed it back to 8:30 due to weather. We were successful at getting inside the restaurant before the rain hit, and before the entertainer started. With a $10 per person cover we decided we would clear out and we did before she started.
In order to have options of future destinations and time for leaving, we thought we should do a couple of quick loads of laundry one last time in Canada (hopefully). We had wanted to do it earlier but the only two washer/dryers in the marina were occupied. Denise put two loads in the washer and went back to the boat. When she and Mark returned to put clothes in the dryer they noticed the washers were foaming. Long story short, despite following the limited detergent guide, there was way too much soap in the machine and we had to re-wash both loads. When we went back, only one of the loads was free of soap and the other had to be hand-rinsed in the sink and wrung out manually before we could dry them.
In the meantime, we had used up all our Canadian Quarters and only had enough for about 25 minutes of drying. Remember, it is Sunday evening and it is now way past PJ time. Our only option was to walk back to “Buoys” where (fortunately) they were still open. Owner Rich exchanged some money for us and we were back at the marina in a flash. It was well past double-digits when we finished and way past our bedtime when we finally turned in.
Monday (8/3) – Gore Bay- We woke up this morning with a cold breeze blowing and that meant it was back to long sleeves and long pants (of course not for Mark). We know our FL family and friends will not believe it when we say we have hardly used our air conditioning; in fact the heat is used more than the air.
We have been undecided about where to go next and keep discussing and mulling this over with TiKa. Part of us wants to explore more of the North Channel including Blind River and Thessalon. Other parts of us would like to get back to the US waters where we can at least get cell coverage to talk more easily with family and conduct business. So, we decided that we would take advantage of the grocery store which had limited hours due to the holiday and get a few provisions in case we went off to anchor again. Denise, Tim & Karen all headed there while Mark conducted some business, taking advantage of the marina WiFi.
Once back from the grocery store, the discussion resumed on the dock about whether or not to go to Blind River. The winds were picking up and we really needed to go if we were going to make the 30 mile run to get there. While we were in contemplation, a looper boat pulled in and said they got pretty beat up on the North Channel coming from Little Current, and they saw 2 boats leave our marina and turn back in once they got out of the bay and headed into the North Channel. Then our friends on YOLO showed up and told us they too had it pretty rough and they had broken a lamp on the boat while in route. So, that made our decision easy and we opted to stay another night in Gore Bay. We also made plans to go back to Buoys for dinner as it was the only restaurant open due to the holiday. So we ate lunch aboard the boat, then settled in for some work, cataloging of pictures and updating for the blog posting.
In the evening we entertained Tim, Karen & Mark – the younger for docktails and had invited other Loopers to join in for dinner, but they already had plans. So once again the 5 of us walked to Buoys and sat at the patio waiting for an inside table. Once the table became available we were able to enjoy another fine meal at this small but delightful establishment. We left the restaurant with plans to leave Gore Bay in the morning before the wind could build and make our way to Meldrum Bay. This would set us up for a landing at Drummond Island on Wednesday, putting us back in the USA.
Other sights from our travels to and events in Gore Bay:
Tuesday (8/4) – Meldrum Bay – We got up early in order to get a few things done on the boat before we left this nice marina and pretty area. We pulled away from the dock at 8:15 to cruise the 30+ miles to Meldrum Bay with TiKa and had an uneventful passage. Our boat performed wonderfully and we are so grateful for the safe passage and for no reoccurrences of fuel/engine issues.
As soon as we arrived in Meldrum Bay, we were approached by Canadian Customs (again). This is an entry port for people coming from the USA, so it is natural for them to be here. However, once again we were boarded, asked to present passports and boat documentation, and were asked a million questions. We informed the agents that we have been approached now 4 times since arriving on July 9th, despite the CANPASS. The officer gave us a receipt and instructed us to post it in the window; he was surprised that previous agents had not provided us with the same. They left our boat and stopped on the dock to briefly talk to TiKa, but they did not have to provide any of the documentation we did. Go Figure!
We checked in at the marina office and then took a brief stroll to the Meldrum Inn to confirm dinner reservations and see if we could use their Wi-Fi; the marina does not have one and we cannot get our Canadian hot spot to work as we are pretty remote. We walked further down the road to see the museum and encountered some people from Wisconsin who were here on their boat and had just entered Canada. They too were boarded by the Customs agents, but that was expected as it was their entry point.
Shortly after lunch our friends Gail & Jeff Dunham (YOLO) entered into the marina. We had seen them in route here and talked to them on the radio about half way through the voyage. They cruise in a trawler (Carver) and so they move slower than us. We advised them of our dinner plans and asked them to join us at the Inn, which they agreed to.
Afterwards Mark gave the boat a good scrubbing while Denise worked on the blog, more cataloging of pictures and some inside boat chores. Then after showers we joined the Dunham’s aboard TiKa for the requisite docktails. We then took the 5 minute walk up the hill to the Meldrum Bay Inn for our 7:15 reservations.
The Inn is owned by a couple who were from California and purchased it 9 years ago – sight unseen. The Inn is now booked out almost every evening in the summer and people drive for miles to have dinner at the restaurant (which only serves Lunch and Dinner to outsiders).
We learned from the owners that their daughter used to run the LCBO/grocery store that recently closed. She is expecting her first child and there are complications that forced her to take a leave; she intends to reopen it for next season (2016).
After dinner we returned to the docks where our mutual boats were parked. When we arrived, TiKa noticed their power cord been unplugged by a sailboat that came into the slip across the dock while we were at dinner. TiKa was using the pedestal across the dock in order to get the 50 amp service they needed and was told by the dock master that it was ok to do so. The sailboat first gave a story that the dock master told them to park in that spot, but then later changed their story and said they arrived after the office had closed. As there was plenty of open spaces in the marina, we assisted in moving to another spot where they could get power. Afterwards we discussed that this was probably a “dock pirate” – someone who comes in after the marina closes and leaves before it opens so they can have free dockage.
This very remote and small hamlet is quite beautiful and to top it all off, we were dazzled by a bazillion stars. It truly was spectacular as there were no clouds or light pollution. A perfect ending to a perfect day!
Other sights from Meldrum Bay:
Stay tuned for more adventures to come