Monday, July 29, 2013

Parry Sound to Killarney, End of Georgian Bay

First of all, for all of our friends and family in the heat of the south, we have the heater on in the boat tonight and have been wearing jackets most of the day.  The high today was 61, low tonight is 56.  We are in Killarney, junction point between Georgian Bay and the North Channel.  

Remember our lily pad blossom picture on the last post?  Here's one in full bloom with a special treat - a frog on the lily pad beside it!  

It doesn't get much more exciting than that in Killarney, but that's kinda the way we like it.  Anyhow, to catch up our travels of the past 2 days, let's go back to Parry Sound, 109 water-miles back. Here are a few more pictures to finish up our 3 days there.

Nice waterfall by downtown along their hiking and fitness trail.

They have a graffiti bridge on the trail also. A local artist told Rhonda that artists from all over would come and paint the individual panels, but then people started defacing the paintings with graffiti. Rather than trying to stop the "graffiti artists" and saving the artwork, the local officials painted all of the panels black and now supervise local kids who paint the panels. When the graffiti builds up, the panels are just painted over again.

A harsh reminder of how cold it gets here in the winter.

I guess if there's nothing else to do in the wintertime, you can always go curling.  And why is that a winter Olympic sport event?  Am I the only one asking the question?

This was a pretty cool mural - seems like lots of the towns we have been through on the trip had the lumber industry in their histories.

After our trek along the fitness trail, Rhonda and I sat down for a rest on a street bench.  She wanted me to walk across the street and get her some of the energy crystals they were advertising, but I needed some of the crystals myself to have enough energy to get across the street to get some for her!  Sad, huh?

And if there is a picture to describe Parry Sound, this is it.  Boats and float planes mixing together nicely.

Leaving Parry Sound you pass Killbear Point.  Killbear also has a nice anchorage and a marina.

Speaking of anchorages, I was way out in left field on my understanding of these before we got to Georgian Bay.  I thought there were an unlimited number of anchorages everywhere and you just pull over whenever you feel the urge to do so and a few minutes later you are anchored and done.  Well, that is sort of true - there are definitely plenty out there, but there are only a few that are noted in Active Captain and other cruising guides that have been "sounded" and are safe to enter without worry of hitting unknown rocks.  On a trip like this where time is of the essence, we were not interested in exploring unknown anchorages and running the risk of damaging props/shafts, etc.  Those are repairs that are not made in a day or so and can put a serious dent in a schedule, not to mention the bank account.  In the 109 miles we ran from Parry Sound to the Bustard Islands, there were only about 10 anchorages noted that we felt comfortable with.

We decided to pass them all up and make some serious time and miles this day.  It was a very windy day as you can see with the chop and whitecaps below - and that was inland and in protected waters.  We had to run offshore in one stretch of about 17 miles and it was very rough.  "Help Me Rhonda" takes rolling seas pretty good on the bow and stern, but those rollers from the beam make for an uncomfortable trip.  We had about 3 hours worth of three-to-four-footers and were glad to be back in protected water later on.

The "water toys" are getting pretty creative these days - a climbing tower and trampoline.

Point Au Baril is a well-known scenic stop on the small craft channel.

Pointe au Baril was named after the barrel on the point that originally (1870s) marked the treacherous entry to the main channel from the open water of Georgian Bay. As the story goes, early fur traders from Penetanguishene lost a canoe near the point. Their canoe included a barrel of whiskey that was found by stranded traders the next spring. After a drinking spree the barrel was left on the point as a beacon. French mariners were soon calling it Pointe au Baril. Later this marker was improved to include a lantern in the barrel that would be lit by the first fisherman returning inland to light the way for the rest of the boats.

And in memory of those days....

Time for a navigation lesson.  Remember the range markers we posted down in Georgia to keep you aligned in the channel? These are the same principal, just using lights to line them up.  These are in place to assist in returning from the 17-mile run offshore.  We're slightly left of course here, correcting.

Before and after the off-shore stretch, it's a constant zig and zag around the rocks, frequently in narrow channels.  This picture shows a little bit of that since you can see some of the course traveled behind the boat.

And we've got hundreds of scenery pictures - it's difficult to select which ones to post.

We finally made our way to The Bustard Islands - what a beautiful stop.  We anchored in the center, noted with the arrow in the diagram below.

We were pleased to hear that our cruising friends, Geoff and Patty aboard "Osprey," had arrived just before us.  We initially met them in Bellhaven, NC and our paths have crossed many times since then but we have not had a chance to really sit down and visit.  We enjoyed swapping stories and getting to know them better.  They are from Oregon, took a year off from their jobs as a builder and a nurse, bought a boat in Florida to cruise the Loop, and are about halfway done at this point.  That's Rhonda and Becky of course on the left.  Galen was on Mooring Dove taking care of some business.

 "Osprey" - anchored next to us.  Technically, I guess we anchored next to them since they arrived first.

"Mooring Dove"

And "Help Me Rhonda"

And this is pretty exciting, right there along the lines of watching frogs on lily pads!  Rhonda has been trying to get a good picture of a loon forever, but they have a tendency to dive under water when the boat gets close.  This one was bathing behind the boat while we were anchored and I was finally able to get a few good shots - a beautiful bird with an interesting call.  Notice that they sit a little lower in the water than most.

After our 3-hour crossing the day before, we decided to get an early start today before the wind picked up - 26 miles of open water ahead of us to Killarney.  We got up at 5 AM for a 6:30 departure time.  There was no activity at all on Mooring Dove at the proposed departure time, so we had a little fun with that.  We pulled up anchor and slowly made our way over close to their boat and gave them a loud wake-up call with the hailer on the front of our boat  - it's pretty loud if you crank up the volume.  They caught up with us later and we had an absolutely beautiful crossing.  Again, auto-pilot is a wonderful thing.  Rhonda ran the boat while I took my chair up front, along with the CD player, and I cranked up Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir for awhile.  I know this is starting to sound like a broken record, but the scenery here is stunning.  We'll be in those hills tomorrow as we enter the North Channel.

Some clouds were forming in the distance as we approached Killarney.  Rhonda got a good shot of a donut-hole formation.

Killarney Lighthouse is to starboard as you approach the Killarney entrance channel.

Killarney is a really nice town - it sits on both sides of a narrow and short channel (probably not more than a mile long) that joins Georgian Bay to The North Channel, and every establishment and business is accessible by boat.  

As a matter of fact, the town was not even accessible other than by boat until 1962. The air is clean, the water is crystal clear, and there is definitely a nautical sense around town with boats everywhere.  It has a very laid-back feel and would be near the top of my list of "Places I Could Live" except for that winter weather problem that I could not handle.  We were enjoying the arrival into the town so much that we failed to get a good picture of the channel.  This is the best we got.

Float planes in the area just like Parry Sound.

We docked at Sportsman's Inn - very nice.

They have most everything you could expect here - weight room, sauna, restaurant, live music every night, etc..  And how about this - a Boat-In Theater with the screen mounted on the hillside across the channel.  Weather permitting, they have movies just about every night.  You dial up a marine radio frequency for the audio.

And if you come to Killarney, you don't even want to miss Herbert Fisherie's Fish and Chips.  Pickerel to die for is what I'm talking about.  Delicious.  It's run out of an old school bus, the menu is very simple, just different quantities of fish and chips!  You buy your drink out of a machine, condiments are on the table. Instructions are simple - put your trash in the cans and please don't feed the birds.

Hawberry Jelly was something new that Rhonda wanted to try.  You guessed it - made from hawberries.

Rhonda and I rode our bikes over to the lighthouse noted previously.  

The granite rock and the scenery across the bay is really gorgeous from there.

There were a couple of rainstorms in the distance but we managed to escape the rain all day.

And a nice end to the day in Killarney.  One end of a nice rainbow.

Tomorrow we venture into The North Channel.  First stop, Baie Fine Channel, pronounced "Bay Fin."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Port Severn to Parry Sound

How about we start this post with nice flowers?  A water lily blossom that turns white when it fully opens.  And no idea what the second one is other than "Pretty.”

We had to wait out a fast-moving front in the morning when it was time to leave Port Severn, but this one would only delay us a couple of hours.  After things cleared up, we took the boat a few miles upstream to check all of our impeller repairs from the day before, then headed for the last lock on the Trent-Severn, lock number 45.  We’re about locked out at this point and you don’t want to come out of this lock with engine problems – lots of current and a very narrow/winding channel.  This lock is the smallest on the waterway – we locked down with a smaller boat and Galen and Becky did the same. 

By the way, the Trent-Severn folks have been posed the question - "How are you going to handle all of the Loopers that got backed up with the flooding on the Erie and Champlain routes when they all hit your waterway at the same time?" Remember, even with the delays we had, there were lots more behind us still waiting and many that detoured on the longer Champlain route. One solution from them is to "have them travel in groups of six" which definitely will not work.  Looper boats are generally pretty big.  In the series locks where they only have openings 4 or 5 times a day, they will immediately back up after the first group of six gets only 2, 3, maybe 4 boats through, and you can imagine the mess and huge backup after several days of that.  And that doesn't even include all of the locals trying to get through also. But the best idea we have heard came from a politician who said to just shut down the least used locks! Guess he doesn't quite get how the waterway works.

Anyhow, leaving this last lock, I call this the gauntlet, only one boat at a time, not much room for error, and a swift current to make it exciting - tighter than it looks. Actually, there is no room at all for error with rocks immediately outside the buoys on both sides, some at 4 1/2 feet. It's almost like they wanted to mess with us just before letting us go the final time. The advice I received from another boater who came through a few weeks ago was to (1) just turn off the depth sounder, you don't even want to see how shallow it is and (2) have your wife standing by after the transit so she can hit you between the shoulder blades to knock your testicles out of your throat and back into place!  Hey, it's a quote from a reliable source!  Now you know, that there is funny (and we made it just fine).

Speaking of rocks, we have now transitioned from LOCKS on the Trent-Severn to ROCKS on Georgian Bay.  It’s not difficult (so far), but you better pay attention and not get caught daydreaming.

 Well, we made it and here’s our first view of Georgian Bay.

The front that passed through earlier in the morning left us with more ominous looking weather and lots of wind.  We had some large bodies of water to cross and the wind had the surf (I guess waves since we are not on the ocean) stirred up a bit.

Since we got such a late start and then had some delay for lock number 45, we only traveled about 15 miles to South Bay Cove Marina. After we got across the big water above, we had a chance to get a feel for how narrow the channels can be, and clearly began to see why everyone says to pay attention and watch out for the rocks.  Help Me Rhonda docked below, right next to, you guessed it - a big rock.

South Bay Cove is a popular Looper stop – first class, except their WIFI did not work, and I really needed to get some work done on the blog.  Nice clubhouse/restaurant/ship store/etc.

They have a sauna, kids' playground, and a nice firepit (on a rock of course).

We left South Bay Cove the next morning after coffee and cookies at the clubhouse and some pointers from some of the locals.  There is a designated channel for our kind of traveling, called the Small Craft Channel.  The scenery is just gorgeous on the eastern and northern shore of the bay.  Did I mention that there are lots of rocks?

With some sections of the channel barely wide enough for one boat, traffic jams are possible with opposing traffic.  Counting us, there were 8 boats in this short stretch.

Note that there is NO ROOM on either side of Mooring Dove for other traffic or for her to “wander” – remember, underwater rocks immediately outside the buoys.

Another very popular stop is Henry’s.  Folks fly in by float plane to eat here.

Right after Henry’s, we took the narrow channel back to Echo Bay South. Rhonda is pointing out rocks just to our right. She is wearing a jacket because the temperature has gone from the upper 90's a few days ago to the upper 50's this morning. Becky will be the only one of our group to brave the cold to go swimming today. Even the Canadians stayed out of the water today.

 Here’s Mooring Dove anchored for the evening.

 It was Becky’s birthday and we had planned to grill burgers on our boat and have them join us, so I put the dinghy in to have some transportation between the 2 boats and to go gunkholing around the coves and channels.  The dinghy has never failed me before, but I could not get it to run.  After working with it for a couple of hours, we decided our guests would not be able to join us (Becky said she would swim over, but Galen wasn't as interested in the cold swim). We went ahead and grilled since Rhonda already had things prepared and we just waved the smoke toward their boat. Rhonda flagged down a passing dinghy and sent the birthday present we had for Becky over to their boat.

There were a total of 18 boats anchored in Echo Bay that evening.  Some raft up in groups along the shoreline, but that’s difficult for us with such a deep draft.

The sunset for the evening started out like this…….

 …….and ended up like this.  Not bad, huh?

 The next morning the winds were calm. You can see the moon in the corner of the sailboat picture below.

We left Echo Bay and had a nice easy run of only about 13 miles to Parry Sound, a good stop for provisions and WIFI.  I was also hoping to have a mechanic check out my dinghy outboard problem.  The rocks were still out there, but there were many more trees and plants.  We passed a couple of ferry type boats hauling assortments of stuff like this garbage truck. Everything has to be shipped or flown in to the hundreds of cottages on individual islands. Rhonda and Becky decided it would be too expensive to live on one of the islands. One was for sale for two million without a house. They decided not to put down a downpayment after figuring the costs of sending all of the building materials over by barge, running under-the-water electric, composting for the septic systems, and then the frustration when you forgot to buy milk and had to travel for hours by boat to a store, etc. The main thing that stopped them, however, was the thought of all of that snow starting in the fall.

There is a low bridge right before you get to Parry Sound that only opens on the hour.  We got there a few minutes late, but I called on the radio just as the opposite direction boat traffic was clearing, and the bridge tender held it open for us.  That would not happen in South Florida, and we greatly appreciated not having an hour wait.

Parry Sound is a busy harbor – commercial and recreational boats, several marinas, and an air charter operation with seaplanes arriving and departing all day. 

We docked at Big Sound Marina, and I struck up a conversation with one of the locals, Cheryl, aboard "Deja Vu," a 43' Gulfstar and the predecessor to our 44' Gulfstar.  I mentioned our outboard problem, and Cheryl suggested I give her husband, Peter, a shot at it if I didn’t have any luck with the mechanics in the area. After a couple of hours and no luck with the local mechanics, I wandered over to their boat, and he graciously offered to try and help.  The short version is that he checked everything and eventually found some water in the carburetor.  We drained all of that out,  put it back it together and it ran fine again.  I took all of my old fuel over to a marina close by (they did not sell fuel at Big Sound), dumped the old stuff and got all new fuel.  I had to do a minor adjustment on the fuel mixture and it ran great after that.  We really appreciate this assistance as we plan to use the dinghy a lot in Georgian Bay and The North Channel.  Cheryl and Peter are Loopers also who have already completed the trip and are Canadians from Midland.  Thanks again!

Rhonda took this picture of me out in the bay in the dinghy and said it looked like I was chasing one of the airplanes taking off right in front of me.  There's a way to put these pictures side-by-side and get the full effect, but for the life of me I can't get that feature to work for me.  Anyhow, I love aviation, but there’s no truth to what Rhonda thinks she saw!

Here’s one of the other float planes docked at the air charter base.  There are several and they come and go all day long.

 This was a strange sight - turns out to be a 100,000 ton salt pile which is replenished during the spring and used in the winter for keeping the roads clear. Did I mention that we are not planning on moving to Canada?

We decided to walk to town for a nice dinner with Galen and Becky.  Saw another Great Dane for Adam – we’re thinking Great Danes might be the second most popular dog in Canada after Golden Retrievers.  We asked the owner if it is a regular great dane or an English Great Dane.  He thought about the question for a few seconds and said, "It's the one I got."  Funny.  So, here's another one Adam - looks like a regular to us.

I thought this row of colorful chairs was a neat shot and we think it’s a little strange and funny that they call their bathrooms “washrooms.” (Bob and Barbara, remember that conversation when we were on the St. John's River trip?)  But then when you think about it, our terms "bathroom" and "restroom" don't exactly  cover the activities in there either.  Another "Canadaism" we've picked up on is that instead of using the term "vacation," they call it their "holidays."

We've decided after a few busy days to take the marina up on a 3-day-for-2 special.  Here’s Help Me Rhonda docked at Big Sound Marina.  The sunset was gorgeous shortly thereafter.

Heading to…… well, we really have no idea from here.  A couple of possibilities, we’ll decide as we go.