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.

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