The Georgian Bay. Technically part of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay is separated by a series of islands stretching from Manitoulin Island to the west (and the largest freshwater island in the world) south to Bruce Peninsula. Covering 6000 square miles and over 90,000 islands, the Bay is 120 miles long and 50 miles wide. The French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, came here in 1615 and proclaimed the bay the sweetwater sea.
The northern coast is the most widely traveled because of the many anchorages, small towns with friendly marinas and the protected nature of the small craft channel. The southern coast is not as cruiser friendly although there are several towns with marinas to tie up to. Truly, there are thousands of islands for one to explore. The Small Craft Channel not withstanding, there are hundreds of miles of water to explore either on our boat or with the dinghy into the less "cruiser-worthy" waters. Though we certainly have our trepidations, we are eager to begin the most anticipated portion of our Adventure.
Penetanguishene, our first stop, is the oldest town in Ontario and the second oldest in Canada; a military base back in the late 1700's. Soon after the beginning of the War of 1812, the British Navy selected the narrow bay for its naval base and the town grew precipitously after that. Then, French Canadians and farmers from Quebec settled in the area and Penetang became a dual-language oasis and is today the home of one of the only dual-language schools.
After dinner, we load our stuffed selves back into our dinghies and motored back to our anchorage. Ben and Noreen had brought their dog with them so we brought Sidney as well. The dogs were making friends with everyone while we were enjoying our dinner. Our tablemates were from MI. Sportfishermen, they had just arrived after a full day at wide open throttle across the major portion of Lake Huron. Fishing is reputed to be some of the best in this neck of the woods although to be found in squirreled away streams off of the Bay
Fishing on Spider Bay
August 1. Summer is slipping away. We're off to Killbear and a package from home. The only way we can get our mail is via FEDX so we plan our stops then call our caretaker at home to send whatever has accumulated. Killbear Marina is a full service marina and a good thing indeed. Those cruisers hitting their props on the granite floor simply must stop for repair
While at Killbear, we convince Colonel's Lady to join us for the next segment of our journey, Killbear to Bad River. Consulting the charts, they are agreeable as the waters are significantly deep along our chosen path. We shared our cruising philosophy with them...deep water only!! So, on the 2nd, we motored out of Killbear Marina.
While the water was deep, the winds were our nemesis this day. What we cruisers call beam seas with 15kt winds...not comfortable at all! Sidney was buried in his favorite hiding place for rocky seas. Although it was probably a Benedryl day for him, by the time we discovered how uncomfortable cruising was going to be, it was too late to give him his sedative. Trooper that he is, he settled in for the haul and didn't complain. Colonel's Lady had left several hours before us (they cruise at a slower speed than we) but we finally caught them as we were to make our turn for Bad River. While talking to them on VHF, another of our Looper friends heard us and told us to come on in...the anchorage was great, protected from the wind, and blueberries were bountiful!
What a fun time we had at Bad River. From whence the name comes, we have no idea...it isn't a bad river at all. We'll stay here for a couple of days exploring and hopefully, finding all the bluberries we can handle.
Of all the anchorages we've encountered, Bad River rates Number 1. Surrounded by islets of pink granite and bluffs, Bad River is a maze of cuts. Once inside and at the anchorage, there is plenty of opportunity for rock climbing, blueberry picking and exploring by dinghy. No cottages. Serenity and camping at its best. With at least 10 other boats, we were ready to spend a month, as several boats here already have, but our time would be limited to two days.
For history buffs, this is exactly the spot where Champlain first laid eyes on the Great Lakes in 1615. And for you nature lovers, the area is rife with the "endangered" Massasauga rattlesnake of which Sidney and I were within ear range of. We heard the rattle and headed in the opposite direction!
After dropping our anchor and getting the dinghy down, it was time to explore all the creeks and streams coming into the river. But first, Sidney had to have his walk. So off I went to the closest spot just off the stern of the boat near a waterfall. After climbing up a rock wall, the first thing I encountered was an unmolested patch of blueberries. A bonanza. I told Sidney to go do his thing then proceeded to spend the next hour picking blueberries! Having filled the small plastic bags I had with me (usually used to pick up Sid's droppings), I scurried down to the dinghy and motored back to the boat with my treasure and proudly pronounced to Steve we had fresh blueberries for waffles. Pity the poor bears whose meals I had made off with! Knowing there would be more to find, we took off again for more exploring.
Scott and Mary, from Mascot, saw us heading off and decided to be our guides since they'd already figured out the manner of cruising around the area. This trip turned into a most fun time. On the back side of one of the islets, there were some rapids we had to run. Scott and Mary showed us the way and off we went like a bunch of little kids screaming and hooting the entire time. While not big rapids, they were rather long but with the dinghy motor at full tilt, we shot the rapids in good measure with enough guts to plan another run. Such fun!! But wait, there is more to come. Ron and Molly from Colonel's Lady were following and they had to shoot the same rapids. We watched and waited as they tried to climb the falls. Finally, they made it! They have a smaller horsepower engine and almost didn't make it! Needless to say, we were all holding our breath.
August 2nd. Weather is predicted to change so we're going to pack in as much fun today as we can before heading off to Killarney tomorrow. The boys went fishing in the morning with no take home pay! The fish stories were plentiful including the "big one that got away"! Blueberries were more predictable so all four of us took off after lunch in search of another big patch. Success! We picked about three gallons of berries before tiring of the pleasure and headed back to the boat. While we were picking, Mother Nature decided to change her tune with the winds noticeably higher. Colonel's Lady looked as though she was dragging anchor so they had to find a place to reset. That done, they came over to our boat for dinner and some fresh blueberry cobbler. Tomorrow, we leave for Killarney. Sad as it is, we're nearly finished with the Georgian Bay.
After dropping anchor, as usual, Sidney gets his walk but this time, we take the dinghy back to Killarney to touch base with Colonel's Lady regarding tomorrow's sailing plan. They will head to Little Current while we go up Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin) for a couple of nights at anchor. Off to town we go.
Killarney seems to be at the end of the world. And, it nearly is. Until 1962, this area was accessible only by boat. Still, it is pristine, unspoiled by the world, yet a convenient location for those cruising the North Channel and Georgian Bay. First settled in 1820, Killarney is still water-focused with plenty of amenities for short stays by cruisers. Fishing charters are available as are the usual resort amenities like pools and lodges, museums, craft shops and the requisite ice cream store. We spend the afternoon walking around the area checking out the lighthouse, the stores and the schoolbus selling fish sandwiches. Run by Herbert Fisheries, the red schoolbus is a fixture in Killarney with people driving for miles to enjoy its flavorful offerings.
Just so you know, this boat is the boat of our dreams!! Way, way out of our price range but isn't she a beauty?
We spend the rest of the day fishing. Surprise, I caught a 12" small mouth bass today...which we promptly ate for dinner! Tomorrow we'll head to Baie Fine for a couple of nights and then to Little Current.
August 5. We set off for Baie Fine in a light south/southeasterly wind. Joining up with Colonel's Lady, we take the outer channel down Killarney Bay, around Badgeley, Center and Partridge Islands on our way to Frazer Bay and the entrance to Baie Fin. We wave good-bye to Colonel's Lady as they turn to Little Current. We enter Baie Fine and are greeted by the same outstanding sights that have drawn cruisers here for generations: clear protected waters and stunning quartz mountains. The destination: the Pool at the very end of the bay. As close to a fjord as anything you'll find in Canada. Along the way, there are many anchorages to choose from but as I mentioned, it is the Pool at the most eastern end of the bay that first-time cruisers head for. We chose a spot to anchor about 1/2 mile from the Pool as there were several cruisers already at anchor including five of our Looper group. Since the end of the bay is quite narrow, we did a stern-to anchor with a line tied to a tree to keep us from swinging out into the channel. First things first: Sidney goes to shore.
At the entrance to the Pool is a cottage sitting on a point of land. This is owned by Frances Langford, former USO singer and Hollywood star and widow of Ralph Evinrude. Occasionally in residence, she comes in on Chanticleer, a 110 foot yacht. Given the narrow and tortuous route to get into the Pool, it is truly amazing that a yacht of that size can even get close let alone tie up to the dock at the cottage!
Little Current appears to be just another small town. Basically a marine/water town, all the facilities one needs are situated right along the waterfront or within a short walk. Many of the Loopers are here resting before heading into the North Channel so we gather to compare notes and share experiences. Some are going into the Benjamin Islands for a few days exploration then up to the towns along the northern shore while others are headed to Drummond Island and the U.S. via the southern shore of the Channel. We are among the latter as time is drawing short considering the miles we have to make before the drop-dead date to head into the Illinois River.
We spend time cleaning the boat after being at anchor for many days, walk around the town, take in a Farmer's Market being held in the city recreation center, buy some groceries, and try to catch up on phone calls and emails. Phone calls are made by trekking up the hill to the highest point one can reach then pointing in the direction of the closest cell. If you're lucky, you'll get one or two bars with which to make a call. Getting an internet connection is impossible. For sure, we are a million miles from anywhere but we are loving every minute of our time here.
August 8th. Sadly, it is time to head out for the North Channel. We passed by so much in the Georgian Bay and now we are going to bypass some of the beauty of the North Channel in the interest of time and Mother Nature. There is a Cruiser's Net every morning at 9 a.m. and this mornings' weather forecast does not bode well for the next week. Even today is not a good day but the full brunt of the weather doesn't hit us until we exit the protection of the Benjamin Islands. Rough would be an understatement. Sidney could not find a comfortable spot and ended up getting sick. First time that has happened in forever! Finally, our motor boat turned into a sailboat as we started tacking to deal with the wind and waves. After what seemed like forever, we turned into Gore Bay. Due to the wind direction blowing into the Bay, we opted for the marina and tied up to a slip.
Colonel's Lady at anchor, Bad River
Gore Bay, North Channel