Ritchie Bay to Regatta Bay

This Nonsuch 30 slowly gained on us over a period of hours, until he came up along our starboard side, very close aboard. A very elderly man was at the helm, hand steering rather than leaving it to the autopilot as I was. A smile and a wave as he inched ahead. Just as he was clear ahead, and apropos of nothing, he threw the helm over and cut directly across our path!  I had to lunge for the autopilot to avoid a collision. As the picture shows, this occurred in open water with no constraints on our movements. Does this guy still drive a car?

Reminded me of this story:  http://www.sailfeed.com/weird-things-happen-sea

Eureka Bay to Nares Inlet

Every harbor has at least one pair of Loons.  They have a number of calls, all of which are beautiful.


“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.” – Wikipedia

But we were told by the locals that the barrel was a kind of primitive mailbox for the trappers and traders passing through the area.

We kept sharing anchorages with UNFURLED.

The wife aboard is an accomplished fisherwoman.  As we were exiting the anchorage she threw a baggie over to us.  Inside were two lake bass filets!  And boy, were they tasty.

Nares Inlet to Britt

I bet a wizard lives there.

Dig that crazy anchor.  Latest design from New Zealand.

100% Canadian!  But what’s up with the picaninny?

Can O’ Ham trailer.  I think they sell ice cream out of it some days.

Docked in the tiny town of Britt, directly across a narrow channel from the the even tinier town of Byng Inlet.  To visit someone in the opposite town you need a boat, ’cause there’s no bridge!  The Byng Inlet is a deep narrow cut inland.  We follow “ranges” in, two navigational aids which when visually lined up exactly, allow you to follow a safe course into a narrow passage.   Essential in pre-chartplotter and GPS days.  The town of Britt is tiny–there aren’t many places to stock up, as we go further north.  They get every kind of boat in here:  the skipper of the 100 foot power cruiser on the dock next to us steps OFF THE BOAT and moves it around to the gas dock using a handheld electronic remote control.  Hope you got fresh batteries in that thing!

Britt to Bustard Islands

We sail from Byng Inlet to the remote Bustard Islands at the top of Georgian Bay. We’re tucked into a narrow channel with around 7 other boats.  There are lots of little inlets to explore.

We take our dinghy through the above narrow passage and discover two boats of friends we know. Cocktails ensue.

Bustard Islands to Bad River

Do the western approaches to the Bustards really require THREE lighthouses?

Now that is some PINK granite!

Looking south, out into Georgian Bay.

Bad River or French River?  Only your cartographer knows for sure.

Way off of the beaten path, the Bad River is a glacier-carved, rugged spot where Champlain first sighted Georgian Bay after traversing the French River, all the way down from Ottawa.  The Voyagers frequented this spot, carrying their long boats full of beaver pelts back and forth along the water highway from Northern Ontario and Michigan back to Ottawa and Montreal.
The Bad remains today virtually the same as it was 400 years ago.  There are no facilities here so boaters either swing on the hook or tie up to the rocks.  The granite walls are so steep you can tie to the rock walls with 12-15 feet of water underneath the boat.  Our tanks and ice box are full, since we have been warned that, “Georgian Bay suckers you in from far-off places with calm weather, then blows up big when you want to leave”.  Some people call Georgian Bay “the 6th great lake”, it is such a large fraction of total Lake Huron.
We explore small waterfalls that are formed from the French River dumping into Georgian Bay and hike up steep pink granite rocks.  This is part of the Canadian Shield, or more generally the continental craton, which is the very very (very!) old rock that forms the foundation of North America.  Usually this stuff is covered up by overlaying newer rock and soil but here it is exposed;  some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet.  Lots of early immigrant families got into deep trouble when they stepped off the ship into the wilderness and found that the land they had purchased for farming had no soil on it!  Made for a pretty rough first winter.

Bad River to Beaverstone Bay

We are meeting 30 Great Lakes Cruising Club boats in Beaverstone Bay for a three day ‘Wilderness Rendezvous’.  Beaverstone is a large bay with many islands and an inland deep rock cut passage.  Our group has lots of potlucks, shore parties, and cocktail hours on different boats.  No showers, but we are doing so much swimming in the clear waters off pink granite rocks we don’t even mind.  The group is mostly sailboats with a few trawlers.  Owen has refurbished a 1964 British Seagull outboard motor for our rubber dinghy.  We don’t win any races with it but she is definitely ‘the prettiest girl at the dance’.

It got pretty windy one night and one large boat dragged their anchor and collided with another boat.  Kind of hard to sort things out in the wind, waves, and darkness so they lashed their boats together and waited for dawn.  The non-dragging boat was able to restrain both boats.  The dragger was using an anchor of obsolete design while the non-dragger was a more modern pattern.  I like sleeping at night so ours is of the very latest design.

The fleet at anchor In Beaverstone Bay

Beaverstone Bay to Killarney

As we tour Beaverstone Bay in the dinghy, grey heads pop up from companionways:  “I remember that sound!”  Like your first kiss, it seems you never forget your British Seagull.“The best Outboard Motor for the World”, reads the motto.  But she did start overheating in Parry Sound.  Took her apart in Britt and found the problem:  a cracked internal brass nipple had loosened and allowed the cooling tube to drop away from the engine block inside the exhaust tube.  Quickly fixed with some Locktite and back in service.  Thank goodness it hadn’t cracked all the way through, as parts aren’t available locally.  This is because every fitting uses non-standard Whitworth threads.  (To be fair, Whitworth was THE ONLY standardized thread back in 1841!  I’ve noticed that EXEAT, being British-built, has Whitworth threads on the engine-mounting studs and the cockpit drains.)  But this outboard has never failed to start on the first pull, something I see is not true for many newer outboards.  OK, she smokes a little, but a 10:1 fuel to oil ratio will do that.  Also sheds a bit of oil, but in 1964 oil seals were not reliable;  best to just omit them from the design altogether!  We took a hike around and through George Island, just across the cut from Killarney.  This rock was cold and wet even though the day was hot and dry.  (Might never have noticed had I not been hiking barefoot.)  We found that about one of every thousand rocks embedded in the trail had this property.  Very curious.  

The middle of the island had numerous bogs.

A beaver lodge in one of the bogs.

Looking across the cut to Killarney from George Island.  Floatplanes routinely take off (but never land) using this liquid “main street” of Killarney as their runway. The roar of an aircraft engine at full throttle warns all: do not move your boat into the channel! .

Sign in town:  “No loitering at the Killarney landfill.  The bears feeding at the site (up to 30 at a time!!!)  are disturbed by the presence of humans.  A bear’s natural reaction to such disturbances cannot be controlled.”  We have not seen any bears.  Very few blueberries this year, too dry, so the bears are very interested in people food.  Every town here has bear-proof trash bins.
Killarney was accessable only by water or floatplane until 1962, now it is a hiking and kayaking center. We meet a couple who are spending 3 months kayaking from Minnesota to Quebec! Winds up to 40 knots yesterday,  part of one of the docks came loose–its nice to be having a restful day in port.

Killarney to Covered Portage

The famous Herbert Fisheries fish & chips.  Its actually served out of an old school bus on the far side of the building.  Everyone is gaga over this place, THE reason to visit Killarney, they say.  Float planes fly in here JUST for the F&C.   People drive for hours to sample it.  (Killarney is way, way off the beaten path and not on the way to anywhere else.)  But come on folks, its just fish & chips.  The fish is not even fresh, its frozen.  (It is fresh-frozen right off the boat.)  The fish does taste good.  The fries, however, are pretty greasy.  What makes all this possible is gill netting, a very efficient way to catch fish, and a method that is illegal unless one possesses one of a fixed number of licenses, which are only granted to people who can document a certain percentage of Native American ancestry.

These tall ships are often seen in Killarney.  They are youth training vessels, a kind of summer camp afloat for teenagers.

Only a few miles from Killarney is one of the prettiest anchorages in the North Channel, Covered Portage Cove.  (“Covered” here means “hidden”.  There is a very non-obvious short path at the head of the cove that emerges on the other side of this long peninsula.)  Here we are anchored in front of the “Indian head bluff”.  When viewed from a certain angle  you are supposed to be able to see his profile.

Can you see the Indian?  Or “First Nations” in Canadaspeak.  Perhaps we should instead refer to it as the First National bank.

We dinghied over and chatted with the fellow on this boat later on.

We were anchored just outside of the inner portion of the cove, demarcated by the rock spit.  Our charts suggested we might have depth issues in there but we saw much larger boats come and go so next time we will enter.

Finally!  A boat even smaller than ours.

Looking out the entrance to the cove.

Covered Portage Cove – We are tucked below a white quartz rock cliff which can look like an Indian head at certain angles. We hike up the rocks and get views of all the boats here and of the bays to the north and west of us.  Lots of other boats here, everyone with a story.  The older and more beat up, the boat, the more interesting the story.  We paddle around in our dinghy and visit.  Everyone is on ‘boat time’: plenty of time to have a glass of wine and get acquainted.  Many of the boats are elegant amazing yachts, but many are ‘basic boats’ like ours.  Resourceful people of all income levels have made their way here and the mix is always interesting.