North Channel


Little Current Gov't Dock
 
 

Little Current Gov’t Dock

We departed Baie Fine under overcast skies, cool, damp and windy! Winds were out of the WSW at about 15kt, but a tolerable cruise day to head to Little Current, gateway to the North Channel. There’s no other way into the North Channel without heading around the south shore of Manitoulin Island and traveling west, so Little Current has a long history as a crossroads, of sorts. It’s a small town, but it’s an urban center for the area, and the largest town on Manitoulin Island. There is an overview chart that’s highlighted to depict the North Channel and Georgian Bay to give you an idea of the geography if unfamiliar.

Little Current Mural
 
 

Little Current Mural

Downtown Little Current
 
 

Downtown Little Current

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world, and the island itself has 108 lakes, some of which have islands within the lakes, and some of those islands within an island also contain ponds. Treasure Island in Lake Mindemoya is the largest island in a lake on an island in a lake in the world. What a confusing claim to fame! Manitoulin is a popular vacation destination for its outdoor activities and beautiful settings. The Port of Little Current is a municipal-run marina, the facilities are excellent. Docking there can be interesting, as there is a current, and, depending on the wind direction can be more than a little. We had some minor west-east current when we arrived shortly after 1300 hrs, but not worrisome. Access to the harbor is limited by the Little Current swing bridge, that opens on the hour for vessel traffic. The one lane bridge provides the only road access to Manitoulin Island, the bridge itself is a converted railroad bridge, thus the single lane.

We took advantage of our relatively early arrival and the proximity of the grocery stores (one across the street from the other) to do some provisioning, and made the grocery run without getting rained on, as the cloudy weather persisted. We spent some time later doing some shopping, visiting Turner’s Store, an historic puveyor of all sorts of goods, now in its 5th generation. The store hosts a small museum on the 2nd floor that provides a very interesting, if casual overview of the local history and in particular how the family-owned store played a part in that history over the years. Very enjoyable! Just an overnight stay, we slipped lines the following morning and left the pier with the current flowing in the opposite direction that it had been going upon our arrival! Only remarkable because there is, of course no tide in the Great Lakes, and the only thing creating the current in Little Current is the effect of the winds on the water levels on either side of the cut. A bit unususal! With the promise of clearing skies, we stopped at Wally’s dock for a pump out before heading north to the Benjamin Islands.

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Baie Fine

Baei Fine mouth
 
 

Baei Fine mouth

From Killarney we headed toward Baie Fine (pron. Bay Finn), a slender bay that extends about 6 miles within the La Cloche range, mountains on both sides and relatively deep. Although locally promoted as a fjord, it’s close, but not as deep nor does it have the geological characteristics (or almost 1000 ft depth!) that make it a true fjord like we visited at Tadoussac and Baie d’Eternite in 2010! Still, it is a beautiful spot. We entered the mouth of the bay and came upon Maryanne Cove. It’s a popular anchorage, a great “hole in the wall” spot that’s very popular, particularly with weekend boaters. Most boats anchor around the perimeter and shore tie to a tree or pin set in the rock. We headed towards the opening, but opted to continue further up the bay since the anchorage was fairly full. We continued a few short miles, and picked an anchor spot that had some protection, but essentially open to the bay. With 6 miles of open water, there’s a lot of fetch! But because the bay is only 3/4 mile at its widest, it provides adequate protection in all but strong E or W component winds.

At the upper end of the bay lies another anchorage known as “The Pool”. It’s completely protected, and is a beautiful spot. We took the dinghy the almost 6 miles to the spot to check it out. It is a lovely spot, with a smaller narrow bay that leads to the opening of the pool. It’s like a scaled-down version of Baie Fine. There are two modest cottages at the entrance to The Pool, and we later learned that one was built by the late Ralph Evinrude, the outboard motor tycoon. He and his wife, the 1940’s Hollywood star Frances Langford, spent time at the cottage, and local stories tell of their 108 ft. Burger yacht, Chanticleer being moored alongside the cottage that would have been dwarfed by the yacht. She died in 2005. Yacht and cottage both have new owners.

Topaz Lake
 
 

Topaz Lake

Hiking around Topaz
 
 

Hiking around Topaz

Opposite the entrance to the pool is located a small dinghy dock that marks a trail head for “Artists Trail” that leads to Topaz Lake. Located within a Provincial park and nestled high in the mountain, it’s a popular hike of about 45 minutes up granite slopes. We hiked to the lake, a moderate hike, but well worth the effort. Topaz Lake is stunning, blue water as its name implies, and granite cliffs along the shore. It’s a popular spot for hiking and a refreshing swim at the top. There were a number of swimmers when we visited, but the temperatures were in the 70’s and the lake water isn’t frigid, but more refreshing than the air temps warranted! Molly, however was making a beeline for the water after her hike up! There were a number of spots where it took some cooperation to enable her to negotiate the steep rock climbs, but she trooped right along. She loved the swimming!

Wild Blueberries! Tasty!
 
 

Wild Blueberries! Tasty!

Casson Peak
 
 

Casson Peak

The following day we dinghied in the opposite direction to Maryanne Cove. We discovered a makeshift dinghy dock that’s tied to shore near a trail head of a marked trail that leads to Casson Peak, about a 1-2 hour hike up to the top of the Killarney Ridge. The hike was a bit more challenging than the Artist’s trail, but not difficult if we did need to stop and take a breather on occasion! Of course, Molly accompanied us, and as before, it took some cooperation to get her up some of the higher rock climbs. Undaunted, she kept with us. She’s a great hiker, staying on the trail and always within a short distance of one or the other of her “pack”. The granite is also great for her toe nails! We reached the summit, and were blessed with spectacularly clear skies and stunning vistas! We spent some time taking in the sights, then made our way back down the trail. There were plenty of wild blueberries to be found, they’re actually quite good, and even Molly loves them!

Vista from Casson Peak

Vista from Casson Peak

The following day we were glad we had made our hikes, the weather turned ugly, so we decided to stay put.  We had what we considered fair protection, and despite blowing 20 kts with gusts to 30+, we were secure. Although there was a bit of wave action, it wasn’t bad enough to make us want to move. It rained very hard most of the day, so we were glad to be secure in our cove! Pumped the dinghy out 3 times!  The following day was still overcast and damp, but we decided to move, destination Little Current, gateway to the North Channel.

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Top of Georgian Bay

Killarney Light
 
 

Killarney Light

No late sleeping at Golden Sword Island. It continued a bit windy and the surge was enough to encourage a fairly early rise and we were up anchor and under way shortly after 0800 hrs. Still a bit bumpy since our plot took us on a more exposed route, but not bumpy enough to dissuade us from continuing northward. Prevailing winds are westerly, and they were prevailing at about 15 kt. for the most part, but abated some by afternoon, enough that our ride smoothed out and the direction wasn’t dead on our nose, so the stabilizers were more effective at smoothing things over! We decided to push on toward Killarney and reserved an overnight slip there.

La Cloche Mountains- 3.5 Bn yrs old!
 
 

La Cloche Mountains- 3.5 Bn yrs old!

Killarney canal
 
 

Killarney canal

Killarney is a small, sleepy village that relies primarily on the tourist trade for fishing and outdoor recreation. The Killarney Mountain Lodge is an institution there, having been recently renovated. It’s a beautiful setting with the La Cloche mountains in the background. The mountains were conspicuously visible for miles on our approach, their quartzite granite appearing as snow caps. The La Cloche range is said to be over 3.5 billion years old, among the oldest mountain ranges on the earth, formed at a time before the earth had an atmosphere. Glaciers and eons of erosion have worn them down to a shadow of their once-towering profile, but they still are magnificent. Named by the French discoverers, the name means “bell”, for the legend of natives pounding on the solid rocks which created a ringing sound that was used as a means of communicating. Today, limited areas of the granite are quarried, with most of the area remaining protected wilderness. There are cottages dotting the shore, but not nearly the amount of development seen in southern Georgian Bay.

Killarney Mountain Lodge
 
 

Killarney Mountain Lodge

Famous Fish & Chips
 
 

Famous Fish & Chips

Killarney is home to Herbert Fisheries and “world-famous” fish & chips. Dinner out! We sampled the fish & chips, they were delicious, the fries- oh, ‘scuze me- the chips- were done to perfection and the ambience was top shelf. Go to the window, place order, wait what seemed like a long time, and take your fish & chips to the picnic tables on the pier. It’s evidently a traditional destination for cottagers, boaters, and campers- vacationers in general. We were told by more than a few local folks to make sure we didn’t miss Herbert Fish & Chips. OK, I figure that the fish is fresh, and it really was good, but my take is that most of these Canadian folks have never experienced a tray of hot crabs and cold beer on a hot summer evening, so it’s understandable that battered fried fresh fish is such a big hit. There’s fish & chips, then there’s seafood!

In Canada they're [i]all[/i] black!

In Canada they’re all black!

We completed the local destination scene with a follower of hand-dipped ice cream, and a stroll around town before retreating to the boat at mosquito time. The squirrel was watching our progress down the back street of the village, and reminded me of our houseboat experience many years ago when a young Michael marveled excitedly at the squirrels on his first visit to Canada- “Dad, dad, that squirrel’s black!! To which our Canadian friend Bill quipped, “it’s Canada, Mike- they’re all black!!

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Toward North Channel

Echo Bay Anchorage
 
 

Echo Bay Anchorage

We bid our guests farewell and slipped lines late Saturday morning, our destination somewhere north about 5 hours’ cruise. We decided to head for Echo Bay, part of the Massasauga Provincial Park, at the recommendation of local cruisers we spoke with. We arrived about 4PM, and found the anchorage not empty, as expected for a weekend. We made a pass into the main anchorage where most of the anchored boats were shore-tied, very common as we’re learning. Having little experience with the process, we hesitated, then withdrew to the western bow of the anchorage where there was a bit more room. We dropped the hook, then dropped the dinghy and put together some long lines for a shore tie. Maerin was bow anchored and in good position, so I took the line to shore in the dinghy and sounded the bottom in the process. All good, deep right up to shore, so made a line fast to a tree, laid the line on a rock, then returned to Maerin, pulled her stern toward shore with the dinghy, retrieved the line from the rock and took the end to Maerin, making it fast to the stern cleat. Done! Not a well-practiced procedure, but we didn’t garner an audience, and there was no shouting, so an unqualified success!

Stern shore tie- Echo Bay
 
 

Stern shore tie- Echo Bay

OK, now we've seen it all!
 
 

OK, now we’ve seen it all!

The anchorage was as quiet and peaceful as any we’ve experienced thus far. Lots of weekend boaters, a few came by and chatted us up, as we’ve come to expect, lots of questions about the boat. We’ve come to the conclusion that there just aren’t many Selenes that folks in the area have seen, there’s always interest and folks dinghying by and commenting on how they like the boat. We returned the sentiment when the folks in the photo idled by pulling their dog in its own mini-dinghy! It was very comical and we shared a laugh with the folks while trying to keep Molly from getting any ideas! The dog in the mini-dink reminded us a lot of Sammy, he’d have loved that ride! We took a ride up the creek that feeds the anchorage, lots of weedy grass on the bottom, but very peaceful. We were able to stop for a brief explore and, of course a swim for Molly until the mosquitos appeared. Time to head back! We spent a peaceful night and headed off the following morning to continue northward.

Golden Sword Is. anchorage
 
 

Golden Sword Is. anchorage

Small cut near Black Bay
 
 

Small cut near Black Bay

Our cruise Sunday took us north toward Bying Inlet, where we decided to anchor for the night. There are a number of suitable anchorages that would provide protection from the W winds that had been building during the day to about 14 gusting 22 by the time we stopped. We chose to anchor behind Golden Sword Island which offered good protection from the wind, but we experienced some surge due to the wave action wrapping around the ends of the island. Not nearly as calm as the previous night’s stop, but a nice stopover. A dinghy ride after we anchored reveald some very nice spots in the surrounding Black Bay area, but tricky to get into, so we took the easy route since were were planning to only stay overnight. Many local cruisers are familiar with the area and have negotiated the tricky entrances to those very isolated anchorages where it can be blowing 20 knots but the anchorage is still mill pond smooth! For the non-local (us!), entering those areas with only the charts and no prior knowledge can be treacherous; there can be a house-sized boulder just under the surface in the middle of what looks like wide-open deep water! A communication with a forum acquaintance revealed that the Great Lakes Cruising Club has many hand-drawn charts produced by the club members that give detailed instruction on entering many of the areas that are lacking in details on the “official” CHS charts.

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Southern Georgian Bay

Itrepid cruisers-Wreck Island
 
 

Itrepid cruisers-Wreck Island

With our guests having only a week aboard, the need to keep to a schedule dictated our cruising itinerary. We wanted to travel a bit north, but decided it would be more enjoyable to spend time at anchor and exploring by dinghy or kayak rather than travel, so we headed for Wreck Island, a Provincial Park. The anchorage at Wreck Island is delightful, and we anchored close to the dock access to the park for convenient access by dinghy. The park provides self-guided easy hiking tours, with printed handouts at the docks. Barb stepped up as our tour guide, providing interesting factoids at the marked locations along the hike. It was very interesting, and lots of fun. I don’t think, however that she came away with a tip; it seems there was a station on the tour that may have been missed, unfortunately. We had a great time, and Molly got to go along and swim at a number of stops! Life is good as a boat dog!

Waiting the next toss!
 
 

Waiting the next toss!

Wreck Island shoreline
 
 

Wreck Island shoreline

Following our tour of the island, we dinghied to other unoccupied islands to do a bit of exploring; the weather was cooperative so the ride was dry and the hiking was most pleasant. Several cottages dot the islands in the area, again, from rustic to stunning. We enjoyed a spirited game of mexican train that ran way past our bedtime, and a very peaceful, cool night at anchor. Morning offered a leisurely breafast, and we lifted dink and anchor and headed south. Our route took us on the small craft “main channel” toward Honey Harbor through prime cottage country. Lots of boat traffic, but an easy ride through well-marked channels. Our destination: Beausoleil Island, since we had a nice preview of the park the previous week and had enjoyed it. We were not as fortunate in snagging a slip, instead anchored off and dinghied in to the park. We decided a hike of one of the park’s numerous trails would be interesting, and packed bug juice and water. The mosquitos were intent on having their dinner, the bug spray came out, and we did about a 5km stretch. Plenty! We returned to the boat for a swim and dinner, later another round of mexican train. Lots of fun, no sore losers. Right?? We ended up happy with having anchored in favor of the docks, the portable generators were out in force, and not all of them were quiet! There’s no prohibition against using them on the docks; since there’s no shore power available, many of the weekend cruisers have no other means to recharge batteries. Unfortunately, the portables are noisy, smelly, and dangerous to anyone swimming. And noisey. Fortunately, they are prohbited at night.

Wreck Island
 
 

Wreck Island

1900's cottage
 
 

1900’s cottage

As our guests’ time aboard drew to a close, the weather forecasts became cloudy, and our return to Penetang was timely. We were able to return to the marina, get pumped out and docked before the shower activity started. We had lunch at the local dockside grille, and made a provisioining run while we had access to wheels, and bid our good friends farewell until the next cruise. We floated some scenarios about a winter cruise when hopefully the weather will be a bit warmer. (Yes, it’s been cool here- in the high teens- that’s the low 70’s in real degrees). Bill, never at a loss for words quipped “the coldest winter I ever had was the summer we spent in Canada..” True, that! Well, we sure had a great time!

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Cruising guests

Our guests, Bill & Eleanor arrived Saturday afternoon (Aug 5) at Penetanguishene. We always look forward to cruising with them; our friendship has roots on a Bermuda cruise in 1986, and we’ve cruised aboard ships, our boat(s), and yes, a family cruise on a rented houseboat on the Trent-Severn some 29 years ago with kids!

Load 'em up (1988)!
 
 

Load ’em up (1988)!

The weather in 1988 was actually worse than it has been this summer; it rained every day but one on that trip! Still the kids had a blast, and we all enjoyed the time despite the weather. We’ve enjoyed weekends on the Chesapeake when they would fly from Toronto into BWI for a long weekend on the Bay. We have fond memories of high-speed runs to BWI to make sure they caught their commuter flight back! We also made several drives to Ontario for weekend visits, even one in colder months. Brrr…!!! We’ve enjoyed having them on board for a cruise each time we’ve been in Canadian waters. Fortunately, their home is within driving distance of most of our Canadian ports of call, making it possible to arrange an intercept at some point on our route.

Beckwith Is. weekend crowd
 
 

Beckwith Is. weekend crowd

After getting settled aboard, we took off for the grocery store to provision, dinner, and a show at the local summer stock theater. Dinner was casual Irish and good, the show was great, and provisioning- with a car! Dee-luxin’ it! Leave the grandma cart in the lazarette! We slipped lines Sunday morning for our 1st stop, Beckwith Island. It’s a nice anchorage, and popular with locals. We anticipated a crowd, and weren’t disappointed. Lots of weekend boaters, a friendly crowd as we found as we dinked to shore and walked the beach. Locals talk about the “white sand” on the beaches at Beckwith; sand, yes. White, not so much! Reminded us of river sand, but with all the rock around, sand of any color is pretty remarkable! Our night at anchor was calm, if noisey. The beach party music continued until the wee hours. Not rowdy, but not a quiet anchorage!

Indian Harbor
 
 

Indian Harbor

Moon Bay
 
 

Moon Bay

Monday we lifted the dinghy and headed for Indian Harbor. Several locals recommended it, so we decided it would be a good spot to check out. Indian Harbor is situated on a side channel of the small craft main channel that runs north through southern Georgian Bay. There is anchorage on both sides of the channel, and the area is very picturesque. We anchored off the channel, and found good holding near a small cove. Many of the locals drop a bow anchor then stern tie to a tree or piton that are frequently placed in the rock on shore. Since the boat won’t swing, more boats can utilize a smaller area. Not a technique we’ve used on Maerin for some time, so given our unfamiliarity with the local conditions, we opted to swing. We dropped the dinghy and set off to explore. The other local conditions we’re unaccustomed to is ROCK! Big rock! And there’s no pattern to count on. Open water between shores is no assurance that there’s not a truck-sized boulder hanging just below the surface! So without a chart, dinghy travel can be treacherous! A sharp lookout and slow go is standard procedure.

Indian Harbor Inukshuk
 
 

Indian Harbor Inukshuk

Moon over Indian Harbor
 
 

Moon over Indian Harbor

We explored the area around the anchorage by dinghy, lots of beautiful cottages abound, some in the multi-million dollar range. Cottages range, as the photos reveal, from rustic to palatial. Some of the palatial real estate still has a rustic feel, despite the mammoth size, no doubt the architect’s intent! It truly gives “cottage industry” a whole different concept!

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Toes in Georgian Bay

Beacon Bay - fox (center frame)
 
 

Beacon Bay – fox (center frame)

Since we were going to be returning to the marina at the end of the week, we wanted to head out for a couple days’ cruise, but not too far. It happens we were in the perfect location for that. There are a zillion places to see, and our slip neighbor, Rick, spent some time with us reviewing charts and offering his knowledge of the cruising grounds. Very helpful! Although the cruising guides are pretty complete, they describe all the areas one can visit, but don’t offer much in the way of what one should plan to see. That’s where local knowledge is valuable. We learned where the weekend hot spots are, and which areas would be best to see, given our time frame. So we decided to head to Beausoleil Island, part of Parks Canada.

Cedar Springs docks
 
 

Cedar Springs docks

Beausoleil Island trail
 
 

Beausoleil Island trail

Beausoleil Island (locals pronounce it “Boze-lee”) is just a short run from Penetanguishene, about 8 miles. There’s a dock there, and our season pass will allow us to dock there, if there’s space. Rick indicated that it’s usually occupied, but there are a number of anchorages. As we approached the full-up dock, a boat on the T-head was slipping lines, so we slid in behind them! Nice to have easy access to shore without the need for the dinghy. The dock was filled with lots of smaller cruisers in the 20-35 ft range, but we managed to fit. Friendly folks caught our lines and helped us tie up. Truth be told, I believe they’re eager to help for the opportunity to eyeball the boat up close. We’re getting accustomed to the fact that our boat is somewhat unusual for the area, and we attract lots of inquisitive looks and questions everywhere we tie up. It’s all fun, and it’s a great opportunity to meet local cruisers and pick their brains while we recite boat specs! We signed up for two nights, no charge thanks to our Parks Canada season mooring pass! We’ve certainly gotten our money out of the pass!

Canadian shield shoreline
 
 

Canadian shield shoreline

Trail head
 
 

Trail head

The park comprises the entire island, and is accessible only by boat for boating, camping, hiking and biking. It’s a delightful park, save the bugs and snakes. Yes, Beausoleil (and most of Georgian Bay) is home to the Ontario rattlesnake. They’re not agressive, but the park folks and signage cautions about the snakes, and offers suggestions to avoid unpleasant results! One suggestion is to keep dogs leashed, since a curious dog is at far more risk from a serious bite than a cautious hiker. So Molly was leashed! A hike on our second day in the park introduced us to a nice-sized rattler, I probably would have stepped on it had I not gotten an arm across my chest and a tense “watch!!!” Unfortunately, the critter slithered into the brush before I had a chance to get out the camera. Drats! Yeah, I know, if I don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen. Hmmmph…. Take my word, it was there!  I have no snake aversion, instead found it fascinating! He did rattle, but the rattles were pretty small, and he was pretty anxious to be on his way!

Typical shoreline
 
 

Typical shoreline

Musquash River
 
 

Musquash River

A slip neighbor who asked about Maerin the evening of our arrival asked if we’d be interested in a dinghy scoot the following day. We accepted, and Brian, who lives in Waterloo and keeps his boat in Honey Harbor, has been boating in the area all his life, so we were happy to have him as our tour guide as we followed him in our dinghy on about a 14 mile circuit of the area around the “Main Channel” that’s part of the small craft channels marked on the Canadian charts. The charts have a red route line, similar to the infamous “magenta line” of ICW fame! I digress… We enjoyed a very pleasant ride, with Brian in the lead we saw a lot of the high points, and he would periodically stop and wave us alongside to give us some commentary on the area, and where the best anchoring spots were to be found. On our return, we invited him to stay for dinner since his wife was at home. He was happy for the offer, and after dinner we reviewed charts and points of interest further north for our time in Georgian Bay. With the weather cooperating, we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon, and Molly enjoyed the stops we made with a swim opportunity at each one!

Cognashene Community Church
 
 

Cognashene Community Church

Swimming again!
 
 

Swimming again!

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Georgian Bay Entry

Upon our arrival in Georgian Bay Saturday July 29, we opted for a marina stay at Beacon Bay Marina in Penetanguishene. The cruise from Port Severn to the marina was uneventful, and we arrived Saturday afternoon. The marina offers a 3 for 2 deal we took advantage of, so a 3 day stay. It was an opportunity to clean up the boat, raise the mast and re-rig it all, and dispatch some spiders that threatened to overrun the boat! So some chore time, laundry, cleaning, minor repairs, and a pump out.

Beacon Bay is a large marina that’s spread out over more than 10 acres. Lots of boats, and a very pleasant staff.  The manager asked us more than once if we needed a lift for groceries or other supplies, and Monday dropped Barb at the grocery store while he delivered a dinghy. The marina has a 50 ton travel lift and several large sheds for indoor winter storage. One of the better facilities we’ve encountered.

Sunday we went to lunch with Canadian friends Bill & Eleanor, who live in Kitchener, about 2-1/2 hours’ drive from Penetanguishene. Their visit was two fold, partly to catch up, as well as to plan for their week aboard cruising with us to start six days hence. We’ve enjoyed cruising together in various venues for over 30 years, since our first meeting on a Royal Caribbean Cruise to Bermuda in 1986! Our visit to Georgian Bay presented a wonderful opportunity to spend some time together again.  Our cruise on the Trent-Severn Waterway this year was not our first; we had actually rented one of the infamous house boats together 29 years ago and cruised a portion of the Trent-Severn with our combined five kids, the youngest of which was six weeks old at the time. It rained every day but one!  We all, nonetheless had a great time!

 

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Completing the Trent-Severn transit

Channel from Swift Rapids- Russian Bay
 
 

Channel from Swift Rapids- Russian Bay

From Swift Rapids we continued through some very scenic areas, cottage industry has a whole different meaning these parts! Cottage after cottage after cottage….. some very quaint and rustic, some are monstrous mansions, hardly worthy of a cottage misnomer, but cottage just the same! Some have boat houses, some have sea planes in front, most have boats tied; it’s a very interesting cruise! The channels meander around the cottages perched on rocks lining the channel, some of the passes are pretty narrow, although depths in some areas were over a hundred feet; but the channel is well bouyed, and currents are moderate and very manageable.  As we move west, we see more granite since we’re in the area of the Canadian Shield, an area of pre-Cambrian rock about 3.9 billion years old that surrounds Hudson Bay. The rock isn’t rocks, but rock that makes up hills, valleys, and comprises whole building lots! For us as cruisers, it’s significant in that it also makes up the waterway, and of particular concern for us, the bottom! Granite vs. fiberglass….let’s not challenge it!

Big Chute marine railway
 
 

Big Chute marine railway

Carriage submerged
 
 

Carriage submerged

Beyond Lock 43 is Big Chute, the marine railway designated Lock 44, but is in fact, not a lock at all! The link provides complete information regarding the history of the lead-up to the creation of the railway, as well as the Swift Rapids and Port Severn Locks. The approach to Big Chute is not particularly unusual, one might expect to see a lock, but instead sees the carriage with the framework and perhaps a boat or two sitting on the carriage. It’s an unusual sight! We held off for one loading, then made our way over to the blue line and onto the cradle. The staff working the lift are very professional, and seem to know exactly what they’re doing. We moved into position and nudged Maerin onto

Looking aft on down side
 
 

Looking aft on down side

View over the transom
 
 

View over the transom

the platform with the direction of the operator(s). It was very odd to feel her slide onto the hard bottom, and then the operator asked me to back off just a foot or two, and we floated free just long enough for them to pull up on the straps and we were solidly in position as the carriage started to move forward and upward. The floor of the carriage carries the weight of the boat, the straps provide stability. Even our stabilizer fins and full keel, typically a hang up with travel lift straps, wasn’t an issue. The railway carriage has retractors that pull the straps back so they’re completely recessed during loading. Just weird, as the cradle came up the incline and out of the water! The trip is only a few hundred yards from one body of water to the other, with a rise of about 65 feet in the center, then back down the other side. The carriage moves slowly and smoothly, the movement provided by cables that run under the carriage and across the incline.

On the other side, getting wet again
 
 

On the other side, getting wet again

Floating again!
 
 

Floating again!

Having cleared the carriage, we got the “all clear” OK from the operator, and we simply motored away from the lift. Quite an operation, but very organized, and smooth. The folks operating the equipment know what they’re doing, and the whole fascinating process went without a hitch.

From Big Chute, we traveled the picturesque last section of the Trent-Severn waterway to Port Severn, Lock 45, the last lock on the system. Built as a temporary lock, it’s the smallest on the system, so it’s frequently a bottleneck. Boats coming from the upper waterway side have a large area to stage or wait a turn through the lock, however the lower reach is relatively short and narrow, and beyond the reach the channel is very narrow, and contains very strong currents. Because the lock is so small, only one large boat can be accommodated at a time, with other smaller vessels packed in along with the larger boat.

Old cottage over the water
 
 

Old cottage over the water

Last lock! Port Severn
 
 

Last lock! Port Severn

As a consequence, we had to hover in the harbor awaiting our turn. Not a big issue, but the wind was starting to kick up, and manuvering into the lock can be tense. It wasn’t a problem, and the lock staff are very quick to take a line and help. We were set tight in the lock, and other, smaller boats were sardined around us for the 12 ft. drop. No issues, however exiting the lock required threading through the boats on both sides of the lower lock walls waiting to lock up, with the wind piping up, under a swing bridge, and into the channel beyond that is just over a boat width wide, not terribly deep, and LOTS of current, passing under the #400 highway bridge! Very little room for any lateral error, and most certainly NO room to pass another boat! Standard procedure is for larger vessels to broadcast a VHF securité call when exiting the locks so that approaching vessels can delay entering the channel in the calmer, wider area beyond. We had no problems transiting the troublesome section, but it requires full attention and careful steering to stay in the narrow channel!  This canal travel ranges from idyllic lazy drifting to heart-pounding terror!  But it’s a great experience!

We cleared the obstacles without incident, and with a few more securité calls, moved through the remaining narrows to enter Georgian Bay! Simply beautiful! The area rivals the “Thousand Island” area of the St. Lawrence river basin, and is know as the “Thirty-thousand Islands”. Not an exaggeration, LOTS of islands here!

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Orillia to Swift Rapids Lock 43

Swift Rapids lock approach
 
 

Swift Rapids lock approach

We departed Orillia July 28 mid-morning. A pleasant run with only one lock, #42. We held up at the upper side of Lock 43, Swift Rapids and spent the night. It was a delightful spot, a very nice park, with some local cruisers also spending the night on the lock wall. Swimming for Molly, and some socializing with a puppy. There’s a hydro plant there, and interesting to see the structure there, and realize there’s nobody running the plant; it’s remotely controlled!  Swift Rapids is remarkable in that there is essentially no road access. There actually is a road, but it’s 11 miles of bad road, to coin a phrase, so lock staff comes to work by boat. One of the college age young women came from the upper side of the lock, and does her commute by jet ski! We had a very pleasant evening, quiet except for the rush of water on the spillways, but a very serene spot. Morning came bright and chilly, not a breath of air, so the small lake behind us was mirror-smooth, and had some steam rising as the sun came up! What a view from the back door!

View from top of lock
 
 

View from top of lock

Morning from the lock
 
 

Morning from the lock

At 47 feet, Swift Rapids is the highest conventional lift lock on the waterway. We were locking down, as we had been since Kirkfield (Lock 36), so entering the lock wasn’t remarkable, except for the depth sounder which was reading 53 ft! The doors on the lower side of the lock are massive, and it’s a long way up when the lock drains! It’s also the newest lock, so the technology involved in the operation of the lock makes it very smooth and fast. It’s a fascinating experience!

Lock doors at lower level
 
 

Lock doors at lower level

We timed our departure from Swift Rapids to make the 1st (9AM) locking, since the day’s run would complete our transit of the Trent-Severn along with transiting the Big Chute Marine Railway and the final lock at Port Severn, so we wanted to get a good start.

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