Trent-Severn Waterway – eastbound!

Coming down!
 
 

Coming down!

Our first day heading back through the Trent-Severn pretty much duplicated the trip west, our stopover point, Swift Rapids Lock 43. The highlight of that leg of course, is the Big Chute marine railway. We were the last boat loaded, and just fit with our stern hanging over the end of the platform a bit. No worries, the operators are very good, and since the platform actually supports the weight of the boat along the full keel, it’s actually quite stable. There are straps similar to those on a travel lift with the significance that the straps on the marine railway don’t actually carry the weight of the boat, but serve to support and balance it. The whole marine railway experience is quite unique, it’s remarkably smooth, and really isn’t much more involved than a conventional lock when all’s said and done! Another ride on the rails!

Pole in granite
 
 

Pole in granite

Our overnight stay at Swift Rapids was chilly, but the mosquitos have gone into hiding. We were able to walk across the hydro dam and back the rugged service road, a crew had been working during the day to remove one of the turbines from the plant, it was loaded onto a truck and the crane as well as the truck were preparing to move out the road as we walked. The turbine was interesting to see, we were told it had some wear issues and needed to be serviced. They were very careful securing the load for the ride out on the bumpy service road! An interesting observation was the installation of the power line poles that serve the hydro generating plant; a number of them seem to run across large sections of granite, it occurred to me that they were installed in the rock, and upon closer investigation, discovered they are in fact, drilled into the rock! Fascinating!

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Georgian Bay & North Channel bread crumbs….

Bread crumbs, indeed. Our travels on this cruise, in fact, every time the boat moves, are guided by our chartplotting program. For non-boater readers, it can be likened to Google Maps. Our position is shown in real time overlaid on a chart of the area. If it shows waterways, it’s a chart, maps show roads. The chart shows land features, water depths, obstructions, and ATONs, or Aids To Navigation, that are anchored to the bottom and mark bouyed channels, hazards, or speed restrictions. Waterborne road signs, if you will.

Our chartplotter is actually a PC-based computer program, it displays all the data that the various systems on board collect such as depth, position, course over ground, speed, heading, wind speed and direction, air temp, water temp, AIS data for nearby vessels, and many other pieces of information. The program also keeps track of our position continuously, and lays down a bread crumb trail of our movement, or track. Those tracks are data that can be viewed, manipulated, exported to other programs and recalled. It’s a timeline record of exactly where we were at what precise time. Although the location map on the blog shows a location related to each post, it doesn’t show how we got there. The graphic below shows our tracks (in red) for the time we were in Georgian Bay and North Channel, for a good depiction of our travels. The grid on the chart is lat/lon, each line is 20 nm (nautical miles) wide by 30 nm high.

North Channel -Georgian Bay tracks

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Return to Penetang

Famous Henry's Restaurant - CLOSED!
 
 

Famous Henry’s Restaurant – CLOSED!

Our tour of Georgian Bay and North Channel complete, we returned to Beacon Bay Marina at Penetanguishene. Our route took us on the small craft channel. The route is very scenic, with cottages at every point of the compass. One landmark we heard many locals mention was “Henry’s”, a famous popular restaurant, known for it’s fish & chips, a tradition spanning some 40 years. Recently, the restaurant was closed due to challenges of staffing and operating the island location, accessible only by boat or seaplane. It was reopened in June of this year, but the reopening was short-lived and it remains shuttered.

Mast lowered for canals
 
 

Mast lowered for canals

We arrived at Beacon Bay Sunday afternoon of the 27th, in time to do a quick deck washdown, clean the dinghy, cover it, do wash, prep the boat deck and get some help to lower the mast in preparation for returning to the Trent-Severn waterway. Yes, we must dismantle part of the rigging and lay the mast back onto the railings to reduce our bridge clearance, or “air draft” from our normal 24 ft. to 16ft 2 in. This allows us to clear the “controlling bridge elevation” of 20 ft. on the Trent-Severn, as well as the Erie Canal. It’s not terribly involved, it takes a little less than an hour from prep to secured, and a strong back, which is not nearly what it used to be, so we enlisted help from one of the dockhands who looked at us incredulously as he remarked, “you two do this by yourselves!?” Well, yes, we have. Despite having rigging to take most of the weight, the whole rig is about 150 pounds or better when it must be guided down by hand on final approach onto the blocks that support it. It gets heavier every time! Mast lowered, antennas lowered, dinghy put to bed, we’re ready for canals! The mast will remain stowed until we clear the Troy Lock, the last of the 20 ft. bridges as we re-enter the Hudson.

Port Severn Lock 45 upbound approach
 
 

Port Severn Lock 45 upbound approach

We slipped lines Monday morning, arriving at lock 45 at Port Severn at about 0915 hrs. to begin our return trip on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Cool weather prevailed, skies slightly overcast, we had our 3 days of sunny weather, time for some clouds! We entered the lock alone, a marked difference from our locking a month ago on the weekend when we had to pick our way through a wall of boats waiting to lock through!

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Revisit Echo Bay

Point au Bareil
 
 

Point au Bareil

Heading southeast along the small craft route took us a more scenic route. The scenery is quite stunning, and the trip was very pleasant in spite of lots of twists and turns around lots of rock! The chart is well-marked, and the channels are well-bouyed. Not always the case; early mariners and explorers marked hazards in innovative ways. Point au Bariel is named for a barrel, legend has it that a barrel marked the entrance to safe water, the barrel sometimes contained fire, and the modern aid approximates a barrel. The original barrel has been reproduced and stands near the lighthouse that stands as one of many along the shore.

The Barrel - Point au Bareil
 
 

The Barrel – Point au Bareil

Near Echo Bay
 
 

Near Echo Bay

Probably our favorite anchorage on the trip up Georgian Bay was Echo Bay. Our timing on the return trip put us in position to revisit that anchorage, and we did. We arrived just after 1400 hrs, plenty of time to drop the dinghy and do some exploring. A month makes a huge difference in activity, and while our previous visit had us hunting for a spot to anchor, this time we just headed to the middle and dropped the hook. With staying only overnight, a shore tie seemed a bit overkill. We found some unusual rock formations, with the typical striations from glacial abrasion, but more unusual were the color striations that are the result of molten rock of different mixture creating layers. Very fascinating!

Interesting rock color striation
 
 

Interesting rock color striation

At anchor - Echo Bay
 
 

At anchor – Echo Bay

With the weather turning cooler, evenings are less a fight with the bugs, although after dark they come in hordes attracted by the cabin lights. Mosquitos seem never to relent, but they’re not as plentiful. A very calm night in Echo Bay, not a ripple on the water, and a brisk morning with steam on the pond as we lifted anchor and continued our movement back toward Penetang.

Cardinal flower
 
 

Cardinal flower

Purple loosestrife - an invasive
 
 

Purple loosestrife – an invasive

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Flip side- The Bustards

The Bustards
 
 

The Bustards

Covered Portage in our wake, we headed for Killarney. Since we’ll be covering a lot of the same area, we planned (loosely- we rarely do an itinerary, per se) on our route west to skip over some areas by taking a more direct route, and planned to visit those areas on the return trip. The Bustards is a group of islands near the top of Georgian Bay we bypassed west-bound in favor of a more direct and southerly route to Killarney. East-bound, we decided to stick more to the small craft route that runs a more circuitous path, but is more scenic. The Bustards was our choice of our first stopover eastbound.

Sunset at Tie Island- Bustards
 
 

Sunset at Tie Island- Bustards

Tie Island - Bustards
 
 

Tie Island – Bustards

The Bustards are mostly uninhabited, but a few cottages can be found here and there. A relatively new cottage in a beautiful setting was located just a short way from our anchorage, with no one around. Another, older cottage located across the water appeared to be neglected, perhaps abandoned. The vast majority of the cottages in the area are accessible only by boat, so the boathouse or docks play a significant role in the cottage setting. We did some hiking on adjacent Strawberry and Tie Islands, and of course, Molly got plenty of swimming! Just an overnight stay in The Bustards, up anchor the following morning, Friday, August 25, bound for somewhere a bit further south and east!

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Covered Portage

Covered Portage bay
 
 

Covered Portage bay

Covered Portage is an anchorage that was recommended by locals we met in Penetang as a place to put on our “visit” list. The anchorage is a bay with a dog leg opening that the guide books and the reviews on ActiveCaptain describe entering the cut exercising caution and a bow lookout. Without actually entering the basin, it’s difficult to assess how crowded the anchorage is, so we opted to anchor outside the basin since the wind direction put us in the lee of the shore anyway. We dropped the dinghy and headed into the bay. It’s a fairly large bay with a single opening entrance. There is a dog leg at the entrance, but it is actually pretty straightforward and marked on the charts. Two observations in that regard: 1)- We’ve noted that the CHS charts are quite accurate, we’ve followed the chartplotter through a number of “iffy” areas, and have found the charting to be spot on. 2) The cautionary notes on Active Captain, however helpful, seem to universally lean toward overstatement. Yes, there’s a rock ledge at the opening of this and most any anchorage in the Georgian Bay area. Exercising reasonable prudence and going slow will allow access to even those tricky spots. Despite there being plenty of room, we decided that since we were only staying one night, we were fine on the outside.

Covered Portage overlook
 
 

Covered Portage overlook

Brook waterfall- Covered Portage
 
 

Brook waterfall- Covered Portage

Guidebook notes describe a marked trail starting at the far end of the cove that leads to an overlook of the anchorage. We dinghied into the cove and found a likely spot, and located the ribbon-marked trail. It’s a pleasant hike up to the crest of the ridge. The ridge is actually the same ridge that we hiked to Casson Peak the previous week, Covered Portage is on the south side across the ridge from the anchorage in Baie Fine. The area has similar geologic features, and although the summit at Covered Portage isn’t quite as high, it’s an impressive view from the top, well worth the easy hike. As witnessed by the photos, our weather was less than ideal, but our hike outing was unmarred by rain or wind, so a qualified success.

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Gore Bay

Sunset over Benjamins
 
 

Sunset over Benjamins

We departed the Benjamins on Monday the 21st making the short 15 nm jump to Gore Bay. Gore Bay is a small community on Mantoulin Island, with a short main street and downtown. It’s a laid back small town feel, the marina facilities are well kept with relatively new floating docks, new bathroom facilities and things in town close enough to walk. There’s a medium-sized grocery store with an adjoining hardware store, and some interesting shops downtown.

Gore Bay Marina
 
 

Gore Bay Marina

Downtown Gore Bay
 
 

Downtown Gore Bay

We took advantage of the proximity of the grocery to do some provisioning, when there’s a grocery store within just a few blocks of the marina, it’s a given we’ll be stopping in for things we need, and some we probably don’t. Weather started turning cloudy and winds piped up to 26G 35, so we signed up for a 2nd night’s stay. The 2nd day gave us the opportunity to visit the local museum and art gallery. The museum was very interesting, it’s housed in what was originally the jail house for the region. The jail cells are intact with some of the original cell doors. An interesting item was a prisoner’s table, presumably a mess table, but the compelling feature was the grafitti carved in the table’s surface by prisoners, some depicting self portrait with term of stay. The selfie of the turn of the century! Other displays in the museum depicted some interesting glimpses in to the local history.

Typical Great Lakes fishing tug
 
 

Typical Great Lakes fishing tug

Tourists!
 
 

Tourists!

Of interest in the marina was the Purvis, a typical Great Lakes fish tug. We had seen similar vessels in use in the Maritimes, with a similar closed in deck with large areas. Used primarily in gill net fishing, the fish tugs have been made nearly obsolete with restrictions on gill netting, and are now primarily an historical oddity. The 2nd day about exhausted our Gore Bay experience, so we departed Wednesday morning, the 23rd with overcast skies, temps in the mid-60’s and winds still in the 20 kt. neighborhood. Folks on the dock seemed doubtful that we would not turn back, but the ride, albeit a bit bumpy, was not bad enough that we were uncomfortable. So we made way toward Covered Portage on the other side of Little Current.

The departure from Gore Bay marks the western most extent of our visit to the North Channel, and the turn-around point in our Georgian Bay cruise as we begin our back track to the Chesapeake, and warmer weather!

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The Benjamins

Croker Is. anchorage
 
 

Croker Is. anchorage

Weather finally started to cooperate as we headed to the Benjamins, an easy cruise from Little Current. The Benjamin Islands are a circular grouping of islands unique in their geology. Their pink granite is worn smooth from glacial action and has an appearance that, from a distance looks like sand dunes. We chose to anchor at Croker Island, one of the Benjamin Islands group, but on the eastern end. We dinghied from Croker to Benjamin Island, about a mile and a half. Benjamin Island is a popular anchorage, with room for many boats. The rock formations are simply stunning, the smooth face of the pink granite creates a visual effect that is most unusual.

South Benjamin Island
 
 

South Benjamin Island

Benjamin Is. pink granite
 
 

Benjamin Is. pink granite

We spent two days in the anchorage, enjoying the sights and the hiking around the islands. Dinghy rides are always interesting, yet a bit unsettling for the presence of unknown rock. Despite the appearance of open water, there’s a good chance there could be a house-sized boulder in the middle of an expanse of 30 foot deep water, just waiting to eat the dinghy prop- or worse! Some of the trepidation is just due to the unknown, but it’s also a healthy respect for that unforgiving granite! More photos of the Benjamins in the gallery, just click on any of the blog photos to open the photo in the gallery and view the album.

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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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