Sailing to Georgian Bay’s North Channel in our 1995 Corsair F-31

To get things started, here’s our route from start to finish, much of the track laid down by the GPS, and some of it added by hand. When you are travelling, places become like characters and so like any good mystery it is good to start with a legend of sorts, to save needless description later.


We had the luckiest winds, and having now sat in the steamy rain for days back at Penetang, I am more and more delighted with where we were able to go. I will let the map and photos tell the story, mostly. But first it must be said that this boat, as old as our youngest adult child, seen here [the boat not the child] just after raising the mast at the dock as we get ready to set out from the parental-in-laws’ dock, made it possible:


I don’t know what our average speed was but we went across the bay from Parry Sound to Wingfield Basin on Cabot Head, a distance of 45 nautical miles, in a calm rain and it was no problem and we screamed (well at least I almost did) from Wingfield Basin past Lonely Island and Manitoulin Island to the well named Snug Harbour (not the one of the lovely lighthouse just north of Parry Sound) with speeds upwards of 14 knots … the old Catalina, which happily has indeed found a new owner in Pointe au Baril, could occasionally dream of 6 knots … but they were nightmares.

We took a few extra days getting ready to go, so we weren’t actually sailing on the day of our 30th anniversary, but some of those days were spent by the noble captain ripping out the hideous marine head that is best left undescribed, and which he replaced with a home-built composting toilet using a separator that we purchased online from England. It worked so well that I feel obliged to provide a link. It also involved a bucket, a few large water bottles, some hose and a block of coir, and details can be forthcoming for those scatologically inclined.


We spent our first night with the magnificent toilet on Gin Island, just west of Beausoleil Island, having left almost at dusk but determined to get under weigh. [At least I assume on a sail boat you are under weigh, not under way, as one must weigh one’s anchor to leave harbour.]

Here I am, sampling the waters, the following morning:


From there we had a beautiful sail up past Giant’s Tomb Island and all the way to Sandy Island just outside of Parry Sound. I didn’t get a picture this time of the Jones Island lighthouse, but I just happen to have a peach of one from our 25th anniversary trip, five years ago, and it is still being its iconic self:


When we first became acquainted with this lighthouse we were sailing north up the east coast of the bay and while the traditional route on the chart shows one heading way inland at this point, which we were preparing to do, a rather large fishing boat appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and hearts in hands we followed his wake. And here is the route for the would-be cognoscenti:


The winds being favourable, if light, we then made our shot across the bay to Wingfield Basin, as you can see from this exciting action shot of the boat speeding along on the very successful OpenCPN software we used:


only to wake up to a very different day with strong south-west winds. Here is the exit from Wingfield Basin as we made our way out, and unfortunately we never did turn on OpenCPN until out of the howling so we don’t have our track, but the GPS showed 15 knots more than once.


The foreboding view ahead:


I have recovered.

We then harboured in the aptly named Snug Harbour on Badgeley Point and made the mandatory tiny hike to Devil’s Bay Lake. I think I was still a little shaken, if not also stirred, and have no pictures, but the harbour is worth mentioning as being astonishingly deep once through the neck, 40 feet almost to the shore.

From there we made our way past the wonderful lighthouse on the northern tip of Strawberry Island


and then through the swing bridge at Little Current, which does indeed open on the hour, but which does not indeed stay open for the promised 15 minutes if there are no boats clearly waiting.


It wouldn’t be a blog post without mentioning food. We stopped to re-provision in Little Current, after first having a delicious lunch at the Anchor Inn Hotel, established in 1888


of whitefish and mashed potatoes and surprisingly al dente veggies, and even a quite delicious Canadian merlot for the crew and a local Swing Bridge draft beer for the captain:


It must be said, even by me, the galley wench on the trip, that we had been already eating like kings. A selection of pre-marinated frozen proteins, from tuna and halibut to the herb crusted lamb that was left behind and consumed on our return, made the trip both easy and delicious. [I will bore all with links to recipes in the comments.] The boat has a remarkably efficient ice-box/fridge that we never actually turned on but simply cooled with block ice. We set out with three blocks, replaced them at Little Current, and then added two more on our return through Killarney. It was almost too cold for the beer, a few cans of which started to explode, and kept everything crispy with minimal effort.

After purchasing a wonderful souvenir t-shirt of a bass swallowing Manitolin Island as bait on a hook, some fresh potted pea-shoots that we are still eating, and fabulous honey from the island, we motored west and north up yet another Waubuno Channel to anchor on the northern tip of Great La Cloche Island, where we touched our one and only rock. We shouldn’t have and were very lucky as well as well-prepared, as we had loosened everything off. Daggerboard was up and just the very bottom of the rudder gently sanded itself off as it kicked up. Here we are in the canoe, looking for the offending rock, which we found, with a rather visible white stripe:


It turned out to be quite well described in the Ports book, but somehow we missed the memo. The anchorage was beautiful


except for a couple who suddenly appeared on a sailboat from nowhere, possibly a boat that had been further in the bay and decided to leave and then failed to do so in the gathering twilight, whose crew had a screaming fit as they re-anchored, featuring intemperate comments about the depth of the harbour. [Note to self: voices carry well over water.]

From there we sailed to Croker Island which is part of the Benjamins and backed ourselves and Bob the BBQ up to the beach:


And then Captain Dryfoot inched us in closer, because, frankly, the boat is awesome for gunk-holing.


We then moved the boat to the far side of the little island that is within the curve of Croker Island to snuggle up to the shore and get away from the west wind, that was developing a hint of north.

img_8975From there we paddled over to the far shore to look out over the bay, where we first met the ducks who then adopted us briefly:



And yes, we did discuss eating them Survivorman style.

Instead on the following day we headed back through the Little Current swing bridge


on our way to Killarney, where we lucked out and pulled into the empty dock of the Sportsmans Inn, to be greeted by a charming youth who explained they were having a staff party so were technically closed but we could tie up for as long as we wished, and even offered to come back and help us leave if the wind came up. Just knock on the pub door. You just have to love northern folks. But the offer was not necessary as everything was peachy and calm:


A short walk took us to Herbert Fisheries for fish and chips and smoked trout and ice


and a sighting of a large black bear cruising the lawns on the far side of the channel, and also to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (because Canadians, at least those in Ontario, have to buy their booze from the government) for a little more wine and souvenir beers for the boys.

We made it in twilight to Dufois Bay, just outside of Killarney, foregoing the suggested Thomas Bay as the light faded. The next day was quite the sail, and the GPS clocked 16.2 at one point. We had initially thought we might head into Byng Inlet but I felt there was nowhere to get the sails down and so we adjusted our sights and flew down to Pointe au Baril, where the narrow opening served our purposes well

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-10-34-35-am and we found the needed shelter to make it down to the magnificent Shawanaga Island. A crazy old coot in full rain gear and life jacket appeared in the distance on a little blue sailboat, sails down and motor humming, and in a strange panic beat us to the pretty little beach and old broken dock, which he almost literally slammed into. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments, but was truly hilarious. The harbour is really large, and there is a second beautiful shallow bay behind where it is a little more protected. It is hard to capture the humour of the incident, but as you can see, second best was possibly best:


There is also a little beach and picnic table just to the right of the camera, a picnic table that is up to its knees in sand.

From Shawanaga it was back to the lovely Sandy Island [technically I believe we were on Joiner Island, but they all appear as one at low water] and I include our track because it saves one from going north and outside the McCoys and the Mink Islands or taking the inside route behind Franklin Island, and because I have come to regard Arthur Orr Rock as a kind of welcoming friend and wanted to mention his name:


From there it was a gentle wobble back to my ancestral Go Home, following a successful navigation of the inside of the Pine Islands, which was so successful we were almost disappointed at the lack of shoals. We waved good-bye the following morning


and then met up for a surprise family picnic on the paternal side on the Gin Rocks on our final day, before tying back up at Penetang, making the whole trip complete in a most satisfactory way.


I also wanted to mention that I had the enormous pleasure of reading, thanks to a kindness by a friend at our sailing club, The Last Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst:


which features an early trimaran and a character straight out of Joseph Conrad. An excellent companion on any voyage, and particularly this one. I highly recommend it. It was like an added layer of flavour on the trip.

And now the boat is at the dock, and we must prepare to fold her up and get her back home. It was a happy anniversary trip, an excellent proof of concept, and I noticed the captain starting to consider how far the Bahamas are from various parts of Florida …



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29 Responses to Sailing to Georgian Bay’s North Channel in our 1995 Corsair F-31

  1. xty says:

    Ahh, but it is nice to be home. Boat is in the water, mast still down, rental truck has been returned and other than the roofers across the street and the house they are now starting to build in the backyard … actually maybe better not to think about it.

    But happily home.

  2. xty says:

    The first of the promised recipes, and I honestly don’t know why this was quite so good, although I am a pest when it comes to buying fish and halibut really is a phenomenal fish. I wondered about the dried basil, but happened to have some and decided maybe fresh might burn … anyhow I stuck with the dried, and then froze the marinated fish in a ziplock bag:

    6 tablespoons olive oil
    3 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    4 6-ounce halibut fillets, skin removed
    1 tablespoon light olive oil or vegetable oil
    Chopped parsley, for garnish, optional

    Yum and going to have it again tonight.

  3. xty says:

    Or not …

    tricky to get back into the swing of things, and must try to focus …

    but Good Morning.

  4. xty says:

    Strange week with an achy bug and sleepiness … hoping for the best today.

    So put the mast back up or pull the boat and work on it? It looks like put the mast back up has won … eldest offspring home for a month in October and thinking keep it in the water for her.

    And it is a beautiful day after raining like billy-o yesterday, and I am sure you will be glad to know I did manage to mow (actually I use a weed eater because it ain’t so smooth) the lawn before the torrent and despite my general moaniness.

    Good morning.

  5. xty says:

    Well that was weird, and I am now feeling much better.

    Time to tackle the house for fall, and offspring #1’s visit. She is here in Ottawa for a month of placements (yahoo!) and then also managed to get placed in Toronto for the two weeks before Christmas, which means she won’t have to fly back to NFLD. Mum excited.

    And a good morning to all.

  6. xty says:

    Oh that was weird. I didn’t realise how many days had passed and that I already mentioned daughter’s return … apologies but my head has been full of soup lately.

  7. xty says:

    But we did put the mast up and had a lovely sail …

  8. xty says:

    Good soggy morning.

  9. xty says:

    Good Morning.

    I have been lost to the Victorians, deciding to catch up on the reading list of a young lady finishing a four-year fine arts degree in whom I have a distinct interest, and having given myself over to audio mostly managed to find a soothing voice reading Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, for free:

    Once over the drama of people marrying the wrong people and the horror at the strictures society placed on women in the past, I will rejoin the present.

  10. xty says:

    And another good morning. Back to doing yoga and I am appalled at myself for stopping, and would like to plug Yoga by Candace, and in particular if you are injured or just wobbly, her 30 Minute Restorative Yoga and Meditation is fabulous.

    And Karen Savage is the name of the reader who did not make my ears hurt reading Jane Austen, and trust me, there are some surprisingly dreadful recordings out there, and she has also read Sense and Sensibility, which is currently spinning on the old turntable. The interwebs really are the bomb.

  11. xty says:

    Good Monday. Very fall. Hope all is well.

  12. xty says:

    Good Wednesday Morning. It has been a busy time around here, what with Thanksgiving turkey in the woods at Fitzroy Park on Sunday and sailing with the fambly on Monday and recuperating on Tuesday. Always busy with #1 offspring about, but she has now vanished into the hospital system and will only appear briefly, to eat, sleep, eat and repeat.

    Construction noise quite something as they are building a metal frame house and are now grinding and bolting the frame which went up in a day. But I assume they will push to get her done before snow and it can’t go fast enough. But if so, maybe it would be better if they didn’t have a crew here on Sunday, and then one man alone yesterday.

    But philosophy has taken a back seat to domesticity, and now I must bring in plants from outside, including digging some up. I think I will bring in the hydrangeas and then figure out better where to plant them in the spring. They need to feel just a little warmer than it is, so I will get them in a sunny nook.

    Enough of this fascinating drivel. Hope all is well with all and even with sundry.

  13. xty says:

    And speaking of domestic drivel, I have discovered rug making, specifically in this case latch hook rug making, which is about as boring a blog topic as one can imagine. I am strangely excited about the prospect of making custom rugs and am starting wisely with a kit, as the internet, that swamp of all things, does of course have latch-hook how-to videos, with tens of thousands of hits. Maybe that is what I should have been writing about all along! I have often wondered about turning photos into art, but never thought of this. But each knot is a pixel, and with a large enough canvas the sky is literally the limit. Head full of ideas … see if house ends up full of rugs.

  14. xty says:

    And good morning.

  15. xty says:

    I think I feel a rant coming on, about the money economy. How can it really be that if my neighbour raised my kids and I did her laundry everyone would think we were great entrepreneurs making a buck and contributing, but if I raise my kids and she does her laundry we are not participating fully in society, to paraphrase that monster Mulroney, one of our erstwhile Prime Ministers. How can it be? The answer is simple. Taxes. In the second scenario there is nothing to tax or manage. No GDP to increase to make the numbers look good. I think this deserves a full rant, and I might have to put down my latch hooking and Jane Austen to lambaste the present.

    Oh and Happy Monday.

  16. xty says:

    And here is the latch hook project that has been eating my brain, and preventing my rant:

  17. xty says:

    Good Wednesday Morning. We had a lovely weekend celebrating the birthday of one of my loveliest sisters-in-law in Peterborough and sleeping in the van, with almost the entire paternal clan. Sunny people and weather,but with a brutal wind.

    And then yesterday … a snow flake. Not ready, either emotionally or physically! Plants dug up and brought inside, this time with the geraniums and coleus just in spare dishpans, because when you go through a strange reassortment of properties and sailboats, only one of which you own, and also camp a lot, and then attempt a vague dehoarding, it turns out you might have a rather large assortment of dishpans. But this should spare me watering the upstairs hall floor when I realise I have neglected said geraniums for months. You can root them in the spring if you keep them barely alive, and I was most successful last year with my attempted escapes from the money economy and turning annuals into perennials.

    Oh and the rug is three-quarters done, photo to follow undoubtedly. There was, shockingly, an error in the pattern! But discerning eyes, especially of #3 offspring, the graphically talented, solved the problem. Still very surprised and wondering about contacting company. Not out of anger or wishing for refund, just to let them know and save others from a slightly asymmetric rug.

  18. xty says:

    I just re-read that and no, we did not fit the entire paternal clan in the van … a misattributed prepositional phrase? I cannot remember the correct term for my error, but do remember the example from that dastardly word game book that I cannot give away for love or money: “When the cat entered the room, it held 15 people.” But you kind of needed the accompanying cartoon to get the full effect. My childhood … you just had to be there.

  19. xty says:

    Good Monday morning, neglected blog. It has been a very busy month, what with offspring #1 home and busy as only a fourth year med student can be busy, a flurry of visitors from Toronto, birthday in Peterborough, Hallowe’en, etc. Offspring now back home and, I am super pleased to say, now not only engaging, but engaged! I feel somewhat like the pumpkin she carved though, and am seriously looking forward to a little quietude.

  20. xty says:

    And I am sure you all [still dreaming?, ed.] will be delighted to know that I have finished hooking my latch-hook rug, and now need to trim the canvas and bind the edges. I have trimmed it with scissors, and it could probably use a little more trimming, but overall extremely pleased with the outcome which is surprisingly soft and pleasant to the touch. I makes me realise that while people bandy about the term “throw rug”, I have never actually really seen one and am now determined to make just such a thing. But here is the almost finished project, and I must also confess to having found the process very enjoyable and calming.

  21. xty says:

    And the project is finished, and if I do say so myself, and I do, it came out pretty darned, or I should say latched, well. Here is the back side to show the marvellous iron on binding that hides the trimmed and folded and sewn edge of the canvas:

  22. xty says:

    And here is the finished rug, and then its first occu … pant, who lay down upon it within seconds of it hitting the hall floor. I did know I was making it for Mouse, about half-way through.

  23. xty says:

    And good luck to our American neighbours on this silliest of all election days. To paraphrase someone, I am sure you would vote for the best candidate, but they ain’t running. I also heard someone say this wasn’t a “hold your nose” and vote moment, it was a “scratch out your eyeballs” and vote moment.

  24. xty says:

    Oh dear. I guess the war on drugs ain’t over. I am frankly a little embarrassed for the world, and a lot embarrassed for America. Oh well, at least he knows how to handle bankruptcy. But this time the creditors might not take it so well.

  25. xty says:

    Good Monday. Hope all is well with the world.

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