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.
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
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 …