This post was edited on August 13, 2018, to take advantage of the stronger cellular service and upgrade the photos.
On Thursday we reached the northernmost point in our journey – Thessalon, Ontario, Latitude 46°15'250"N. Assuming the US would have us back, we planned to clear Customs and enter Michigan on Friday. Sadly, what this meant was that I had to give up my cockpit garden which we’ve had on board since shortly after entering Canada. Plants are not allowed through Customs, so I gave over custody to a fellow boater who was pleased to add some lavender to her vessel. I’ll be starting a new garden in Michigan.
In my last post we were just leaving Byng Inlet and making the transition from the South Channel of Georgian Bay to the North Channel, another milestone. The chart below is from one of our trusted cruising guides and provides great context for our Georgian Bay travels.
When leaving Byng Inlet we had to go "outside" to avoid the Parry 33 restricted fire zone (which we've learned has just been reopened - great news). Fortunately, it was a calm day. Our course took us out into Georgian Bay to a waypoint a few miles offshore, at which point we ran outside for a little over 30 miles and then headed back inland to resume our passage through the small craft channel.
The move from the South to the North Channel was accompanied by an almost immediate change in the landscape. We reentered at Beaverstone Bay where the granite gets bigger and the channel walls get higher. Shortly after reaching Beaverstone we were treated to a lovely passage through Collins Inlet, an 11-mile narrow channel through solid granite.
When we entered the inlet, time slowed down for a bit. It’s well protected so there’s little wind, the water is calm and the narrowness of the channel meant that we could hear birdsong on either bank above the sound of our engine. I continued to look for bears and other signs of wildlife to little avail. Although, we did see signs of the area’s most obvious occupants.
We spent that night at the Sportsman’s Inn Marina in the port of Killarney which we enjoyed very much. Killarney is considered the gateway to the North Channel and is a popular port. The harbor is a channel between two islands, and the Sportsman’s Inn has slips on both sides of the channel. We were on the far side, a great vantage point for the abundant people-watching opportunities. Killarney also proved to be a good place to provision before heading into the more remote areas in the north and, as it turns out, a great place to hold over in a pub during a serious thunderstorm with significant winds. By the way, my lines held fast …
We used Killarney as a jumping off point for a couple of wonderful anchorages. First, we took a cruise into Baie Fine, a narrow bay surrounded by white quartz mountains that is often referred to as a fjord. The bay ends in "The Pool," sort of a cul-de-sac for boaters just over 10 miles in from the mouth of the bay. The Pool is a unique and very popular anchorage, but with a very weedy bottom. After a couple of anchoring attempts, we conceded to the weeds and instead chose an isolated anchorage nearby. We spent our time enjoying the scenery, reading, swimming, though we were reminded during the night of the importance of a leeward anchorage. We had anchored at the somewhat unprotected eastern edge of the fjord, and the southwest wind started building after dark. For once, the Captain somehow slept during the night so I placed myself on informal watch, waking frequently to make sure our anchor was holding as the wind rattled the pilot house doors and tested our anchoring skills. In the morning, we were where we were supposed to be and everything was calm.
In Killarney we also met a cool couple on Gratitude (great name for a boat) who imparted more local knowledge including detailed waypoints to an anchorage in McGregor Bay. Now, McGregor Bay had previously been described to us quite emphatically as a “flipping minefield” (but he didn't say flipping).
Gratitude’s captain had some connection to a guy who captained a yacht for a famous comedian who liked to vacation in Georgian Bay. This other captain had explored rocky McGregor Bay by dinghy and charted a course to a very private and protected anchorage that would accommodate a 60’ foot yacht. We liked and trusted the folks on Gratitude and decided to follow the waypoints, a bit of a leap of faith. What followed was an obstacle course through rock islands, some visible and some just under the surface, to an unpopulated, isolated and beautiful cove. It was time to gunkhole. We dropped our anchor, launched our dinghy and took a look around. What a beautiful and private spot. Once again our journey was enhanced by a dose of local knowledge.
That brings me to the topic of anchoring in general. Throughout our journey we have been gaining confidence in our boating knowledge and skills, but we still have much to learn. Anchoring has been an interesting challenge. It's not only a way to connect more closely to our surroundings, it’s an important skill set in the event there are no marina slips available. As the summer progresses and boaters think about late season recreation or trips south before the cold sets in, marina slips can get harder to find.
The irony of anchoring is that while being on the hook provides the ultimate vehicle for peace and relaxation, the act of anchoring itself can cause high levels of stress, at least for the Captain and me. You first have to find a location with protection from the prevailing winds. Undoubtedly, several other boats have already found it so you then need to decide whether to try to squeeze in or find another spot. You then have to make sure you find an anchorage with good holding. Mud, good. Weeds and rock, bad. It then becomes a question of depth and swing - how much anchor chain to lay out, how much room is there to swing to avoid hitting rock or nearby boats. If the anchor doesn't set the first time, it needs to be hauled and cleaned (in The Pool I spent ten minutes using my boat hook to remove 30 pounds of weeds from the anchor, twice). And finally, there is often an audience and yes, some ego is involved.
But we've stayed with it, and our skills (and communication) have improved. The rewards come in the form of sunsets and sunrises.