8/1 – 9/2016 Summary: We started off our trip to spend a week on the boat with Jeff and Gloria Elliott in the Georgian Bay with what Jeff dubbed “The Curse of Alan.” You’ll have to read below to find out the details. We had been off the boat for a full month and looked forward to returning.
On the drive to the boat we stopped to get provisions and had a carload by the time we arrived, then spent the day cleaning the boat (there were spiders everywhere) and dealing with some maintenance issues before leaving the next day. That night we anchored in Goblin Bay where there was a YMCA camp with lots of kid activity in and around the water. Gloria got her first dinghy ride, about which she had trepidations but actually found enjoyable.
The terrain in the Georgian Bay was somewhat similar to the Trent-Severn Waterway, but with more open areas. Called “The Land of 30,000 Islands,” there were lots of rock islands either just at or below the water level, which required a sharp eye on the route at all times. We cruised through some very tight channels along the way, some just a few feet wider than the boat, and passed some beautiful houses lining the shore.
Qwirkle, a new game introduced to us by our friends Andrew and Kym Snelling, became the evening pastime. Jeff and Tom drowned some worms from time to time without results that could be put on a plate. But a great fish dinner was had at Gilly’s in Snug Harbor.
Our anchorages ranged from having as many as 20 boats in one bay to the last night where we were alone, a much-preferred delight. A couple of times we had trouble setting the anchor, and once pulled up an electrical cable with the anchor. It was then Jeff said, “I wondered what that sign on the shore said.”
We arrived in Killarney where Jeff and Gloria disembarked and Ron and Marie Adams joined us to see the North Channel. “The Curse of Alan” kicked in again for Jeff and Gloria’s return home. (Again, details below).
Overall we had a great time both experiencing the Georgian Bay and spending time with our good friends Jeff and Gloria. They worked hard to help where they could and “maintain the standard” Kathy set while she was with us. (They said they were really worried about not living up to Kathy’s high bar.) Jeff helped with several boat projects, including designing and installing a water transfer manifold to help balance the boat. Here is what they said about their time on the boat:
Georgian Bay, Ontario Canada, land of 30,000 islands, what a treasure. We had the pleasure of spending 8 days cruising this beautiful part of the world with our good friends Tom and Paula Vail from the deck of their boat, Life’s TraVails. We don’t know when we have relaxed quite so fully and at the same time experienced the high adventures. We had an experience that we will treasure for a lifetime. Sunrises and sunsets, beautiful islands, pink and green and grey granite cliffs. The glory of God’s creation. One night we had the perfect anchorage all to ourselves, an isolated spot where we felt like we were the only people in the world. Lying on the deck looking at the sky and catching the shooting stars. This trip only consisted of 150 miles of travel; can’t imagine what the other 4000+ miles of the Great Loop would be like.
Hard to pinpoint a favorite part, so many things are hard to forget. Jeff really enjoyed working with and helping Tom with the many projects. So many other memories…like when Jeff reached up to open the hatch in the v-berth for a little breeze and Tom screamed and grabbed Jeff’s arm from the deck. Since we didn’t realize Tom was out on deck, Jeff about came unglued.
Gloria’s favorite was the second dingy ride – we had a great fish dinner at Gilly’s at Snug Harbor and were returning to Life’s TraVails. Jeff and Paula were sitting on the front of the dingy and it started raining. The rain on top of Tom hitting each wave perfectly soaked the front passengers. It wasn’t the fact that they were wet, the favorite part was that I wasn’t scared!! – Jeff and Gloria Elliott, August, 2016
There are lots of details below if you are interested, but if not, we are not offended. Thanks for stopping by!
Details – The Elliotts arrived at our house at 3:45 AM for our taxi ride to the airport. Prior to embarking on this trip, Jeff failed to mention he had never had a trip to the airport that went well. He therefore rightly dubbed our day, “The Curse of Alan.”
The first thing that went wrong was that Paula had incorrectly listed Jeff as her guest pass traveler as “Alan Jeffrey Elliott” rather than “Jeffrey Alan Elliott.” Thus his reservation did not match his passport and he could not check in. Then, though Tom had made our reservations from Phoenix through Chicago to Toronto, Tom, Paula, and Gloria’s reservations showed Kitchener. We asked the agent at check-in about that, but she assured us it was Toronto (which, of course, Paula knew was wrong). Paula quickly relisted Jeff’s name into the system correctly (which can take up to 24 hours to process, but it processed right away), Tom made him a reservation to Toronto, and we somehow got through security quickly enough to get to the Chicago gate for boarding. It was there we discovered our reservation had been changed 2 days prior from Toronto to Kitchener, a Canadian airport 1 hour from Toronto. Because Toronto flights were full and the Kitchener flight had seats and we had no time to figure everything out before the Chicago flight left, we got on board, not sure where our luggage would go, especially Jeff’s (which had unbelievably changed to Kitchener during the time we walked from check-in through security to the gate).
Once in Chicago, we only had 1 hour before the Kitchener flight left, so hurried to the next gate and got seat assignments. Once in Kitchener, a small airport, we proceeded through customs only to find one piece of our luggage had not arrived. The gate agent found it in Chicago and requested it be put on the next flight, but it would not arrive until 9:30 that evening.
Unfortunately, another piece of the puzzle was that August 1 was a civic holiday in Canada, and although Enterprise at the Toronto airport was open (where we had a reservation), the rental car offices at the Kitchener airport were not. We decided we really had little choice but to get a hotel in Kitchener overnight and wait for our luggage. A free shuttle to Best Western took us “home” for the night. We walked a block to supper at Milton’s where Jeff and Gloria got to taste poutine, the Canadian gravied French fry dish, as an appetizer. Gloria was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
Fortuitously, Enterprise was a 3-minute walk and after a free breakfast at the hotel, Tom and Jeff picked up the rental car. We collected our last piece of luggage at the airport and began our backroads’ drive the 2.5 hours to Midland. Enroute, the Canal Road Farmer’s Market provided wonderful fresh fruits and veggies, and a beautiful basil plant. By the time we bought a load of groceries at Costco in Barrie, the trunk was packed and Paula and Gloria were sitting in the back seat surrounded by food with more at Jeff’s feet in the front.
When we arrived at the boat at Wye River Marina in Midland, we began loading, unpacking, and settling in. Tom discovered the aft shower sump pump inoperative and replaced it, and talked with the marina about the generator repair which took place in our absence, believing they put the alternator on the wrong generator. Jeff got busy repairing some wood framing that came off during Tom’s repair while Paula and Gloria unpacked and inventoried all the food. We had an early dinner on the boat, having had no time for lunch.
We made a trip into town to show the Midland murals to Jeff and Gloria, picked up a few smaller groceries at Walmart, a fishing license for Jeff (Tom discovered his age exempted him from having to buy one, which we wish we had known sooner), and treated ourselves to Karwartha ice cream before turning in for the night.
Early the next morning, we awoke to a fine day with scattered clouds and light wind. Tom talked with the marina about our electrical problem and found out the alternators on both generators were bad. While Tom returned the car to Enterprise, final preparations were made for our departure – cleaning and water-filling. A spider brigade had overtaken the boat during our month’s absence, and the outside of the boat was covered with spiders and webs. We had to lower the sunshades to attack the job with shoes, brooms, and cleaning rags to return its use to humans.
We all attended a Georgian Bay chart briefing with Mike, the marina general manager, getting some ideas for our week before pulling out of our slip and to the fuel dock for a pumpout. Finally underway at 1:30 PM, we motored 12 miles through more congested boat traffic than we anticipated on a Wednesday afternoon to Goblin Bay on the north end of Beausoleil Island. We anchored with 2 other boats in front of Camp Queen Elizabeth YMCA camp, originally a WWII training camp. After 3 anchoring attempts, we finally held, then lowered the dinghy to explore and visit our 2 boat neighbors and a family onshore with a bonfire roasting s’mores (sadly, no invitation).
Jeff, while attempting to step onto the swim step with the dinghy rope, made his move a bit too soon and went in the water with a big splash, which the rest of us found most amusing. After getting dry, we had marinara spaghetti with shrimp for dinner on the aft deck. Tom and Jeff made a tow line for the dinghy, then fished without getting as much as a nibble. Mosquitos drove them indoors.
The next morning, though warm, we dinghied to shore and hiked the well-maintained path and boardwalks around Fairy Lake on Beausoleil Island for about an hour and a half. We were amused watching the YMCA campers attempt to sail as they dumped into the water often.
It was an afternoon of beautiful cruising. We turned up 12-Mile Bay into Nani Bay, a well-protected cove with about 20 other boats anchored. After anchoring, we dinghed around looking for a less-populated anchorage but only found another camp with posted notices prohibiting anchoring, so returned to Life’s TraVails and contented ourselves with a late afternoon swim which morphed into a bath. After supper, we taught Jeff and Gloria the fun game of Qwirkle. Tom was not a good host, as he won both games.
We wondered if we were going to have to double-layover in Nani Bay as the forecast was 80% chance of thunderstorms, winds at 15-20 knots, and waves of 3’ for the next day, but we awoke to sun and decided to see how much of our 21 planned miles we could make before the weather moved in. The weather was choppy but not too bad, and before we knew it, we were at our destination of Snug Harbor. (Enroute, we passed one of the prettiest glass-sided houses ever.) Snug Harbor lived up to its name, narrowing down too tightly for our vessel and we motored back out to a cove much better sized. Though surrounded by “cottages,” on our 6th attempt, we finally got the anchor to hold in 20’ of water in the exact middle of the cove. (Anchor attempt #3 brought up a submerged cable, causing Tom’s heart rate to increase, but he was able to release it before we cut power to the neighborhood.)
As we pulled into Snug Harbor, we passed one of the nicer Canadian lighthouses. In general Paula called their lighthouses “lame” (as seen on the left). But there were a few nice ones along the way.
Having read that Gilley’s Restaurant was as good as the iconic Henry’s Fish Camp (which we had passed about 9:00 AM), we dinghied in the now-intermittent rain to Gilley’s in Snug Harbor. After a short wait (which at 1:30 PM told us it must be good), we had a delicious lunch of whitefish, pickerel, blueberry pie (Paula said “best ever”), Key Lime pie and traditional butter tarts of brown sugar and maple syrup. Having eaten too much, we strolled around the neighborhood to burn some calories, with a wave from every passing motorist. The ferns along the road were turning yellow, and we almost lost Paula. Tom provided a very wet dinghy ride back to the boat, soaking Paula (in her raincoat) and Jeff (not in his) from the wind and chop. After drying out, we finished the evening with Qwirkle on the aft deck.
Entering channel. Sailboats approaching Sailboat rodeo
We were off to a very slow start the next morning as Tom and Jeff installed a new alternator on the port generator. We raised the dinghy back up to the dinghy deck, anticipating a longer day with partly outside passage. At the very narrow turn (about 150°) in Hangdog Channel, we met 3 opposite-direction sailboats who very reluctantly gave way, making 360° turns barely out of our way as we transited through. We were glad Thad and Cindy on Glorious Dei had told us to study up on the tricky Hangdog Channel.
During our 2 hours of outside passage with 2-3’ swells in 2-3 second intervals, we got to find out firsthand why Gloria always got to ride in the front seat when she was young. It was not a comfortable ride. Need we say more?
Around 4:00 PM, we motored up Byng Inlet to Wright’s Marina to pump out our holding tank. By that time, Gloria felt well enough for ice cream so we walked to a nearby ice cream stand and all got some wonderful flavors. We anchored close by behind Rabbit and Old Mill Islands in the middle of Byng inlet. A big storm passed by us, giving us only scant rain but a beautiful double rainbow. We laughed our way to bed after watching a Chonda Pierce video.
The next morning, Jeff and Gloria discovered their V-berth was wet. Tom and Jeff once again got into a big boat project trying to figure out why. They took both anchor rodes (the length of anchor chain) out of the chain locker and discovered the anchor drain was clogged but could not get it cleared. They also built a new sub-floor for the anchor locker and waterproofed the locker bottom. Tom cleaned the bilge and replaced the engine room bilge pump. Paula and Gloria listened to 2 daily audio Bible readings on the aft deck while enjoying the sunshine. They got to watch a floatplane land just abeam the boat and taxi to the nearby marina.
By the time we finally left the anchorage at 2:30 PM, Jeff had done some research on catching pickerel and determined he and Tom were doing it correctly, but having drowned all their worms, needed to resupply. The wind was brisk and Paula asked if the marina could bring them out so we didn’t have to pull into a slip. We pulled abeam the end of the dock at Wright’s Marina and Tom extended a bucket on a boathook with money. The dockhand wanted nothing to do with getting close enough to the end of the dock to get the money out and put the worms in (she said “I can see where this is going”) but Paula got close enough and she was able to make the exchange. She was excited though when she realized there was a woman driver making that cool move.
We traversed narrow Cunninghams Cut and some more open water before arriving at a nice anchorage between Strawberry and Tie Islands. Tom and Jeff fished again, unfortunately without any bites. Good thing Paula had put corned beef, onions, carrots, and Brussels sprouts along with black rice in her thermal cooker that morning (just in case there were no fish to be brought aboard) and the meal turned out quite nicely. Tom again won Qwirkle with a huge score. Stargazing on the bow where we could easily see the Milky Way and several recognizable constellations along with several shooting stars completed the evening.
Monday morning, Tom took some time to do some Canyon Ministries work while Paula, Jeff, and Gloria went on spider control duty, again doing major cleaning outside the boat. Jeff had the ceiling of the aft deck sparkling! We wondered if we were ever going to win the spider web war.
Tom and Jeff went to work on the long-awaited installation of the water balancing manifold. DeFevers have what Paula thinks is a design flaw in its fluid balancing system causing the boat to list to port or starboard when fuel or water gets out of whack. Tom and Jeff had designed a manifold with 4 valves to control the tank from which water was drawn and also provide the ability to pump from tank to tank. It was about a 4-hour job and we’re looking forward to its usability.
When we finally got going it was 2:30 PM again. We had a bit of open water, but Gloria’s stomach faired better and we found an evening anchorage all to ourselves for the first time, next to a huge granite cliff with great wind protection. Since it was our last night with Jeff and Gloria, we feasted on rib eyes from the grill, beets, baked onions and eggplant. Gloria won our last game of Qwirkle.
There was light fog in the morning on the water, which dissipated quickly. We chose to finish the last 2.5 hours of Georgian Bay through Collins Cut rather than the outside route, a beautiful granite cut with more elevation on the shore than most of Georgian Bay. After leaving the cut, we had about an hour of open water before pulling into the fuel dock for a pumpout at Killarney Mountain Lodge Marina and then going to our slip. Within the hour, Paula had laundry in the wash next to the Pitfield General Store in downtown Killarney, a short 4-minute walk from the boat, while Tom found a mechanic to come look at the electrical problems again. All of Killarney (population 500) was contained in about 4 blocks just adjacent to the marina. We had supper at the “world famous” Herbert Fishery on their outside deck. Playful fresh-water otters cavorted dockside. After ice cream, the Elliotts went to The Pines B & B for the night while Paula cleaned up the boat in anticipation of our next guests.
Ron and Marie arrived about 7:45 PM after their 10-hour drive from visiting friends in PA. We gave them a short tour of the boat and a safety briefing, then took advantage of the showers at the lodge before turning in for the night.
“The Curse of Alan” continued for Jeff and Gloria. Their return home started well as they drove Ron and Marie’s car to Sudbury, but there they were told they could not drive a rental car over the border to Buffalo as planned. So instead, they ended up on a bus to Buffalo through Toronto, arriving at 11:00 PM. The next morning, flights through Chicago were full, but a quick reroute through Charlotte to Phoenix worked out and fortunately got them home on the same day as planned.
Glad to see that You are underway again. Your blog is really bringing back memories. We stayed in Killarney for a week waiting on Lois’s medicine, which had been shipped next day air from Charlotte, NC to Kilarney a week earlier. A special trip was made to Sudbury to get her medicine.
You are cutting it close with respect to being off the Great lakes by Labor Day. Water conditions degrade quickly after Labor Day, and some of the marinas start pulling docks from the water after Labor Day weekend.
Above all, enjoy yourself!!!
Hi Paula and Tom,
Glad you are back on the water. Sorry you are having mechanicals, hope they are behind you. Just got back from Durango and have a yard project to do prior to rye grass time. Great to see the progress on your blog. Bob and Cecile
We’re a bit behind on the blog. We have actually finished the North Channel as well (hopefully posted in a few days) and are back in the US waiting out winds and waves (forecast at up to 30 knots and 9′) at Mackinaw City to begin our trek down Lake Michigan.
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