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8/10 – 17/2016 Summary – Our trip through the North Channel was not what we expected, but we really enjoyed it and spending time with Ron and Marie Adams who joined us in Killarney. We had read and been told the North Channel was much more remote than the Georgian Bay, but that was not our experience. We found there were as many, if not more, little towns and marinas along the way. But there were also some beautiful remote places to tuck into for the night and the scenery was breathtaking, both from the boat and on our hikes, like the hike to Casson Peak pictured above.
We spent our first day with Ron and Marie pretty much ignoring them as we caught up on email and Canyon Ministries stuff. But they joined us as we also spent some time reviewing the charts of the area with Robbie Colwell, a local who shared his knowledge of the area, including the Casson Peak hike. Thanks Robbie. It was the best hike of our Loop so far.
After leaving Killarney, we crossed north into a fjord and spent 2 nights on the hook (one due to weather), and hiked to Topaz Lake, another of Robbie’s suggestions.
Once the weather cleared, we made our way through the North Channel mostly anchoring in coves with 8 to 20 boats. We met a few Loopers along the way, some of whom we will likely see again as we head south. One highlight stop, at least for Paula, was Gore Bay to visit Ole’ Blues and buy a Can-Am fleece jacket, which she had seen a lady wearing back on the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Some of our down time included Ron helping with boat projects while the gals continued to fight the spider web wars. (It seemed the tide had turned though and they were starting to win the battle.) One project took all 4 of us, running wiring behind the wall for the TV. Ron held the TV, Paula directed cable placement from below, Tom and Marie ran the wire – truly a group effort!
While Tom was not jealous at all, Ron brought in the only fish to be caught in Canada, an 18” pickerel. Tom was on the other side of the boat fishing with worms like everyone had told him to do, while Ron tossed in this stupid little plastic fish on the end of his line and caught a pickerel! (Must have been the hat?) It was a very delicious part of our breakfast the next morning.
We really enjoyed our time together. The evenings, and some of the rainy afternoons, were filled with great conversation and game playing. We taught them Qwirkle and they in turn taught us a couple of card games. They were great guests and kept up the high standard of helpfulness set by Kathy so many months prior. Here is what they said about their time with us:
Marie & I have just experienced a trip of a lifetime. The beauty of the North Channel from Killarney to Blind River was indescribable. The ship which carried us was strong and fully equipped. Food from the gallery was always eagerly looked forward to, meeting the greatest expectations. And lastly, the fellowship we experienced was not to be surpassed. Ron and Marie Adams
We did feel bad as we had to leave them on the dock with bags in tow in Blind River. But we were behind on making miles to be in Chicago by Labor Day and needed to be on our way.
Lots more details are below if you are so inclined or just need something to help you get to sleep.
Details – We planned on spending the day at Killarney Mountain Lodge Marina to do trip planning and catch up on email we had essentially not been able to get for a week due to the remoteness of the Georgian Bay. We all began the day with a farewell breakfast to Jeff and Gloria at their Pines Inn B & B, a pleasant start to the day with a fun server (Paul). The Adams turned over their car keys to the Elliotts so they could drive the car to Sudbury, the closest town with rental cars. (If you read the last blog, you know that did not turn out all that well for the Elliotts).
Tom and Paula met Robbie Colwell while both were visiting at a cute little tug in the marina. Robbie had boated the North Channel since age 14, and he was willing to share his local knowledge with us, always a very appreciated input. He met us in the beautiful lodge (pictured right) for about an hour and gave us some great tips.
After salad on the aft deck, we spent the afternoon with Tom working on Canyon Ministries work and Paula doing email and route planning. Ron and Marie tried to fix the refrigerator door that wasn’t securing well, but couldn’t really discover the problem. Dinner was marinara spaghetti with shrimp on the aft deck while watching the frequent boat traffic pass by followed by Tom cleaning the batteries in the engine room and long showers at the lodge.. (We take “sailor showers” on the boat to conserve water. “Sailors showers” mean getting wet, turning off the water, soaping up, then turning the water back on just long enough to get rinsed. So…l-o-n-g showers, when available, are a treat.)
Thursday, after a little more email work, we were ready to get moving under a high overcast to the highly popular Pool at Baie Fine (pronounced “Bay Fin”), 14 miles to the west, then north 8 miles up a bay. Just prior to leaving, we introduced ourselves to Jeff Pollak, a Looper on a 52’ DeFever, Tidings of Joy, from San Diego.
The topography in the North Channel was much more vertical than the flatter Georgian Bay. Baie Fine is the only freshwater fjord in North America and was very pretty with lots of trees. There were only 4 other boats anchored there, leaving us lots of room. We anchored, quickly lowered the dinghy and were off to hike the 30-minute trail through the woods to Topaz Lake, supposedly a “Caribbean blue” clear lake. Once again, we felt the expectation had been set too high. It was a nice lake, but certainly not clear compared to our past Caribbean experiences. We took a dip, amazed at how shallow the thermocline was, with our feet feeling the cooler temperatures compared to our upper body.
Back at the boat, Tom and Ron rigged a new dinghy tow point just below the swim step to tow the dinghy in a lower water position (which worked better). Paula and Maria took some time to relax.
Thursday, the weather moved in! We had to take a layover day due to low clouds and the forecast of thunderstorms. It rained in the morning, then cleared enough for Tom and Ron to troubleshoot some wiring which was preventing power to the aft nav light. They made progress, but were unable to fix the problem. Marie taught Paula to play Crummy Rummy and then Paula knit the heels in her cute pair of “watermelon socks”.
The lousy weather continued on Saturday with steady rain and low clouds. In fact, the rain was even worse than the day before. We did some work inside, rerouting our TV cable. More card games were shared. We sure were happy the Adams enjoyed games, but Marie was a bit too good at everything!
At 2:00 PM, we decided the visibility might be good enough to move to Little Current. As Tom and Ron pulled up the anchor, they had to shed lots of grass and weeds from it. (We had been forewarned about this.) We started back to the main channel. A call to the marina at Little Current changed our minds. Seemed the current, which could be quite strong (up to 4 knots) had caused more crashes into the docks that day than the entire rest of the summer. Besides that, they had no room left unless someone departed, and with the poor weather, that was unlikely.
Fortunately, Robbie had told us about another good anchorage in Baie Fine, Mary Ann’s Cove, 2 miles from the entrance. By the time we were anchored in Mary Ann’s (with 1 other sailboat), mist had begun again and we were glad we had a spot into which to tuck. Games that evening included Chicken Foot and Mexican Train.
Sunday was overcast, but the rain had finally moved out. Robbie had showed us pictures of a hike to Casson Peak from the dock at Mary Ann’s. (We use the word “dock” pretty loosely, as there was really only room for 1 dinghy and the dock was tied to shore with a ski rope.) We were rewarded with the best hike of our Great Loop – the view from the top was incredible (pictured at top of post). We could see the North Channel, Baie Fine, and even all the way to Little Current.
By the time we returned from the hike, it was a clear, beautiful day, so we motored the 11 miles to Little Current trying to time our arrival in town for the swing bridge opening. We stopped at Wally’s for a holding tank pumpout and then moved to the town dock for a walk to the grocery store. Killarney only had the equivalent of a convenience store and we had a choice of 2 grocery stores in Little Current (literally across the street from each other), with better choices and prices! We only needed to stock up on some fresh fruit and a few other things.
By 3:30 PM, we were out of Little Current and on our way to the Benjamin Islands, another very popular North Channel anchorage where we anchored between the North and South Benjamins with 19 other boats (9 power and 10 sail). Two of them were Loopers – Jeff and Joy on Tidings of Joy whom we had met in Killarney and Mike & Bonney Kennedy on Pearl Two who dinghied over for a visit. As Mike was a pilot also, he and Paula had stories to share. It seemed there weren’t many of us Loopers left in Canada. Boating season is coming to a close and we’re bringing up the tail end.
After a hike the next morning up the huge granite slab and through the woods to view the channel from the other side of South Benjamin, we began our day’s 18-mile journey across smooth open water to the south side of the North Channel to Gore Bay. Paula had a specific reason for wanting to go to Gore Bay – shopping. Debra Hurst, a platinum Looper we had met back in the Trent-Severn, wore a beautiful fleece called the Can-Am jacket, which encompassed symbols of both Canada (the maple leaf) and the US (stars and stripes). She told us she got it at Ole’ Blues in Gore Bay. We had really enjoyed the Canadians during our travels, and Paula thought it would be a great reminder of the memories. (And she was overdue her birthday present too!)
After anchoring, we dinghied in and walked through the small neighborhood to the commercial area. We found Cathy at Ole’ Blues and had a pleasant time talking with her. She had made several thousand Can-Am jackets as well as other specially designed jackets for teams from other countries in major athletic competitions. The Can-Am jacket became very popular after 9-11. She even offered to shorten the sleeves for Paula so the unisex jacket would fit her better. We followed her to her back sewing room where she had 6 young girls, ages 8 – 15, designing and sewing their own clothes! The 3 older were helping the younger, and they were all having so much fun. For $20, Cathy had classes of various levels she taught every summer. One girl showed Paula a very nice sketchbook of her designs. What a great opportunity for them in such a small town.
Back at the boat, it became a “cleaning” afternoon. Paula scrubbed the dinghy while Tom and Marie washed boat windows and Ron caught up his diary. After Tom and Paula took Gore Bay “baths” off the aft deck, Tom grilled salmon topped with basil, tomatoes, and cheese (a Vail specialty), something Marie said she’d definitely prepare back at home herself.
Our ongoing electrical problems took a turn for the worse as we discovered after dinner our refrigerators wouldn’t run even with our generator on. Just before sunset, we moved from the anchorage just abeam the marina into Gore Bay Marina for electrical hook-up. It also afforded Ron and Marie a long-as-you-want shower at the marina.
By morning, rain had moved in once again. Tom and Ron replaced the port engine alternator, a fuse, and troubleshot the generator wiring. Paula used the time to do laundry. After lunch, we motored through slight chop before the water became relatively smooth as the weather cleared. We headed 18 miles north through pretty Whalesback Channel into Beardrop Harbor, a popular anchorage with 8 other boats and lots of room. Bill & Barbara dinghied over from a neighboring trawler for a short visit. They started out in FL as Loopers, but after 8 years enjoying the North Channel, they’d never made it farther than there and now wintered their boat in MI.
Tom and Ron threw out their lines, and finally…Ron caught a pickerel! It was a nice size, about 18”, but after months in Canadian waters, 1 lousy pickerel? And it was caught with a lure when locals said to fish for pickerel with worms. Because a “farewell” steak and baked potato dinner was planned, we ate the fish the next morning for breakfast with our eggs. It was super-delicious. Marie requested a last evening of Qwirkle. (She hadn’t won in awhile because Paula was keeping score).
As we made our way to Blind River the next morning to drop off Ron and Marie, a big storm approached from the west as we neared the Turnbull Islands. We tried to tuck in on the east side to wait it out on anchor, but were too close to shore by the time we got to anchoring depth. We pulled back out around the north side of the Turnbulls, and fortunately, the weather passed behind us and the path west to Blind River was almost clear.
We pumped out the heads, then tied to the end of the dock as another big rainstorm hit again, not sure of whether we’d be in Blind River for the night or if the storm would clear enough for us to make our way to Meldrum Bay on the south side of the North Channel. To kill some time while the rain came down, we played one more card game of “Oh Hell” so Ron and Marie could teach us how they “blind bid,” a slightly different version than how we normally played. By the time Paula won a round, the rain had quit. Ron kept the scorecard, saying we would continue the game when we came to visit them next in Branson.
We walked to lunch at the marina, a nice treat, and then determined the weather had cleared enough for us to make a run for it. It was a sad picture leaving Ron and Marie on the docks waving goodbye, especially since we knew they were going to have to spend the night in Blind River to await their bus ride to Sudbury. We later found out though they were able to enjoy a concert in the park and plans worked out fine. Also, they decided to take a few extra days to explore the islands on the south side of the North Channel before continuing their journey to visit family and then home.
Our time in the North Channel was almost complete. It turned out to be a different experience than we had expected, but we were happy to transit it safely and enjoy the views from the boat as well as the small towns.