Smoke on the water

The Georgian Bay is pretty big.  If it was its own lake—instead of appended to Lake Huron like a huge goiter—it would be, well, a pretty big lake.   Maybe even another Great Lake.

75BAEBA7-44AF-459E-A8D0-617F534F6DC6Rather than cross in the middle and deal with wind, waves, and potentially a swarm of biting flies, most small craft travel the “small craft channel.”  Duh.  Misty Pearl is on the large size for winding through the islands that dot the archipelago, but we try to avoid big water whenever possible.  Of course, we also try to avoid the shallow water, which requires boating a very fine line.

Dana and Karen have spent countless hours pouring over paper charts in order to map out a good route.  So far, their game has been spot on.  As a very small example, today there were some tricky bits weaving the dotted line through the islands/rocks around Franklin Island.  

img_4663No worries for Misty Pearl or Second Wave though.

The funny thing about most of these tiny islands is that someone has dragged out sufficient materials to build a house on them.  In many cases, we can’t figure out why.

Up here, these actually aren’t called houses, or even cabins.  They’re cottages.  The people who occupy them are cottagers.  “Cottagers” sounds rather quaint.

At the same time, cottagers are the folks blasting about on jet skis and fast boats and sailboats and other things in our way.  Sometimes we don’t like them at all.  Given the biblical parable about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, however, at least they have that going for them.  Which is nice.

Yesterday, Dana spotted a Canada Warbler.  Warbler is a fun word to say.  She also was very happy when she saw a Common Tern today.  As we approached Byng Inlet, however, there was a swarm of them.  It was like they thought Misty Pearl was Tippi Hedren.  Terns apparently aren’t so rare at all.  (There’s a joke in here about the Birds singing Tern, Tern, Tern, but we lack the energy to finesse it.)

Now the bad stuff.  To this point, we’ve tried to ignore the ugliness that is the Parry 33 wildfire.  Unfortunately, we now must confront it head on.

B40A4D89-C39D-4FC6-86B1-C6C7885A414FNews photos show flames down to the shoreline.

98D6CAB9-E9E0-4F21-903D-B93948E4CFFDWe were three miles off shore and ten miles south of Britt when we started to see smoke along the coast.  Hence the Deep Purple song reference.

A large stretch of the small craft channel north of Britt is closed to boat traffic.  This specifically includes a stretch that folks claim was the best of the best.  Bears at the water’s edge, fewer cottages, and soaring granite cliffs.  It’s hard to justify feeling sorry for ourselves when we are just passing through, but still.

51.2 nm and a bit over seven hours after leaving Parry Sound, we rolled up to Wright’s Marina in Britt.  Again with the absurdly tight docking, although this time we went in first.  (We’re not sure whether it’s worse to sweat the fear of hitting another boat or the fear of another boat hitting ours.)  Fortunately, Brent is a pro.

img_4657There’s exactly one gas station/restaurant/motel in the Britt metropolitan area (pop. about 25), so that’s where we went with Second Wave, Sea Jamm, Exhale, and Gypsy.  Surprisingly good food, and the surly waitress turned her demeanor around nicely.

Now we just have to find the safe way out of the slip in the morning.  We’ll probably let Brent back out first.

Mini Pearl crosses her wake!

223A3B67-4F7D-416D-8A12-8BD205905BCCOn Sunday, we became charter members of the IIGLDCA.  That’s the Isabella Island Great Loop Dinghy Cruising Association.  So far it’s only us and Second Wave, of course, but we completed the Loop aboard Mini Pearl the same day we started it and are confident looping the island will become a thing.

Or possibly it won’t.  Either way, Isabella Island is a cool island in Parry Sound, and it was a beautiful day for a dinghy ride.

On our way back to the marina, we stopped to celebrate our mini-loop at a small joint with the coolest TV ever.


This would be a great place to watch the Vols in what cannot possibly be a worse season this year, although by the time football rolls around in a few weeks the TV might be sitting on 4 feet of ice instead of water.  We settled for half of a Toronto Bluejays game, which is a long time for lunch but the service truly was that slow.

On our way to Parry Sound, we nervously  threaded a very tight pass called Second Mile Narrows.  When the huge tour boat gets through with no problem, however, it suggests we just are weenies.

Parry Sound’s biggest claim to fame seems to be as Bobby Orr’s home town.  It’s actually pretty cool to see a town so proud.

We cleaned Misty Pearl up a bit, walked the trail outside of town with the boys, and bonded with a huge dragonfly.

All in all, a solid weekend.

Tomorrow looks like a long cruising day.

The salad dressing up here must be unbelievable

Georgian Bay is known as one of the best cruising grounds in the world.  Thirty-thousand islands dot the area.  Wait what?  That’s 30 TIMES as cool as Thousand Islands!

One of the islands is Fryingpan Island—or Frying Pan Island depending on your source of information—which was our destination for today.  That’s because this is the only island—out of 30,000—with Henry’s Fish House Restaurant.

Henry’s they say is a place one must go when in Georgian Bay.

Kind of like we think about the Tin Fish on the Imperial Beach Pier.  Commercial seaplanes fly folks in just for lunch.  We wouldn’t elevate it to Tin Fish status, but the pickerel was delicious even though the overnight mooring was a tad pricey.  The nice vacationers appropriately admired Misty Pearl and Second Wave.  A couple of guys screwed up the courage to ask for a tour, which we graciously hosted.

One of us historically has been the clear target of a government conspiracy involving unmarked police cars with radar guns and Redflex cameras that dispense what should be unconstitutional speeding tickets, so we’re sensitive to trickery.  The beat-up fishing boat used by the Canadian game wardens is the ultimate.  By the time these guys sidle up with their sidearms, there’s no time to escape the effects of whatever illegal you might doing on your boat.  They tied up at Henry’s, however, just like everyone else.

The tough part of the day was before we got to Henry’s.  Things started out blissfully enough.  Light wind, flat water.  Excellent day to see some new stuff.

It’s been a while since we had open water, and a day without locks promised to be worry-free.  Then the winds whipped up three-foot beam waves, changing our outlook significantly.  Add in some big fast boats waking us and some big slow sailboats blocking us, and getting to Henry’s grew in importance exponentially.  We won’t be posting pictures of the scary stuff, obviously, because we were too scared to be taking pictures.  Trust us though, some of this is scary.

There were moments in the small craft channel, fortunately, when we could admire the scenery.  We’ll probably post a bunch more pictures that look a lot like these but also fail to do justice to what we see.

Tomorrow we head to Parry Sound for a couple of days.  We need provisions and almost certainly there will be a handy LCBO.  After that, there’s a real possibility that we’ll not have cell service for chunks of the next week or two, basically until we get to Michigan.  So if we don’t post for a few days, we probably haven’t died.

Two days before the mast*


Another glorious sunset, this one from the dock at Queen’s Cove Marina whilst playing cards.  Brent and Karen have mastered the game we taught them so it’s about time to find a different one.  Good times.

For something like the past four months, we’ve awakened every morning to the view through the hatch above our bed.  Sometimes we see blue sky, sometimes stars, sometimes gray and rain.  On Wednesday morning, we saw brown.  Oh that’s right, we parked in a garage.

We guess they forgot that we came here to step the mast.  There barely might’ve been 27-feet clearance inside, but the roof is pitched and we would be forced to just sit in there forever if we got taller.  Sort of like a ship in a bottle.

So on day 2 we moved to an outside slip.  St. John the Rigger graciously agreed to leave retirement just long enough to help install new boom lines and winch cable, which required him to drive half-way to Toronto for materials.  Raising the newly-outfitted mast on Thursday, however, required an extra day in Tay.  (There’s a limerick hiding in that sentence somewhere.)  Mini Pearl is happy that she soon can get back in the water, however, and we’re happy to get some topside space back.  And DirecTV, since football season almost is upon us.  Here’s one of those super fun spot-the-differences puzzles:

Tay is a place through which one can walk—even with recalcitrant dogs—quicker that it takes to say “Tay.”  This would be the proverbial one stoplight town if it had one more stop light.  Literally.

The egg salad sandwiches at the mercantile, however, were delicious.  So was the fresh blueberry pie.  Turns out right around the corner there’s an iconic museum aboard the S.S. Keewatin, which is the last existing ship sharing a design with R.M.S Titanic.  Tay also has a shrine to a bunch of Jesuit saints.  Of course, we discovered all of this only as we were pulling away.

Did we mention the endless hordes of geese in Canada?  And as a matter of simple physiology, where there are geese, there is geese poop.  Everywhere.  Except Queen’s Cove Marina in Tay.

These folks have devices—designed to do away with geese—which are available for purchase at the marina store as well as aptly-named**.

No geese here, except those smartly passing by overhead.

Thursday afternoon St. Robin the Harbormaster went through her Georgian Bay charts with Second Wave, Aurora, Adagio, and us.

She even lined us up with marina spots that otherwise might be unavailable during the month that all Canadians with boats are required to use them in close proximity to Misty Pearl.  We feel fairly ready.

Our last night at Queen’s Cove was quiz night at Queen’s Quay Pub.  Big crowd for quiz night.

Our team—Second Pearl—might’ve had a shot, but the MC was from Wales and we couldn’t understand a word he said.  We’d never heard of a Floofy Dook, for example, so no way we would know that it’s made with room.

Tomorrow off to explore Georgian Bay.



*Apologies to Richard Dana.

**Misty Pearl unfortunately receives no compensation for its endorsements.  Only because nobody has offered any compensation, of course, but still.

But it’s a dry heat

Yesterday the weather forecast looked grim, so the plan was to meet with Second Wave at 8 to see if anything had changed overnight.  The only thing that really changed was the fact that other boats left our marina and headed to the blue line at 7.  Throw planning out the window if other folks might get a leg up seemed to be the new plan, so we hustled over and tied up with time to take showers, walk the dogs, and research the day’s navigation issues.  But finally it was our turn.

As noted yesterday, the lock at Big Chute is a pretty darn cool marine railway.  The actual traveling part was not too scary after all.  The scary part was when the lock guys struggled to figure out our keel shape and how to set the slings so as to avoid the stabilizers.  Ultimately we handed them an iPad photo of Misty Pearl’s butt in a travel lift and they hooked us up.  (Crossroads and Change of Pace, if you read this you might want to have something ready to show them if they have the same concerns with you.)  Photo cred to Beth on Inuksuk.

The last stretch of the Trent-Severn Waterway includes more tiny islands with more happy, smiley, wavy Canadian islanders.  Look closely to see a happy, smiley, wavy Canadian islander on her porch.  

We’ll miss them, as after the last lock we popped out into Georgian Bay and on to Queen’s Cove, where we’ll spend 2 nights.  Both Misty Pearl and Second Wave are having some minor things resolved before going north.

When we reached Tay, Ontario, this afternoon, we were a bit cranky about the 70° and rain showers that forced us to use umbrellas on our way to the only local restaurant (which not-at-all-unexpectedly was a pub.)  Then we looked at our phones.

Mwaa Haa Haa.