Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Into the Heart Of Georgian Bay

Days on cruise:  109

Distance traveled today:  37.4 miles

Travel time:  4 hrs, 44 mins (and NO LOCKS!)

Total trip odometer: 2,436 statute miles

After another quiet night at Wana Keta Bay on Beausoleil Island, we left to put in a “long” day, which is how we’ve   come to think of days in which we travel more than 4 hours or 25 miles, knowing our goal is to travel approximately 100 miles per week for the next 7 weeks.  It’s true, however, that travel is often slow in this area because of tight, improbable-looking channels through ominous-looking rocks, and 9 kilometer/per hour speed limits. That’s right: 9 (not 10; we assume this is a hold-over from pre-Metric-conversion days when it was 5 mph), which translates to 5.6 miles per hour. Our engine’s idle speed is 5.8 - 6.0 miles per hour unless we have wind or current on the nose, in which case it can be slower, so sometimes we put one or both engines in neutral briefly to slow us down.

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There are pretty boats to see along the way, including almost no sailboats because of the shallow water. Some explanation may be useful here. Georgian Bay is part of Lake Huron, but largely isolated from the main body of the Lake by a large point of land jutting out into the lake. Georgian Bay itself is almost as big as Lake Ontario. When entering Georgian Bay you have a choice of going “outside” into the Bay itself, or following what’s called the Small Boat Channel, which is more scenic and protected from the winds of the bay, but often shallow with lots of twists and turns bordered by rocks.

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Rocks, rocks, everywhere, often with houses perched on them that remind us of The Barnacle at Bayview in Massachusetts, Phebe.

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Hard to read, but the house below says “Blarney Castle since 1900” beneath the highest eaves.

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This one says “Little Gibraltar”, carved right in the rock.

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Occasionally channels are only a few feet wider than our boat, with rocks just beneath the surface on both sides. This is why Dave warned us not to travel in certain places on very windy days. Good thing no one tried to pass us here!

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At 1:00 we stopped for lunch at the dock at Henry’s Fish Restaurant, a legend in these parts, on Fryingpan Island.  The young people who work here either live in a cabin on site for the summer, or commute by boat from a nearby cottage. Our waitress, Holly, has a family cottage nearby and her daily commute is 20 minutes by boat each way. The season is May to September, and the owner tells us he makes 80% of his annual income in the 8 weeks of July and August, though he has another restaurant in Midland which is open year-round.

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We both ordered pickerel, which is called Walleye in the U.S., a delicious white fish. All of Henry’s clientele arrive by boat or seaplane, the only ways to get here. Five commercial airlines (read: SMALL airlines) fly in and out using float planes during the season, taking clients on sightseeing tours and stopping here for lunch. The view from the restaurant includes this small island just off the docks.

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Mid-afternoon we turned north off of the Small Boat Channel we’ve been following most of the time, alongside Echo Island and into Echo Bay for an overnight anchorage.

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There are 4 other motor vessels and 1 sailboat anchored here tonight, most of them stern-tied to the shore in addition to their anchors. Another gorgeous, quiet spot, and in this case, well-protected from the wind and whitecaps we had on today’s travel.

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We can see why Dave advised traveling earlier in the day when you have to do segments out on the Bay, as the wind and whitecaps come up in the afternoon. It was even chilly out there!

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