July 9, 2016 – Bob’s crew (Mike and Ann) departed for warmer climes and Mike’s crew (Donna, Kelly & Brian) joined for the run through Georgian Bay and on to Lake Michigan. We started out on a cloudy Saturday about noon, hardly time for our new arrivals to rest up from their early morning flight. Our target was Parry Sound, an eponymous town on the west side of Georgian Bay, itself a large bay covering the northeast side of Lake Huron. Weather got a bit rougher and the tiny ship was tossed, but we reached Parry Sound after about a three hour tour! The scenery in Georgian Bay is reputed the best lake scenery in North America. Our attached photo’s will not do it justice. Imagine a rough, hilly, rocky coastline as far as the eye can see with big sky and dark blue waters. Though mostly deep water – so we can move speedily when necessary – there are many places where channels get very narrow and shallow. As well, the terrain is very rocky. Nerve racking for the helmsman, and particularly on the first day, with the rain visibility sometimes poor. Anyway, it tired us out so it was an early but tasty dinner, a quick cab ride to grocery for provisions, and then the crew played rummy cube while the owners made necessary repairs to a nasty engine hose that keeps giving is headaches.
The great news for this part of our adventure is that Kelly’s friend Islay joined us for the weekend and basically grew up in the area so gave us all the right pointers of what to see and where to stay.
The bay has an area called “30,000 islands” and I believe it. Leaving Parry Sound we headed to Pointe Au Baril (literally Barrel on the Point). So named because in the 1870’s fur traders lost a canoe and barrel of whiskey here due to the treacherous entry to the rocky island area. The next spring stranded traders found the barrel, drank up, and left the barrel as a beacon for others on the point of entry to the area. Today, there is still a barrel on the point, and a lighthouse nearby. You can’t make this stuff up, really!!
Islay’s boyfriend’s family has a cottage there and the two met at a club/island/marina/grocery called Ojibway Club, named after the local First Nations culture that lived here hundreds of years ago. A cool club on an island that is clearly the focal point for cottagers in the area, and fun to visit.
This is for sure a beautiful area with tons of little islands, many with cottages. Kelly, Brian and Islay spent some time with Islay’s sister and their friends who had a fast boat to get them to some cool islands. Bob, Mike and Donna hung out at a beautiful home owned by the parents of Islay’s friends and also toured the Baril area. Late that day we decided to head to Five Fathoms park on the other side of the bay, thinking an evening cruise was perfect. However, helmsman Mike, heading directly into the sunset, missed a navigation marker and went on the wrong side of a buoy right at Pointe Au Baril, where the barrel actually is. Bang! Another busted prop, this time just the right (starboard) one, but definitely wiped out. Turns out the barrel really is a signal that the area is treacherous! As for the picture below, propellers normally DO NOT look like this!
Soooooo, we headed back at very slow speed toward Parry sound as that was the closest marina with a lift that handles our boat. We arrived at dusk (10 PM local time – pretty far north after all). Unfortunately, we had to wait a day to receive a new prop, but finally were off again. A costly mistake and once again, Helmsman Mike was demoted to Machinery Spaces Mike!
While waiting on the prop, Kelly and Brian had a dinghy adventure, taking off in the dinghy to visit a local park with swimming hole a mile or so away. While on the way, they had a tube start leaking that potentially left them stranded. They pumped up the tube while driving to get back to the marina, then we patched things up. Not our best couple days for boat reliability, but certainly an adventure. Too bad we don’t have a picture of them frantically pumping the tube to keep afloat, while cruising along in the dinghy, life vests at the ready! A creative solution for sure.
Once more we headed to Five Fathoms National Park, on the west side of Georgian Bay. The Bay is about 50 miles across and the weather was pretty/very bumpy & windy, so we were happy to get across. Arriving at dusk, we anchored in a small, well protected harbor called Cabot Head Bay. Turns out several other boats had the same idea, so we didn’t get the preferred anchorage area. Our anchor drifted and we had to move the boat several times during the night to stay where we needed to. A sleepless night, but we finally awoke to a fantastic sunny morning in this isolated, protected harbor.
We set out for the last 20 miles to Five Fathoms Park. There are numerous ship wrecks here, and several islands form the park. One of these is Flower Pot Island. The island is so named due to the natural rock formations that over the years have become shaped like flower pots. We made a stop in Tobermory, a nice town that is across from Five Fathoms islands, did a brief tour, and headed out to Flower Pot. Kelly, Brian and Donna took Evening Star Mini (the dinghy now restored to usable condition) ashore and toured the island. Mike and Bob cruised around on the big boat as there was no place on the island to dock. Since the water was over 100 feet deep just a few feet from shore it was way too deep to anchor!
Next up a quick 60 mile trip to Kilarney at the North End of Georgian Bay.