Lake Huron, Part I – Georgian Bay (Midland to Killarney)

During the first few days of our Georgian Bay experience we were joined by John’s sister Sue and brother-in-law Ted, as well as by John and Marsha Belford aboard their vessel Kadadi. John and Marsha have had many years of experience cruising this area, and introduced us to excellent anchorages that we likely wouldn’t have found ourselves. We had much fun together, including John on his ukelele (his voice isn’t bad either) and rediscovering the challenges of playing Bridge with Sue and Ted. We were also very fortunate to have everyone’s assistance and ingenuity when the head broke down, but that’s a story we won’t go into.

While our route through the Trent-Severn Waterway left a strong impression of man’s influence on his surroundings, our travels through Georgian Bay often did the opposite. Although cottages can be seen within the protected inner passages and occasionally on the remoter outer islands, much of the area still feels like wilderness, with man’s presence but a minor foothold. We can only imagine what it must be like during the the very cold and windy conditions of winter.

Whatever challenges there may have been, the area was occupied by First Nations peoples for thousands of years. Georgian Bay then became a key route for the northwest fur traders from eastern Canada, who traded and traversed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. Early explorers, such as Samuel de Champlain, visited as early as 1615.  Settlers and industry followed in the 1800’s, and many of the small towns we visited, such as Killarney, were once considered significant centres of commerce in their day.

In addition to the remote beauty of the region, a contributing factor to our feelings of isolation may have  been the much-less-than-expected boat traffic we have experienced (locals in small marinas and towns tell us that business is down by as much as half). We’re not sure why this is, but it has meant that we have often had excellent anchorages all to ourselves, or at most shared them with only a few other boats.

Selecting pictures for this post has been a challenge as we have taken so many that may be of interest. Hopefully the ones we have chosen will provide the appropriate flavour for this most unique and interesting part of our trip.

To provide an overview of our current cruising area, the first image is a map of Georgian Bay. Our route was along the northern shore, from southeast to northwest.

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Right out of the Group of Seven, a typical view from the outer banks of Georgian Bay - pink granite and windswept trees.

Right out of a Group of Seven painting, a typical view from the outer banks of Georgian Bay – pink granite and windswept trees.

On our way to our first Georgian Bay anchorage at Longuissa Bay - this is typical of a 'three season' cottage, many on small, individual islands, spronkled all the way to Parry Sound.

On our way to our first anchorage at Longuissa Bay – this is typical of a ‘three season’ cottage, many on small, individual islands, sprinkled all the way to Parry Sound.

John's sister Susan and brother-in-law Ted joined us for the four day cruise to Parry Sound.

John’s sister Susan and brother-in-law Ted joined us for the four day cruise to Parry Sound.

His Idea and Kadadi rafted up at Moon Island; the adjacent land is in Massasauga Provincial Park.

His Idea and Kadadi rafted up at Moon Island; the adjacent land is in Massasauga Provincial Park.

**** happens - we'll spare you the gory details, but when head problems happen, two heads are better than one.

S**t happens – we’ll spare you the gory details, but when there’s a head problem, two heads are definitely better than one.

No, that's not a very large beaver crossing the channel in front of us, it's a black bear; he was into the woods lickety split once he reached the shore.

No, that’s not a very large beaver crossing the channel in front of us, it’s a black bear; he was into the woods lickety split once he reached the shore.

From wildlife to industrial life - this has been the only lake freighter we have sen so far.

From wildlife to industrial life – this has been the only lake freighter we have seen so far (she’s leaving the port at Parry Sound).

Th view of Parry Sound harbour from the top of the (circa 1920's, but rebuilt) fire watch tower.

The view of Parry Sound harbour from the top of the (circa 1920’s, but rebuilt) fire watch tower.

Another spectacular sunset, this time over the calm waters of the sound.

Another spectacular sunset, this time over the calm waters of the sound.

This is one of the many lighthouses/range markers critical to navigation along this section of the coast; without them it would be extremely difficult to locate the channel entrances amongst the   many rocks and low, uniform landscape of this portion of Georgian Bay.

This is one of the many lighthouses/range markers critical to navigation along this section of the coast; without them it would be extremely difficult to locate the channel entrances among the many rocks, islands, and low uniform landscape of this portion of Georgian Bay.

The small craft channel of Georgian Bay is very tight in spots, and not recommended for craft over 40 feet (they have to travel offshore).....

The small craft channel of Georgian Bay is very tight in spots; it’s recommended that vessels over 40 feet travel offshore…..

.....and this turn was just wide enough to fit our 17 foot beam.

…..hmm, they didn’t say anything about a 17 foot beam.

Exploring the outer reefs of Georgian Bay (in our dinghy).

Exploring the outer reefs of Georgian Bay (in our dinghy).

This is the original Point-Au-Baril light - essentially a fire in a barrel.

This is the original Point-Au-Baril light – essentially a fire in a barrel.

Setting the stern line for our anchorage in the Bustards (yes, with a u).....

Setting the stern line for our anchorage in the Bustard (yes, with a u) Islands…..

.....where we found more tranquility.....

…..where we found more tranquility…..

......and interesting flara and fauna (too much to show).

…..and interesting flora and fauna (too much to show).

Fish and chips are a big deal on Georgian bay - this is at the famous fish and chip wagon in Killarney, miles and miles from anywhere, and they're lining 'em up.

Fish and chips are a big deal on Georgian Bay – this is the famous fish and chip wagon in the tiny village of Killarney (miles and miles from anywhere) and they’re lining ’em up.

Next up will be the North Channel section of Lake Huron, which we plan to post when we arrive in Sault Sainte Marie next week.

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Trent-Severn Waterway – Orillia to Midland (Georgian Bay)

Due to a very active week, this post will be long on pictures and short on words. Where does the time go?

The pictures cover the last leg of our trip through the TSW as well as some of our excursions while visiting with friends John and Marsha Belford in Gravenhurst and exploring the Penetanguishene/Midland/Victoria Harbour area. While in Midland we also addressed a number of issues with boat systems (the most important job was replacement of a dying pump for the fresh water system; most items were relatively minor), and His Idea is now in tip-top shape. Thanks again to James Power for his excellent assistance.

Tomorrow we begin about three weeks of cruising through Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Our destination is Sault Saint Marie, where we plan to make entry into the U.S. Much more to come….

Racing across Lake Simcoe at WOT (22.3 mph), to burn off engine carbon deposits (at least, that's the Captain's excuse).

A need for speed – racing across Lake Simcoe at WOT (22.3 mph) to burn off engine carbon deposits (at least that’s the Captain’s excuse).

Our marina berth in Orilla, here with 220 other transients for 'Christmas in June'.

Our marina berth in Orilla, here with 220 other transients for ‘Christmas in June’; we were ready to head for a quiet anchorage after Friday night’s dock parties.

This is Stephen Leacock's summer house in Orillia (aka Mariposa i Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town).

This is Stephen Leacock’s summer house in Orillia (aka Mariposa, as in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town), on Lake Couchiching.

This is the Leacock study, where much was written (Leacock was a prolific writer  - as many as 15,000 words a day).

The Leacock study, where much was written (Leacock was a prolific writer – as many as 15,000 words a day).

Swift Rapids lock, the largest conventional lock on the TSW.

Swift Rapids lock, the largest conventional lock on the TSW.

Our secluded anchorage in Lost Channel, a few miles before the Big Chute Marine Railway.

Our secluded anchorage in Lost Channel, a few miles before the Big Chute Marine Railway.

Not too far from our anchorage was a big boathouse that contained numerous pristine classic wooden boats (likely more than 7 figures worth).....

Not too far from our anchorage was a big boathouse that contained numerous pristine classic wooden boats (likely more than $1 million worth).

Here's one out for a run.

Here’s one of them out for a run.

Our ride on the Big Chute Marine Railway - sort of a lock in reverse - was one of the highlights of our trip.

Our ride on the Big Chute Marine Railway – sort of a lock in reverse – was one of the highlights of our trip.

What a hoot!

What a hoot!

The ride is over - His Idea dropped back into the water.

The ride is over – His Idea dropped back into the water.

Our final passage on the TSW, and one of the most challenging - narrow, shallow, and subject to strong currents.

Our final passage on the TSW, and one of the most challenging – very narrow and winding, shallow, and subject to strong currents.

After 19 days on the TSW, the relatively open waters of Georgian Bay.

After 19 days of cruising on the TSW, the relatively open waters of Georgian Bay.

Midland, Ontario, where we stayed for a week, is well know for its town murals.

Midland, Ontario, where we stayed for a week, is well know for its town murals.

We had a lovely cruise through the Muskoka Lakes on the Royal Mail steam cruiser Segwun, here approaching the dock; civilized travel from anothe era.

We had a lovely cruise through the Muskoka Lakes on the Royal Mail steam cruiser Segwun; civilized travel from anothe era.

While in Gravenhurst we also visited the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre; as an old wooden boat buff, the captain was in heaven, especially when newly restored Miss Canada IV, a record setting icon from 30's and happened to arrive.

While in Gravenhurst we also visited the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre; as an old wooden boat buff, the captain was in heaven, especially when newly restored Miss Canada IV, an iconic, record setting race boat from the 30’s and 40’s, just happened to arrive .

A visit to another maritime icon, the CPR lake steamer Keewatin, which cruised Lakes Superior and Huron from 1907 to 1965, and which is now berthed and being restored in Port McNicoll.

A visit to another maritime icon, the CPR lake steamer Keewatin, which cruised Lake Superior and Lake Huron from 1907 to 1965, and which is now berthed and being restored in Port McNicoll.

And we'll finish with a land icon, John and Marsha's 1991 Nissan right hand drive microcar.

And we’ll finish with something different, John and Marsha’s 1991, right hand drive Figaro microcar.

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Trent-Severn Waterway – Campbellford to Lake Simcoe

The section from Campbellford to Lake Simcoe represents the heart of the TSW and includes the Kawartha Lakes, in classic Ontario cottage country.  The amount of boat traffic has increased as the weather (mostly) improved and June progressed, however the locks have still been far from full and waiting for other vessels minimal.

One unexpected two day wait showed up when our port engine began to start intermittently (usually when we were just about to enter a lock!). Although His Idea is very easy to handle with two engines it’s very difficult with just one, so when it acted up again at one of the locks in Peterborough we decided it was time to address the problem. Lucky for us, James Power (our PDQ wizard) lives only about 100 miles away. In typical customer-friendly fashion he was able to quickly diagnose the problem over the phone, source a replacement part in a few hours (the last one available in North America), have it overnighted to his place in Victoria Harbour, and drive to our location and install it the next day. Thank you James!

Fortunately Peterborough is the largest city along our TSW route, and there was lots to do. We’re finding the towns and cities along the way have many parks and well developed walking and/or biking paths – Peterborough in particular – and we were able to gets lots of exercise during our four day stay. If one is going to have a breakdown, this was a great place to do it.

We were particularly looking forward to our experiences with the Peterborough and Kirkfield lift locks, which are outstanding examples of 19th century innnovation and endurance, and they did not disapoint. Simply put, they use balanced pans of water situated on hydraulic rams that simultaneously raise and lower upbound and downboard vessels. Quickly and smoothly riding up (or down), peering over the edge some 65 feet to the ground, is a real hoot. Hopefully our pictures do them justice.

This section has been quite varied in its topography, very pretty, and most enjoyable.  At Balsam Lake we reached the summit of the TSW, 840 feet above sea level and almost 600 feet higher than where we began on Lake Ontario. At the Kirkfield Lift Lock we began our descent, which will be a total drop of about 260 feet to Lake Huron.

Next we are looking forward to crossing Lake Simcoe, visiting Orillia (summer home of Stephen Leacock and the setting for Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town), travelling the Big Chute Marine Railway, and then Georgian Bay.

Here come the pictures…..

We've now entered cottage country - like the Thousand Islands, multi-coloured Adirondack chairs abound.

We’ve now entered cottage country; like the Thousand Islands, multi-coloured Adirondack chairs abound.

There's lots of wildlife to be seen along the TSW - we came upon this big fellow when strolling near one of the locks.

There’s lots of wildlife to be seen along the TSW – we came upon this big fellow when walking near the Hastings lock.

Just before Peterborough, at the Scotts Mills lock.

Just before Peterborough, at the Scotts Mills lock.

Approaching the  Peterborough marina, on Little Lake.

Approach to the Peterborough marina, on Little Lake.

The Peterborough Lift Lock, completed in 1904, is the highest in the world (65 ft rise in elevation).

The Peterborough Lift Lock, completed in 1904, is the highest in the world (65 ft change in elevation).

For over 100 years Peterborough was world renowned for the manufacture of traditional canoes; for anyone interested in paddling, the Canoe Museum is a fascinating place.

For over 100 years Peterborough was world-renowned for the manufacture of traditional wooden canoes; for anyone interested in paddling, the Canoe Museum is a very interesting place.

The Ashburnham lock, in a quiet part of Peterborough, was our unintended home for a couple of days while awaiting a replacement part for the port engine.

The Ashburnham lock, in a quiet part of Peterborough, was our unintended home for a couple of days while awaiting a replacement part for the port engine.

A view from the top of the Peterborough Loft Lock (in very rainy weather).

A view from the top of the Peterborough Loft Lock (in very rainy weather).

The Kawartha Lakes section was very pretty, with many small islands, narrow channels.....and hard granite lurking underneath.

The Kawartha Lakes section was very pretty, with many small islands, narrow channels…..and hard granite lurking underneath.

Some new cruising friends, MIke & Barb Harbin, with their 34 American Tug; Mike & Barb hail from the Olympic Peninsula.

Some new cruising friends, MIke & Barb Harbin, with their 34 American Tug; Mike & Barb hail from the Olympic Peninsula.

On this very narrow cut, we could reach out and touch the trees on either side.

On this very narrow cut, we could reach out and touch the trees on either side.

Looking over the abyss - although not quite as high, the Kirkfield Lift Lock  was another spectactular ride.

Looking over the abyss – although not quite as high, the Kirkfield Lift Lock was another spectactular ride.

Sunset scene at Portage lock, just before Lake Simcoe - so peaceful.....

Sunset scene at Portage lock, just before Lake Simcoe – so peaceful…..

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Bay of Quinte; Start of the Trent-Severn Waterway

After a few days in Kingston to provision and finish the remaining maintenance work on His Idea, we were excited and ready to finally cast off for the second leg of our Great Loop adventure.

The first days were spent cruising about 70 miles through the protected waters of the Bay of Quinte, with a stop in Belleville to explore and visit with friends Bill and Carole Lowther. Also owners of a PDQ 34 (Tiger), they had originally planned to join us for our cruise this year, however other priorities got in the way. We’re hoping they’ll be able to join us in Florida next spring for a planned trip to the Bahamas. Thanks for all the fun and hospitality Bill and Carole!

Near the western end of the Bay of Quinte, Trenton marks the beginning of the Trent-Severn Waterway, which stretches across the upper portion of the Niagara Peninsula from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron. FoIt is 240 miles long, involves numerous lakes and rivers, and raises vessels about 180 metres from Lake Ontario to it’s summit at Lake Balsam. Like the Rideau Canal (see Exploring Canada’s Capital and the Rideau Canal – 2012/09/02), the TSW is operated by Parks Canada. It’s history is quite different, however, in that it’s development was driven by commercial (rather than military) needs. As such it was developed in sections over more than 80 years, starting in the 1830’s. The final piece to finish the entire route was not completed until the 1920’s. For a map and other resource information, go to http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/on/trentsevern/visit/visit8.aspx

We have not yet gone far along the Waterway, but have had much to experience – hot sunny days; wet cool nights; marshes and wildlife; waterfalls, dams and powerhouses; rural farmland and quaint small towns (with much history); and of course, locks, locks, locks. A few of our experiences are captured in the following pictures…..

Getting ready for departure - June 3

Getting ready for departure – Monday, June 3rd.

Farewell Kingston.....

Farewell Kingston…..
Our anchorage at Prinyer Cove; observe the Captain trying to recover the latest item to blow overboard - the adventure begins!

Our anchorage at Prinyer Cove, Bay of Quinte; observe the Captain trying to recover the latest item to blow overboard – the adventure begins!

Belleville Municipal Hall, a great example of late 19th century architecrue that reflected the prosperity and confidence of the times; also, it was designed by local architect John Evans (or so says the heritage plaque).

Belleville Municipal Hall, a great example of the late 19th century architecture that reflected the prosperity and confidence of the times; also, it was designed by local architect John Evans (or so says the heritage plaque).

Entrance to the Trent-Severn Waterway, in Trenton - only 240 miles and 45 locks to go.

Entrance to the Trent-Severn Waterway, in Trenton – only 240 miles and 45 locks to go.

Most of the locks have picturesque facilities for overnighting, but some are much wetter than others (note the Captain dumping accumulated rainfall from aft cockpit cover).

Most of the locks have picturesque facilities for overnighting; unfortunately some are much wetter than others (note the Captain dumping water from aft  cover).

Our peaceful anchoare at the 'Blue Hole'.

Our peaceful anchorage at the ‘Blue Hole’.

Turtles are quite abundant in the marshy areas of the TS; we discovered this one laying her eggs along the pathway between two of the locks.

Turtles are quite abundant in the marshy areas of the TSW; we discovered this one laying her eggs along the pathway between two of the locks.

Ranney Falls flight lock (#11/12) our largest so far, is located just before Campbellford (pop 7800), where we spent 3 days  moored at the town dock, and did plenty of exploring.

Ranney Falls flight lock (#11/12), our largest so far, is located just before Campbellford (pop. 7800), where we spent 3 days moored at the town dock, and did plenty of exploring.

After the storm - an evening scene from our mooring in Campbellford.

After the storm – an evening scene from our mooring in Campbellford.

Note the giant 'toonie' to the right of His Idea; a local artist designed this modern Canadian icon.

Note the giant ‘toonie’ to the right of His Idea; a local artist was the designer this modern Canadian icon.

As Ria has just applied for  her CPP, we though it appropriate to include this picture (we noticed may seniors in Campbellford).

As Ria has just applied for her CPP, we thought  it appropriate to include her testing the local ‘seniors crossing’.

Ranney Falls, from the suspension bridge......

Ranney Falls, from the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge.

The Admiral and the Captain clowning around.

The Admiral and the Captain clowning around.

One of our cycle trips, on a beautiful, warm Sunday, was to the Chuch Key micro brewery, located in an old church (circa 1878) at Petherick Corners.....

One of our cycle trips, on a beautiful, warm Sunday, was to the Church Key micro brewery, located in an old church (circa 1878) at Petherick Corners…..

.....where we met 'Churchkey', the brewery's recently adopted and very friendly mascot.

…..where we were greeted by ‘Churchkey’, the brewery’s recently adopted and very friendly mascot.

The next post will be coming from somewhere further along the Trent-Severn. likely in a week or two.

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Spring Time, Launch Time

Painting, Waxing, Cleaning and……Bugs

In the cooler climates of North America, the annual spring rituals that involve vessel maintenance and preparation are usually times of anticipation and excitiment for the coming season.  As we look forward to the next phase of our extended cruise along the Great Loop, these feelings have certainly been at play for both the Captain and the Admiral.

In early May, with help from Doug Pringle (His Idea’s trusty and accomplished First Mate), John made a 10 day trip to Kingston to prepare and launch His Idea. Ria decided to remain at home, a wise decision given the number of unwanted guests that showed up to ‘help’ us (Admirals are wiser than Captains, that’s why they’re Admirals). With no previous exposure to what spring in Ontario is like, we were unsure of what to expect in terms of weather. Fortunately we were blessed with clear, calm and relatively warm conditions for the entire time we were there. Some days it even felt like summer.

Perfect conditions, yes? Not so fast! We had forgotten this is Ontario, land of the Canadian Shield – miles of forest, hundreds of rivers, thousands of lakes, and…..zillions of bugs! In this case, Mayflies. The good news was they don’t bite, but that’s the only good news. The bad news was they were everywhere – all over the canvas, all over the decks, all over everything. In the air, in the cabin, in the paint, up your nose. Our usual mantra of  ‘wax on, wax off’ became ‘bugs off, wax on, wax off’ (and then bugs back on again). When we asked the locals if this was normal, we heard ‘oh, this is pretty good, you should have been here in ……(insert decade)’. When we asked if they would go away soon, we were reminded they were Mayflies, and that this was only the beginning of May. Oh good, only 30 more days to go! At this point the Captain swore he would never again complain about spring showers in Vancouver.

But enough complaining about being bug challenged. Preparations and launch mostly went smoothly and were completed on time; we had no major mechanical issues to deal with (many thanks go to Henry, Billie and the team at DC Marine for their friendly service and quality maintenance work); His Idea performed very well during her test run; we even had time for a cruise through the Thousand Islands to Gananoque. And we had fun!

So we’re ready to go and will return to Kingston to begin on May 30th. Our cruising plans this year include the Trent Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron, south along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago, and then down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to Kentucky. We hope you’ll continue to check in on our progress from time to time, and comments to the blog, cheeky or otherwise, are always welcome.

A few pictures of our time in Kingston follow, and our next post will be sometime in June from the Trent-Severn…..

A typical day and view from Portsmouth Harbour Marina while we were there; very few of the 125 boats have yet been launched.

A typical day and view from Portsmouth Harbour Marina while we were there; very few of the 125 stored boats have yet been launched.

A rather mild picture of the infamous Mayflies; oftentimes they were manytimes thicker than this.

A rather mild picture of the infamous Mayflies; often they were many times thicker than this.

Aftrer 5 days hard work, His Idea painted, waxed and ready to go......

After 5 days hard work, His Idea painted, waxed and ready to go……

.....except for some last minute touch up to the fresh, new bottom paint by the Captain.

…..except for some last minute touch up to the fresh, new bottom paint.

Our favourite lunch spot and watering hole. the Portsmouth Pub, adjacent to Portsmouth harbour; serving thirsty sailors since 1864.

Our favourite lunch spot and watering hole. the Portsmouth Tavern, adjacent to Portsmouth harbour; serving thirsty sailors since 1864.

And in she goes.

And in she goes.

Escape to Gananoque (Rich Pringle on dock, Doug on bridge), where the bugs were scarce enough.....

Escape to Gananoque (Rich Pringle on dock, Doug on bridge), where the bugs were scarce enough…..

.....to enjoy the evening outdoors.

…..to enjoy the evening outdoors.

Exploring one of the many Thousand Island channels; this one was deep enough for passage, but judged too narrow to risk bumping that fresh bottom paint.

Exploring one of the many Thousand Island channels; this one was deep enough for passage, but judged too narrow to risk bumping that fresh bottom paint.

If you have a dock here, bright and multi-hued Adirondack chairs are a must.

If you have a dock here, bright and multi-hued Adirondack chairs are a must – they’re everywhere!

If Doug ever decides to jump ship, Rich will be a good candidate for a new first mate.

If Doug ever decides to jump ship, Rich will be a good candidate for a new first mate.

 

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