The Georgian Bay

Devil’s Door Rapids near the Bad River Inlet

Going through the Erie Canal and the Trent-Severn, we’d been lucky enough to have wildly unseasonably good weather, basically the whole way. Very warm, clear sunny days, with very little wind. Great for living and traveling on the boat. However, the day after we left the Trent-Severn, the fact that we’re actually getting pretty deep into fall finally caught up with us, much to Hannah’s chagrin. And the weather theme has been pretty consistent ever since, unfortunately. On the bright side, we are no longer having to consider the power usage nuances of running the air conditioning all night every day… We also were extremely bad about taking pictures for a while in here, so this post will be a significantly worse picture:text ratio than usual.

Picture of the Cedar Springs dock on Beausoleil Island, not taken by us

Leaving the Trent-Severn, we were well into the afternoon, and decided to stop at a suggested side trip, Beausoleil Island. As part of our paid ticket through the Trent-Severn, we also got a season-long moorage pass, so we could stay for free at any of the other Ontario parks docks and moorages, which included Beausoleil. There was a suggested dock that we pulled up to, and despite being a Tuesday afternoon, only the slip closest to shore was available, so we slowly jammed our monster cat into a ~30 foot long slip with about a foot of water under us and set up for the night. The shore had what looked like a lovely paved foot path, and had a great trail map showing long trails around the island, so we got the scooters out, anticipating a great tour of the island, but around the first corner from the visiter’s center, in any direction, the trail turned to dirt and rocks. We tried to be a little ambitious, made some questionable choices, got dirty, and made our way back to the boat pretty quickly, after exploring a small native graveyard with storyboards. Hopefully the scooters aren’t too permanently damaged.

An average portion of the small craft channel — keeps you on your toes. Basically the entire week looked like this, which is why we didn’t really take more pictures.

We left Beausoleil the next day, and the suggested path through the Georgian Bay is the “Small Craft Channel”, which really means “not for giant commercial vessels”. It turns out to be a very narrow and windy channel, with the whole coastline of the Georgian Bay being rocky glacial moraines from the last ice age. It was fairly pretty, though the entire bay looked very similar — rocky islands everywhere, only reaching up to a few feet above water level, with scraggly trees. It was neat, but stark, and definitely not terribly inviting. Navigation is a bit treacherous, and if you don’t have really good charts and know how to read them, even the extensive buoying of the channel often times could lead you astray.

Henry’s Fish Restaurant (pic from their website)

We stopped for lunch at a strongly suggested spot, Henry’s Fish Restaurant, on Sans Souci island. Locals from the whole area migrate here every day by boat for a meal, and it turns out that there were only 2 days left in their season before they shut down when we stopped in. When we pulled our boat into the dock, in pretty heavy wind, they were very explicit that we couldn’t use the cleats on the dock with lines to help lever us into the dock, since the cleats would pull out, so it made for an exciting docking exercise. We had a great lunch here and then continued on our way.

Our stop for the night was Parry Sound, which we expected to anchor at, not needing to stop for anything. It’s a pretty protected bay along the small craft channel, and was just going to be a nice restful stop. However, our fridge situation, which had been tenuous all summer (really struggling to hold reasonable temperatures), was rapidly decaying (since the end of the Trent, the fridges really weren’t able to get even below 50 degrees most of the time), so we were regularly consuming food that should probably be killing us, and throwing things out on a short timeline. On a whim, we tried calling the one boatyard in town, and they actually referred us to a local HVAC group that had marine experience. I told them all the debugging I’d done on the fridges, that all signals pointed to it just needing a recharge, and they said they’d have someone meet us at 9am the next morning! So we got a spot on the town dock for the night, while it rained profusely, and tucked in.

The glamorous boat life — you can see the new tap in the top right

In the morning, a very nice gentleman from the company showed up with tools and some R134a. He poked around a bit, confirmed my suspicion, and spent some time adding taps and refilling both fridges. When he left a couple hours later, both fridges were coming down in temps, and the suction/hot lines were both behaving far more properly. He was in and out so fast that we actually took off from the dock before lunch to continue our travels.

We meandered through the sketchy rocks for the afternoon and, with winds predicted for the night, decided to set up on anchor in a very protected anchorage north of Shawanaga Island. It was a nice little spot with great holding, and it even had a short dinghy trip to a narrow “hole in the wall” that the local kids were cliff jumping off, with a little beach that we hung out at for a bit until the winds picked up and it was too cold to swim anymore. We went back to the boat and tucked in for the night.

At this point, the next week of forecast was starting to look pretty nasty. Our two week vacation was drawing to a close, and we had to get back to enough civilization that we could be working full time again in a few days. It looked like, if we made one long trip up to Bad River, that in the morning we’d be able to wake up before a storm moved in and make it the rest of the way to Killarney, the end of the Georgian Bay, which is back in moderate civilization and marina wifi, so that we could work if cell internet continued to be as terrible as it had been. So we made that the plan, and headed north for a long day on the channel.

The trip up to Bad River was uneventful. More of the similar views, more rock-dodging, and an easy anchoring. This spot, however, had a pretty cool “rapids” area called Devil’s Door that we got to explore on the dinghy. There was one section where we had to go “upriver” a bit against a strong current (6+ kts), and then came back down the next channel over, jumping off a ~1 foot “waterfall” in the dinghy. Hannah freaked, but it was fun, and later on she admitted it was worth it. We would have explored more, but it was already late in the day after the long trip, and raining on and off, so we went back to the boat to warm up and settle in.

Our ill-fated morning departure attempt, in absolutely pouring rain

In the morning, we woke up very early to the disappointing reality that the storm had moved in early and the wind was blowing, even in our quite-protected anchorage. Given how badly we really needed to get to civilization, we tried peeking our nose out of the bay, only to be met with ~7 foot short-duration choppy waves, with some peaks way higher than that. Water was coming up over our bow regularly, and the tunnel slap (waves bashing into the “tunnel” area between the two hulls) felt like the world was ending, so we turned around and headed back into the bay. The forecast was that, later in the day, the conditions would possibly be better, but still pretty bad, so we resigned ourselves to trying again before sundown.

At about 5:30pm that evening, about the latest that we could leave and still get to Killarney before sunset, we tried poking our noses out again, and weather was still pretty bad, but the waves were down to a much more manageable ~4-5 foot range, and had started to take a little more directional formation than the random-chop of the morning, so you could figure out an angle to not get beat up quite as bad.

We rode it out, made it all the way to Killarney, and happily tied up at the marina there, one of two boats in the whole place. As the evening wore on, conditions slowly improved as well, so we were on autopilot most of the way, surfing the waves all the way into town.

After getting in, right at sunset, we weren’t in any mood to make food at that point, so we went into the hotel attached to the marina, and sat down to what looked like a pub meal there. The waitress then explained some specials that sounded amazing, and we ended up getting a surprisingly incredible meal. We mentioned to the waitress that our dishes were way more amazing than the menu would indicate, and she lamented that, most seasons, they have a full fine dining experience, but with COVID they just didn’t get the muscle going this year, so instead the chef periodically would flex and offer some great specials on top of the usual pub fare. The chef later came out and chatted to us a bit about the place as well. It was a lovely night after a long hectic day, and a great way to end our short week on the Georgian Bay.

We are a bit torn about the Georgian Bay after our time there, which you can probably guess by how few pictures we took, when usually we’re pretty voracious iPhone-snappers. Weather and internet conditions definitely dictated that we move through it faster than we might have otherwise, but a lot of the scenery was pretty indistinguishably identical, and without any hint of elevation to add some layers to the beauty, it felt a bit like boating through a dangerous wasteland. We also didn’t get any pretty sunsets/sunrises due to the cloudy/windy/rainy conditions, which I’m sure hurt the memories a bit. And with it being so late in the season, and with Canada having opened so late, there were almost no other boaters around either. Marinas everywhere were severely hurting for business, and anchorages were empty. There’s definitely a bunch more spots to explore and other nooks and crannies, and in the middle of the summer, being able to jump in and swim at the end of the day would have been great as well. So, we’re giving it the benefit of the doubt in case we want to do another lap through this way next summer on another Great Loop. But mostly we are looking ahead to the North Channel, which people keep saying is the actual highlight of the great lakes portion of the Great Loop. So, onward and forward!

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