I finally rowed out to the mouth of the delta in the early evening after the wind dropped (a bit), and found a quiet corner to camp at, anchoring just offshore:
Spent a quiet evening ashore, hanging out with another friendly little mink. Their hideouts are not all that difficult to find once you know what to look for:
And while I was really starting to like camping aboard at anchor, it's also good to be mosquito-free and camping ashore:
The next morning I woke to a flat calm--really flat. I took a look at the chart and realized that in these conditions, I could cut right across the shoals of White Rock Ledge and head for the Bustards, cutting off a few miles:
So, being as lazy as I am, I immediately dropped the idea of trying my "shortcut" through the delta again, and instead, set off rowing toward the Bustard Islands:
Even in a dead calm, there were a few spots along White Rock Ledge that challenged even the Phoenix III's extreme shoal draft (wouldn't want to hit something like this at speed!):
But we made it past before the wind picked up later that morning, at which point I hoisted the sail and headed for the triple lighthouses on the Bustard Rocks--I figured there was no point in visiting the Bustards without swinging by some lighthouses. This leg of the trip was really cool; with the mainland behind me, it felt like I was setting out on some wide open waters:
I snuck through the rocks and looped past the lighthouses:
I sailed into the Bustard Islands from the west, through a narrow passage at the north end of the island group--a passage known as the Gun Barrel. The Gun Barrel leads to a tight squeeze, a narrow slot through some cliffs just wide enough (barely) to fit my oars in. I sailed through and found a popular big boat anchorage on the other side, hidden behind the outer islands of the group. After a week of cruising alone, it was a bit too much of a social scene for me to take in, so I kept sailing right on by.
Ran right out the east side of the islands and circled around offshore trying to figure out a way in through the shoals so I could find a place to anchor. Just about every inch of shoreline is guarded by a half mile or more of rocky shoals and slabs--too shallow even for a sail-and-oar boat to get through safely under sail. I finally dropped the rig and rowed up into the east side of Tanvat Island:
Another island to myself (well, really, about 258,872 of them to myself):
And here's a rough idea of the route from day 9, about 8 miles rowing, and maybe another 7-8 miles sailing:
Last edited by WI-Tom; 01-19-2015 at 06:47 PM.
Thanks for the thread, really enjoyable!
Thanks for the feedback--it's fun re-living the trip by posting some photos.
So, on to day 10. I was getting pretty close to the edge of my charts. Back in Spanish at the start of the trip, I had bought a set of charts for the Georgian Bay small boats buoyed route (and my suspicions that the large-scale charts would be useful were proven to be RESOUNDINGLY true--I had briefly considered taking only a single large chart of Georgian Bay. I suppose you could get away with that, but it would be a very different kind of trip, with even less ability to plan than I'd be entirely comfortable with).
But at $20 each, the small boat charts were not cheap. And knowing I'd run out of summer eventually, I had bought only the northernmost/westernmost set of them, which covered Killarney to just east of the Bustard Islands. So I set out from the Bustards on day 10 knowing it'd probably be my last day of eastward progress before I had to turn around and head back to Spanish:
Last edited by WI-Tom; 01-20-2015 at 11:32 AM.
The actual small boats route through Georgian Bay seems to be buoyed pretty well. I usually avoided it in favor of sneaking my own way through or around obstacles, but I did pass through Rogers Gut, a notorious narrow spot that sounded too cool to pass up:
Depends on where it is. But this part here: ". . .generally good visibility (not to mention the lack of currents)" sometimes doesn't apply at all in the area where I usually sail, alas, and I think the cost of having a GPS available is a very small price to pay for the safety factor it provides. It can be phenomenally useful in figuring out your current set and actual speed over ground in big tidal situations. But I do enjoy leaving it turned off and not using it at all on many trips where I don't have to.So, what do you think? How many of you would do a long-ish small boat cruise without a GPS? And if not, why not?
I guess ultimately, the gear you need to bring depends an awful lot on the mountains you wish to climb.
Last edited by James McMullen; 01-19-2015 at 09:29 PM.
Your videos are making it almost certain I'm gonna work harder on getting my damn trailer lights sorted out, by the way. Apparently I have a road trip to plan for.
By all means, come on over. It's only 2,424.38 miles:
And this guy is waiting for someone new to play with:
Day 10: the wind started building in the late morning, and by early afternoon it was really zipping along and I was starting to look for a place to find some shelter. I had wanted to reach the enigmatically named "Dr. Oil Island" at the very edge of my charts, but even double-reefed on a broad reach it was getting too much for me.
I finally turned off onto a screaming beam reach (too sheltered for much wave action) and sailed through a narrow rocky gap into a shallow rocky inlet just north of the small craft route. That led me up into the interior of Black Bay, and I started getting real nervous about all the rocks around so I dropped the sail.
Windy! Even with the sail down, it was real work to get anywhere. I finally worked my way through a series of slotted passages into the interior of a sub-bay--the wind had swung all the way around to SE by now, and was getting fierce--and rowed down toward the windward shores of Black Bay for shelter. It was by now so windy that I doubted I'd be able to set up my tent. How do you tell when it's getting windy in Georgian Bay? Like this:
But I worked my way as far to windward as I could, hugging the south side of the bay, and eventually found a nice little tent platform that was pretty well sheltered from the intense southerly wind:
and settled in for an easy evening, glad to be off the water as the southerlies kept blowing:
Different blue. Both good reading. Thanks.
William Least Heat Moon, one of my favorites. I am sure you have read "River Horse." I think he would like you, Tom, and Jagular too.
Jackie Monies- For Mike, who would concur
Took me a moment--yeah, I guess I prefer the watery version myself, but the land version is a pretty good book, all right.
Was windy and cold that night, but the tent platform was tucked up pretty close to a 10' wall of granite to windward so my little campsite was pretty sheltered. Crawled into the tent and slept awhile. Then woke up as the wind shifted back to the northwest and started collapsing the walls of my tent, dragging the rocks I had anchored it to (it's not a self-standing design and you can't use tent stakes on granite).
Finally got bad enough that the entire tent collapsed on me like a deflated parachute--one of the poles suffered a minor break. I crawled out in heavy cold rains and re-rigged the tent, then crawled back inside wet and cold. Spent the rest of the night trying to hold up the tent.
Northwest winds. Rain. Cold. Broken up by brief intervals of: Northwest winds. Rain. Sun.
Spent three nights pinned to my little tent platform. Every so often I'd get bored enough that I'd briefly consider throwing everything in the boat and heading out for a change of venue. Was smart enough not to do it. I did manage to spend most of my days wandering the shores of Black Bay--a neat place, but it seemed completely desolate and eerily empty in this weather, like I might have been the only person on the planet. A bit spooky, actually. I liked it.
Saw one black bear (it ran off) and a moose. Spent lots of time in the tent. Read all my books. Ate all my best food.
After three nights in my little hidey-hole, the next day dawned windy, cold, and rainy. But I'd had enough. I set out directly to windward, under oars (kept me warm, at least):
Got a late start, rowed into the late afternoon, and covered about 4 miles, all dead to windward. Finally gave up and camped on a little rock marked "Cedar Island" on my chart, and found a perfect site: a sheltered cove for the boat, and a flat slab for the tent behind a thick windscreen of cedars and pines. Perfect! I hadn't come far, but was back in motion. Felt good.
Day 14, cold, rainy, and windy. I set out anyway, as it wasn't going to be any colder, windier, or rainier aboard than ashore. And it wasn't too bad. I was out of charts, and ready to head back. Sailed a variation of my outbound route, taking more of the small craft buoyed route, and tacking past the ominous "Dead Island" and toward the Bustards again. Got really windy again, still northwest, putting me on a cold beat. Sailed along the northern edge of the Bustards, tempted to cut in to shelter, but decided to keep tacking.
A few minutes later I came to my senses, turned back, and ran down to the Bustards, where I found a delightfully sheltered little cove to anchor in for a break, and spent the evening rowing around through little back alleys that bigger boats would never be able to use. I camped on an island smack dab in the middle of the main anchorage that had been so crowded on my first time through--this time there were only two sloops. And one of them invited me aboard for a couple of cold beers. So, thanks, Bill and Judy!
Last edited by WI-Tom; 01-20-2015 at 03:52 PM.
But I guess if you're going to let a few little snakes scare you off, then there will just be more islands for me!
That's it for now--be back with more in the next day or so. But the homeward leg of the trip always goes faster, doesn't it? Kind of like, once the horse makes the turn and sees the barn, there's no holding him back. The next three days of the trip were more "offshore," with lots of miles.
While doing a one way trip by kayak of the Killarney to the Key river, we enjoyed a bit of navigational help from the previously bought nautical charts--which I hope to use again soon (it's been too long). Alternately on another kayak trip to the Apostle Islands, I bought a placemat with a reduced size overview of the area to stash on my deck--waterproof too!
I grew up cruising in Georgian Bay and have not cruised in Georgian Bay for about 40 years. Since I left the 'Bay' I have also cruised Nova Scotia Eastern Shore, Cape Breton, South and East coast of Newfoundland, Lake Superior, North Shore, Nipigon and of course many years in BC including into Washington and Alaska in the US. Georgian Bay is unsurpassed as a cruising area by any place I have been. There is the potential for real coastal passage-making along the Bruce and to the outer Islands, and then there is the maze of the 30,000 islands that WiTom has been enjoying. Absolutely perfect for kayak or oar and sail cruising. I have really enjoyed drifting through this thread, brings back memories. Thanks Tom. Are you going to tell us of your cruise in Lake Nipigon? My own take is the biggest charm is the remoteness, sort of off the map sort of remoteness, but perhaps a little less engaging than the 30,000 islands.
But Georgian Bay is my current favorite area by far--interesting to hear from someone who has sailed in many other places and seems to agree.
So, day 15. As usual, once I turn around and start heading back to the launch point, I found myself covering a lot more ground. Started the day by rowing out of the Bustard Islands (via the Gun Barrel channel again) and on into a dying headwind (with leftover waves) just strong enough to be annoying rowing, and weak enough to make very little progress sailing.
I kept rowing, mostly, and stuck to the outside route, trying to follow along the edge of the rocks and shoals that surround every inch of shoreline around here. The outside route was very direct, and so I thought I might cover enough ground to get all the way to the Fox Islands again before it was time to camp. The sun went down. Some islands appeared up ahead. I started row-sailing, which was the fastest mode of transport available (surprisingly faster than either rowing alone or sailing alone in these conditions). The sky got darker. The islands got slowly closer.
Full dark, but I had a good bearing for the easternmost of what I thought must be the Fox Islands. Getting late. Kept row-sailing toward the island. Dark. Breaking waves ahead--I dropped the sail and maneuvered closer under oars. Found an island--too dark to see anything but the looming shape of it. Kept rowing along its southern edge looking for a place to anchor. Found something that felt like it might be a bit of a protected inlet and set an anchor, hoping I wasn't too close to any rocks. Shined my headlamp around but didn't see much. Very late, probably well after 2:00 a.m. Set up the boat tent figuring I was enough in the lee of the island that I'd be ok.
Woke up in the morning to find out just exactly where I had anchored (farther out in the little bay, of course--this picture was taken after I moved the boat closer to come ashore):
Turns out I had stumbled into a perfect harbor on a dark, moonless night--maybe my favorite island of the whole trip. But daylight showed that I had not, in fact, managed to find the Fox Islands. Instead, I had run into a different group of islands (not on my charts for the small boat route, which show only the near-shore features) between the Bustards and the Foxes:
Close enough for sail and oar, anyway. I spent the morning exploring the island, which was the highest granite dome I had yet found in Georgian Bay (I looked it up later--it was Hawk Island):
Last edited by WI-Tom; 01-27-2015 at 02:49 PM.
Next you will have to explore the lake at the edge of the world!
Reindeer Lake, Northern Saskatchewan. Photo by Tim O'Meara of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That's his Gardener 17' Whitehall in the foreground.
I had covered about 22 miles or so--a loooong slow day. Hawk Island was well worth a stop, though, so I pulled up the anchor and rowed close enough so I could jump out into knee-deep water and go ashore:
Climbed around for a while taking pictures, eating breakfast, and not feeling too motivated to move much after my long night. Finally got everything re-loaded to head out again:
Best-protected harbor I ever stumbled into in the dark, not knowing what I was anchoring next to.
My favourite picture. The Flat Earth Society likes it too!
Day 16--I set out from my lucky harbor at Hawk Island, cut through the Fox Islands again (passed a couple of kayakers paddling around here) and kept on right to Killarney. The first time through town it had taken me a while to figure out where I could come ashore and safely leave a boat. This time I knew: I dragged the boat up on shore beside a canoe launching ramp, right at the ice cream store. Bought some supplies (i.e. another pizza) and headed out again in light winds, sailing west down the Lansdowne Channel and back in the North Channel. Farewell to Georgian Bay (for this summer, anyway...)
The trouble with solo trips is that your photo options are limited. I managed (barely) not to drop the camera overboard trying to get some varied shots:
But again, light headwinds kept me from making much progress. I was 15 miles into my day when it got dark. And it was still moonless, so it got really dark (the Lansdowne Channel runs between some large islands and a high-ish peninsula). I pulled into a narrow inlet on the northern side of the channel, but some mosquitoes came out to meet me. Anchoring in such a protected, windless anchorage would have been horrible, so I just kept right on rowing through the night.
A solid NW wind picked up sometime after midnight, just as I was reaching the end of the channel in near-total darkness. I rowed around for a while thinking I'd find a protected nook at Hole-in-the-Wall, but gave up (it was a wind tunnel in the NW winds) and rowed back up the Lansdowne Channel a bit and anchored ten feet offshore. Too windy for mosquitoes, at least.
At least running aground in the dark at rowing speed is not usually catastrophic
"A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman
I was actually falling asleep at the oars rowing through the Lansdowne Channel, but I just love being out and moving silently in the dark. I did manage to take a bit of a detour when I went the wrong (i.e. long) way around an island in the middle of the channel, but no major problems. The North Channel and Georgian Bay are so rocky that there doesn't ever seem to be any traffic at night to worry about, either. I think rowing at night there is pretty safe if you're not stupid about it.
Day 17. I set out in a flat calm, which slowly turned to light winds, which gradually grew to decent winds--and from the east! (a rarity around here) So I took a look at the chart and realized I was due east of the town of Little Current (remember, that's the usual gateway to the western North Channel). With an easterly wind I figured the current at the swing bridge would be with me, so I headed that way:
I wasn't sure how the bridge operated, and my "buy 4 batteries when your radio takes 5" strategy meant I couldn't call ahead to find out. Turns out it opens on the hour for 15 minutes, then closes. I just missed the opening:
And, with a cruel and heartless wave to the couple of big boats caught on the east side of the bridge with me, I dropped the sail and swept under the bridge on a fast-running current. Winds were quite blustery now, so I hoisted up and sailed up and down the town docks, looking for somewhere to tie up that:
A. Didn't cost any money (they had parking meters on the public docking spaces!)
B. Were not so tall that I wouldn't be able to climb ashore from my little boat.
I didn't find any spaces downtown, so I tied up at an empty dock at a marina on the west side of town instead: