06 Soo Locks, Ontario to Killarney, Ontario

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As the lock gates opened and we headed out, we came nose to nose with two up bound freighters waiting lock through. The tour boat ahead picked up speed and headed left cutting between the jetty and the bow of the first freighter. We started that way thinking the freighter was waiting to come into our lock, then realized it was moving, heading for the lock on the other side of the jetty and slowly reducing the distance we had to pass between it and the jetty.

I called Soo Control and asked for advice, and or clearance to pass in front. They recommended we go between the two freighters and make our left turn around the stern of the freighter on the left. It was a little unnerving going between two freighters, but there was plenty of clearance and they were only going one or two miles/hour. Made for an exciting exit from the locks.

Turning left, we had one last bit of excitement. As soon as we cleared the lock jetties, we caught the full current from the water that had gone over the rapids. The current on the Canadian shore was really running and it took a bit of maneuvering to get into the marina.

We used the Soo as our get reacquainted with civilization. The Canadian side is larger than the American side and was a chance to get reprovisioned. We also played classic tourist and took the train ride to the Agawa Canyon. The ride takes all day, leaving at 8 and getting back at 5. You get 2 hours at the canyon to walk around, see the 4 waterfalls (2 had gone dry) and in our case climb the 360 steps (they put the count on the stairs) up to the overlook at the top of the canyon. We enjoyed the train ride, and the canyon is worth seeing. However, having spent a month in similar wilderness surroundings, the canyon didn’t knock our socks off.

A large 46-foot sailboat came in next to us and we got to part of the family sailing it. The husband, Jerry was a doctor in Cheyboygan. He dreamed of doing what we are doing, and in fact has been getting his boat ready be ready to live aboard for the last 10 years. His wife was aboard, however, we never did meet her. She didn’t care that much for sailing, and evidently was making her displeasure known by not coming up from below to even be sociable. To complicate matters, they had two 5 year old twin boys that they had late since they were in their late forty’s. We got to know Jerry, swapped notes about the North Channel and had a nice time with him. Felt sorry for their personal differences.

As we came back into the North Channel, we began to get wind again, and for the first time in weeks, we were able to set the sails and turn off the engine. The boating population also changed. On Lake Superior, we had only seen 8 boats cruising, the entire time we were on the lake. In most anchorage’s, we were the only boat. On our first night in the North Channel, we picked what we thought would be an out of the way anchorage. When we got there, there were two boats swinging on the hook.

We made as special trip to Gore Bay to get Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for the stove and oven. It’s a town we also enjoy very much so we spent the night. Walked out to the lighthouse in the morning, did the farmers market and took off on a gray and rainy morning. An hour later we were almost rail down pounding into 3-6 foot waves. The cabin was a mess because it had been so long since we had done serious sailing that we had forgotten to make the boat ready below. The result was a cabin sole covered with books, paper, charts, cushions and other items that we had forgotten to secure. Didn’t mind too much, it was nice to be sailing again.

Because of the wind and waves we elected not to go in the narrow entrance to John Island. Instead we went around the safer North entrance, poked around and found a nice sheltered anchorage that we ended up having to ourselves. It was a treat to be off in the wilderness again. That evening, we tried raising a couple we had met on Beaver Island on the VHF. They had said they’d be in the North Channel in early August, and we agreed to try to contact each other. To our mutual delight, we connected on the first try. We were at the limits of radio range, so after a number of tries, we made arrangements to meet them the next day at Croker Island, where they were currently at anchor.

Our old frustration, fog, caught up with us and we waited out part of the morning for it to clear. We had better wave conditions, so we ventured out the narrow opening to John Island and headed for Croker Island. Croker is very popular. When we arrived, there were 16 boats either swinging on their anchor, or tied off to shore. We found our friends, Rick and Marcia on Explorer and proceeded to drop anchor and then back in and tie off to shore for the second time in our sailing careers. We all had a great reunion and had for entertainment the next 6 or 7 boats that came in and tied off to shore. We even learned a little watching people that did it right and others that screwed up. The water was warm so swimming was a delight. We climbed the rocks on shore and were treated to great views and the sheer joy of climbing over the rocks. Dinner was combined galleys and food cooked on the grill on the stern rail.

Next morning we went blueberry picking and Ruth made blueberry pancakes. We spent a few more hours talking and agreed to meet in the Bahamas this winter. Rick and Marcia plan on trailing Explorer, a 28-foot sailboat, to Florida this fall and then sail to the Bahamas.

We helped them cast off then climbed the rocks to watch and wave as they rounded the island heading for Gore Bay. The sound, a crunch-shudder even from a half-mile away, confirmed what our eyes had seen but had not quite registered. Explorer was dead in the water having hit the rock shoal at the end of the island. With the sound our hearts sank. We had heard that same sound two years earlier when we too had hit a rock in the North Channel. Once you hear it, you never forget the awful feeling. They had hit a rock hard. We could do nothing but watch. Fortunately they didn’t go aground, and in a short while they backed away and headed their wounded boat to Gore Bay. When we got back to the boat, we talked with them on the radio, found out they were ok, but a little bruised and shaken.

Next morning, we did an early swim. The urge to travel again caught up with us and we decided to head for Killarney. Next we start into what is known as the Thirty Thousand Island area of Georgian Bay.

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