07 Killarney, Ontario to Tobermory, Ontario


We knew from the radio traffic there would be a lot of boats at Killarney. When we got there, we found the docks were jammed. They had cruisers tied up every way imaginable. The real surprise was the town. With that many boats, you expect to see all kinds of shops catering to boaters. They were there, but they were, well different. Killarney can best be described as being funky. What makes a town funky? Here are some of the things that qualified Killarney.

Helen’s Hairstyling/Bread & Stuff is a combination hair salon and bakery. We didn’t try a haircut, but we bought cinnamon rolls and bread in the morning. The sales area was about 12 feet wide with only one display case. The rolls and bread were great.

Not to be outdone was The Rock, a restaurant serving only breakfast and lunch was in what looked like an ordinary house. That was just down from the liquor store, which was in a mobile home located directly on the waterfront.

Mr. Perch is famous. It’s a converted school bus that serves fish and chips. Again down on the waterfront. When we got in line, there were 6 people ahead of us. We got fries (didn’t want to spoil dinner) and they were great. The line appeared to be continuous as long as the place was open.

In the morning we stopped at a warehouse that had a fresh fish sign out. Inside two men were cleaning the morning catch. We go a whitefish fillet right off the fish. A lady vacuum bagged it for us and we had fresh whitefish from the grill that night.

There was some depth to the town, all-residential, but the business district such as it was the waterfront. At that, it was a ‘t’ street at the end of the road and dead ended so there was very little traffic.

The Sportsman Inn Marina where we pulled in was in sharp contrast to the rest of the town. The kids handling lines knew what they were doing for a change, and were very helpful. A waiter from the restaurant came down, provided us with a menu and indicated that they would bring down appetizers or dinner to the boat. We settled for dinner reservation. When I went up to register, I took my laptop. The clerk was evidently used to such activity because she asked for the modem cord and plugged me in so I could do e-mail. The service was in sharp contrast to the rest of the town, which still seemed to be trying to figure out how to handle all the boaters. Like I said, Killarney is funky. Quite unlike anything we had seen before. We liked it, but only stayed the night.

We had been studying the special charts that show very detailed routing along the Small Boat Channel that ran through the 30,000 Island area. We were eager to try winding our way along the route. In many places the channel is very narrow and all along it is wooded, with lots of rock walls and other changes in scenery to make it very interesting. We enjoyed our initial introduction to the narrow confines of the channel. We stopped early, finding a nice place to anchor in Mill Lake. With the motor on the dink we spent part of the afternoon and some of the next morning exploring the shore and rocks by dink.

We left Milwaukee debt free. Now we have a new debt every morning that demands payment. It’s the batteries and the amp hours we use up keeping the electronics and refrigeration going when the engine is off. The morning ritual is to check the meter to see how much we owe the batteries and how long we will have to run the engine to repay the debt. We underestimated how long it would take the current alternator to recharge the batteries. Seems like it takes forever. Ok when you have to run the engine to go somewhere that you can’t sail, but a real bummer when you are going to stay anchored out for a few days and have to run the engine for hours to recharge the batteries. A project to be completed as soon as we hit the states is getting and installing a larger alternator to cut the recharge time. For the present, it influences our planning and tends to make us move more frequently just so we make progress since we have to run the engine for 4-5 hours a day to recharge. That gets cut to an hour with the new alternator. We would have stayed another day at Mill Lake, but since we had to recharge, we pushed on.

The Small Boat Channel took us through more spectacular scenery and then back out to Georgian Bay. Heading in, we tried to decide between the French River, the Bad River, and the Bustards Island group. The islands won out. We went in through The Gun Barrel and found a place to anchor beside Green Island. The anchorage was tight and with the wind shift and swing at anchor, we were within 20 feet of shore, but had 8 feet of water below the keel.

The next morning was overcast with a few raindrops in the air. We liked the spot, were curious about the Bustards, and wanted a day to just relax, read and putter around on the boat so we stayed. We ran the engine for an hour or so to do a partial repayment of our amp hour debt and settled in to enjoy the day. Ruth baked blueberry muffins to perk up the gloomy morning.

Went exploring by dink in the afternoon and noticed a boat with New York numbers. Stopped to say hello. Don and Marion are retired. They had gone from their home at Dunkirk on Lake Erie through the Weland Canal and then through the Trent-Severn Canal and were headed for the North Channel. They’ll leave their boat in Gore Bay for the winter and continue from there next year. We had drinks aboard their boat, then we dinked back to Tranquility where we had hot dogs on the gill and a nice salad. We all had a nice time and talked until after dark. Don and Marion had fun of trying to find their boat in almost total darkness. We have an invitation to visit them when we pass through Lake Erie.

The next morning, we again debated about staying another day, going on through the Small Boat Channel, or crossing to Tobermory. As we reviewed the charts, we noticed a small harbor that would let us cross, but still let us stay out of town and having to tie up at a dock. We elected to cross Georgian Bay. The wind was on the nose, and we motored across to Cabot Head and the little harbor of Wingfield Basin. We were delighted to find one boat in the bay when we pulled in early in the evening.

Saturday our companion boat left early and we had the harbor to ourselves. We decided to run up the debt on the batteries and stay another day. Two days without recharging is our absolute limit. We studied the cormorants diving in the bay and then took off by dink to explore the lighthouse and at Cabot Head. The lighthouse was fun. They even let you climb the steep rickety stairs to the old light tower.

Ruth baked bread and we had a lazy swim in the afternoon. That set the stage for the evenings activities. At 4 PM we were the only boat in the harbor. By 6 PM 12 boats had arrived and anchored. We, of course, sat in the cockpit eating fresh bread and enjoying the show. Think we will have to come up with a scoring system for judging fellow boaters anchoring skills.

Sunday morning we put the dink back up on the bow knowing that we will probably not be able to anchor out for awhile. The weather was crummy. It was windy and started to rain as we left the harbor. We headed out anyway for Tobermory. Motor sailed in 22-knot winds almost on the nose. Felt very comfortable in our enclosed cockpit. No wet and not too cool sitting out of the wind.

Tobermory had more going on than we expected. Ferry boat landing; tour boats and dive boats made the harbor very busy. There were all the shops for tourist that you’d expect. We did some walking, and then settled in on the boat as it started to rain again. Both of us felt a little sad knowing that we would now have a long stretch were we would be traveling from dock to dock with few chances to anchor out.


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