65 Meaford, Ont. to Killarney, Ont.

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Eriskay met us and we followed her into an, unnamed bay on one of the islands in the Thirty Thousand Island group of Georgian Bay. Locals call it #10 with 10 being high on a rating scale of 1 to 10. Narrow and twisting, the rocky tree lined shoreline competes with itself in presenting the most interesting view. In one area the rock is flat and colorful with reds, browns, grays and whites arranged in interesting mixes. Then another area catches the eye and boulders provide interest. They compete with rock sculptured into curving patterns. All very eye catching. We set our anchor, sounded the water behind us to check for rocks and then sat back and enjoyed the beauty our secluded anchorage.

The rocks drew us ashore. We joined John and Barb off Eriskay and Rolf and Barb off Supra for sundowners in the early glow of evening. As mosquitoes began to appear, we snuggled into our respective boats.

Bump. Tranquility’s keel had lightly hit the rocky bottom near shore. The wind had died and we had drifted on the anchor. The hit wasn’t serious, but we were too close to shore and had to relocate in the dark. Up came the anchor. We moved and reset. The anchor didn’t hold. We tried again–no luck. After 5 tries, we still hadn’t found a good hold. In almost total darkness we carefully threaded Tranquility past rocks guarding the entrance to a different part of the anchorage and tried again. Again no luck, and now we’d lost the last of the light. Sky, trees, rocks and water blended into a uniform blackness on this moonless cloudy night. Our flashlight found the shore, but judging distance was difficult. We circled using the depth sounder reading and the flashlight to judge where we were. With the weather forecast talking about potential thunderstorms we wanted a well-set anchor. Finally after many more tries we got a marginal set, stopped and worked out a new plan. Using the dinghy we rowed a long line ashore and tied off to a tree up wind of the forecasted wind direction. When we got back to Tranquility we discovered it was midnight and we’d been working for two hours to get the anchor reset. In all we had tried 10 times to anchor and I was tired from manually retrieving 35 pounds of anchor and 20 feet of chain each time. We hit the sack and slept well. The thunderstorms never came and we enjoyed the anchorage for a second night.

The small craft channel through the Thirty Thousand Islands is a delight. Well marked and at times challenging with its narrow twisting passages through rocky shores. We poked along at a leisurely pace enjoying the scenery. Each anchorage is different and once secure, we’d sit back in the cockpit to enjoy our new surroundings. The water is warm, running about 75 degrees so we swim frequently in the fresh clear water.

At Britt at tiny town of a few hundred people and a great place for diner at the Britt Inn and we crossed paths with Sea Dragon, a junk rigged steel-hulled sailing vessel just purchased by Don and Barb. We hadn’t seen the boat before, but we’d met Don this past winter down at Royal Island in Eleuthera.

Ports Cruising Guide indicates Parting Channel is only wide enough for one boat, has an island in the middle and seems impossible to negotiate. They were right, but understated the challenge! Because of a sharp turn you don’t see the narrow passage until just before entering. The island turns out to be a large rock. Buoys indicate 90-degree turns are required to round the rock. Clearances to the rock walled sides of the channel are minimal. We followed Eriskay through the tricky passage enjoying the challenge.

We poked up a narrow river in the dinghy to find the Bass Creek tramway. Originally built by lumber companies to move equipment, it’s now maintained as part of the French River Provincial Park as part of Canada’s history. Still active, it provides people traveling by canoe with a shortcut portage along the historical canoe route.

As we approached we were mystified to see the end of the dock piled high with cloth bags and wooden boxes that didn’t resemble stuff of modern canoe campers. Then out of the woods came men in costume carrying more bags and looking just like a scene out of the 1700’s. The illusion was complete. Moccasins on feet, leg garters, leggings, and tunic tops. Modern gear such as life jackets for the canoe were discretely stored in cloth bags. Recovering quickly from our shock we met the Saginaw Voyageurs a living history re-enactment group from the Saginaw Michigan area. Thirteen men ranging in age from late 30’s to early 80’s were recreating the voyage of Samuel D. Champlain in their 36-foot canoe.

We walked along the 1,000-foot tramway, a wooden planked path over rocky swampy ground to the beginning of the portage. There we saw the canoe; fiberglass on the inside, but looking like birch bark on the outside. John and I and helped manhandle the canoe out of the water, up over the rocks to wooden tramway above. A cart helped move the canoe along the tramway. Even then it wasn’t easy. A number of times the canoe had to be lifted and turned sideways to fit between trees or rocks. Traveling in the 1700’s wasn’t easy. We sat fascinated as they reloaded their equipment and paddled off around a rocky bend in the river. Their trip would take them a week of paddling and sailing to reach their destination at Midland.

Beechnut, a tiny wooden sailing dingy trails behind Eriskay. John had built it during the winter. It sails beautifully and presents a pleasant sight sailing in an anchorage with its dark green hull and tanbark sail.

Hearing a crunching bump, I turned and saw that an incoming sailboat had found the unmarked 3-foot spot shown on the chart at the entrance to the Bad River anchorage. They were hard aground. I took our dingy with its 8hp outboard over and acted as a tug first pushing on the bow to turn them around, and then pushing from the rear, helping get them back to deep water.

A labyrinth of channels constricts the Bad River creating swift flowing rapids through rocky gorges. We spent a morning exploring, poking up channels until we ran out of width or out of water. Our slow ride upstream was rewarded by a swift ride back down. Frequently we’d stop and scramble up rocks to explore ashore. This glacier scraped wilderness has a raw ruggedness we completely enjoy. Nothing is level, curving rocks end abruptly at cracks opened by freezing winters. Blueberry bushes fight to survive in thin soil in low spots next to boulders rising vertically and too steep to climb. We explore until we need a rest break, and then dinghy to a new area and explore again.

Killarney marks the dividing point between Georgian Bay and the North Channel. The only open space on the town dock was reserved for a tour boat: “Due any minute” according to the dock attendant. We could tie up but would have to leave when the tour boat radioed they were approaching. We rafted Eriskay off Tranquility and turned what was going to be a leisurely exploration of town into a grand prix pit stop. John and I got in line at Mr. Perch to order lunch. Ruth and Barb went grocery shopping. We gulped down our fish and chips, dropped off our week of accumulated trash and were off. Total time ashore maybe 20 minutes setting a new cruising record for shortest town visit. Then we were off to start our North Channel explorations.

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