127 Port Severn to Parry Sound, Ontario

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The water level in Georgian Bay had dropped about 3 feet to chart datum since our last visit in 1999. Ten minutes at dead slow brought us through Potato Island Channel without incident into a now fog-shrouded Georgian Bay. We let the autopilot follow our route as we watched radar for distant objects and what water we could see ahead for anything that didn’t show up on radar. We headed the west side of Georgian Bay to spend time visiting friends in Meaford, Midland and Penetang.

With supplies aboard, fuel and water tank topped we headed for the 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay. The name 30,000 Islands is misleading. One reference indicates twice that and another quotes 83,000 islands. The area is so intricate, complex and large that much of it remains uncharted for depths. The red line on the Small Craft Charts traces a path through this labyrinth with a charted depth of 6 feet. Extensive buoys mark the channel making it easy to follow. Those same buoys provide the occasional stress moment as they lead through tiny gaps between islands with an occasional rock lined right angle turns that from a distance look impossible to negotiate.

While we slept a front rolled with shifting and rising wind. Odyssey began to rock gently and our Canadian courtesy flag began flapping noisily. The combination slowly nudged me awake. The view from the cockpit showed we’d shifted 100 degrees and were riding nicely with 30 feet between us and the rock shore astern. I was happy that I’d spent the morning snorkeling; checking our tiny anchorage in detail. The anchor had set so fast I’d been concerned we might have caught a rock or log. Diving I found a thin layer of silt hiding the anchor. Below the silt the anchor was buried in thick sticky clay, and we weren’t going to drag. At the same time I’d confirmed the closest we’d come to all the Canadian Shield rock surrounding our tight cozy anchorage was one foot. Fortunately that was the huge boulder below our skeg that we’d carefully checked as we felt our way into the tiny scenic spot just 10 miles from our starting point.

A gray morning greeted us, and we decided to stay a second day in our snug cove instead of traveling in the rain. The following morning brought a bright sunny day that lighted up the yellows, oranges, and blacks in our surrounding rocks. Two loons poked lazily around Odyssey not seeming to mind our presence in their breakfast spot. We stayed a third day exploring the surrounding area by dinghy and kayak.

We slowly worked our way toward the dock at Wreck Island as we sorted out how to land at a very short finger dock. A boater saw us coming and moved his 21’ boat off the face dock to make it easy for us to land. We were still a way off, and we could see him coaching his two boys (maybe 9 and 7 years old) to work as dock boys as we came in. We got into the spirit of the event and made two kids day as they took the lines from our 36 footer and made us fast as dad looked on and I provided guidance on what we need accomplished. Two huge smiles and polite hello’s from the boys welcomed us.

Ruth looking at a rock left by a glacier on Wreck Island

Ruth looking at a rock left by a glacier on Wreck Island

The trail on Wreck Island provides a unique look at what the 30,000 Islands are famous for: trees and rocks. Most of the trees are standard issue, but there’s a number of classic Georgian Bay pines– very battered leaning back away from prevailing winter winds. The rocks along this short stretch of island are something else. If the shoreline has been created using a set of instructions, they probably would have read: You can do anything you like as long as the look and feel of the shore changes every 50 feet. Those instructions were well executed. We marveled at the swirling colors, blacks, and oranges in fine separations in some spots looking like a barely stirred thick cake mix had been poured out. Another spot had high relief rocks caused by a mix of different hardnesses that eroded differently. Then there was different stacking and the occasional huge boulder looking completely out of place after having being deposited by receding glaciers. We loved the trail and spent hours moving slowly along reading the trail guide and then marveling at nature’s uniqueness.

 Seaplanes at Henry's Restaurant on Frying Pan Island

Seaplanes at Henry's Restaurant on Frying Pan Island

Stuffed after outstanding pickerel and chips for lunch at Henry’s we asked the dockmaster how to get to the island grocery store. There are no roads on Frying Pan Island. She gave us two options. Go by boat, or walk the beach to the tennis court where behind the court there’s a path leading through the woods. Before we could learn more she was off to catch a second seaplane taxiing into the dock bringing more people for lunch. We headed off on foot needing the exercise after our huge lunch. Milk, bread, wine and a newspaper came back to Henry’s by backpack. We caught an Ontario Provincial Police officer bending over trying to look at Odyssey’s bottom and backside; he was checking out our twin hulls. We got talking and invited him aboard for a tour. He and his partner are the only officers covering 100 miles of islands. Other boaters wandered over, and we had a fun afternoon meeting people and giving tours while we watched boats and seaplanes come and go to this very popular access-by-water-only restaurant.

Muskoka chairs at Derbyshire Bay

Muskoka chairs at Derbyshire Bay

We weren’t making very good progress for two people who are always on the move. We’d covered about 50 miles (normally an early morning’s run for us) in eight days at four different anchorages and one dock. We were heading to Parry Sound to take on more supplies, but decided we’d stay out one more night. By now we were getting picky. We looked at two anchorages, rejected them and then backtracked and picked our way very slowly into a very tiny bay behind Derbyshire Island. We’d found yet another wilderness anchorage tucked discretely away from all the cottages sprinkled over the islands. Marsh, flowers, lilly pads, thick woods and of course, colorful rocks forming a low ledge and other interesting formations became the canvas for watching the sun and clouds paint changing shadows. Evidently one of the cottagers also likes this cove’s scenic beauty. Two bright Adirondack chairs (in this area they are known as Muskoka chairs) sat on a rock facing the view we were enjoying. The cottage they belonged to is out of sight through the woods facing the busy small craft channel. The setting sun deepened the rock colors and then just as the light faded a number of loons began their haunting calls. We had a loon serenade for a few minutes.

A loon family swimming around the boat in the morning provided a unique treat. Mom and dad would dive leaving junior on the surface and then surface and provide the baby with something to eat. We watched until they passed out of sight around the edge of the cove. Reluctantly we brought the anchor up and headed toward Parry Sound for supplies. We’d gotten into this slow pace and decided to continue it for the remainder of the summer. The North Channel got scratched from our itinerary as we approached Parry Sound.

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