Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 106 a day of work and play in Killarney, Ontario

     Ho Hum… Yes, I got to sleep in today. How else should one start a day of rest and relaxation? Our main activities for today included doing laundry and blogging. On the fun side we both took some longer walks with Lucky to explore the town. The Admiral visited the general store for some provisions, and I went through town out to the rather nice Killarney Mountain Lodge and explored the grounds with Lucky. The main street along the waterfront is all relatively new, but across the street most of the buildings would have been here on my last visit some 55 plus years ago. For example, the beautiful stone church in the photo at the right was built in 1950. It looks like they may have used local stone, which seems likely given the isolation of Killarney until the road into town was completed some 12 years after this church was constructed.
       After lunch on the patio at the Sportsman’s Inn, we set off on a nearly two mile walk with Lucky to the Killarney East Lighthouse. The first half mile was along the highway connecting Killarney to the Trans-Canada Highway that was completed in 1962 after my last previous visit here. Before that all transportation in and out of here was by water or air. We turned off on the airport road, and the road soon turned to hard packed gravel and split several times before reaching the lighthouse.  The photo at the left shows one of several small lakes that we passed as we approached the lighthouse, and this one had an abundance of lily pads.
      The Killarney East Lighthouse sits on a very rocky point and makes a magnificent setting (photo at right). After seeing the rocky shoreline, it was hard for me to imagine the light keeper rowing out here from Killarney in bad weather to light the light.  The Killarney West Lighthouse is even more exposed and much further out from town. That was one tough job! According to the Killarney web site, one interesting side note is these lights are useful in the winter to guide snowmobiles on the ice. I had not heard that before about other lighthouses that we have passed.
      Lucky had fun climbing around the rocks and trying to reach the water for a drink (photo at left). There were lots of people (and dogs) walking around the area, and a few people even braved the chilly water for a refreshing swim. As for me, I was not tempted to go swimming even remotely.

      In general, this particular spot with the rocky shore line reminded me very much of some of the New England coast, especially around Newport, Rhode Island.  Anyway, the clear blue skies and bright sun made for a lot of beautiful views. Then it was time to head back to town with, of course, a stop at a souvenir shop and at the ice cream shop on the way back to the boat.

      It is not often that we can truly wear Lucky out, but this walk seemed to have done the trick. When we got back to Lucky Us, she retreated to her kennel under the chart table and hung out her do not disturb sign! That is a sure sign that all she wants to do is sleep, but she did show up at dinner time only to disappear again. Also, shortly after this we said good bye for the last time to our friends on the go fast boats as they departed the marina to head back home to Michigan (photo at right).
      For dinner we had reservations in the main dining room at the Sportsman’s Inn. I had a huge filet of pan fried whitefish with a baked potato and steamed veggies. We really splurged and shared a dessert! This was a great way to close a very nice stay in Killarney. Later, when I took Lucky on her last walk of the day, I saw the movie that they project across the inlet for all to watch. The photo at the left is the best that I could do to capture the movie in the darkness. I had read about this, and sure enough they really do have this fun event. It was kind of like a drive-in theater for boats, but you had to bring your own popcorn… Can't see anything? Well, neither could I. Somehow the write up on the marina web site made it sound better... The sound is broadcast over an FM radio channel.

      Then it was time for bed after a long day.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day 105 to Killarney, Ontario

      Today we left the anchorage after clearing the anchor of weeds (photo at right) and are headed 28.8 miles to Killarney, which was about 5 miles from our anchorage as a crow flies.  After watching two other boats struggle with weeds as they pulled their anchors to depart, we finally decided that it was our turn so the Admiral set off in her kayak. It definitely helped to have the windlass since we could get some weeds off just by pulling the chain up and down. Neither of the other two boats that we had watched had the benefit of an electric windlass, but we were sure grateful for ours. However, once the anchor cleared the bottom it was my turn to head up to the fly bridge and get ready to do my captain “thing”. I did have to briefly leave the helm to help pull the Admiral’s kayak up to the flybridge where we store them during travel.
      It was nearly 9:00 am by the time we cleared the anchorage, and on our way out we got this view of our part of the Pool (picture at left). You can see how it had nearly emptied of boats by this time. At this point the sky was still largely sunny, but that would change later in the morning so we enjoyed it while we could.

       We continued the 10 mile trip out of Baie Fine before we could turn back south and head to Killarney. As before the scenery was beautiful as is shown in the photo at right as we approached the mouth. Just as we exited Baie Fine, the weather started to change into a damp, cool, dreary morning just as predicted.  The skies were spitting at us and sometimes being even more rude. It was only after we exited the bay that we felt the full extent of the 14 to 16 mph wind.

      For the remaining about 18 miles until we entered the channel at Killarney the wind and waves made for a bumpy ride. However, Lucky has turned into a pretty good traveler since with the help of a (vet recommended) sea sickness pill, she sleeps most of the trip (photo at right). Since she has had the medicine, she has been sick fewer times so it really does seem to help.

     There are a lot of islands with channels between them in this area, but we chose a slightly longer route with a much wider channel. As a result, we were a little more exposed to the weather, but we had less worry about drifting off course. Our first sight as we approached the channel at Killarney was the Killarney West Light (photo at left). Killarney was first established during fur trading in the 1820s and later the fishing industry expanded. There was no access to town by road until 1962 so boat traffic has always been important. The first lights at the east and west ends of the channel were built in 1867 when Canada officially became a Dominion, and the lights today were built in 1909. The East and West Lights were tended by a man living in Killarney who travelled by boat to light them. My reference did not say, but I would guess that he rowed to both lights in all kinds of weather.

      Shortly we turned and headed into the channel at Killarney and finally got out of the wind and waves. The photo at the right was taken from Lucky Us at her berth at the Sportsman’s Inn. They have docks on both sides of the channel, but we did not want to deal with the free ferry that the marina offered. It turns out that by wanting to be on the town side our berth was located down a narrow channel with 2 right angle turns. There were four helpers on what they called our “team” to help with our docking. Their first question as we turned in from the channel was "you have thrusters right?"  The Admiral calmly answered no, and according to her, they looked a little worried. We had to weave our way around their fuel dock and then quickly turn left followed by a right. They had people at the fuel dock and the dock across just in case. After I managed the first turn without hitting anything, you could see they all relaxed a bit.
       We will be here for at least two nights. We checked in at the office, and then we went about a quarter of a mile along the waterfront to the local fish and chips diner recommended by the dock hands. The local commercial fish company has run this diner for many years, and it is something of a legend amongst boaters in this area. Sure enough, the fried whitefish was delicious! It was at lunch that we noticed the swelling in my left hand (photo at left). I had been bitten there by a large horse fly the day before, and obviously I was having a reaction to it. After I was bitten I had a pretty good case of hives, but some Benadryl Itch Stopping Cream handled that pretty well.

      We did not have internet or cell service at the anchorage so it was nice to have those luxuries (?) once again.  We had not been back to Lucky Us for that long until we looked up and sure enough the three go fast cigarette boats arrived. They laughed later when I accused them of following us. The idea of boats capable of speeds up to 70 mph following us would be like the tortoise and the hare…

Day 104 Little Current to the Pool and Topaz Lake

      I have been looking forward to the next few days of our Loop adventure trip since travelling on Lucky Us is going to be just a little more comfortable than making the same trip on the mail boat over 60 years ago. My memory of that boat is that I thought it looked like a converted gill net commercial fishing boat… Today we slipped away from the dock at 6:45 am so we could make the 7 am swing bridge opening (photo at right).  It only opens on the top of the hour from dawn to dusk.  We were the only boat this morning, but yesterday we noticed many boats lined up at different times of the day. 
      Our destination today is an anchorage that is very popular so we are hoping that an early arrival will give us an advantage. Just 3.5 miles past the swing bridge we passed the Strawberry Island Lighthouse (photo at left). The lighthouse is 44 feet high and was built in 1881. It was built to guide ships approaching Manitoulin Island and the Port of Little Current from the South through waters that were largely uncharted at that time. It is considered to be the ultimate design of classic Georgian Bay style lighthouses. It features attached housing for a large family, which gives the lighthouse a combination of beauty and function.
      We are going to a scenic location known as the Baie Fine, which is pronounced Bay Fine.  The entrance is only about 14 miles from Little Current and runs just over 10 miles ending at 'The Pool' which is where we plan to anchor, if possible.  There are white quartz mountains that stretch down the narrow bay making this a very scenic destination. In addition to the beauty, I was intrigued by this suspension bridge from the house on the main island to a guest house on a very small island (photo at right).  I suppose this is where you could house the in-laws stayed when they came to visit.
      We were a little concerned about finding room at the anchorage in the Pool, which was the reason for our early departure for such a short trip. We did get our hopes up as we passed about 8 boats headed out on our way down the channel. The photo on the left shows the beauty of the shoreline in the Pool. The geese in the foreground are feeding on bugs in the seaweed. We did not realize at the time, but the floating seaweed was an indication of how our anchor would be covered with a huge blob of seaweed when we pull it up tomorrow.
       We launched the kayaks after lunch to set off to the dock at the start of the trail up to Topaz Lake. There were several other boats at the trail head (photo at right), but most of them were related to the construction of a cabin somewhere up the hillside. Since we were in our kayaks, we left our Fit Bits on Lucky Us, so I have to guess that we hiked about three quarters of a mile and gained about 250 feet in elevation.
      The hike was well worth it as the lake is beautiful (photo at left). We ended up about 30 vertical feet above the lake in a steep fairly open area, which really enhanced our views.

      The photo at the right is another view over the lake with the rocky hillside in the background. To me the beauty of the setting is enhanced by the combination of rocky outcrops along with the contrasting trees and water. Later in the afternoon three of the go fast boats that we had seen multiple times in the Mackinac Island area arrived and rafted up across the Pool from us. We spent much of the rest of the day enjoying this idyllic and peaceful setting…

     The last photo (at left) from Topaz Lake shows Lucky resting while being scratched. If you look carefully at her ears, you can see that they are flying in the wind. Thus, our weather report for Topaz Lake is very windy, but the breeze was welcome after our climb up here.

      The last photo for the day shows the view back toward Lucky Us as we set out in our kayaks. The entrance channel is out of view to the right, but the wind was being funneled up the channel toward us. Thus, we had to negotiate waves up to one foot in height until we got out of the wind and into the Pool. The boats in the anchorage are oriented in many different directions, which showed that the winds were swirling around in the Pool. 
Meanwhile, the Admiral continues her hopes of a bear sighting...

Day 103 enjoying Little Current, Ontario

     I had last been to Little Current over 60 years ago, and I do not have any memories of it other than sitting on the main dock for what seemed like a very long time to take my family (parents, brother and me) to Killarney where we would spend the night  and then continue on the next day to Beaverstone Bay Lodge for a week of fishing.
      About 8:00 am the cruise ship Victory I arrived for a day (9:00 am to 5:00 pm) stop (photo at right). They had a variety of activities available, including tour boat along the Collins Inlet (where we are going tomorrow), bus tour of Manitoulin Island, fishing and shopping.

      The photo at the left shows a closer stern view taken from the dock. We also encountered passengers doing their own walking tours, including one lady who was swimming at the town beach. I was really impressed when I saw two crewmen with paint rollers on long extension handles who were painting over worn spots on the side of the hull. If this is any indication of the overall care of the ship, then this is a real first class operation in my (modest) opinion.

      The rest of our day consisted of several long walks. First though, we walked back to the Anchor Inn for another very good lunch with whitefish. We are just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were with the restaurants in St Ignace, Michigan where we ate at three restaurants that all had at least 4 types of local fish on the menu that were often cooked several different ways. Since then, we have almost always had whitefish on the menu, but the other seafood options are cod and other salt water fish. After lunch we stopped at several local stores and ended up back at the end of the town dock at Wally’s Dock Service (photo above left). They offer dock services, including fuel and pump outs, but it is the store that is amazing. It is a small building that is crammed with items like fishing tackle, lures, and parts, as well as pop, ice and live bait. The Admiral has been looking to buy a guide book for the Georgian Bay that included marina and town information as well as suggest trips and routes throughout the Georgian Bay, and she found just what she had been looking for at Wally’s.
      In the afternoon we put on our swim suits, took Lucky and headed for a walk to the town beach. The wind was back up to the 14 to 15 mph range so the air was cool in an otherwise beautiful cloud free day. The photo at the right shows the Admiral swimming after having tried in vain to lure Lucky to venture out deeper than her usual chest deep wading. Dogs were not allowed on the beach so Lucky and I went around to an area with rocks (2 to 3 inches) that was just to her liking. Unfortunately, the area was also exposed to small waves, but she had a good time finding just the right rocks to bring to shore.

     We had beef stew on board Lucky Us, and then we headed out for a walk along a fitness trail on the shore that started at the far end of the town dock. Just after we started, we passed this “little lighthouse” that is one of six that had been built in this area. The photo at the left was actually taken from the water, since I was not able to get a good photo from the trail.

      We left the trail at the convention center and resort that is on the far edge of town. We walked through their parking lot to the street back into town. It was a lot easier walking, and at least one of us was hoping to pass an ice cream shop before we got back to Lucky Us. After all of the walking today, it was an early bed time for all three of us…

Day 102 to Little Current, Ontario

       We departed from the anchorage this morning just after 8:00 am, and our destination today is the town docks at Little Current, ON.  This is a 29.4 mile trip, and we hope to arrive by noon. The photo at the right shows our “busy” anchorage as we were about to pull out. We have been using the kayaks with the primary goal of taking Lucky Girl to shore. Lucky has turned in to quite the water dog.  It won't be long before she is following the Kayak because she decided to jump out of the kayak as the Admiral was just about to beach it. Also, this morning on the way back to the boat she got as far as dunking her head and her front legs under water before she backtracked back into the kayak.
      The photo at the left shows the other side of the anchorage as we are pulling out. That side was down wind, but it was also deeper water so it would not have been nearly as good an anchorage in any wind. We have to back track about 2.5 miles to the other end of Hotham Island to leave by the same narrow inlet through which we entered yesterday.  It is the same beautiful scenery, but of course we are viewing it all from the other side on the way out. As you may remember, we read to each other while under way, and we should finish our latest book today.  We are reading "Command Authority" by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney, and of course, we are anxious to read the last 30 pages to see how it all unfolds. However, we are holding up on the reading until we get into more open water with less up close scenery.
      As we approached Little current we passed a small spit of land that protects a small bay with the town beach across the bay. The spit also offered this wonderful view of old and new co-existing. The photo at the right shows the walls of a long abandoned stone building. In the background is a modern power generating wind mill. The trip today was in winds of 12 to 14 miles per hour, but once we cleared the inlet at Hotham Island, we headed into  the wind for a couple of miles to cross the North Channel to get into the lee of Manitoulin Island. As we reached the south end of Manitoulin Island, we turned to starboard around the end of the island, and then we were headed once again right into the wind . Fortunately, there were some islands to block the waves.
     The photo at the left was taken from the aft end of the flybridge, and it shows the long main dock wall at the City Dock. At the east end of the marina there were three piers with berths formed by finger piers. We pulled in between two piers, and I turned Lucky Us around to back up wind into our slip. Suddenly I realized there was also a current of about 2 mph in the down wind direction. Suddenly, the simple act of turning to put the stern into the wind became a lot more difficult. It all worked out okay, but I was completely taken by surprise by the current. Okay, so I should have guessed from the name “Little Current” to be looking for evidence of a current… Manitoulin Island is so long and large that there is a current generated by the southwest wind pushing water through the channel at Little Current into the North Channel as a classic example of storm surge. Then when the wind dies or reverses direction, the water flows back out so the current is reversing.
      We checked in at the office and walked Lucky before heading about one block to the Anchor Inn Hotel right at the main intersection in downtown. I had a wonderful lunch with Whitefish, coleslaw and fries. We took a brief walking tour of the two main blocks of downtown, but I was anxious to get back to Lucky Us for a nap. When I woke up the sky was no longer beautiful (photo at right), and the predicted scattered late afternoon thunder showers were in the area.
      The swing bridge at the east end of town opens on the hour, and the photo at the left shows the bridge open for the 5:00 pm traffic jam. Evidently, the bridge was originally a railroad bridge, and it was later converted into a one lane highway bridge. We will have to pass through this bridge when we leave here to go to Killarney, but first, we are looking forward to a 2 night stay here. As you can see, the sky had quickly cleared into bright sun once again.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 101 to an anchorage near Hotham Island, Ontario

       Today we left the dock at Blind River at 9:15 am, and we headed to an anchorage 37.7 miles east.  We are taking a Northern Passage route of the Northern Channel and will be anchoring near Hotham Island. Well, I slept on it over night, and I still have not changed my opinion about Blind River. The marina was great, but I really still feel that the town (or what we saw of it) has few bright spots...
      The scenery consisted of lots of beautiful views of rocky (photo at left) and sometimes treed islands. There is little or no soil on the islands. So the trees must first gain a foothold by growing in a crack in the rocks. The tree roots expand as they grow, and the expansion can exert enough pressure to break the rock. The freezing of water and resulting expansion when water goes from a liquid to a solid (about 10%) can also exert enough force to break the rocks. The rocks get broken into finer and finer particle and slowly a soil can form. Time is the key - it takes a long time. 
     Like I said above, the scenery along our trip from Blind River was many little islands (photo at right). It was like they are all different, but they are all the same... We are going along the North or mainland side of the North channel between the mainland and Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island is the largest island in the world in an inland freshwater lake, and it provides protection for the North channel from storms out on Lake Huron.
      Hotham Island is about 2.5 miles long, and we entered a channel between the west end of the island and the mainland and went almost all of the way to the east end of Hotham Island. The channel is barely visible between Hotham Island on the right and the mainland on the left. When we got closer, the channel is about 200 feet wide, but on line reviews that we had read warned to stay east (right in this view) of center. The channel was something of a wind tunnel, but fortunately the winds were only about 8 to 10 mph. We continue to take Lucky Us into some pretty tight places, but the scenery has been worth it
    The picture on the right was taken looking back at the channel after we had entered the channel between Hotham Island and the mainland. We were in the process  of turning to starboard to head east toward the anchorage about 2.5 miles away near the eastern end of Hotham Island. There was no way out the eastern end of the channel for us, and I do not know if even small power boats can exit there. I like this photo because you can get a good view of the narrow channel.
      We arrived in the early afternoon, and we passed several boats that were headed out from the anchorage, which we hoped meant that others had left before we got there. This is a busy little area (photo at left), which is not surprising since it was not only very scenic but also very protected.  We slowly motored around looking at several small bays for a spot to anchor and finally decided on just the right one.  There must be over two dozen boats in the area.  There are docktails at 5 at a private home around a small point from us, but we ultimately decided not to go since it is about a mile one way.  We have the kayaks so it was a possibility.  We will be using the kayaks to take Lucky ashore soon to do her business. As usual, the Admiral was hoping we have a bear sighting but, she is always careful to qualify that by wanting the encounter to be not too close. I think that I may have to take her to a zoo to have her encounter with a bear. We went on a 7 day Alaskan cruise out of Vancouver, British Columbia last summer, and we then drove across the entire Rocky Mountains, then down through Montana, Wyoming, including Yellowstone Park and finally through Colorado. The grand total was zero bears after 5 weeks of almost continually being in Bear Country... Hope must spring eternal since the Admiral is still hoping to see a bear...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 100 onward east to Blind River, Ontario

      After an “exciting time yesterday, when I changed the oil on both engines and the Admiral did laundry, it was a pleasure to get back on the water today. Today we headed to Blind River, Ontario which is 31.6 miles to the east along the coast.  We left the dock at 9:25 am and we arrived about 4 hours later in the early afternoon.  The weather was beautiful this morning with no wind and a temp of around 65 degrees as we departed Thessalon. The wind gradually built up to 6 to 8 mph with waves of 6 to 12 inches out of the south southwest during the trip. We passed the Mississagi (photo at right) headed west in the shipping channel at 13.6 mph. The view is not very clear since she was 6.8 miles away at the time.
      The photo at the left shows the marina area as we arrived at Blind River, Ontario. The buildings on the left with what looks like a silo is an abandoned saw mill. The silo was actually a sawdust burner that was used before pollution regulations. To avoid burning the saw dust, various uses were found for it, such as making fireplace logs and press board. The marina is in the center and right with a lone wind power generator in the background. The marina was very nice, including a large, new building for bathrooms, laundry, store and a small marina restaurant.
       We had eaten lunch on the boat before we arrived so after checking in at the office and taking Lucky for a short walk, it was time for a nap… Later we decided to walk into town for dinner. The old downtown was about a half mile away, but it was only about one long block long. Except for a small grocery and a rather seedy looking bar, the few businesses that were still operating were all closed, perhaps because it was a Sunday evening. The one restaurant that had sounded okay was out of business. So we continued walking along this branch of the TransCanada Highway. Other than a Tim Horton’s, the only “restaurant" that we found was actually a food truck called the Butterfly Grill (photo of the sign at the right). I had fish and chips that were quite good, and the Admiral had sausage without the bun and a “Twisted Spud”. I can best describe this as a spiral cut potato threaded on a stick that was then deep fried. It looked really great and was quite crisp since the spiral cut was quite thin.
      The menu from the Butterfly Grille is in the photo on the left. As you can see they had other interesting items on the menu such as fried dill pickles, (fried) cheese balls and Squirrel Tails, which sounded something like a flattened donut without the hole. They had a steady flow of customers, and about half of them asked what some of these items were just as we had done. We figured that the ones who did not ask were local who already knew. Well, it was hardly gourmet food, but we left satisfied both in terms of our appetites and our curiosity…
      The boat in the photo at the right had aroused my curiosity earlier so Lucky and I walked over to have a look. The boat proudly sported a Canadian flag, but when I had looked at it from a distance, I had thought that the name was “Lucky USA” when my less than perfect vision made the L and the I into a single letter U. The marina grounds were large so Lucky and I never really left them, but we covered several miles while wandering around. Along the back (north) side there was a large municipal hockey arena. Back home in Texas, where football is king, local school districts will spend $70 million to build huge football stadiums which are packed 3 or 4 times a weekend for local high school football games. Hockey is still the king in Canada, and even this really small town had a fairly large indoor hockey arena.
      The weather reports look good for tomorrow so it looks like we will be headed out in the morning. I must say that I really won’t miss Blind River, but then maybe we were just unlucky in our search for food.