By: Rick Layzell
Our ‘planned’ itinerary for the trip:
July 16 Marina del Rey to Wye Heritage in Midland
July 17 Wye Heritage to Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound
July 18 Big Sound to the Bustard Islands
July 19 Bustards to Killarney
July 20/21 Killarney to Little Current on Manitoulin Island
July 22 Little Current to the Bad River
July 23/24 Bad River to Port Rawson
July 25 Port Rawson to Wye Heritage
July 26 Wye Heritage to Marina del Rey
July 22- We woke feeling rested and ready for the next phase of the journey. As we walked along the beautiful Little Current boardwalk, we made time for a pit stop at Wally’s Dock Service and smiled at the wide array of boating and fishing supplies, the great fuel service from the welcoming staff, and the casual conversation with ‘Tex’ – I’m still not sure if he is Wally or not. A couple bags of ice and we continued back to Meant 2 Be. We had anticipated running with the pack through Killarney for fuel (we were ok but always willing to fill) before making our way back out to the Bustards. That changed when a couple of our new boater friends invited us to tag along for a run on the open water straight to the Bustards – sounded like fun to us! We eased out of Port of Little Current Marina. Actually we pushed the boat out under power to ensure the current didn’t win again (the lessons were working), and made our way under the famous swing bridge. After passing the TS Playfair, a beautiful brigantine training ship, we headed into open waters. Georgian Bay was stunningly calm and our two hour run led us back into the Gun Barrel where the three boats rafted together and spent the night ‘swinging on the hook’. About a dozen boats from the group arrived shortly thereafter and settled in on their own smaller rafting groups. Another day filled with lots of laughs and great new friendships capped off with a nightcap or two of some delicious red wine.
July 23- I awoke early and continued monitoring a storm I had been tracking for several days. After a couple messages with friends in Midland, and on stern advice from the friend I trusted most, the decision was made that on this calm day we would run the Bay straight down to Midland. While this meant shortening our planned trip, respecting the water and the weather is paramount to successful boating. I built a couple routes on my Navionics app so we could stop in either Pointe au Baril or Killbear for fuel. I then learned that about six others boats also wanted to run straight down and we willingly agreed to join them. I’d been looking forward to a run on our own but they were all faster boats like ours so there was no doubt there would be loads of smiling faces. A fuel stop was planned for Pointe au Baril and away we went. As we arrived at the north channel of Pointe au Baril we took the lead into the planned marina for fuel. We quickly realized the marina was set up for smaller ‘cottage boats’ and there was no way six of us in 30’+ boats were going to get in. A quick call to a friend and Desmasdons Boatworks agreed to open up their two sided 100’ fuel dock to take care of us. The welcoming crew (and the yummy ice cream) was simply awesome, and in no time we were back on the water. Our lead boat took us down through the south channel where some of the cottages look more like palaces and then, on time with his planned route, the pack did a button hook out to the middle of the Bay. We ran close to 20 knots (28 mph) for most of the next couple of hours and by 5 pm, Meant 2 Be was fueled up and once again safely docked at Wye Heritage Marina where we would stay for two nights. This would be a calm night for the two of us with a charcuterie board (one of our favourite meals) a bottle of Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon and yet another great sleep. The storm by this time was forecasted to arrive by mid-day tomorrow bringing heavy rains and 50 km/h winds. I was praying the waterproofing on my canvas would hold and thankful for the guidance of a friend!
July 24- We were very happy to be hunkered down at Wye as the rains began in earnest at 11 am and the afternoon/ evening storm included 60 km/h winds and torrential rainfall. Karen was working on a course that occupied much of her day so I set about doing boat chores and some other duties. A necessary fridge repair was completed, the salon and cockpit were cleaned as best they could, and organizing for our final day tomorrow – with a pair of excited 15 year old kids joining us – was taken care of. Some good friends joined us for dinner and off we went to Lilly’s Italian Eatery in Midland. In a word – outstanding! What a fantastic meal and OH MY do they ever have a great wine list!
July 25- For the final leg of the journey we would depart Wye Heritage and make our way back through the Trent-Severn Waterway locks to our home port at Marina del Rey. The new crew (one of our five kids & his girlfriend) arrived promptly at 8:30 am and we made our planned 9:30 departure. Recalling vividly the waters at the bottom of Lock 45, we knew getting into the lock would need careful thought and confident use of engine horsepower. Before we even got past the Highway 400 bridge the turbulence was already evident and with crew waiting on the bow and the stern, I literally yelped with happiness when I saw the open gates and the friendly Parks Canada staffer up above waving us in. Using those Volvo’s (Little Current lesson in mind) we pushed Meant 2 Be through the gates and safely did a starboard wall loop.
Big Chute on this day would prove uneventful, Swift Rapids was great, and Washago was a breeze. Great day of locking that was heavily accented and significantly improved by the repeated ooooh's, aaahhh's and smiles of two teenagers. They loved every moment, every rock, every fancy cottage … and every boat. Watching and listening as they experienced locking was fantastic – I truly enjoyed their happiness. And while I was completely exhausted and 100% ready to unload and make our way home, I readily conceded when Karen put her foot down that we needed to make some Lake Simcoe time to drift and to swim. In the end the extra hour was worth every second. The lake was calm and warm and the laughter continued.
This truly was an experience of a lifetime, something I have personally dreamt of doing for many years. The lessons learned will help me become a better captain, the moments and the memories are things we will both treasure forever.
I’ve had a bunch of people ask if I’d do this again – my answer is I will absolutely go back and explore Georgian Bay and with the confidence the trip has instilled in me I’d be totally good with doing this on our own or with a couple of other boaters.
Hmmm, maybe some of our new friends from the trip will be up for a run in 2022. Standby on that one!