By: Rick Layzell
July 18- Our morning began with a stunning sunrise and shortly thereafter we joined a half dozen boats for a fuel run to Killbear Marina. Following our charts into Pengallie Bay we were once again greeted by friendly dock staff. The marina is a jewel with a well stocked boaters store, a small shop with fresh baked goods (mmmm cheese bread), and the Fat Sparrow Restaurant that I’m told is a must (maybe next time!). Once we were all fueled, we moved back into the Bay and rejoined about 25 boats for the run out to the Bustards. We had calm waters on the Bay for our 10 minute burst and then entered the small craft route again which took us through Snug Harbour and along the east side of the Franklin Islands. Some of the ‘cottages’ along the way are incredible engineering marvels. Following along through the Shebeshshekong Channel we then entered Shawanaga Inlet which leads you to Pointe au Baril – stunning views the whole way. With the number of boats in the convoy and out of respect to the shoreline, we strictly adhered to a 10 km/h speed limit. I smiled openly when our guides advised us that we would be heading into open waters to make the run out to the Bustards. A fun and invigorating ride at about 18 knots lead us up around the north west section of the islands (past the 3 lighthouses), along the North East Passage, and into the east side of the ‘Gun Barrel’ with Tie Island to the north and Strawberry Island to the south. With excellent radio guidance from our hosts and two dinghies supporting the process, we then set up a 29 boat tie up – one heck of a raft! Meant 2 Be was directed to back in between two particular boats and as I pulled alongside my eyes bulged out of my head as I think there was about 13’ between them. Meant 2 Be is 11’ 2’ plus fenders on both sides – yikes! I was very thankful for the assists of the dinghy masters. Lots of bow anchors (including our new claw on it’s first run) and stern lines back to shore to keep us safe as we settled in with 15’ of water below our hulls. Sadly as one neighbour was getting out of his dinghy his brand new Maui Jim sunglasses went sploosh into the waters never to be found again. Lesson – wear cheap sunglasses like Karen’s $12 specials or buy a sunglass strap. On a positive note, our calm weather was continuing and the evening featured a 3 boat dinghy run out to the lighthouses, plenty of laughs and lots of new friendships. Admittedly this night went a little bit long and created a ‘foggy’ morning but the laughs were well worth it!
July 19- shortly after 10:30 am we safely separated the 29 boat tie up, and the group headed out of the Bustards into another calm and perfect Georgian Bay day. Following the Small Craft Route we ran through the North East Passage, past the entry to the Bad River Channel, and into the mouth of Collins Inlet. This narrow passage is a beautiful journey with endless photo opportunities. As the convoy eased our way along the inlet, we took time to appreciate the rock cliffs on either side and it was impossible not to imagine the last Ice Age carving out this stunning channel. There are a couple of narrow areas where the water is forced to make a tight turn and the turbulence was strong, but any captain aware of their surroundings could readily manage. It made me truly happy to watch Karen sit up on the bow, disconnect from the world and just drink in the moments. Every boater needs to make time for this run at least once – I’ll be more than happy to do it again someday! We departed Collins Inlet feeling relaxed, calm and ready to make our way into Killarney. Directions had been received that we were to call into our pre-booked location at either Killarney Mountain Lodge or the Sportsmen’s Inn to confirm our slip assignment and dock tie up instructions. We were pleased to be given a slip on the fuel dock at the lodge and with the assistance of a hard-working man named Red and his crew, we were soon docked and happily making our way to the pool for a refreshing dip. Killarney Mountain Lodge is a jewel in this part of Ontario with incredible amenities, and a passionate commitment from the owner to establishing Killarney as a world class tourism destination. That evening we were treated by our hosts to a beautiful outdoor reception featuring live music, lots of laughs, and new friendships surrounded by stunning scenery. The Lodge has a taxi boat called Tinkerbell which travels back & forth between their facility and the Sportsmen’s Inn – we enjoyed a quiet ride with a capable captain over to Sportsmen’s for a night cap with some new friends. I appreciated that all staff wear name badges that highlight their home towns – chatting with these young people lead to some refreshing conversations about their own life goals and plans. And another awesome day was in the books.
July 20- We awoke to the calm waters in the Killarney channel, enjoyed showers in the impeccably clean boaters washrooms, and refreshed ourselves with delicious coffee from Curds ‘N Whey, the lodge's waterfront coffee shop. At 11 am we began our short trip over to Little Current. At this point the pack began to break up with some of the more seasoned boaters deciding to go and explore Covered Portage, Baie Fin, or any of the other local hideaways and a few families with kids on board decided to stay an extra night in Killarney. That left about 20 of us to make our way into Little Current. After wandering out the north side of Killarney channel we continued along the Small Craft Route through Lansdowne Channel and across the North Channel into Little Current. Note that there is a swing bridge in Little Current that opens every 15 minutes on the hour to allow boats to pass – Meant 2 Be was able to safely pass under the 5.3 m (18’) bridge clearance with no issue. The issue admittedly occurred as we were called into our slip at the town docks for a stern in, port side tie. The warnings about the current in the marina were true, and under too little power (another lesson for me) we were pushed into the slip sideways ending with a bow in, starboard side tie and a very humbled captain! As our good-natured neighbour stated: "Welcome to Little Current where you are either watching the show or you’re in the show!" We met with more dockside friends and our group of 9 headed up the hill to Elliott’s Restaurant for dinner. What a great choice! The pickerel was fantastic, the wine was a bargain, and their bacon jam, goat cheese, and warm baguette appetizer was to die for! We even bought a jar of bacon jam to bring home! Note to self – buy more than just one.
July 21- Our late and casual morning began at Loco Beanz Coffee and then we met with long time islander friends who took us on a wonderful car tour of some of the scenic spots on the island. If you ever get a chance don’t miss out on the view from McLean’s Mountain Lookout or any of the other free lookouts that offer stunning views of this little slice of Ontario heaven. This was our day to break away as we had reserved a room at the Manitoulin Inn & Conference Centre. After 4 days on board we were both ready for a full-sized bed and shower. We dined at the onsite North46 restaurant and were blown away by the food. The nachos in a tortilla bowl were enormous and the Anishinaabe taco was spectacular. Paired with a delicious local Manitoulin Brewing Co pale ale, dinner was just perfect. Our guest room boasted a stunning view of the waterfront and gave us a perfect sunset. With a glass of wine and our bellies full, this would be our earliest night of the trip – admittedly I think I was lights out just after 9 pm.
Join us next week for Part 4 for a return to the Bustard Islands, a pit stop in Pointe au Baril, a stunning ride down the middle of Georgian Bay on a perfect day and the return through the locks with a pair of excited teenagers.