(Don't forget to check out Part 1).
Safely and securely rafting over 30 boats with knowledge that another storm was building took time and strategy. One huge raft would not be the best plan, so we opted to build one raft of 10 boats and several other small rafting groups. With the group captain now solo, I quickly offered my support on the dinghy to assist with putting out bow anchors and attaching several stern lines to shore.
My job was to ease the anchor into the dinghy and then pile 100’ or so of chain onboard, Captain Mike would then back us up and at the right moment I would heave the anchor overboard. We would also take stern lines to shore to be wrapped around trees, which meant scrambling up the open Georgian Bay rocks where the snakes like to suntan.
After battling some heavy seas earlier in the day, this was a great way burn off some adrenaline and actively expand my knowledge. In the end we did get everyone tucked in safe and sound and I was exhausted. I think I was sound asleep before 9 p.m. that evening.
Lesson #8 – Be prepared. We had all been advised to have a 100’ stern line available to be used as stern lines in anchorages. This is a must for every Georgian Bay boater. Enough said.
We awoke to what appeared to be a calm day and, one by one, as directed by our capable captain, we broke up the rafting groups to begin making our way up to Killarney. While the waters on the east side of the Bustard’s were calm, the north and west side of the Islands were anything but and we once again found ourselves running through some aggressive seas.
Fortunately, the detour through Collins Inlet – an absolute must for anyone who has never experienced what the Ice Age created -- was slow, calm, and relaxing. We eased out of Collin’s Inlet for the final burst up to Killarney and once again we were met by Georgian Bay showing us her capabilities of turning calm into ….not calm.
There are two beautiful marinas that are owned by Killarney Mountain Lodge – the lodge marina itself and the Sportsman’s Inn. We were advised once again to call in to the marinas to get our slip assignments and to heed the staff advice on when we should enter the Killarney Channel.
Meant 2 Be chose to stay well back of the mouth of the channel, which would allow the awesome marina staff opportunity to provide docking assistance for all the others who needed to get in first. When the staff were ready for us we were advised to prepare a bow in, starboard side tie (easy for us as we have lines and fenders on both sides). We were tucked in neatly at the Sportsman’s Inn at slip E38 in no time.
After being treated to a wonderful reception by our hosts, we rounded off the evening with loads of laughs (sidebar lesson - The biggest crowds always find their way to the smallest boats and Meant 2 Be was thrilled to play host to a group of 12 people and one pup that evening). We awoke the next morning to more wind warnings and the decision was made to hunker down for three nights in Killarney instead of two. While we were all eager to get back on the water, this simply was the right call in the interest of safety for everyone. Our last night featured an impromptu potluck dinner and we willingly finished off the last of the margarita supplies. Time on shore and in the marinas really gave us opportunity to expand friendships and we felt sincerely grateful for that opportunity.
Our original plan was to run back to Port Rawson for two nights with our scheduled (long weekend) Friday departure out of Killarney. When Friday became Saturday, our captain knew full well there would be limited space in Port Rawson and so we opted for Killcoursey Bay instead. We departed Killarney at 8:00 a.m. with a planned stop at Killbear for anyone needing fuel. Much to our chagrin we arrived in Killcoursey Bay to find it also packed with long weekend boaters. At the same time, Mother Nature was once again building winds and creating waves. A couple of phone calls were made and the group was split with some of us overnighting at Killbear Marina and a number of others heading in to Big Sound.
Lesson #9 – Go back to Lesson #6. Be prepared for Plan A to change to Plan B, and possibly adjust to Plan C. With so many weather elements affecting Georgian Bay, all boat traffic needs to actively monitor, and most importantly respect, the impacts of weather and be prepared to alter course to ensure safety. We have the Windy, Predict Wind, and The Weather Network apps on our iPad.
Our last morning with the group would see us depart before 10 a.m. with all boaters making their way back to their home ports. All except us, of course. We ran with the group back down to Beausoleil Island – and yes, the waves were 3’ and more once again. At Beausoleil we hailed our thank you's and goodbyes to the group and Meant 2 Be headed back towards the Trent-Severn Waterway. We were earlier than expected, so we boated into Gloucester Pool to take an hour for a drift and a swim. It felt like forever since we had had calm waters and a relaxing swim. We soaked up the sun and smiled at the lessons we had learned….so far.
Lesson #10 – When there’s a window of opportunity to relax and appreciate all that boating has to offer – whatever that looks like for you and your crew -- DO IT. Take the opportunity, make the memories, and enjoy the little moments.
Our final night was wrapped in a stunning sunset and we tucked in early knowing that the last three locks were ahead of us and that we were traversing those locks on holiday Monday. Boat traffic would be heavy and we would be on the move early.
With an 8:00 a.m. departure, we arrived at Big Chute and snagged the last spot on the blue wall before the locks scheduled 9:00 a.m. opening. As we had previously experienced, the lock staff put a ‘smaller’ boat on the front of the carriage with the ‘big guys’ on the back. We smiled openly when we were the first boat called in. Everyone behind us was bigger and we really were the only ‘small boat.' The lift over the three storey carriage was flawless and we headed down to Swift Rapids lock. Traffic was certainly building and we were pleased that before 11 a.m. we had passed through two locks leaving only Lock 42 – Washago – standing between us and our home port.
The waters on Sparrow Lake were calm, the road bridge opened promptly and we putted down the Severn River 10 km zone waving to cottagers along the way. Just before the turn to Lock 42, I looked at Karen and said "Uh oh….look at the boats sitting in the channel." The traffic jam had found us. There were upwards of 15 boats floating in the narrow channel, and of course the wall at the lock was full. We spent the next hour plus shifting in and out of gear, keeping off the shore and away from other boats. In the blistering afternoon heat, this is not exactly how any of us wanted to spend time together. We owned our decision to travel the system on holiday Monday and kept our patience in check.
When it was safe to do so, we filled both lock walls and the Lock Master once again did an incredible job of calling us all in, and squeezing us all in to maximize the lift.
Lesson #11 – Pay attention to your surroundings. After shifting and drifting for over an hour, I watched the group ahead of us tie to both the blue lock wall and the open lock wall and both groups were called in together as the Lock Master worked with efficiency to reduce the traffic jam. With unspoken words, I knew what I had to do when it was my turn.
An incoming storm was showing on Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe (how fitting after all we had experienced on Georgian Bay). We both smiled at each other at what was just a ‘little storm’ with only 2' waves and some rain – nothing to worry about here. While Lake Couchiching was a breeze, Lake Simcoe was much worse with close to 4’ waves and lots of cross winds. We moved through the Atherley Narrows on onto Simcoe knowing that the lessons learned on the Bay would help us in the home stretch. We were docked in our own slip just 10 minutes after entering Lake Simcoe – and we were both beaming with smiles. The many lessons we had learned simply made us better boaters.
We have had several friends ask if we would do the Rendezvous again and a number of boaters asked if we were now afraid of the Georgian Bay waters. We certainly learned a lot about respecting the water while focusing on our safety, but thanks to our captains we were never afraid. And without a doubt, we will absolutely venture back to Georgian Bay – we have barely begun scratching the surface and exploring this Canadian boating gem. Perhaps we will go back as part of a Rendezvous and perhaps a small trip together with new boating friends. Either way, we will definitely be back.
Final words – a huge shout of thanks and appreciation to Maple Leaf Marinas for organizing this wonderful experience and to our capable captain’s for their seemingly endless energy, willingness and desire to keep us safe and help us make great boating memories.