Saturday —- Bay Moorings Marina, to Killdare.

July 31st, 2010 john

Day: 413   Miles Today: 52   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  4027  Total Locks: 133

We started the engines at 8:45 and departed at 9:00.  Our pockets were a little bit lighter but that is the way cruising is.  It was threatening rain and this was a Saturday of the busiest Canadian weekend.  Monday is a holiday so everyone is out.  It seems that they broke records on traffic counts coming out of Toronto to the lakes region.  But we have been sitting too long, so off we went. 

I watched the weather on the chart-plotter all day and the rain just missed us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  At about 1:00 we pulled behind Frying Pan Island looking for Henry’s Fish Camp.  This is a very, very famous restaurant that you can only get to by boat or float plane.  It has been written up in all of the cruising guides as well as in the looper blogs.  Someone I talked to said that they were at Henry’s one day and a plane pulled in and it was Goldie Hawn and her friend. Kurt Russell came in.

As we pulled around Frying Pan Island through the little channels we saw about 60 boats docked on the shore with people all over the place.  At first I though that all the people were in a waiting line and I said to the crew, No Way!  I decided to bypass the experience.  Then we went around the turn and there was a sign for Henry’s.  There were plenty of boats there but there was also plenty of space at the docks.  I called on the boat radio and they directed me to our own dock and we pulled in. 

The first place we had seen was the Cottage Association Yacht Club next door.  Due to the big weekend they were having a regatta, and canoe races, etc.  Lots of people!

We walked up to Henry’s and got served immediately.  The meal of the day was lightly battered pickerel (white fish) and French fries, coleslaw, baked beans, and rice; all served family style.   Very good.

Within the hour we were full, back on the boat and continuing our journey.  This was the “thirty thousand island” area of Georgian Bay and I think we saw half of them.  The channel wound left and right.  It was full of tight squeezes where we were the only boat that could go though.  We had two chart-plotters going, one with a pre-planned route.  In addition Gary kept on the manual charts all day and it was still a problem navigating.  There were several times that we just had to throttle down and review and discuss before we proceeded. 

Finally at 4:15 we reached our target destination, Killbear Marina.  It set back in a little cove all by itself.  As we entered we stirred up some mud (thank goodness it was not rock) but we made it to our slip.  It was a beautiful late afternoon so we sat out on the aft deck and had pepperoni, cheese, crackers, and pickles for supper. (And of course we had a few beers, to celebrate the great day.)

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Friday, July 30, 2010 —- Bay Moorings Marina, Penetanguishene ON

July 30th, 2010 john

Day: 412   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3975  Total Locks: 133

The part arrived by noon.  It looked good, but what’s in the look.  At 4:00 they showed up to install the old part and it went right in perfect.  Tests were run and all seemed to be working fine.

We decide it was time for the crew to celebrate so we called a taxi and went out to dinner at a fine Greek restaurant.  The meal was good.  We returned to the boat and planned for a reasonable departure around 8:30 the next morning.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010 —- Bay Moorings Marina, Penetanguishene ON

July 29th, 2010 john

Day: 411   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3975  Total Locks: 133

The part came in and it was the wrong part.  They then spent the day trying to find the right part.  By the end of the day they said they could not find the part and now they sent the old part to a machine shop to try to fix it.  (I am a bit worried!)

It was kind of sad today watching all of the looper boats leave, while we were sitting still waiting for maintenance.

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Wednesday —- Bay Moorings Marina, Penetanguishene ON

July 28th, 2010 john

Day: 410   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3975  Total Locks: 133

Today was a lazy day.  I am still waiting for the shaft coupling to arrive from the States.  I am told it will be in tomorrow.

I had all my planning done so I just spent the day reading a book.  It was enjoyable to just relax.

Tonight we had the finale of the Loopers Meeting.  They served us a dinner and then the general manager spoke about the best routes and stops in Georgina Bay and the North Channel.  I am anxious to be moving again.

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Tuesday —- Bay Moorings Marina, Penetanguishene ON

July 27th, 2010 john

Day: 409   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3975  Total Locks: 133

Today started with a little maintenance.  I engaged a diesel mechanic to come on board to look into a problem.  When I was running, the port side engine was vibrating more then usual.  I suspected an engine alignment problem as a residual from putting in the new transmissions.  The starboard side engine runs fine but the port was jumping a bit.  The mechanic came aboard and soon diagnosed a bad shaft coupler (probably as a result of a bad alignment.  The marina spent the whole day calling and trying to locate a replacement.  Late in the afternoon they located one in the States and are arranging to have it flown in.  At least this is a nice place to stay.

The Looper gathering is going well.  There are a lot of people to talk to that are in the same boat (pun).   It has been interesting, sharing experiences.  One boat came in asking to be hauled.  He had two extremely chewed up props.  Wow!  That will cost him.  Gotta love those rocks!

At lunch we went over to watch the construction phase of the “Great Loop Cardboard Boat Race”.  Each team was given cardboard as in the boxes like appliance shipping containers and a roll of duck tape. We had four teams with four different kinds of boats.  It was a hoot, watching them try to make the course.  One actually made it around dry on the inside.

In the evening they had a wings and beer special at the marina restaurant, so we joined in.  Afterwards we had to walk the docks and make some more five-minute-friends.

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Monday —- Bay Moorings Marina, Penetanguishene ON

July 26th, 2010 john

Day: 408   Miles Today: 11   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3976  Total Locks: 133

After making one last dash to Wal-Mart for supplies, Fran departed for home.  He will be greatly missed.

The new crew settled in with a bang.  We celebrated the completion of their two day trek from Florida, Fran’s successful boating experience, and the ongoing adventure upon the Emery El.  We almost drank every beer on board.  Catastrophe!  It is worse to run out of beer then to run out of fuel.

Around 10:00 we departed, wound our way out of the big marina and cruised back into Georgian Bay.  We had a short day planned, for we had reservations just on the other side of the peninsula at Bay Moorings Marina.  They were hosting a “Looper Gathering” for a couple of days.  It would start with a wine and cheese party on Monday night with cardboard boat races and lunch on Tuesday and a Bar-B-Q and a presentation on Georgian Bay and the North Channel on Wednesday.

We arrived about noon and there was great confusion going into the Marina.  There were three boats arriving at the same time so I just backed off and waited until the confusion died down.  Then after being given instructions we crawled into the marina, turned through several fairways and then moved down to the corner slip that was barely wider then the boat.  Of course there were many onlookers.  We did it.  I pulled up, put my bow over the end dock, then rotated the boat and pulled into the slip without touching a thing.  It was probably a ho-hum landing for everyone else but for me I was very proud. (Just wait until I try to get out of this slip.)

I checked into the Marina and asked if they had a courtesy car for a run to the store.  Better yet they had a driver.  We went straight to the Beer Store and our big crisis was over.

The gathering of “loopers” is always a good time.  There are about 20 boats here and a lot of stories to swap.  Slowly we are starting to know one another.  I met several people that read my blog on the good pizza and visited the restaurant. 

In addition a couple from the boat Baby Grand is here.  They had befriended us when we were first starting out on the Tenn-Tom when we were having all of our problems.  We had a great long talk.  They have completed the loop and are continuing to travel slowly and in sections.  They will spend the whole summer on Georgian Bay.

Maggie and Gary are fitting right in.  Gary immediately started cleaning the Emery El.  He seems to really enjoy cleaning.  The boat never looked better.  And Maggie was first to volunteer for helping with the cardboard boat race being held today.  Go for it Maggie.

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Friday/Sunday —- Bay Point yachting Marina, Midland ON

July 25th, 2010 john

Day: 407   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3964  Total Locks: 133

We decided to spend a couple of days here and wait for our crew change.  On Friday Fran and I took a cab out to a tourist site here in Midland.  We went to a location that we all read about in our history books where the French Jesuit Missionaries out of Quebec came to try to Christianize the Huron Indians.  In particular they established the first European settlement here in 1639 just off the Wye River right next to Lake Huron.  They used this settlement as a hub and then went out  to live among the Wendat Indians.

At first they were successful with the mission but after 10 years the entire settlement was burned to the ground due to pressure from the Iroquois.  Eight of the missionaries were martyred by the Huron-Iroquois and two of the bodies were recovered and buried at the mission.  All eight missionaries became canonized saints in the Catholic Church.  A large shrine and church now exist where the remains of two of the saints lie.

Then to add to the adventure we had another unexpected treat.  We toured the shrine and then stopped in their little café for a bit of lunch before crossing over the highway to see St Marie of the Huron’s.  There was one other table occupied with a lady and her father.  The father was wearing a “Big Chute” shirt, so of course that was my opportunity to introduce myself and tell my story.  You know me and my five-minute-friends.

It turns out the father was recovering from a stroke.  He had some difficulty talking but did a good job of communicating. (As long as you could fill in the missing words.)  All of a sudden he jumped up and told me not to leave, that he had something for me in his trunk of his car.  The daughter did not know what to do.  Then he returned with an arm full of rolled up navigational charts.  He insisted that I take them because he could no longer read.  I thanked him so much, and exited with all of these old charts, spiders and all. 

Since we were not in a car, we had to carry them as we exited the long driveway, crossed the highway and entered the grounds for Saint Marie of the Huron, the living museum.   When we walked in the entrance to the museum, the lady at the registration desk just looked at us, with all the charts in hand.  I said:  “There is a story in the making here!”  When I told her our story, she laughed and offered to store them for us while we visited the museum and settlement grounds.

The settlement was very enlightening showing the blacksmith shop, candle maker, carpentry shop, all the living facilities and the chapel. 

Upon returning to the boat, we unrolled, cleaned and cataloged all of the charts.  They were all from the late 80’s but I bet those rocks haven’t moved.  They included all of the full size charts for the entire St Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and all of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel.  Twenty full size table charts in all.  What a treat.

Sunday, we made it to church and then breakfast and a long walk back to the marina on a beautiful sunny day.  When we got back, out newest five-minute-friends from the boat in the next slip asked us if we would like to go out for an afternoon boat ride.  It turns out that not only do they have a splendid 48 foot Carver cruiser, but that also had a 28 foot Rinker run-about.  He took us speeding across Georgian Bay up into some of the nooks and crannies that you can only see with someone with long term local knowledge.

It was very interesting seeing some of the places that we would be trying to drive the Emery El through.

Upon return, they invited us over for some hamburgers.  Talk about friendly people.  Then just as we finished eating, we hear a knock on our boat and it is Maggie and Gary, our new crew.  Maggie and Gary drove up from Florida (in their car not their motorcycles) and will spend the next three months helping me bring the Emery El home.  Fran will be departing in the morning and driving Maggie and Gary’s car back to Memphis.  Barbara will then drive him back to his home in Houston.

It was an extremely happy moment to have Maggie and Gary join us, but extremely sad to say goodbye to Fran.  He has been such a great crew and companion.  It couldn’t have been better.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010 — Bay Point Yachting Marina, Midland ON

July 22nd, 2010 john

Day: 404   Miles Today: 00   Locks Today:  00   —  Total Miles:  3964  Total Locks: 133

Great showers and washrooms again.  (No I won’t write about it again.)  I then spent the morning catching up on laundry.  Back at the boat I worked on a few projects.  I had to clean the sea strainer for the generator.  I also took apart the door latch from the back deck and cleaned and lubricated it.

I spent an hour with Scott, a manager at the marina, going over charts for the first part of Georgian Bay.  His recommendations agreed with the plan that I had laid out, and that was very reassuring.  He also suggested a few spots to stop.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010 — River Emporium to the BIG CHUTE to Georgian Bay

July 21st, 2010 john

Day: 403   Miles Today: 25   Locks Today:  02   —  Total Miles:  3964  Total Locks: 133

Today was to be an intentional short ride.  We headed out and planned to stop just before the next lock just about 8 miles away.  It was time for a day of reconnoitering. I wanted to arrive early, tie up for an overnighter, and then watch, look, and listen. This is the most famous lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway.  It is called the “Big Chute”.  This is really not a lock but a marine railway.  It is the only marine railway of its kind still in operation in North America.

You drive you boat into the lock.  Then large pads raise from the bottom of the lock as giant straps lift to embrace your boat and balance it on its keel.  They then drain out all of the water and you and your boat are left sitting on the floor of the lock.  What was the lock becomes a train car.  It then lifts you and your boat over a hill, across a road, and down a step hill back into the water on the other side.  The train car stays level because that have two sets of tracks; one set for the front wheels and one set for the back. At the bottom they refill the lock, float you, and you are on your way.   Absolutely marvelous!

The original Big Chute Railway was built in 1917 and could carry boats up to 35 feet.  In 1923 they replaced the old railway with one that could carry boats up to 60 feet.  Then again in 1978 they built a new railway that can carry boats up to 100 feet. 

We arrived at about 10:00 and there were only a few boats there but none at the blue line waiting for transit.  I docked the Emery El at an overnight dock just so I could walk up and see the lock working first hand and to get some pictures.  With that accomplished, we returned to the boat and made the decision not to spend the night but to continue forward on our journey.  I checked the weather information on my screens and it looked like all of the predicted storms were going through north of our location.  So off we went.

As we neared the Blue Line (the dock where you await a lock transit.) we were waved forward to drive directly into the lock.  They first put a little 23 foot boat in front of us and directed us in.  There was a strong cross current pulling left to right so I approached the lock on the right side and let the current push me to the center as I entered.  Before you knew it the straps were on the Emery El and the water was going out.  We actually sat on the bottom of the lock with the straps holding us from tipping over.  I stood on the bow and Fran on the stern and all went real smooth.

You are left sitting in a train car with the lock-masters right there on the car with you.  The car then in pulled up a hill, across a highway, and then down a 50 foot embankment to the next level of water.  The ride takes about 7 minutes and you’re off on your way again.

Because of the waterfalls next to the lock, the current was strong as we exited, but we powered right through it and went on our way.  About 10 miles later we came to the last lock on the Trent-Severn at Port Severn.  It also was the smallest lock.  They put a small boat in front of us and then waved us in.  They kept asking me to ease forward to a point where I could no longer see the small boat in front of us.  Down we went and we were free. 

Because we were at the end of the Trent-Severn and at the mouth of the river, there were very strong currents present and it took extreme attention to drive the boat.  The buoy system also reverses sides at that point which adds to the confusion.  Now you are entering into Georgian Bay which is famous for its beautiful clear water and it large granite rocks.

As we exited I had never seen so many red and green buoys befor in my life.  And they were not even close to a straight line.  In fact, visually it was hard to determine the proper channel line.  There was one point that we had to turn and go through that was barely wider then the boat. (Or at least it seemed that way.)  The channel wound around rocks that you could see under the water and rock islands above.  I guess it was very scenic but quite frankly I was too busy to look. We survived this channel for a couple of miles and then had to turn out of the channel into another alternate channel.  To get out into Georgian Bay you either went the Potato Island Cut or the Waubaushene Channel to the south.  The word had come out on the looper blog that the waters were thin in the Potato Island route and several boats had hit bottom.  I chose the alternative. 

When we tuned into the alternate channel, the markers changed sides again. (It is a real good thing that I have good electronics and good manual charts.)  This is real navigating.  It wound around places that were 1 foot depth just to my left and 4 ft depth just to my right.  It was a good time to pay attention.  I didn’t even have time for an apple.

Then finally out into the lower tip of Georgina Bay and the water was all in the 35 foot range.  I called a target marina and got a reservation and we set our electronics for our destination and proceeded on our way.  I had been watching the weather like a hawk and there were no storms but the wind picked up to about 30 mph on our nose.  No problem!

We arrived in Bay Point Yachting Marina in Midland ON in the early afternoon, only to find that Mas Bueno, Calico Lady, Wausauga, and Sassy had arrived just a few hours earlier.  We had caught up.

At the recommendation of the marina, we hopped in a cab that night and went to eat at Explorers Café.  It was a delightful European café tucked away in the corner of an alley.  We experienced very good service and very good food.  I tried very hard to convince them that I was an explorer and deserved a free drink.

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Tuesday — Orillia ON to River Emporium

July 20th, 2010 john

Day: 402   Miles Today: 30   Locks Today:  02   —  Total Miles:  3939  Total Locks: 131

I reviewed the weather again first thing in the morning.  It looked good for today and rainy for tomorrow.  Even though we have a free night stay, I hate to waste a good day for travel.  I turned on the radio and upped the volume.  That is the signal to Fran that I would like for him to get up and get ready for departure. 

We were not in a big hurry but I did want to move down stream.  As you will see I was using strategy to minimize our trip tomorrow in the bad weather and to optimize how we use Thursday which is supposed to be a good weather day. 

We departed the dock without event at about 9:00, which is late for us. We immediately started down the Trent River.  It was by far the most beautiful part of the system that we have seen.  There were short little canals joining winding lakes.  Both the canals and the lakes were covered with cottages.  They were very nice but not pretentious cottages.  It looked like a “Grade A” place to summer.  There were a lot of people out in the chairs on the lawns or docks and it became a full time job waving to them.

We rounded a bend and came up to a railroad bridge that the guidebooks say is “usually open, except when trains are expected”.  Naturally when we arrived it had just closed.  The bridge master waved us forward right up to the edge of the bridge (which was closer then I would normally get to a bridge) and told us that he was sorry but that it would be a while.  He had three trains coming and the bridge had to stay closed.  He suggested that we just tie up to the concrete wall next to the bridge.  It did not bother him that there were no cleats on that wall.   I eased over to the wall and Fran stepped off.  We tied a line carefully to the bottom of the speed limit sign on the bank and another forward to another state sign of some kind.  I was worried that the weight of the boat would pull the signs right out of the ground, but all seemed secure.

The bridge master then came over and talked to us about this old bridge that was built in 1916. I have a replica of the bridge in my American Flyer train set that I have had since I was four years old. (No, I am not as old as the bridge!)

The bridge master asked if we wanted to tour the bridge.  Of course we scrambled up the hill onto the tracks and shook hands.  He led us to the little metal steps that go back and forth allowing you to climb to the top of the bridge to the little control hut on top at the center.  Talk about neat.  It still operates with the old manual leavers that activate the gears.  He explained the whole system to us as we waited for one of the trains to come through.  His longest train was 13,000 feet long (just under three miles) and carried a load of 11,000 tons.  He explained that every 15 miles the tracks contain a computerized censoring device that measure different factors about the train crossing it, including the temperature of each wheel, reporting abnormalities by axle number.  Then a computerized voice comes on the radio to tell the engineer if there are any problems starting to happen so that they can proactively react to it and reduce derailments. 

We stood there in the door of the top hut and watched a freight train come through right below us.  Pictures, pictures, and more pictures! Then we found out that after the last train clears the bridge, he has to press a button.  Then as an added safety measure a computer waits for five minutes before it will release the lock.  Then the bridge can be opened.

As the third train was approaching, we returned to our boat and cast off.  By this time there were several other boats waiting in line  The bridge opened, we blew our horn and waved goodbye to our latest five-minute friend.

We then passed through two locks.  The good news was that we were in the front.  They held off the small boats to allow the Emery El to enter first.  We had to pull all the way forward to the front edge of the lock.  Then they packed three other boats that were between 34 and 42 feet in length, plus three small boats.  There were boats everywhere.  Then of course we had to be the first one out of the lock.  We took it slow and all worked out well. 

In the second lock the lock lady tied the trawler behind us a bit too close and they almost hit us.  I had to power forward in the lock just a bit to stop it from hitting.  Then we readjusted the lines and all went well.  They really pack you in.

Three miles after the second lock was a little marina and I mean little.  We occupied one side of their dock and were their only transient boat.  The dock master was very friendly but the restaurant was not open on Tuesdays, and the restrooms are not open at night.  There are no showers.  That’s ok, that is what we have the boat for.  It is very quaint and I am happy that we stopped here.  It does have a small country grocery store and an ice cream shop so all afternoon, small boats pulled up to the dock with many people on board heading for the ice cream.  I immensely enjoyed the people watching.

It was payback time from Wild Goose, who had stayed here the night before.  I had to sit in the chairs in front of the country store that evening and serenade the dock master and his wife with my harmonica.

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