August 23 – 30, 2019 Town Names – Part 2

Next stop was just a 24 mile hop to Little Current, which is on Manitoulin Island.  We made a slight detour to Covered Portage Cove.  There is supposed to be a rock formation there that looks like an Indian Head.  Couldn’t find it, but it was a beautiful area to travel.  As we approached Little Current, we could see the Strawberry Island Lighthouse.  This is where we leave Georgian Bay and enter The North Channel of Lake Huron.

Strawberry Island Lighthouse near Little Current.
Little Current Swing Bridge.
Wall mural showing history of Little Current.

Beyond the lighthouse was the Little Current Bridge.  Our resource books warned that the current going under the bridge could be as strong as 6-7 knots (8 mph).  So how is that a “little” current?  Most of us agreed that it should be “Big Current.”  

We did a radio call to the marina for a slip assignment and encountered a problem that many “transient” boaters have – poor communication.  Our instructions were to turn left at “Wally’s” and then left again into a numbered slip.  So if we’ve never been here, how are we supposed to know where “Wally’s” is located?  We looked and looked – couldn’t find it.  The man on the radio apparently spotted us and told us we were going too far.   We turned and we were able to spot him on shore by the color of his shirt.  We eventually saw the “Wally’s” sign.  It’s circular – about 3 feet in diameter.  NOT very visible from the water.  Right next to it was a sign with a fuel pump to represent that they had fuel available for sale.  THAT sign was about 6 x 8; MUCH more visible. 

Which sign is easier to see?

Wind and rain kept us in LC for 6 nights.  We weren’t alone – several Loopers in the marina with us.  We found things to keep us busy.  We didn’t have a really good system for hoisting and holding the dinghy.  It was mostly just our brute strength!  Yeah, our backs were going to pay for that.  Ed got some parts at a boat store.  He rigged a new system and now he can hoist it all by himself.  My back thanked him. 

“Cruisers Net” is a half hour live broadcast that is on the VHF Marine radio everyday in July and August.  Roy Eaton is the host and he gives weather info, a quick news update, a couple local interest sports scores, and then he opens the time for cruisers to radio in to give their present locations, relay messages, request assistance, or to just say “hi.” Sometimes he interviews a person of interest.  He’s been doing this for over 15 years and has been a BIG promoter of the North Channel region, which starts at LC.  We attended several of the shows including his last broadcast of the season on August 31.  He was kind to review charts of the region with us and to share favorite places to visit along our way.  We even had a visit from him on our boat where he gave us some additional info.  Wonderful gentleman!  Cruisers Net also hosted a Pot Luck Supper for all the cruisers in the area.  Over 50 people came – LOTS of fun.  That’s where we saw pictures of a boat that had been boarded by a bear! Oh goodness, I had hoped that was just a rumor, but no, actually 5 boats had been boarded before authorities captured the bear.  Some things you DON’T want to experience.

Roy Eaton, host of Cruisers Net Radio.

On California Lady, Nancy and Mike celebrated their wedding anniversary, and then Nancy celebrated a birthday.  For her birthday gift, we arranged a tour of the LC Bridge and operations room.  It was a climb up the bridge to the operations room, but fun to get the views from there.  We got a tour of the mechanism for opening the bridge and hoped to be on the bridge when it opened for boats but because it was such a windy day, no boats were traveling through while we were there.

When we came to LC, because of approaching bad weather, we had bypassed a very popular anchorage in Baie Fine, which is one of the few fjords in North America.  We learned that a large tour boat in LC had a scheduled trip there.  We wouldn’t take OUR boat in the windy conditions, but decided we would ride the big boat so that we could see what we had missed.  SO glad that we did this.  We rode out to the area – which was as beautiful as we had been told – and the boat was able to run up on shore at the end of the passage in an area called The Pool.  We were given time to get off the boat so that we could hike to Topaz Lake. WOW – what a sight THAT was. Clear green-blue water that sparkled.  Some people went swimming–the Canadians.  The day was a bit cold for us Southerners!  I think I heard the water temp described as “bracing!”

Baie Fine – Sure glad we didn’t miss this!
These walls line the entry into Baie Fine.
Le Grand Heron – Tour boat that took us to Baie Fine and ramped up on shore.
Found this Inuksuk on the trail as we hiked to Lake Topaz.

One of the Loopers was walking in town when he found Barney’s Bargain Barn.  He came back to tell us about the great prices they had on food items, so several of us walked there.  Upon arrival, a man motioned us to a large shed that was attached to the building.  Inside were big boxes of various kinds of food.  He told us “Help yourself.  It’s all free.”  I think we had found a food pantry, probably set up for low income people, and I had a guilty feeling of taking food from people who probably needed it. But he kept insisting that we take things.  When we went inside, we did indeed, find some great prices on some food items.  We purchased a few things and then took some of the free packages of cookies outside in the shed.  Always new experiences on this trip!

Speaking of food, we found some Hawberry Jelly and a story to go with it. Hawberries grow on Manitoulin Island. They aren’t the most scrumptious of berries to eat. At one time, only poor people ate the berries which no one else wanted. If someone called you a “Haweater,” it was a real put down meaning you couldn’t afford to eat better food. As years went by, the Hawberry grew in status as a symbol of the island. Now, only people who were born on the island can call themselves “Haweaters.” We just had to get a jar of the Hawberry Jelly to try it. OK – not so great, but we liked the history lesson.

We were also fortunate to be introduced to Smoked Fish Spread which is made in the North Channel. It is “some kind of good!” It’s always fun to try the local fare – sometimes it’s a treat and sometimes it’s a “once in a lifetime experience,” because we don’t want to eat it again!!

August 23 – 30, 2019 Town Names – Part 1

After completing Collins Inlet, we arrived at Killarney, Ontario.  This is a tiny town with a BIG benefactor.  A man who grew up there, apparently made it “big” during his career and he decided to pour a heck of a lot of money into this tiny town (population 386) to make it a “destination.”  Until 1962, it was only accessible by water, so there are two marinas there, owned by the same benefactor.  

The Sportsman Inn on the far right.

One is a Sportsman’s Inn – kind of rugged.  The other is Killarney Mountain Lodge, which is anything but rugged.  There is a beautiful lodge as well as cabins.  A new conference center has recently been completed.  There we saw one of the rooms prepared for a wedding reception – really beautiful with huge windows overlooking the water and forest areas.  The bear skin on the fireplace actually looked pretty small in comparison to the room.  So, can you guess where we docked the boat?

The town was originally named Shebahonaning, meaning canoe passage.  OK, not the easiest name to pronounce.  So how did it become Killarney?  Seems the Canadian Postal Service would not deliver mail to towns with Indian (First Nation) names.  Not sure who renamed the town, but they must have had a bit of the Irish in them to choose “Killarney.”  Picked up this info at the town museum.

We have been fortunate to find a Catholic Church almost every weekend that we have been on the Loop. Surprisingly, Killarney was no exception. I guess if you have the desire to get to Church, God will help you find it.

The Looper resource books always mention favorite restaurants – is it any wonder that people say they gain weight on this trip?  The “must eat at” spot in Killarney is Herbert Fisheries.  The fishing boat is adjacent to the restaurant. The menu is whatever is caught in the morning!  We do agree with this recommendation.  Ate there twice in two days.  First time to try vinegar on french fries – found something new that we liked!

Herbert Fisheries Restaurant – The fishing boat docks right next to the restaurant. You can’t get much fresher than that!

The weather was beautiful at Killarney, so we stayed for two nights.  A group of us hiked out to the lighthouse, went to the one truck farmer’s market, ate ice cream, and just enjoyed the charm of this delightful “destination.” 

Reaching the summit of our hike – the lighthouse on Red Rock Point.

Unfortunately, at this point we had to say goodbye to Summer Lynn.  Nancy and Gary were picking up a granddaughter in a few days and she was going to accompany them to the end of their Loop – where they would “cross their wake.”  This is also the life of a Looper – always saying “Hello” to new people, and “Goodbye” to new friends.

Can’t leave without seeing a Killarney sunset.

August 17-22, 2019 Autumn Winds Begin to Blow

The date says it is not yet autumn, but autumn-like weather starts earlier in Canada.  We headed to Parry Sound to stay at Big Sound Marina for a few days, because the winds were predicted to be strong over the weekend.  We took a long way around to get there because we were told it was the most scenic route.  It was very pretty and we were glad we took it as we were later told that a bridge on the shorter route was closed due to winds. As we approached the harbor, we saw Summer Lynn, who we had spent 8 nights with in the Erie Canal closure, and had briefly seen again at Henry’s Restaurant.  She was to be our traveling companion for a while.

The lighthouse on the approach to Parry Sound.

Our windy weekend stay was restful.  We did some boat chores, walked around town, had docktails with the several Loopers who were there. Found some great ice cream – the largest portions for the least cost of anywhere we had been – did some bike riding to work off that ice cream, and found a fabulous used bookstore – Bearly Used Books.  There were rooms and rooms of books stacked on shelves floor to ceiling.  I was amazed that when I asked for a couple of books I wanted, the clerk was able to direct me to the exact location.  WOW – how do they do that? 

Docktails aboard Vitamin Sea. Boat friends from Desiderata, Summer Lynn, and No Schedule.
VERY high train bridge seen while bike riding.
Peeking thru the trees at yet another beautiful sunset.

Headed out on the 20thwith Summer Lynn.  Stopped first at Killbear Marina to get fuel. Got $500 worth – just to top off the tanks.  No, that was not a complete fill!  

Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse. Some fur traders “made merry” after drinking a barrel of whiskey found here, then left the empty barrel; hence, “Barrel Point.”

Continued thru some beautiful areas, intending to anchor at Regatta Bay and taking a dinghy to a well known restaurant called Gilly’s.  The Bay was too crowded, so we headed back towards Gilly’s, hoping to find a place to briefly anchor as the dock area at Gilly’s was too small and shallow for our boats.  We turned in to an area that seemed good.  There were 3 cottages there, and upon our arrival, one of the owners came out with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face that dared us to anchor in front of her cottage.  We had been warned that “Cottagers” don’t appreciate boaters anchoring in front of them.  Feeling VERY unwanted, we tried some other areas, but waters were too deep.  We left without visiting Gilly’s, but we had renamed the area “Grumpy Lady Bay!”  We ended up for the night in Hopewell Bay, anchored off of Shawanaga Island. We went exploring in dinghy boats and our friend Gary somehow sucked up a rock into the jet drive of his dinghy.  This is where two dinghies came in handy.  He attached the dinghy to his boat and raised it. Then from our dinghy he was able to get under his raised dinghy and fix the problem.  All that work required a celebratory dinner which we had on Vitamin Sea followed by a showing of the movie Captain Ron which Gary and Nancy had not seen.  We consider it the “training video” for all boat captains!

On the 21st we headed to the Bustard Islands – one of the top spots recommended by all Loopers.  This involves a long story, which I will try to abbreviate.  When we entered, there was one boat (Alcyone) anchored and the captain was attempting to tie the stern line to a point on shore.  We went over to that area and tried and tried to anchor, to no avail.  The Georgian Bay is mostly rock bottom with layers of sediment, fallen leaves and such on top of the rock.  Being a very popular spot, you can imagine that these layers have been greatly disturbed, hence, we were trying to set an anchor on rock – doesn’t work well.  Summer Lynn had seemed to find a spot farther away, so we moved closer to them and we seemed to hold.  Soon, another boat passed in front of us and tried to anchor where we had originally tried.  No luck, and soon that boat left, as well as the boat that we thought was anchored (Alcyone). We checked our own status and found that the anchor was not holding.  It was late in the afternoon, so we had to find something fast.  Strong winds (30-40 mph) were predicted for the night.  We went around the island and checked another spot – no good.  We went to another area and found many boats in the most desirable spot.  There was one spot remaining that was somewhat surrounded on three sides by large rocks.  Oh well, running out of daylight.  We wiggled our way into the spot and believed our anchor to be holding.  Ed took out a stern anchor to hold us in a straight position during the night winds so that we wouldn’t twist back and forth. This was a night that would require constant watch.  I had first shift.  The winds were so strong that we had opened all of the plastic windows up top to allow the wind to blow thru.  We had navigation instruments turned on that showed us our longitude and latitude points.  We figured we would keep an eye on that to help detect if we were moving.  9PM – good. 10 PM – I think we’re good.  The position points were changing slightly – the problem was that we didn’t know how much of a change was just slight or significant. Lots of prayers.  Ed tried to catch some sleep while I kept watch. 11PM and 12AM seemed OK.  At 1AM, the winds had subsided substantially.  I awoke Ed and then I went to sleep.  He checked numbers and all seemed well and much calmer.  At daylight we were in the same spot – anchor had held! Now we had to pick up two anchors, but the wind had shifted direction.  When Ed went out in the dinghy to get the stern anchor, the winds started blowing the boat towards the rocks.  Took lots of work at the helm to keep away from those hard rocks. We were blessed to get away safely.  By the way, the Bustards were beautiful, and a might stressful, too!

August 22nd took us through probably the prettiest area we have seen, and that is Collins Inlet.  The inlet is narrow and has high rock walls and sparkling clear water. Majestic is the only word that describes it.  We got halfway through and we were in Mill Lake.  We found an anchorage with Summer Lynn near Green Island.  Again we let down the dinghies and went exploring.  We were able to walk out on some of the islands – so beautiful.  We kept reading in some of the Looper Facebook pages that they were picking blueberries in various places.  We had looked, but never seemed to find anything.  So we finally found some.  They were about as big as a big pin head.  NOT the blueberries I’m used to picking in Georgia.  We left them for the bears. 

This was the approach to Collins Inlet.
Traveling thru the inlet, the walls were lined with trees.
Gary, Nancy and Kathy going in search of blueberries.
Each sunset seems to have a beauty of its own.

After returning to the boat, we found that our anchor wasn’t holding.  It had started raining by then and the temp had turned cold, but Ed went out to the bow of the boat to raise the anchor.  We reset it and again hoped it would hold.  Dinner on Summer Lynn that evening.  This is the way great friendships are started: lots of conversation, laughs and shared experiences.  Such is the life of a Looper.

August 14 – 16, 2019 Practice those Anchoring Skills

Part of the joy of Georgian Bay is anchoring in so many beautiful places.  Anchoring is so different than being in a marina. It’s sometimes challenging, it can be euphoric in the beauty surrounding you, it certainly puts you in Nature, and it’s part of a boating experience that boaters shouldn’t miss – especially in Georgian Bay. 

On the 14th we headed to an anchorage in Indian Harbor.  We hadn’t anchored much in the past three months, so our anchoring skills were more than a little rusty.  We reached the large Bay and there were a few other boats already there.  We were soon to become their entertainment for the afternoon.  We dropped anchor and tried several times to get it to set. Didn’t have much luck. After several tries, a heavily accented voice came over the radio with helpful advice.  By golly, the anchor finally got set.  Shortly thereafter, a dinghy pulled up and we were visited by Bob and Karen – Kiwis from Down Under, and the owners of MoWhiskey.  It was great to see them again and we thanked Bob for his timely advice.

Traveling through Georgian Bay, the scenery is very rocky. Beautiful above ground, but scary thinking about what’s underneath the water that we might not see.

One of the disadvantages of anchoring, is that you can’t always get off the boat to stretch your legs and go walking.  There was an island near us that looked perfect for taking a walk.  We saw another boater there who had taken her dog with her.  We dinghyed over, tied up and started our own exploring. 

Kary and her dog enjoying some “off boat” time on an island.

 Shortly thereafter, the lady came over to us and asked if we had permission to be on the island.  Seems that many of the Georgian Islands are privately owned and “The Cottagers” don’t appreciate uninvited guests.  Well, no we didn’t have permission.  Her reply was, “If anyone asks, just tell them that you are taking photos for the Georgian Land Trust Photo Contest.”  Kary went on to tell us that land owners often bequeath part of their land holdings to the “Trust.”  It’s a tax deduction for them and it means no one can ever build on the land.  She was a volunteer with the Trust and was very familiar with this particular island.  She took us on a tour and was able to give us all kinds of history about the creation of the islands in the area. What a great chance encounter.

Wind swept trees on the island.
Such beauty everywhere we look.
The evenings bring such color to the sky.

Next day we continued traveling, passed one anchoring option of King Bay, and headed a little farther to Twelve Mile Bay.  Did pretty good with setting the anchor on this day.  We let down the dinghy again and did some more exploring. We didn’t find any places to walk – the trees were much too dense – but we found all kinds of interesting things to see and before we knew it, we had circled the entire island we were exploring. Got back to the boat and worked on a few boat chores.  Ed made friends with one of the other boaters there on Goose Boots.  Came back to tell me that he had been having a “Scotch Sampling.”  Not a bad way to pass an afternoon.  We were treated that night to an incredible sunset.  Why are the most beautiful sunsets always over water?  That night we called my sister Judy and her husband Jim to wish them Happy Anniversary – their first.  (Their first wedding anniversary, not their first happy anniversary.) 

We started exploring the island in the dinghy. No good places to get out and walk, but lots of beauty to see.
The waters near the island were loaded with water Lillies.
The end of the day brought another incredible sunset.

Headed out on the 16th, intending to stop on Wreck Island (how’s that for a name) because we heard it had some walking trails.  We tried and tried to find a good anchor spot, but the high water made it difficult.   The usual places were too deep and we finally gave up and continued the journey.  Headed to the next anchorage in Echo Bay.  

Continuing the journey, headed to Echo Bay.

We departed the larger area of water and wound our way up to the anchorage. Lo’ and Behold, we arrive and notice that all the boats there are anchored and tied from their sterns to a point on land.  Uh Oh – never done this before.  We spotted 2 men in a dinghy and Ed waved them over and admitted we had never done this kind of anchoring; could they let us know how to do it.  Al and Mark could not have been more helpful.  They asked if we had some carabiners.  Uh, no.  They said “just a minute” and they took off and started scouting the shore.  Came back and told us where to move the boat. They had found some “eyes” that were drilled into the rock on the shore and we could tie there.  It took us awhile, but we got the boat anchored and then they took one of our stern lines and dinghyed to the shore with to tie it to the metal eye.  Boaters are the best!

You can’t hardly see it, but there is a line from the back of our boat that reaches back to the little island behind us. That keeps us from swinging in the wind.

We made fast friends with Al and Mark by inviting them aboard for beers.  They were part of a three boat group on vacation. They were headed to Henry’s – a very popular eating spot – for lunch.  Noting that their dinghies had more motor power than ours, Ed sort of asked if we could hitch a ride.  Sure!  Eight of us boarded the two dinghies and yeah – they had LOTS more power than our 3 hp motor. Went for quite a ride.  Got to Henry’s and met up with some Loopers we hadn’t seen in awhile.  The seafood lunch was GREAT!  We heard tales of all the famous people who had eaten there – Goldie Hawn has a “cottage” near by.  Nobody famous there while we ate lunch.

Henry’s is legendary among Loopers…for good reason. Great meal!

Back at the boats we visited on their raft of three boats.  Talked a lot about the Georgian Bay and The Loop.  Boaters who haven’t done the Loop are always curious to know about it.  We’re glad to share.  We hope that more people will jump on board and do their own Loop. There’s nothing quite like it!

Visiting on one of the other boats.

August 13, 2019 – A Day on Georgian Bay

I decided that this day deserved an entry of its own.  When Loopers talk of their trip, it’s almost a certainty that they will tell you about Georgian Bay.  We have REALLY looked forward to this day, because the photos we have seen of this area appear to be too good to be true.  Today we discovered that the beauty of this area is everything we could expect and more.

Leaving the marina, the skies were a bit cloudy, but we could see slivers of sunshine.  We no longer were in a canal – in which you can travel forward or reverse – we had to plot our course ourselves, made easier with all of Ken’s information.  We cruised over some open waters, but the winds were low and the ride comfortable.  We were headed for an anchorage called Longuissa.  The name was exotic and conjured up thoughts of incredible scenery.  Along the way, a butterfly flew onto a pillow next to me up on the bridge.  I think butterflies are supposed to be good luck.  Could this trip get any better?!

Would this butterfly, which landed inside the boat, bring us good luck on our trip?

The Georgian Bay is known as the area of 30,000 islands.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and many people have found a way to build homes on them.  As we approached the island area, it was pretty, but not breathtaking.  It would get better.

Island home in Georgian Bay – no yard work required!
Some courses use these range finders. If you see the two markers lined up vertically, then you are ON course. That’s the goal :).

We got to Longuissa and found out that MANY other boaters also had heard about this spot.  It was a very pretty cove area, but too crowded for us.  We headed to a nearby anchorage called “hockey stick,” but it, too, was obviously well known. We looked on the chart and found an area called Brown Bay.  Not very large, but we decided to check it out.  

Vitamin Sea anchored in Brown Bay. Nothing like a little solitude on the water.

By this time, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the water sparkling.  We got to Brown Bay and had it all to ourselves. It was lovely.  We put the dinghy in the water and went exploring. What a glorious day!  This is what people were talking about when they spoke of Georgian Bay. 

Ed piloting the dinghy. We did some exploring on this beautiful day.
This is what surrounded us at anchorage. Such a glorious sight to behold.

Cottages were intermittently spotted on the shoreline and tall, green majestic trees were everywhere.  No wonder that people said you could spend an entire summer in just the Georgian Bay area.  There are so many islands, inlets, and bays to explore. We could hardly wait for what we would see in the next couple weeks.

During our exploration, we saw these Inukshuks left on the shore. These were used by the Inuit people as directional markers, but when in the shape of people, it can signify safety, hope, and friendship.

August 11 – 12, 2019 Wherever the Winds Blow

We enjoyed a few days of R & R at the end of the Trent-Sevren before heading out to Georgian Bay.

On the morning of the 11th, we awaited our turn to go thru the last lock.  We got a radio call from our “fine dining” friends on United 771.  They were approaching the lock with one good engine – one disabled – and no thrusters to help with maneuvering.  They wanted to know if there was space to get in line for the lock.  After a conversation with the lock staff and the captain of the boat we were scheduled to go thru with, we arranged for United 771 to go straight into the lock by themselves to minimize any difficulty they might have in getting tied up in the lock.  As the lock doors opened, we told United 771 that they could go in – AFTER the red kayak that was exiting.  Yes, one small kayak was in the lock and was apparently starting a long journey.  He had several friends waving to him and cheering for him.  Our friends made it into the lock and were on their way.  We would meet again – sooner than we expected.

We went thru the last lock, the shortest of all the locks, and headed towards Beausoleil Island. The island is part of Parks Canada and we had been told of a lovely anchorage.  We were now out of “planned waterways,” so we would need to select and chart our own course.  You’ve heard the saying – Man makes plans and God laughs?  That is applicable here.  Winding our way through some narrow waterways, the wind kicked up and made it very difficult to control the boat.  We were taught by other Loopers that you select a planned destination for a day, a farther point if the day is good, and a bailout point if the day turns to crap!  This day, we chose option #3.  We were approaching a navigation buoy that was a turning point for different directions.  We turned south and with winds at our stern, we headed for Midland.  We called the city marina for reservations.  Sorry, they said.  A Tall Ship Festival was going on in town and no transient boats were being accepted.  A short distance away, we found Bay Port Yachting Centre.  Yes, there was plenty of room.  As we were moving towards our slip assignment, there sat United 771.  They had come here for the repairs they needed. We docked and then got a ride the short distance back to Midland to enjoy the Tall Ship Festival!  We also saw several wall murals for which Midland is well known.

Tall Ship Festival in Midland. These boats would NEVER make it under some of the bridges!
Fife and Drum Corps performing at the Tall Ship Festival.

That evening, Cathy and Steve from United 771 joined us for dinner at The Arch Steakhouse and Tavern. Again, another fine dining experience. And this meal held a special significance — Ed and I were celebrating our 35th Wedding Anniversary.  It was a delightful evening and definitely “fine dining.”

Happy 35th Anniversary. Stilling smiling after almost 5 months of being together 24/7!
Our “fine dining” friends Cathy and Steve from United 771.

We were getting ready to leave the next morning when someone suggested that we talk with Ken, the marina owner, about places to visit in Georgian Bay.  That turned out to be a golden suggestion.  Ken takes groups of boaters all over the Bay and he had extensive knowledge of great places to go. We brought our charts, and he talked about all the fabulous places to anchor, the routes to take, and the best places to eat (which are not plentiful), and the best places for fuel and boat services.  The information he offered was truly invaluable and will make this journey so much easier and memorable.  He was so kind to mark our charts with routes and highlight the anchorages that were “must sees.”  By the time we finished, half the day was over and we decided to stay.  During the day, we met several other Loopers including MoWhisky – the owners are from Auckland, New Zealand, and no, they did not set sail from there; and California Lady– who we would travel with down the road.

We went to see the SS Keewatin – it was once one of the passenger ships that cruised the Great Lakes.  WOW – what a beauty! There is much history about the boat that you may want to research at your leisure.  The boat is now a museum and the cabins are decorated with clothing and artifacts from the various decades she was active. It’s like peeking into people’s private staterooms.  There are even two honeymoon suites!  The dining room is exquisite and the tables are set with all the original tableware, and on the ceiling, there are tiffany windows. Walking through the ship, you can easily imagine the ladies walking by in all their finery and the gentleman retiring to the “smoking lounge.”

SS Keewatin – a former Great Lakes Cruiser – is undergoing some refurbishment to bring back the beauty of it as it was in the glory days.

That evening we gathered all our charts and reviewed where we would be headed the next day. By God’s grace we had been “blown” into this marina and were now going to leave with a plan in hand.

August 7 – 10, 2019 The Big Chute — It’s a Disney Ride!

Cruising towards the Big Chute, we had to wait for a train to pass so the bridge could be raised. The boat in this photo is our buddy boat Halftime.
Some narrow waterways on the way to Big Chute. Along this way we encountered 9 boats coming towards us. We were too nervous at that point to take photos!

On the 7th we headed towards The Big Chute.  A little background – first there was Little Chute.  This railway was originally built because there was a shortage of concrete to build a lock at this location.  Later, Big Chute was built “to prevent lamprey – a parasitic eel-like fish with a jawless, sucking mouth – from attaching itself to other fish thus damaging the fisheries in Lake Simcoe.”  The way it works is that there is a twin rail track that goes up from the water, across a road, and down the “chute” on the other side. Boats are put on a carrier and transported on this rail system.  We rode in the boat as this was being done.  Oh, I should add that in this “ride,” there were also 2 center console speed boats and 4 jet skis.  Two of the jet skis were on either side of our bow.  We couldn’t even see them.  We all traveled together in the carrier.  Quite a ride!

Vitamin Sea starting approach into the carrier for The Big Chute. We glided over the yellow straps which would support us on the ride. Barely visible are the two jet skis behind the small boats. We were afraid we would run over them! 🙂
Not our boat, but this would be the view from behind the carrier as it travels up on the rail system.
Kathy and friends from Halftime watch another load of boats as they are carried over the roadway.
The view from behind our boat. There are upper and lower rails which help to keep the boats level as they travel up and over the road.
View from the flybridge of Vitamin Sea as we begin the descent down on the “other side.”
View from the Observation Deck of some other boats in The Chute.
At the end of the ride, we just motor off the straps of the carrier and cruise on out!

After the “ride,” we tied up to a dock below the Big Chute and enjoyed some swimming and relaxing fun.  Andrea and Ken from Half Time were with us and we had a great time – which means ice cream was involved!  We went to the top of the lock to visit with friends on Southern Cross.  They had been so kind to take a video of our ride thru the Big Chute.

After the stress of getting through The Chute, it’s time to chill out with a little cool recreation.

On the 8th, we traveled thru some beautiful scenery as we traveled to the end of our journey on the Trent-Severn.  To enjoy the last of our days on this waterway, we stayed at a resort marina – Rawley’s.  At the marina is a hotel and we enjoyed some music and dancing in the bar, a little pampering at the spa, fun with friends, and just a relaxing few days.  At this point we had to say “goodby” to Half Time as they were not continuing the trip west. It’s hard to part with people we have traveled with for several days. This experience binds people in inexplicable ways. BUT, we always hope to meet up again — somewhere along the waterways.  


August 4 – 6, 2019 Lakes and Arts

We left the holiday happenings on Sunday when we learned that there was likely to be space at our next intended stop.  During the day we passed under a picturesque bridge called Canal Lake High Arch Bridge.  It is a perfect half circle, built in 1905 – another engineering marvel for its time.  The unofficial name is the Hole-in-the-Wall Bridge.

The “Hole in the Wall” Bridge.

The next lock was Kirkfield Lock – another “pan” type lock like the Peterborough Lock.  The difference is, that at this point of the waterway, we have reached the high point, and will now be traveling down. That means we enter this lock from the TOP.  It’s like cruising into an infinity pool – all you see is sky ahead – no land! We felt like we were on the top chair of a stopped ferris wheel.  It was a GREAT view, but a little nerve wracking at the same time.

Pretty day as we head to the Kirkfield Lock. Love these little twists and turns.
Going into the Kirkfield Lock – Captain’s view. Can you say “Reverse!”

Our end point was the Gamebridge Lock.  Space was available because there was nothing else there but the lock! Four boats tied there and we enjoyed the quiet as well as a beautiful evening while we enjoyed “docktails” at 5 o’clock!   

Nothing but peace and quiet at the Gambridge Lock. We shared the wall with Half Time and No Schedule.

Weather was great the next day for a crossing of Lake Simcoe.  Among the MANY things we are learning on this trip is that when crossing a lake, you do NOT want a day of winds blowing towards you and bringing the waves with it.  It was a perfect day and after the lake we entered The Narrows, which is aptly named.  Not much room from side to side in this area.

We then passed through a couple more smaller lakes – Lake Couchiching and Sparrow Lake and ended the day in Port Orillia.  Orillia is a good size town, and we spent a couple days doing some sightseeing.  There are lots of community art projects there.  This year’s theme had to do with bicycles, and there were bikes decorated in lots of creative ways.  So fun to see!

ARTS abound in Orillia.

July 30 – August 4, 2019 It’s a Canadian Holiday – Which One?

We are in the part of the Trent-Severn that is referred to as the Kawartha Lakes.  It starts with Lake Katchewanooka.  There are several lakes in this region that are connected by the canal locks.  Beautiful area.  There is also a great Kawartha ice cream that is made here.  We never underestimate the power of good ice cream. 🙂 Along the way to our next overnight stop, we pulled over at the Youngs Point Lock to see a store call the Trading Post.  It was written up in several of our Looper books with a high recommendation to see it.  Sure enough, it was fun to see.  A little bit of everything there.  It was there that we found The Executioner.  It looks like a small tennis racket.  It has a battery in it and when activated, it becomes a hand held bug zapper.  It has come in VERY handy on the boat.

New sport onboard the boat – Who can ZAP the most bugs!
The Trading Post – a little bit of everything!

Buckhorn Lock wall was our next destination.  It was getting more crowded at the locks, although at this time we didn’t know why.  When we got to Buckhorn, we were entering from the lower level and we asked the lock staff if there was room for two boats (our traveling buddy boat – Tug O’ My Heart and us) at the top.  Yes, right then there was.  We exited the lock and saw the space about 75 yards ahead.  Before we could get there, two canoes came around the bend towards us.  We heard the lockmaster over the loud speaker tell them to move right and hold – right into our intended space.  We moved a little bit forward and suddenly saw not two – but twelve canoes/kayaks coming towards us.  We couldn’t stop and hold because of boats behind us, so we had to move on. As we exited the lock area, we saw two Le Boats coming towards the lock.  We’ve mentioned them before – rental house boats that look like bumper cars at the carnival.  If we let them get past us, we’d probably lose all chance of getting a spot at this lock wall.  Quick decision – we radioed our friends behind us and both of us did a 180 degree turn and headed back – hoping that the canoes would have moved out by then. We reached the spot and it was empty.  Again, we both did 180 degree turns (so we’d be headed in the right direction) and started moving into the spots.  As I was swinging out a line to tie to the wall, I heard a CRUNCH!  Looked up just in time to see one of the Le Boats turning almost sideways in the lock channel and hitting first a cement wall and then some rocks.  Whew — dodged a bullet there!

Looking happy – we probably just finished an ice cream cone. Yum!

Next stop – Fenelon Falls.  We got to the lock and found out there was no room at the top (where the electric power is available), so we settled for the bottom.  We tied up to the wall at the bottom with our buddy boat.  We enjoyed the sounds of the waterfall and just had to walk a bit farther to get to town.  Lots of fun. 

The Canadian water is Great – or “bracing” as some of them say.

 We were going to move on, when we found out this was going to be a long weekend for Canadians; hence the crowded conditions at the locks.  We were curious as to the nature of the holiday. Seems that every person we asked had a different answer, or no answer at all!  The best we could conclude is that it is a Civic Holiday. Because summers are fairly short in Canada, the government wants each of the summer months to have a three day holiday for the citizens to enjoy.  Ed also believes that because it is a Civic Holiday, every Canadian with a boat believes it is their civic duty to be out on the water with that boat – or at least that’s how it seemed.  Word was that there wouldn’t be space at any of the close by locks, so we decided to stay where we were.   Fenelon Falls was celebrating the Founding of the Town, so celebrations and events were scheduled all weekend.  We found other Looper boats at the top of the wall – quite a big group of us.  Great little town.  The Visitor’s Center had a Scavenger Hunt to introduce visitors to the various attractions and stores.  Over the long weekend we enjoyed Lumber Jack contests, animal pelt exhibits, First Nations People presentations,  a reinactment of a battle from the War of 1812 and fireworks at night over the water. By the way, the Americans lost that particular battle, and we were a little afraid they might replay that battle and run us out of the lock with the canon that they were firing! We were lucky to be able to move to the top of the wall on our 3rdand 4thnight there.  The electrical hookup was welcome as the temps were rising and we could finally turn on some AC in the boat.  

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, The Town Crier announces the day’s festivities.

Reconnecting with people we’ve met along the way is part of the fun of Looping. Everyone does their own thing, but there’s always a good chance of meeting again. We hadn’t seen Cathy and Steve from “United 771” since we had dinner at the Culinary Institute on the Hudson River. We connected again at Fenelon Falls and enjoyed another great dinner together at an Italian restaurant in town. We call them our “fine dining” friends as we seem to go to the classier restaurants when we are together.

Our “fine dining friends.”

On subsequent visits to other towns, people would often make reference to that long weekend, and it seemed that each location was celebrating something different. Guess it really didn’t matter – the people were all just happy to have a holiday!

July 26 – 29 An Engineering Marvel

From the chocolate outlet in Campbellford, we traveled to Hastings lock and tied to the wall for the night.  Maybe we should explain “tied to the wall.”  Parks Canada operates the locks and as a boat approaches a lock, there are cement or rock walls, usually on both sides of the waterway.  One side will be painted blue at the top – referred to as the “blue wall.”  If a boat ties on that wall, it indicates to the Lock Master that the intent is to go through the lock.  When the gates open, the boat will be directed to a place in the lock. If the wall is not painted blue, a boat can tie their lines to that wall and stay for a few hours or overnight. Depending on the popularity of a lock and adjacent town, and holidays, there are some limits on how many nights a boat can stay on a wall.  A boat owner can pay for seasonal passes to go through locks and stay on walls, or payment can be made when going through a lock or tieing to a wall for the night.  Some of the lock locations have electricity available which is an additional charge.  Canada refers to the electrical hookups as “hydro” which was a little confusing at first.  We thought of “hydro” as a water hookup, but they refer to it as Hydro-electricity.  In other words, the electricity is produced by using water power.

Entering the lock at Hastings, we were told that we needed to raft with another boat in order to get all the boats to fit. Tug O’ My Heart is tied to us here – with lots of fenders in between the boats!

Not much there at Hastings, but we were looking forward to our next stop in Peterborough.  Crabpots were our nemesis along the Atlantic coast, but wind has been a continuing problem for us on this trip. On this day, we were heading to the Peterborough Marina, which is located between two locks.  We had to cross a small lake at the entrance to the marina.  Wind was picking up and we contacted the marina and followed directions to our slip – or we tried. Wouldn’t you know, they were directing us to the VERY FARTHEST slip inside the marina.  As we approached, the wind caught us broadside and pinned us against a docking wall that belonged to a tour boat.  Try as we might, we couldn’t turn the boat off the wall.  A lady with the tour boat company came over and told us “you can’t stop here, the tour boat is coming back.”  Didn’t say it very nicely.  My reply – “Ma’m, we’re trying our very best to get off your wall.”  Perhaps my tone wasn’t very friendly.  About this time, Ed gets a radio call from the marina to ask if we need any help.  Duh!!  Three dock hands came running and fortunately knew how to turn a boat while holding a stern line. They got us pointed in the right direction and we got off that crabby lady’s wall!  

Headed into the right direction, but approaching what I call a “salad bar.”  There was a tremendous amount of a type of grass growing up from the bottom.  When I say growing, I’m talking about stuff that is 4-5 feet high.  Ed hated to be running his props in the mess, and we knew we couldn’t possibly use the thrusters to turn into the slip – that green stuff would be wrapped around everything.  We got close and I threw lines out to the dock hands and said “walk it in.”  Any of you who think this is a pleasure cruise, get that idea out of your heads! We work HARD on this trip!

So we’re in the slip, right next to the sidewalk that people use to travel from a road to the adjacent park, BUT, our water and electric hookups were on the part of the dock that was behind the security gate.  The hookups were secure, but anyone could have hopped on our boat! There was a concert that night in the park with a local girl as the opening act and Tyler Shaw as the main attraction.  Yeah – we didn’t know who he was either!  Someone at the marina described him as a teenage girl heart throb.  He was actually pretty good – and yes, the young girls were all up front near the stage.  We must have been the most photographed boat in all of Peterborough that night. People kept stopping in front of it and having their picture taken. ??What’s that all about? 

Concert at Peterborough park, next to the marina.

Two days later we were going through the Peterborough Lock.  This is an incredible lock and one of the reasons we were so excited to be on the Trent-Severn.  Imagine two big bathtubs – one at ground level, one 65 feet up in the air. Boats enter the “bathtubs” from both the top and bottom, and gates rise behind them to secure them in the “tub.” 

Our view of the lock as we approached. we would enter on the left side after the gate was lowered.
Inside the “tub” – ready to rise!

An extra foot of water is added to the top tub, which causes it to lower and to force the lower “tub” to rise. When the ride is over, a front gate on the “tub” lowers and the boats drive off.  This lock opened in 1904 and is still operational, pretty much exactly like it was when built.  We can just a imagine some guy in a bar, drawing on a napkin, saying “so what if we used two big tubs to move boats from down here to up there!”  It’s amazing.  Watch the video to join us on our ride.