We said farewell to Paul and Mary, and our Evinrude dinghy motor in Blind River. The latter was running smoothly until I fell and sprained my ankle in Bear Drop….Steve went back for the dinghy and found it had no forward gear. Still thinking it was a minor issue, we were shocked when the mechanics in Blind River performed the last rites and told us it was not worth fixing. So we left Blind River $3K poorer and the proud owners of a brand new 9.9HP Yamaha 4-stroke motor. Long may he/she reign!
We set off again to revisit some of our favourites and try out a few new anchorages as we slowly make our way to Midland, South Georgian Bay, where we have made arrangements to haul for the winter. En route we passed the Coast Guard police, and their accompanying RIB posse. Keeping us all safe, I expect as they did not seem to be on an urgent mission, and waved in a friendly way.
Our first stop was in a little anchorage near Moiles in the Whalesback, where our friends on their Bayfield 36, Home, had been anchored a few days earlier. We loved the spot. We watched a mother bear with 2 cubs amble over the rocks nearby. We went for a spin in our dinghy, planing easily with our new motor….quite a thrill after the lack-lustre chugging of the Evinrude. And I was happy to wake up in time to enjoy a spectacular sunrise.
The next day we spent in Moiles, still our favourite NC anchorage. We were joined there by Home, and invited friends Rick and Judy to dinner on Tai Chi so we could share the great porchetta I had purchased in the Meat Market in the Sault. But we ended up being on the receiving end of their generosity as Judy had baked delicious fresh bread that day, and Rick, a far more skilled fisherman than we will ever be, brought over a large bass that he caught that day in the rain (as well as 2 smaller pickerel). The next day, we saw him leave in his dinghy to go fishing only to return 15 minutes later with two large pickerel, one of which he left with us! Buoyed (‘scuse the pun) by his success, we went out fishing the evening after they left and caught a largish pike! Needless to say, we enjoyed fresh fish dinners and lunches for several days. Our favourite, by far, is pickerel, but we do enjoy all fresh fish. I not only filleted all the fish, but managed, with Rick’s additional instruction, to keep the cheeks and “shrimp” throat morsels from the pickerel…tasty treats. We saw a bald eagle circling, but it was a turkey vulture (aka buzzard) that ensured that none of the scraps were wasted. Ugly looking, but an important component of the ecosystem!
Moiles interesting history (scoundrels, logging and a ghost town). It’s logging past is evident in the many deadheads which litter the shallow edges, except for a couple in the middle marked with plastic bottles. As we weighed anchor we inadvertently dredged up some of this history! Luckily the huge log caught in our anchor chain rolled off as Steve pulled up more chain with our windlass.
After a quiet day on our own, sharing Moiles with a flock of mergansers, we exited the back entrance of Moiles for a decent motor sail across to the Benjamins, where we anchored on the north side, between the Benjamins. We came to see why this was everyone’s favourite North Channel destination….and…we understand now. Since pictures tell a thousand words:
Boats continued to pile into the anchorage as the cloudless, sparkling day progressed, and most of them left the next day. We enjoyed a short visit with new friends Georgie and Larry (from Barrie!) and their handsome dog, from the sailboat Cabernet, whom we had met in Bear Drop. We decided later that day, to head to an anchorage near Little Current, where we hoped to spend a few daytime hours on the town docks, re-provisioning before heading through the swing bridge towards Killarney. However in this cruising life, things have a way of upsetting the best laid plans. We knew our starter battery was dying – figured that out in Bear Drop – but had managed to start our engine each time by switching our battery relay to “ALL” rather than just the starter battery for ignition. Sadly, this strategy failed in the Benjamins. Luckily a few other boats had lingered, including Larry and Georgie, who came over to help. We ended up using their starter battery to get our engine going, then disconnected and returned it, heading straight for Little Current, to make the Town Docks (and the safety of shore power) before dark.
So we tied up, on the now quite bare town docks, typically a hive of activity in July and August. We ate out at the Anchor Inn, and joined the Cruisers Net in person for the last broadcast of the season. Roy Eaton, the Net Controller, does a fabulous job, providing marine weather and news updates, sports, business, local history, upcoming events and a facilitating a cruiser call-in. This, as it turned out was the 800th broadcast. It is somewhat of an iconic part of cruising life in the North Channel, and without it now, it has really started to feel fall-like. The season is over. There is a chill in the air. Boats are heading to various haul-out locations and we return to CBC for our news source. But the cruising season is not over for us – and we can now enjoy some of the very popular anchorages, which were previously too busy for us!
In Little Current we divided to conquer our shore chores. I took the cart up the hill to do a large re-provisioning, while Steve “fixed” the starter batter issue by moving one of our new house bank batteries into the starter battery location, diminishing our house bank capacity by 1/6, but giving us a reliable starter, which is a relief! Our batteries are unavailable on Manitoulin Island, so we need to replace it once we get to Midland – or even better, in the spring.
I discovered, thanks to my still swollen and painful ankle, that taxis in Little Current charge a flat fee of $5 – totally worth it for the return trip from the grocery store. We pushed off later that day, making the 3 m bridge opening, and anchored between Beaver and Strawberry islands nearby – the sun broke through dark clouds, casting an interesting light as we polished off yet another fresh fish dinner!
We had a perfect sail the next day – a fine beam reach with no waves, making 7.4 knots in the scenic Lansdowne Channel. We decided to check out Covered Portage, a popular anchorage off Killarney Bay – a dinghy ride from the village. It had been too crowded previously and the ports guide says that there can be up to 40 boats anchored inside and out in prime summer months….yikes! We had the inside, pool-like anchorage to ourselves initially, and were joined by only one other sailboat, Escape, later in the day. The owners, Kathy and Michael came over for sundowners. The next morning we hiked together to the amazing observation deck above the anchorage for a spectacular view of our boats, Fraser and Killarney Bays. We enjoyed each other’s company and reflected together on the privilege of being able to enjoy such pristine environment in this way. We know now why people like this protected anchorage. Here is another slideshow:
As Steve continued his project of scraping down the teak toe rail, readying it for re-varnishing, an otter jumped into the dinghy with him! They scared each other so much that I was unable to get a photo, but did capture the little rascal later swimming nearby, teasing us with the little fish he caught so easily. We later watched the escapades of a family of 4 otters in our otherwise quiet anchorage, shared only with a canoeing artist who set up his easel to paint the stunning scenery. By evening we shared it only with the otters.
I will post this blog when we head into Killarney tomorrow. We are looking forward to meeting up with Steve’s siblings for dinner at the Mountain Lodge on Sunday. Incidentally, we noticed a FOR SALE sign on a cottage nearby as we entered the anchorage and checked it out of the internet. Apparently it could be yours for a mere $5.8M – a 4000 sq foot home, property manager’s house, outbuildings, private dock in Killarney and 50 acres of pristine wilderness (including the observation deck we just enjoyed) are included. If any more major things go wrong with Tai Chi, we may begin to think it is a bargain at the price!