Although Georgian Bay is 700kms from the ocean, there is an established and large sailing and boating community. The boating area is huge with plenty of places to explore and anchor. The islands in this region are heavily populated with discretely built cottages but there are plenty of places you can drop the pick in relative isolation. The channels around Georgian Bay are well marked and our electronic charts are (so far) spot on. There’s no excuse up here not to know the weather conditions too. The marine weather forecast is continuously looped on WX channel 03 and any distress notices are preceded by an inescapably deafening screech through the VHF.
Motoring north from Penetanguishene, we arrived at a small anchorage at Indian Bay. Here we spent a couple of days swimming in the 23 degC water and sunning ourselves on the warm granite. It’s hard to believe this place had half a meter of ice cover only six months ago and will be covered in snow in only a few months. This bay was filled with motor boats for the weekend, with only a couple of yachts nearby. Many of the boats were rafted up together as families and friends enjoyed the sweltering summer days. (Environment Canada had issued a “Heat Warning” during these few days as temperatures soared above 30degC).
Weaving our way further north through the granite islands of eastern Georgian Bay, we ended up in tiny Snug Haven. Here we dropped anchor amongst three yachts and a power boat and the anchorage was already half full. It was here we met Mike and Mari, ‘Kilty’ from Midland who invited us across to their yacht later that afternoon. Joining us were Dennis and Judith from another yacht. Over a couple of drinks we enjoyed their company until the sun sank and the mozzies came out in force. It’s lovely to catch up with locals for a chat.
By lunchtime the next day a new group of yachts entered the snug haven while the others had left to travel further south. Once more we were invited aboard another yacht – Adamant 1 – to meet Pat and Lynn from Midland. Pat had built his spacious 37′ yacht years before and fresh water has certainly extended the life of this vessel. Pat and Lynn have sailed Georgian Bay’s summers over the past 40 years and know all the best places to anchor. Not only did they impart some great information about Georgian Bay, they were kind enough to give us a cruising guide to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. These friendly gestures are typical of the sailing community; we will pay the favour ‘forward’, the usual principle amongst boaters.
Canada is quite alike to Australia in many respects; conservative government; similar environmental, political and community issues, and so on. Although Canada’s harshness lies with cold and snow, while conversely Australia is hot and dry. Each day we listen to the interesting local and general stories on CBC radio; the format is akin to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), although spoken in the clear cadence of Canadian.
Travelling around the world we meet many sailors, many who say “If you’re around our part of the world, be sure to pop in”. We met David and Peg (aka ‘Rhythm’) back in Sri Lanka, and sailed across the Indian Ocean through Chagos and to South Africa the same year. The last time we saw David and Peg was in St Helena halfway across the South Atlantic. How cool is it that they have a cottage here in Georgian Bay! With their circumnavigation complete and Rhythm up for sale, they returned to their cottage hideaway on an island midway on the east coast. This was the first time we’ve ‘popped in’ with sailors on their home turf. We dropped anchor near our friends on La Luna, who we hadn’t seen for some time too. That evening we got together for a candle-lit BBQ, drinks and lively conversation. By 2am and feeling like we were on night-watch we decided we’d better get some sleep! Also joining us that evening was Mike from Toronto who we last saw in Namibia in February. Great night, thanks guys!
The next morning (or should I say, the same morning) we were up by 7am with big fat rain bouncing all around Blue Heeler and visibility down to half a mile. The wind was up to around 30 knots and our anchorage was slightly exposed to the conditions. We had thought to leave and use the forecast south-westerly winds to head north, but it was unlikely at that point. But by 10am the rain eased and visibility improved so we hoisted anchor and got going.
Motoring through the narrow channels with rocks close enough to spit on we wove our way north for about 10nm. To the west/northwest was blue sky with only a narrow band of cloud. Most of the bad weather had gone over so we made the decision to continue our trip north and take advantage of the south-westerly wind to reach the Bustard Islands 22nm north.
The seas were up around one metre, short and sharp. With only the jib out for most of the trip we sailed the 22nm journey to the Bustard Islands at the north east of Georgian Bay. The trip was bumpy, particularly when it shifted more westerly and increased to up to 30 knots.
After four hours we reached the entrance to the north-east channel, turned 90 degrees to starboard and surfed down some of the bigger waves! This two mile section had no channel markers, although we were optimistically confident in our charts. After two miles we again turned 90degrees this time to port and headed on a course of 285deg towards the Bustard Isles with the 25knot wind on our beam. Fortunately a rock bank buffered the steep seas and although it was windy Wayne held a steady course dodging shallow rocks. This section of the channel did have red markers. The entrance to the anchorage at the North East Island of the Bustard Isles was narrow but enough depth of 4m for us to enter and drop anchor in a calm bay. In a day or so we’ll reach the gateway to the North Channel, Killarney, just east of Manitoulin Island. Here the scenery changes from flat granite islands and cottages to small mountains and wilderness. We’re told that Killarney has ‘World Famous Fish’n’Chips’ and we’re on our way to try them.