Have you ever wondered why the Great Lakes are called the Great Lakes? Maybe you thought it was because they’re big, but that’s not it. It’s because they are HUGE! We are skipping down the west coast of Michigan and there is nothing to see on our starboard side. It’s no different that running down the west coast of the US. We need to be very careful to watch wind speed and direction because we are in a small boat for the types of seas that can kick up.
With all that in mind we checked the weather in Mackinac and decided to head south before the Labor Day crowd. People at the marina lazily gazed at our little Bayliner from the bridges of their parked 40 and 50 footers with nary a thought of venturing out. Hmmm… what did these locals know? In this league, I guess it’s go big and stay at home (or at the marina in this case). Off we went into the Mackinac Straight and on to the little town of Petoskey. Go Bayliner, go Bayliner…. (to the tune of “Speed Racer”)
The trip to Petoskey wasn’t too bad. Who knows what those big boys were worried about. We’ve finally just said “that’s enough” on this engine break in stuff and cranked back up to our regular cruise speed and held it there. Motor sounds good and it’s nice to get up on top of the waves. Bye bye 8 knot trawlers!
We have a general plan for getting to Chicago, but only planning one day at a time and playing it by ear.
Big water notwithstanding, we’ve been astounded by how great the boating is in this part of the world. Seems like every 30 to 40 miles along the coast there is a little town with a great municipal marina, restaurants, breweries and lots else to go visit. The lake itself is crystal clear although it’s a lot colder than it was up North! That seems weird, but it’s probably because the lake is significantly bigger and there aren’t the same rock formations going into the water.
From Petoskey, we went to Leland Harbor.
Now we’ve made it Frankfort. Along the way we’ve passed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and rocked through 6 to 8-foot seas.
Yeah, the latter was sort of a mistake! We’re going to be a bit more vigilant in future.
OK, it’s Saturday night and need to sign off here to allow time to get into town and look for a place where N can better understand B’s whole perspective on Petoskey Stones!
We walked a mile or so late in the afternoon from the nice marina into and around the little town of Blind River–our last Canadian town. It was a ghost town with for sale signs and closed-permanently signs on practically every commercial building in the 3 block core. Very few cars and even fewer people were out. That same experience repeated itself (save for one little grocery store and one diner) at DeTour, Michigan…our first US town. Sort of sad and anti-climactic! BUT we did subsequently learn that, at least with respect to the for sale signs, it is a common test- the -market (aka hope for a rich city- dreamer to stumble in the door???) at the end-of -the-season phenomena in these small tourist-driven summer-only towns.
As we hit a big mile marker on our total trip odometer, B and Z rose from their rocking wave refuge on the lower floor and we coincidentally left Canada. A few fun facts (from our standpoint): We were in Canada from June 16 to August 27; covered a total of 1296 miles locking, docking and zig zagging as we got to know Quebec and Ontario provinces, dipped our bow in Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, St Lawrence River, and uncountable other cities, towns, rivers, lakes, and islands; 51 total days enjoying the sights from land and water of which 35 were actually underway; and 22 days escaped home to visit the new baby and get some boat repairs.
Customs and shopping was quick and easy so we took a little jump over to quiet DeTour Village, Michigan for our first night back. Michigan DNR has a nice (and relatively inexpensive) collection of marinas which, as of this writing, we have made use of at 3 different spots. Certainly THE best “deal” at tourist haven Mackinac Island….where rooms range from 300-1500 a night. yikes…give me my Bayliner and a marina in the center of all the action any day!
Mackinac Island can only be reached by boat or ferry (which, ok, i guess a ferry technically IS a boat) (well, actually i think there is a little airport too). OH,,,,and Ok!… in the winter you can take a lamp lit/christmas tree lined “track” by snowmobile over the ice there too. BUT there are NO motorized vehicles allowed on the island. Everything is on foot–pedaling, walking or horse transport! It was a really great way to re-enter “civilization” after all those days at anchor on the remote islands.
Although REALLY fun, the problem with renting a tandem bike is that it’s hard to take a picture of the person/dog you are biking with!
We probably would have stayed another day on Mackinac Island, but weather is looming and we actually have several days of big exposure as we make our way south along the coast of Lake Michigan to Chicago….so we pushed off in light winds and a little choppy, swelly water.
With much trepidation we pulled out of Killarney with our 30 hours old motor and second new (re-built) outdrive. It took thousands of miles to become confident with our original set-up and that was in an environment where if something went wrong we were a stone’s throw from help (not to mention having functioning internet!). This leg of our journey really has us in the outback heading north and west before taking the big left down to Michigan. Blowing the clutch on the first new outdrive did not inspire confidence. If something goes wrong here we are literally up a creek (in a lake actually) without a paddle. Well, we do have a paddle, but we can’t really use it! Anyway, you get the idea.
After five days in Killarney N was going crazy. Three days were due to waiting for our new parts, but the other two were down to weather. At one point N took the dinghy into the bay to judge “just how bad” the water really was.
Although there are lots of islands up here, there is still tons of huge open water and 20 mph winds can really whip up some waves (the winds caused one 50’ cruiser at the marina to break loose with the finger dock it was tied to!). After much prevaricating, the RioMarLago crew negotiated a settlement to get the “heck outta Dodge” on Wednesday afternoon. We only went three miles, but our destination was a great anchorage called Covered Portage. A small step, but progress and movement was good for the sake of the order.
The stretch beyond Killarney takes us to the northernmost point of our journey on Lake Huron before we take the big turn south to Michigan. Cruising in this stretch is more and more remote with plenty of anchoring as we travel through the North Channel up to near where Lake Huron meets with Lake Superior. From Covered Portage we went to Baie Fine where we anchored then hiked up a trail to Topaz Lake (pic in header) before having lunch and a swim then heading to Little Current.
The latter is the last stop to get any kind of serious kind of provisioning done before getting to the US so we loaded up for the big push to the border.
Anchoring out has been great. It’s amazing to think people will be out ice fishing in these areas in a few months when right now the water temp is perfect for a daily morning swim…. ok “swim” might suggest a level of energy we’re not necessarily achieving, but still, it’s fun to jump in. No need for those marina showers.
After enjoying our great anchorage in the Benjamin’s we headed out for points west.
I think our last days in Canada will be here at Blind River waiting for weather….oh wait, there’s a golf course! Maybe we’ll stay an extra day.
OK…that’s it for now. We are totally looking forward to first world internet in the coming days! RioMarLago, out.
Really this post is just to get the yesterday’s post’s completion to trigger! So to see it you may have to scroll down past the home page on the actual www.oneifbylandtwoifbyseablog.wordpress.com site. It does have some typos and other issues…primarily though, it seems to have left off at least one key paragraph: the one about WHY we were towing the boat! Here it is because I simply cannot get back into that post to correct and inseert it to the part immediately before the picture of Nick in his green coat in the dinghy::
“Even the weather cooperated, the Bayliner Beast did not. About 3 miles shy of our destination, a screaming jolt emitting from the engine area stopped us dead in our tracks…or rather made our wake crash up onto the stern swimstep. What the —-???? Seriously?? How can this be? No shallows, no rocks on the chart, new engine gingerly broken in, no crabpots (remember this is a lake afterall). UGH! Ok, well time for ANOTHER first: let’s tow ‘er in.”
In the meantime, here’s a view of Killarney waterfront –a town of 400. It only got its first road to it about 45 years ago so everything along its 3 block length has a dock. Not only do you pull up to the dock for gas but you also pull up to the liquor store, the grocery store, the icecream store and a variety of restaurants at each of their individual little docks. “Parking” is limited to 30 minutes at most places! haha
Lots of Loopers passing through. Some we met last Fall way up on the river; others we’ve read about on the Looper forum.
Ok we only have a handful of Canadian towns to pass by on THIS adventure so winding towards Lake Michigan and Chicago on the horizon. Check back again. We’ll try to post as often as possible. Hope all your retinas are intact after eclipse gazing!
Ok, Ok… I know we aren’t posting as often as we should be; but seriously, the internet connectivity is a REAL problem here. And now that is compounded by multiple nights at anchor in the middle of nowhere which in and of itself has been compounded by a 3 day small craft warning requiring us to hole-up where we are lucky to get a sporadic half-bar signal a couple of times a day. That’s where I sit as I start to write this…hopefully we will make it out to a town of 400 by Sunday the 20th and hopefully there will be connectivity there! We’ll see.
In the meantime, the days are blurring together so perhaps the photos here will not be in exact chronological order (but unless you are omniscient (or have been here) you probably won’t know the difference!)
The bottom line (from this perch that feels like the top of the world) is the soul-fulfilling visual trip caused by the geology formations. Georgian Bay and the adjoining North Channel, is a mere sub section of Lake Huron –separated from the main body of Lake Huron by the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island. Georgian Bay alone is almost as large as Lake Ontario. The whole area is famously referred to as the Canadian Shield with its igneous and metamorphic bedrock exposed by the passage of time and the last ice age—kinda like a rock yamaka perched on the top of Canada.
The northern shore is dotted with literally thousands and thousands of solid rock islands and even more wannabe, little islands the size of cars, busses and large houses (some of which are dangerously submerged under merely 6-12inches of water)—hence, the area is called 30,000 Islands. They are the mere remnants of 39,000 foot mountains that were formed with the accumulations of multiple layers of volcanic molten from over 150 different volcanic belts. And the shallow waters between all the islands and the mainland are lined with that same solid rock…making anchoring sometimes tricky!
Stunningly beautiful, impossible to capture in a photo, and treacherous if you meander out of the channel for a blink. (kinda sounds like a teen describing his first crush!) Here is a geologic sampling to give you an idea of what we’ve had in the last week.
It is actually impossible to get a feel for all this geology and aura by photo (and certainly even less possible by words alone)…you’ll just have to make the journey. Georgian Bay is so cool that it actually inspired the second best art work of all of Canada (behind the amazing British Columbia totem poles of the Salish and other Firsts): The Work of the Group of 7.
And here’s my photographic version of the above:
So that’s the geology stuff….here’s a smattering of the rest of the week. Our highlights have included Beausoleil, Monument Channel (a big hang out for the Group of 7 artists), Wreck Island, Sandy Bay, Strawberry Island in the Bustards. We’ve also stopped at Killbear Park, Parry Sound (for a harrowing taxi ride to the grocery store and back),and Ojibway Club for gas and a look around at their nice getaway locale. Here’s a collection of shots of some of our stops, scenery and beautiful anchorages:
A few pix that got left off from our boating time with the Canadians last week: pancake delivery…..and yes! WITH Canadian maple syrup, double rainbow after a thunderstorm/rain dump; dinghy safari to the rapids.
Hers and His Ways to Explore
Although we do see little cabins and large homes along the shore more frequently than you might expect, often you would be hardpressed to know humans had even passed by. But here are a few “signs” hard to read: “Site of the original barril denoting safe passage thru turbulent waters” barrel marks ; quintessential island with sign marking towns; and cuter than average arched cairn.
Strawberry Island in the Bustard Islands Group:
We took shelter here for 2+ days of a storm/small craft advisory. It also happened to be N’s birthday (a big one, btw, …just sayin!!)
Being holed up for 3 days in one spot on a 28 foot boat under weather watch, with no generator for back-up power, shore excursions onto patches of land the mere size of a double-wide, no “third parties” to interact with could lead to ____( I’ll let you fill in the blank!) But seriously, B was fine with her naps, tiny island explorations, minimal reading, rock yoga and swimming (aka skinny dipping) while N barely hung in there with a morning swim/shower, ipad solitaire, finishing all his books on his kindle and cleaning non-stop….suffice to say “ I’m going expletive deleted insane” was his mantra. As this is typed, he has actually announced he will simply leave B (and presumably Z) on shore with a tarp and sleeping bag and make the crossing, regardless of condition, and return when the weather is better. With that pronouncement the loons started their wailing, haunting call and lyrical return whistle that we’ve grown accustomed to. Not sure what they were communicating to us with but it did sooth!
Well, after watching the big sailboats that were in the abutting small inlet all scoot out earlier, N managed to hang in there and we sat out the weather watch for the second night in a row under even bigger winds that attacked us from a different direction than the prior night. We were fine after adding our second anchor (in addition to our really great and well-set anchor AND the stern tie). We fared the night well and, in the morning, after checking about 4 websites by holding our arm up in the air to get a one-dot-signal and waiting for downloads of weather, wave and wind info, pulled up anchors and brought in the stern tie and headed out to take a peak and maybe make the 20 mile crossing back to the mainland.
Made it to Killarney! It’s cute and one of the last Canadian “towns” for us. They have some fresh oysters on the half shell flown in here! Yay! Ok not the cheapest on the trip (well, to be honest definitely the most expensive…) but we indulged after our tough last few days and enjoyed while relishing in how really bad that whole problem could have been.
We now sit, at a nice dock, slooooowllllly downloading and re-uploading to the blog website one pic (REPEATEDLY (btw. this is about my 4th attempt at getting this posted) at a time, wrapping up this writing and (happily) waiting for the mechanics from Orillia (who replaced the engine a few weeks ago) to drive up on Monday. Phone diagnosis is the clutch and they plan to just fully replace the outdrive to be done with the matter….hmmmmm. ok—it’s all on warranty—yay!
OK you’ve heard of concierge doctors, personal chefs and life coaches, right! Does this guy look familiar?
As this attempts to upload to the world of Blog, Supermechanic Kyle (also known as pancake deliveryman (see above photo!) and his buddy (prbably an even more super mechanic) have just arrived (after a 4 hour drive from Orillia!!)–luckily not quite a personal mechanic but being under warranty is the next best thing!
Let’s see, more on all that later. In the meantime, enjoy that eclipse wherever you are!
Epilogue: Posting this at 3 am when wifi connectivity is a bit better (but still some tech difficulties…so post isn’t perfect and ….ok, yes, I might appear dedicated! aka obsessed! but the reality is that there is a major lightening and thunder storm right now so might as well do this while i enjoy the scene. and yes, the boat trial was a success…..new outdrive slammed in quickly (and under warranty!)…but bad weather for a few days so looks like we’ll be in Killarney even longer! Yikes…need to get off the Great Lakes by the first week of September or the weather will be even more problematic! Cue the thunder rolls outside!
Holy smokes, how long has it been?! If you’re going to break something mechanical, there’s no point going for half measures. Turns out in addition to the propellers, we damaged the outdrive and blew the motor. So, we basically had to get brand new everything to continue the journey…. you go Bayliner! The good news is that N finally allowed himself to file an insurance claim for something (that’s why it’s called accident insurance) and the better news was that it was 100% covered! That’s right, one brand new drivetrain coming up.
We left the boat for repairs at a little marina off the Trent Severn Waterway in Orillia, Canada, and headed home. B was perfectly delighted to get her grandma time in early and for longer than planned (we’d always intended to go home in late July for two weeks so with this damage we got an extra week)
while N got to get his annual moto trip around WA in and play a lot of golf.
The weather back home was absolutely amazing with sunshine and blue skies every day unlike Canada where the summer has been unseasonably rainy and cool. Oh well!
We were delighted monitoring the marina from afar as they hit every milestone, communicated regularly, and got the work done on-time and at budget. We returned to Canada August 6th to find our RioMarLago peacefully floating at the dock with a beautifully clean bilge filled with a brand new shiny motor. There was some concern about the motor’s performance with our custom 22” props as the boat felt slow to get onto plane and the marina guys simply could not believe she could be that underpowered. Uhmmm…. you go Bayliner price point strategy! Mechanics convinced N to swap to smaller prop to save engine…. more on that later.
After a careful briefing in which N was told our new motor requires special care during its 20-hour break-in period including no time above 70% throttle and no more than 10 minutes at one constant rpm, we were off. It was good to be underway once more, but OMG…. this engine break-in stuff is tedious.
At least we had the Big Chute and last of the locks to look forward to before finally entering Georgian Bay. We made it from Orillia to the Big Chute in one day, but decided to stay up river and watch how this “lock” operated before simply jumping in. We’re glad we did!
Now we’re in Georgian Bay which is at the top of Lake Huron. This is major “cottage” (Canadian for beach house) country with all sorts of homes scattered across what are seemingly thousands of little rocky islands and inlets.
The boating is great, BUT you gotta watch the markers because there’s no sand to hit here, only rocks!
We ended up getting invited to a Canadian cruising rendezvous (Canadians are amazingly friendly!) so we took some time out to join their trip (see pic in header).
It was just as well since it afforded N an opportunity to get fully frustrated with the smaller pitch props and conclude we need to go big or go home (or break…again!). The smaller pitch props don’t get the boat going as fast as the 22’s at the same rpms so we burn more gas and go slower…. who does that? Anyway, we’re going to switch back to our 22’ props and fortunately we’re close to a place affiliated with the place we had the initial work done so we’ll swap out. We’ve lost count of how many haul outs we’ve had… you go Bayliner!
Speaking of traveling in Canada, we’re learning all sorts of things. For example, when we see a sign that says NO WAKE ZONE, we assume it means slow down and leave no wake, but apparently here in Canada it’s different. Seems there was a universal typo where ALL the signs were meant to read NO, WAKE ZONE! See the comma? So, you’re supposed to leave a HUGE wake whenever you see the sign like as you pass marinas, cottages, etc.…. who would have known!? Also, if someone asked you if you needed “hydro”, whaddya think? Water maybe? Nope, it’s power! Of course, electricians are electricians, but they work on hydro!
OK, time to get this post posted and pass the baton. RioMarLago out!
Ok, ok… 16 days since the last post is probably a record. All the usual (and one new one) excuses; bad or non-existent internet/connectivity, boat issues generating frustrating moods, trip home and…… the new grandbaby!
In summary, we flew home a few days earlier than planned so that a repair could take place to the boat (something about the compression of the valves, tulipping, overheating, potential blow outs, etc etc. Who really cares….it’ll get fixed and we’ll keep on movin’! As they say: you can’t take it with you……so just haul out that plastic rectangle from the wallet and get it done! Actually,as this “goes to press” it appears to be an insurance covered repair: YAY! Moods have lightened!
Life begins to really blur together after so many days so I will just post a few pix and captions. In sum, aside from record breaking rain, our Canadian time has been full of pretty scenery and waterways; super friendly locals (despite their own internal views of their president’s occasional missteps, the Canadians should be quite proud of the Rolling Stones cover this week.!); cute little waterside towns; interesting history tidbits and info about the locks and all of the “one-of –a kind” locks; and, of course, as always on this Loop adventure some surprise or insight when we least expect it.
At N’s insistence, included above are some nerdy (yet dumb-downed) explanations of the engineering involved in that big hydraulic lock. We have a totally different and new type of lock coming up soon….so stay tuned for that hopefully by the next post.
We’ve left the boat at what certainly appears to be a great marina with (what appears to be….time will tell!!) knowledgeable mechanics on the outskirts of Orillia, Ontario on Lake Simcoe an hour or so northwest of Toronto.
BTW, Lake Simcoe is relatively large: 287 square miles. For comparison for our Washington State readers: Puget Sound is a tad more than 1000 square miles; and Lake Washington is a mere 33 sq miles). We stopped in the middle of Lake Simcoe and let the boat just drift as we jumped in for a great swim. About 71 degrees so very pleasant!
As we start down our official path of grandparenthood in our revitalized boat that is, as I write this, being brought back from its near-end, we are on the verge of hitting the much-talked- about-as-the-highlight-amongst-Loopers: Georgian Bay; we’ll wrap up our Great Lakes time; and hit Chicago for the final approach to Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky where we will officially “cross our wake.” So stay tuned, we’ll be back on board August 6th after a red-eye flight!
Besides lots of family and friend time, hikes at Mt Rainier, motorcycle adventures, yoga and golf, here are a few things greeting us at home:
In our absence, the backyard (and front) (YES, we live IN the city limits!!) have been invaded by…..
and 2 varieties of owls: Barred and a family of Great Horned (note the adult in the far bottom left of the picture on the right watching its 2 curious owlettes!)