July 25: Fox Island to Killarney Bay via Little Current (35.1 NM)
We really liked Fox Island but the next day the winds were favourable for a fast ride East. Killarney was still a must stop for us, especially stopping for Fish and Chips at Herbert’s, which we had done multiple times after our interior canoe trips years ago. It was the best Fish & Chips we had eaten anywhere. Not sure if that was just because we had been eating rehydrated food all week while canoeing.
At 7:27am we untied our line from shore and pulled up the anchor. While motoring past Amedroz Island we hoisted both sails and saw Gaviidae and Komeekha still in the anchorages there. They had sheltered from the wind and rain on the East side in a larger anchorages with a few other boats. As we later found out on the cruiser’s net facebook page, they had been treated to a sunset concerts by a couple of pipers on “Moondog” and another boat. Guess we missed out on that.
By 10:45 am we were already in Little Current, sailing all the way until we got into the harbour. A bit ahead of the bridge opening at 11am, we quickly decided to take an open end dock just East of Wally’s Fuel and filled our water tank. 10 minutes later we were back on the water and circling with 2 other sailboats in front of the bridge waiting for it to swing open. Behind us were at least 3 large motor boats hovering to get through east bound as well. As sailboats take a little longer to get through, plus they have a harder time hovering in one spot relying on one engine, motorboats will usually let them get through first. The bridge has an up bound and a down bound side so at least there is a bit of separation to the traffic flow as 11am is a popular time. The bridge started to swing a few minutes past 11 and once the green light showed we rushed through, this time with the current.
Although most motor boats were very civil putting slowly through the bridge behind us and then passing with little wake. One even told us going by very slowly that he loved sailboats and had just sold his very recently to buy a powerboat. He asked if it was ok for him to pass. Wow, how polite! Not so the guy behind him, who now had to wait for this power boat to slowly creep by us. Once he had an opening, he gunned it to finally vent his frustration. Obviously, he was a VIP and had no time to waste. Well, guess it’s a vicious circle – you work hard, you want to play hard, buy a fast boat, spend lots of money on it and the gas, then you have even less time because you need to work more to make more money…. Ah – to be retired and slow it all down – you don’t need that much money to be happy – and then you have more time to appreciate the small things in life. I always like the analogy, I came across years ago, maybe in a book about canoe routes. How you can cross a small inland lake with a motor boat whizzing by you get just a blur of the passing scenery. You have no idea what the shores look like. Take a canoe instead, paddle slowly along the shore, discover coves, swimming rocks, spots to stop for lunch or stretch your legs. So much more rewarding.
Once on the East side of Little Current we pulled out the sails again and sailed Wing and Wing for a while, until we entered the Lansdowne Channel south of Frazer Bay. Still making 5 kns just under the main going through some of the narrow parts wasn’t an issue as the wind was still behind us. Flying along, we abandoned the idea of going into Snug Harbour, the first anchorage along the channel. Why not make it all the way to Covered Portage Cove close to Killarney. There’s lots of room in this anchorage as there is an outer bay as well. Lot’s to explore and we could dinghy to Killarney no problem.
By 3:07 pm we were in the outer bay of Covered Portage. We tucked in close to the north shore but still with enough space to swing. The neighbouring boat had mentioned that boats swing a bit arbitrarily here, so we had reanchored a bit further away from them. As none of the other sailboats here were tied to shore we decided to follow their lead. Our neighbours were Ralph and Sue from “Ceiba I”, a 30 something Catalina out of Brights Grove near Sarnia. We invited them over for a sundowner and they were thrilled to get a tour of our boat as they had owned a CS previously. We had a fun chat sharing sailing stories and talking sailboats. Once again we realized – we need to make boat cards. It’s so easy to share your boat contact that way and you do remember names much easier from season to season. Another Winter project.
Killarney Bay, where Covered Portage and Killarney are located is so totally different from most other places we anchored in the North Channel. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong – you are right beside the white quartz mountains – but it is also very busy. All day long boats filed into the inner bay at Covered Portage. There’s a narrow shallow spot to navigate through but then a deep bay opens up behind, protected by high quartz cliffs. There’s room for more than 20 boats, sailboats often just swinging in the centre. Trails run along to explore and there’s a connecting portage to Frazer Bay at the North end.
People are out in dinghies going across to Killarney which is less than 2 miles away. They are enjoying the water on paddle boards or in kayaks. Some even come in by motor boat to stop at the big cliff face on the North West side by the entrance to the inner cove (see the picture at the top of this post). Apparently, it’s supposed to look like an “Indian Head” (totally politically incorrect). I can’t see it, looks like a stone monster to me. We did see people climbing it and one person even jumped from it. Probably a local tradition, just like jumping off the rail bridge in Gananoque.
Although it was busier than what we normally choose for an anchorage we stayed 3 nights. We got our kayaks out, dinghied to Killarney for gas and doughnuts, had a late lunch at the famous fish and chips place on the docks, resupplied a little and checked out other places to anchor in Killarney Bay. There’s a nice spot behind Pine Island that Frank and Marie-Claude from Komeekha had mentioned. It might get a bit of a surge in strong West winds but did look fairly quiet.
July 28: Covered Portage Cove to Tobermory (46 NM, 5.1kts average speed)
Since our friends Shane and Lori from “Foghorn Lullaby” were driving up to join us on “Vitae” for the long weekend, we took advantage of the favourable East wind. Under full sail we were making good speed planning to head either into James Bay or Club Island, but we enjoyed sailing so much we didn’t want to stop. So we passed by both these anchorages. We did see one sailboat tucked into Club Island, but winds were going to be from the South the next day, so why motor into it when you can sail longer the day before.
Approaching Tobermory is always fun. Tour boats are going every which way and you ultimately arrive with the Chi-Cheemaun ferry chasing you down to the pier. This ferry can hold about 143 cars and over 600 passengers. It’s cool to watch the whole bow lift up as she docks. The wash from the thrusters creates some cool eddies to maneuver through as you try and cut past her once she is docked.
We pulled into the fuel dock just past the ferry terminal on the west side of Tobermory’s Little Tub Harbour for our slip assignment. Little Tub is not a big harbour, but it provides shelter for any boat caught out in the sometimes heavy winds and waves that converge between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. If you pull in, they will find a spot for you, often rafting boats even to the fishing vessels at the docks. We were assigned a slip at the innermost docks right across from the diving boats. This was right in the middle of all the action, a stone throw to the grocery store and numerous restaurants, shops and ice cream parlour. Perfect! The harbour staff were super friendly and we were offered the opportunity to move to a quieter slip further out later, but we kind of liked it here. After being anchored out so many nights we enjoyed watching all the people relishing their Summer vacations. This was certainly a bigger town than anything in the North Channel.
A great spot to by supplies before anchoring out with our friends and we could go for a hike out to Dunks Bay, along the Bruce Trail. There’s a new Bruce Peninsula National Park office and visitor centre a short walk from the east side of the harbour. Just follow Head St. East. You can climb an observation tower and get a great view over the bay.
Although the town is busy with tourists it does get quiet even at the docks at night. The dive boats are mostly done by 5pm and the tour boats slow down a little later as well. We enjoyed an early dinner at the Tobermory Brew Pub overlooking the harbour. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations so we decided to eat early rather than line up for an hour or more.
July 31: Tobermory to Cove Island (Little side trip with Foggy’s Crew, 4.5 NM)
On the last night our friends had arrived around 10pm from Peterborough – they are not retired yet so had to get that work thing out of the way first. Of course, we had to celebrate finally being able to hang out together, so we didn’t hit the bunks until 2am and probably made a major dent in our weekend supply of beverages. No one stirred until 10 am the next morning although the town was already bustling with life. It had started raining so we took our time with a leisurely French toast a la Dave breakfast. By 11:35am we felt we really should move as the docks were filling up with motor yachts who needed a dock and entertainment while it rained. We did a quick stop on the way out to get pumped out and then motored in the pouring rain to Cove Island.
We knew that anchorage already so it wouldn’t be hard to navigate although I was a little worried when the confused waves bounced us around and a strong 15-17 kn SW wind hit us coming out into the Tobermory Channel. Luckily, the bay and entrance to the anchorages at Cove Island are sheltered a bit from SW by the little Island and the shoals to the SW. The waves calmed down bit by bit as we got into the narrow entrance and visibility was good. 2 sailboats were sheltering here and we joined them. It rained and rained, even the next day until about 3 pm. By then we had played enough games of Dutch Blitz and eaten enough snacks to really need some exercise.
We set up the kayaks and we all took turns paddling to the next bay. The water was definitely getting colder, but I discovered that 18 degrees is still manageable for shorter swims. We did use our propane heater on board to warm up the boat though.
Monday the weather was of course beautiful again, so we did not rush out but by early afternoon were met by larger waves from the West as we headed out into the channel. This time we took a slip on the east side of Little Tub Harbour and our friends invited us to some appetizers and drinks at Coconut Joe’s, a patio bar and grill around the corner. We watched the tour boat load and tourists going out in little open kayaks for an hour at a time. It was sad to have the weekend come to an end. I think both Lori and Shane were almost ready to leave the car behind and join us on our boat for the whole return trip south, but reason one the upper hand and we said Good Bye. They had a long drive ahead of them back to Peterborough and we would have to get an early start the next day to head down Lake Huron.
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