Northern Michigan – Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City and Charlevoix

One has to accept that occasionally, someone might misinterpret the weather forecast, and decide on a course of action that in retrospect, might have been better left for another day.

The hop from Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City only took 90 minutes, but it was deeply unpleasant. The wind whipped up 2 ft waves and combined with the wake from the numerous ferries, caused Carina to pitch and roll very uncomfortably. Logic and reason told me that having survived Lake Ontario, we would probably survive the Straits of Mackinac too, but it was not much comfort and the Captain knew that he was seriously out of favour.

We did some grocery shopping and then, as an indication of true penitence, he suggested that I might like him to accompany me round the shopping mall, which contained the sort of shops that he normally regards with disdain.

In the evening, after a cold grey day, the sun came out and shone on the boats in the marina.

IMG_0001Evening sun on the boats, Mackinaw City

Evening sun on the boats at Mackinaw City

IMG_0003Evening sun on the boats, Mackinaw City

Evening sun on the boats at Mackinaw City

Several people had recommended Charlevoix, 40 miles away, and as the next day was much calmer we decided to press on.

Mackinac Island to Charlevoix

Mackinac Island to Charlevoix

The Mackinac Bridge , just outside Mackinaw City, links the Upper and Lower peninsulas of the State of Michigan, and is known locally as Big Mac. Built in 1957, the bridge is 5 miles long and separates Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

IMG_0011Mackinaw Bridge

Approaching Big Mac

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Mackinac Bridge

IMG_0014Mackinaw Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

The marina at Charlevoix, and the downtown, actually face Round Lake and to get there you have to pass from Lake Michigan through a narrow channel and a bascule bridge which opens every half-hour.

The community at Charlevoix have gone to a lot of trouble to make the downtown  and the area surrounding the marina very attractive, with landscaped parkland separating the marina and the main street.

IMG_0028Charlevoix City Marina

Charlevoix City Marina

The good weather didn’t last and we woke at 5am to a bright flash and a resounding clap of thunder, followed by torrential rain. In those circumstances, all you can do is get up and make a cup of tea. The rain continued for most of the day, so it was a good day to get the laundry done and catch up with other jobs.

Although we’ve had some beautiful days, overall the weather hasn’t been good this trip. Shorts and sleeveless tops haven’t yet ventured out of the wardrobe, and other things like thermal leggings and fleeces, brought along ‘just in case’ have been in almost constant use. The prize for this year’s Most Useful Garment goes to my Uniqlo Heattech trousers which are comfortable, warm, and cost less than £20.

The next day it was still cloudy, but there was a Farmers’ Market on the waterfront, and the stallholders who sold me things were kind enough to let me practise photography on them.

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Mike’s Mustard

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Michigan strawberries

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Vegetable stall

Charlevoix was lively and lit up at night.


On Saturday afternoon, the winds dropped enough for us to move on, but before that we walked through the town to the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Charlevoix Beach

Charlevoix South Pier Light Tower

Charlevoix Beach

 

Northern Michigan: Drummond Island to Mackinac Island

Ian had become increasingly concerned that whenever we went above 5 knots, Carina would make an unwelcome knocking noise. He sought advice on the various online fora that he frequents and the consensus of advice was that there could be a serious problem with the propeller shaft, and the only way to avert disaster was to get it looked at as soon as possible.

The staff at the boatyard at Drummond Island Yacht Haven were clearly very busy getting boats ready for the start of the season, but they kindly made time for us, and after an investigative trip round the bay, they advised lifting Carina out of the water so that a proper diagnosis could be made.  To our relief, there were no serious deficiencies in the prop shaft and the probable cause of the noise a worn cutlass bearing, which could safely be left until we leave Carina for 2 weeks to go to Virginia.

For any fellow  pedants who may be wondering,  there is controversy about the spelling of  ‘propeller’, explained nicely here.

We had to wait for the weather to settle. Unfortunately we woke to dense fog on the day we planned to leave Drummond Island, and had to wait for it to lift.

D Island to Mackinac

Drummond Island to Mackinac Island

IMG_0258Leaving Drummond Island

Leaving Drummond Island

The sky  gradually brightened, but a layer of mist remained. This was a concern, because the Detour Channel forms part of the main shipping route between Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. We could hear the foghorns of the big ships without being able to see them, but eventually it cleared enough for us to proceed safely.

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SS James R. Barker near Detour Passage

We saw  SS James R. Barker several times going back and forth through the lake.

IMG_0270Detour Reef Lighthouse

Detour Reef Lighthouse in the haze

 

We decided to anchor out on the way to Mackinac Island and encountered another difficulty. My patience is sometimes tested when we are looking for somewhere to park the car, and we have to try out several spaces before a suitable one is found. A similar scenario occasionally manifests itself when we are trying to anchor. Apparently, we have the wrong sort of anchor for weedy bottoms, and  on this occasion had five attempts in different locations before the Captain was satisfied that we wouldn’t drift off in the middle of the night. Nice scenery, though.

IMG_0278Cedarville

Cedarville

IMG_0281Dollar Island

Dollar Island

IMG_0283Les Cheneaux Islands

Les Cheneaux Islands

IMG_0291Sunset at Hessell

Sunset at Hessell

We crossed to Mackinac Island the next day.  Steeped in history, it has a fort which overlooks the harbour area, and which was built by the British during the Revolutionary War. The  island is both a State Park and a National Historic Landmark.

In 1898 the town took the decision to ban the newly-emergent automobile. The only forms of transport around the island are horse-drawn coaches and bicycles. There’s a small airstrip, but most visitors arrive by boat, either their own, or one of the many ferries that ply the waters between Mackinac and Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. The main street was always busy with people and horses, and if most of the shops, apart from the impressive Doud’s Grocery Store, seemed to sell mainly t-shirts with Mackinac Island emblazoned on them, or several varieties of fudge, it still wasn’t difficult to imagine that the streets and the atmosphere wouldn’t have been very different 100 years ago.

IMG_0321Bicycle Street nd Fort Mackinac

Bicycle St with Fort Mackinac in the background

There hadn’t been much opportunity for gastronomic treats so far, but now we could restore the balance. The Grand Hotel, built in 1887 from Michigan white pine,  claims that its colonial porch is the longest in the world.  Its after-6pm dress code (jacket and tie for men, no ‘slacks’ for women) precluded going there for dinner, but they are more relaxed about their buffet lunch, served every day in the Grand Dining Room.

So we put on our Sunday best and walked the half-mile up the hill for lunch.

IMG_0293Trash collection, Mackinac Island

Trash collection, Mackinac Island

IMG_0294Marquette Park

Marquette Park, Mackinac Island

IMG_0295From Spring St

View from Spring St

 

The ticket price included a self-guided tour of the gardens and the hotel (including a small display of American paintings), and lemonade, iced tea and coffee. Alcohol was extra, but we were intoxicated with the grandeur of the surroundings and didn’t need any.  Besides,  we were in America, where it’s quite the thing to have iced tea with your lunch.

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Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

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Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

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Gardens, Grand Hotel

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Gardens and Croquet Lawn

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Grand Hotel

IMG_0308grand hotel from the garden

The Grand Hotel from the garden

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Ian had phoned to book a table, and was informed that the dining room seated 700 people, so they didn’t take reservations. When we got there the room looked full, but we were seated at a window table overlooking the gardens and the lake. Our server, Michael, told us he was from Jamaica, but had lived in London for several years. He gave us a short discourse on Alan Shearer and other scions of English football. And the food was excellent.

IMG_0311view from our table

View from our table

IMG_0314the Parlor, Grand Hotel

The Parlor, the Grand Hotel

Some views as we walked back after lunch.

IMG_0317grand hotel and wildflower bank

Grand Hotel and wildflower bank

IMG_0316guests arriving by horse and carriage

Guests arriving by carriage

IMG_0318transporting the hay

Transporting the hay

IMG_0319dual allegiance

Dual Allegiance

IMG_0320a secret garden

A secret garden

On the way back to the marina we caught the last half-hour of a charity concert being given by the Scottville Clown Community Band in Marquette Park, just below the fort and overlooking the harbour. Their repertoire included the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Basin St Blues and The Stripper, during which two of the band cavorted suggestively amongst the audience, but didn’t actually remove any of their attire.

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Scottville Clown Community Band

IMG_0325Scottville Clown Community Band

Scottville Clown Community Band

IMG_0326Burlesque

Burlesque

IMG_0328Basin St Blues

Basin St Blues

Since its formation in 1903, the band has raised over $300K to provide music scholarships for young people.

The main highway on Mackinac Island is 8 miles long and follows the shore all round the island. Half-way round, there is a small beach called British Landing. Our neighbour in the marina, Dean, was a very experienced boater , having crossed the Atlantic twice, and was a mine of information on both boating and American History. He told us that after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Americans had taken control of Fort Mackinac. But during the 1812-14 War, the British, Canadians and Native Americans had combined forces and devised a cunning plan to invade Mackinac Island by landing on the opposite side of the island to the fort, stealing up over the hill, and ambushing the Americans from behind.

As we cycled round the island, there were numerous information boards about the geology, wildlife and history, and we couldn’t help noticing that Dean’s version had been slightly reframed, to the effect that the Americans hadn’t been told the war had started, so just gave in gracefully to the invading forces to avoid bloodshed on both sides.

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British Landing

There was a small cafe at British Landing, so we stopped for morning coffee, but passed on their speciality of deep-fried pickles, which sounded only slightly less unappetising than deep-fried Mars bars.

After we left British Landing, the sky gradually cleared and Lake Huron became a deep sapphire blue.

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Lake Huron shoreline

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phlox

IMG_0011flowers on the beach

flowers on the beach

IMG_0016Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0017Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0018pebbles under water

pebbles under water

IMG_0021Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0022Herb Robert

Herb Robert

IMG_0023Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0025Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0026Anenome

Anenome

IMG_0028Breccia Limestone arch

Breccia Limestone arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North Channel: into the wilderness: Killarney to Drummond Island

From Killarney the small craft route goes west through the North Channel, between the Manitoulin Islands and the mainland, through a wild, rocky, isolated  area with islands dotted in the water, and with only a very few small settlements. It offers a relatively protected passage along the northern shore of Lake Huron, between the Manitoulin Islands and the mainland.

It took us 8 nights to travel the North Channel, staying sometimes in marinas, and sometimes anchored out, depending on the weather and our need for provisions, before we landed back in the USA at Drummond Island. It is still the ‘off’ season, and we’ve seen very few other boats, either on the water or in the marinas.

UntitledKillarney to Drummond Island

Killarney to Drummond Island

After Killarney the land forms long,  finger-like projections into Lake Huron, and we travelled up one of these ‘fjords’ to Baie Fine for our next mooring.

IMG_0115 (3)Georgian Bay from Killarney

Georgian Bay from Killarney

IMG_0118La Cloche from Lansdowne Channel

La Cloche from Lansdowne Channel

IMG_0119Entrance to Baie Fine

Entrance to Baie Fine

We got there early enough to take the dinghy out and explore the narrow channel leading up to the Pool, an area of calm water enclosed by trees and white granite rocks. From there, a marked trail leads up the hill through the woods and over the ridge to Topaz Lake, reputed for its beauty.

IMG_0128The Pool

The Pool, Baie Fine

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The Pool, Baie Fine

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Ian in the dinghy at the Pool, Baie Fine

The trail wasn’t so difficult as the Chikanishing Trail had been, but it was still quite arduous and took rather longer than the guide had suggested. We got to the top of the ridge and decided that as it wasn’t warm enough to swim, we would content ourselves with just climbing to the top of the ridge and taking the view. Even so, it was 7o’clock before we got back to the boat.

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Overlooking Topaz Lake

IMG_0139The Pool

The Pool

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Carina at Baie Fine

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Evening at Baie Fine

The next day was clear, bright, and calm. We travelled to Little Current to stock up at Valu-Mart, which turned out to be a rather nicer supermarket than it had sounded to the British ears of a habitual Waitrose shopper, with an ample selection of fresh, good quality meat and produce.

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Early morning at Baie Fine

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Early morning at Baie Fine

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Strawberry Island Lighthouse

Strawberry Island Lighthouse, near Little Current, is said to be the finest of the Georgian Bay lighthouses.

Our next stop was an anchorage at Croker Island, and then on to the small town of Spanish.

IMG_0164Evenin at Croker Island

Evening at Croker Island

IMG_0174Evening at Croker Island

Evening at Croker Island

In most parts of the route, the channel is marked by red and green markers, but sometimes there are markers on the shore which you have to line up to ensure that you don’t stray into dangerous areas. This one was at Detroit Channel.

IMG_0181Entrance to Detroit Channel

Entrance to Detroit Channel

A boat, even one as spacious and comfortable as Carina, isn’t really the place to be when you’ve strained your back. Ordinary tasks like putting clean clothes away or getting the breakfast cereals out, or putting things into the microwave, or re-organising the fridge because you’ve just bought several days’ supply of food and there isn’t room for it all, involve much more stooping and bending  than they do at home. And don’t get me started on the gymnastic feat that is putting clean sheets on a double bed when one side of it is permanently attached to the wall.

I’d done quite a lot of deep cleaning on the boat during our first week at Britt, and by the end of the week couldn’t stand up straight or walk properly. Going on the Chikanishing Trail and walking up to Topaz Lake probably wasn’t the cleverest idea, either.  A week later I wasn’t any better, had consumed Carina’s entire supplies of ibuprofen and had started on the paracetamol. I resorted to emailing Jane, our lovely Pilates teacher and physiotherapist, and her almost instant helpful advice (to do lots of back extensions) was very effective and within a couple of days I was back to normal.

But it did rather cramp our style in Spanish. Ian cycled off alone to replenish our food stocks at the supermarket. Rather than eat out, we decided to avail ourselves of the services of the local pizza restaurant, Pizza 17, which claimed never to use frozen dough and would deliver to the door of your boat. It was an unaccustomed luxury to sit drinking beer, waiting for dinner to arrive, but after about an hour we were beginning to wonder where dinner actually was. Ian rang the lady at PIzza 17 and politely enquired. We were glad he had been polite, because it turned out that they thought that the first pizza they had made for us had been overcooked, and they had made another one. And it was excellent.

Sunday began as another brilliant day, and we made an early start, to get to Blind River before the forecast strong winds and thunderstorms materialised.

IMG_0186Leaving Spanish, approaching Norquay Island

Leaving Spanish, approaching Norquay Island

IMG_0199Looking back towards Spanish

Looking back towards Spanish

IMG_0203Near Daly Islands

Near Daly Islands

IMG_0210Whalesback Island

Whalesback Island

It was still bright sunshine when we got there at 4pm, but by 5pm the sky was black and we had every single fender out, and every line secured, to protect Carina against the storm.

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Storm at Blind River

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Storm at Blind River

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Storm at Blind River

Blind River was our last stop in Canada, but before we crossed into US waters we finally saw a pair of loons, sitting in the water a few yards ahead of us.

IMG_0234Leaving Blind River

Leaving Blind River

IMG_0241En route to Harbor Island

En route to Harbor Island

Oddly, it wasn’t until we were almost there that it occurred to me that the US Customs and Immigration officers might be interested in the contents of our fridge. I had once tried to import some bacon for Ted, top-quality, vacuum-packed, Richard Woodall Waberthwaite bacon, and it had been seized and tossed unceremoniously into a bin with other proscribed articles. I wondered whether Canadian bacon would attract the same censure.

But we had a night at anchor at Harbor Island, a small horseshoe-shaped island containing a lovely natural harbour, before we had to face them. It was at last warm enough to shed a layer of clothing and roll our trousers up, though that didn’t last.

IMG_0247Afternoon tea at Harbor Island

Afternoon tea at Harbor Island

IMG_0253Harbor Island

Harbor Island

IMG_0254Harbor Island, looking towards Drummond Island

Harbor Island, looking towards Drummond Island

We arrived at Drummond Island Yacht Haven in the late morning, and Mackenzie, the dockhand, told us that as it was still the low season, the Customs and Immigration Officers were not actually in situ, but ensconced some distance away in Sault Ste-Marie. She very kindly rang them up for us, and returned with the news that they wanted photographs of our passports and visas, which she would supply with her smartphone. They then rang back and spoke to Ian, to say that we would have to go to Sault Ste Marie to be dealt with. Ian very politely pointed out that Carina only does 6 knots and it would take us a whole day to get there, so they said they would come to us, by car and ferry.

We had about an hour to eat anything incriminating, and decided on steak and salad for lunch.

The two officers were very nice. We were allowed to keep the bacon, and the Canadian Merlot. There was some puzzlement about the numerous stamps in our passports, especially when Ian seemed unable to remember for some minutes that we had visited Virginia last January.

Then they spied the fruit bowl. The oranges, lemon and limes had to go, but we could keep the apples and bananas. I opened the fridge.

‘Is that a tomato?’ Indeed it was, and the tomatoes, a green pepper, lettuce, and anything from the onion family which sprouted leaves went too.

After they had gone, we borrowed the marina’s ancient jeep and went to the grocery store to make good our supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgian Bay: Britt to Killarney, and hiking the Canada way

The Captain’s keenness to get going with the next part of the trip was counterbalanced by a reluctance to repeat the Lake Ontario Experience, and risk further mutiny from the crew. The route to Killarney included a 15 mile stretch of open water, so he thought it wise to wait for the perfect day to leave Britt.

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Evening at Britt

We were sad in a way to leave. Graham and the staff at Wright’s Marina had looked after Carina for us over the winter, kept us well-informed and been very helpful with all the things we needed to do when we came back.

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Ian and Pauline

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Ian and Graham hoisting the dinghy

But Saturday was that perfect day and we cruised from Britt down Byng Inlet and out into Georgian Bay  in the bright sunshine and sparkling water.

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Morning at Britt

IMG_0013Georgian Bay ahead

Georgian Bay ahead at the mouth of Byng Inlet

We followed the small craft route, hugging the coastline and following the clearly marked channel between the many small islands.

Britt to Killarney

Britt to Killarney

IMG_0024near Golden Sword Island

near Golden Sword Island

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Flying the flag of the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association near Golden Sword Island

IMG_0054Near vFrench River Provincial Park

Near French River Provincial Park

IMG_0058approaching Obstacle Island

Approaching the channel leading to Obstacle Island

The season hasn’t really started here. We saw only two other boats on the water all day, and had to wait while one of them exited this narrow channel before we could go on.

We anchored for the night in Mill Bay, 15 miles east of Killarney, and had the anchorage to ourselves except for a beaver who obligingly came out at dusk and entertained us by gliding around and occasionally diving down, resurfacing with something tasty for his supper. Too far away for any photos, but this is his lodge.

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Beaver’s lodge near our mooring

It was hard to believe that Sunday would bring relentless rain, as forecast, but it did. So we stayed put and delayed our departure till Monday morning.

We passed along the narrow gorge of Collins Inlet, between the mainland and Phillip Edward Island, and then another stretch of open water before reaching Killarney.

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Collins Inlet

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Killarney East Lighthouse

Until the mid-50s, the small town of Killarney was a centre for the lumber trade as well as a fishing village, and the surrounding area would been de-forested and have looked very different. Now, it’s a very popular venue for boaters, and the Killarney Provincial Park attracts hikers and campers. Until 1962 there was no road access, but it now has a road link with Sudbury.

We moored at the Sportsmans Inn Marina and had a warm welcome from Ryan and Dee, the dockhands. The next day Debbie, the receptionist, not only kindly gave us a lift to the start of the Chikanishing Trail, but insisted on lending us bug-hats, without which we would have been prey to the many biting insects. She also made sure we knew what to do, should we arouse a bear’s curiosity.

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Crocodile Dundee in his bug-hat at the start of the Chikanishing Trail

By this time we had realised that hiking in Canada is not quite like hiking in Britain. ‘Trail’ does not mean ‘path’. It simply means a straight line joining a series of waymarks, some of which are attached to trees and some painted onto slabs of rock.

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Trail marker on the pink granite. We decided to comply with the Park advice to tuck your trousers into your socks, to minimise the ingress of biting insects

The straight line might just mean traversing a slab of rock, or it might involve picking your way up a rock face, or sliding down one. The Chikanishing Trail was 3.6 km long, and the information board suggested it might take 2 hours or more to complete. It took us nearly 3, owing only in part to frequent photography stops. It was quite a challenge for someone in their 7th, or even 8th, decade.

But it was worth it, with stunning views out over Georgian Bay and towards the hills behind us.

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

We didn’t see any bears, but we did see some lovely wildflowers, including the rare Showy Lady’s Slipper orchid.

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Showy Lady’s Slipper

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Clintonia Borealis

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Starflower, Lysimachia borealis

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Bunchberry, cornus canadensis

We had no map. Debbie had assured us that the way was so well-marked that we couldn’t possibly get lost, or need one. But I realised after some time that the value of a map is not simply that it helps to identify where you are, but perhaps more importantly, gives an indication of how much further you have to go. We had been scrambling over the rocks, apparently getting further and further away from the starting point, for what seemed a worrying length of time, before the trail suddenly took a sharp left and led us for the last half-mile along a wooded path through the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood, Sweat and Tears

 

Tears may be an exaggeration, but the preparations for going away for 3 months at a time don’t seem to get any easier.

Practice should make one a bit better at it, and in some ways it does. By Tuesday night I had everything packed, and all essential tasks ticked off, ready for a Thursday morning departure from Newcastle. This was unprecedented, and my inner auto-pilot was out of range.

A nagging doubt was that I might have forgotten to put some essential task on the list in the first place. There are more jobs in the ‘must-be-done’ category when you’re away for 3 months than for a short break.  Coming home after a week to find old bread still in the pancheon is  mildly unpleasant, but after 3 months there would be significant growth of live organisms. Plants which can be safely left for a week or fortnight have to be regrouped, told to behave themselves and instructions given to one’s friends who very kindly  look after them in your absence.

With a whole day to go, jobs that were desirable, but non-essential, suddenly became imperative. The main one of these was making the second of two new cushions for Carina. But Summer had briefly appeared in north-east England, so the choice between suddenly-urgent gardening (outdoors, in the balmy sunshine) and sewing (indoors) was easy. The cushion could wait till after tea.

But an important boy-job which had been left undone for a while, that of making a bonfire of a large quantity of garden prunings which had accumulated over many months, had been abandoned by Ian, in favour of Wednesday evening sailing at Tynemouth. In short, cushion-making commenced at 10.30pm, after I had done the Girl Guide thing with the bonfire and made dinner.

On the penultimate seam, I contrived to sew through my left thumb, a contributory factor being the use of a zipper foot on my machine. In my rush to the bathroom to staunch the flow of blood, my foot caught in the flex and my 40-year-old Pfaff Tipmatic crashed dramatically to the floor, the removable parts detaching themselves, scattering spools, needles, sewing feet, bobbins and so on all over the carpet. Hearing my cries, Ian pointed out that there were splats of blood not only on the cushion fabric, but on the nearby wallpaper too, but my distress was focussed on the possibility that my trusty machine, which had made most of the curtains in the house, might be irreparably damaged, and that I wouldn’t get Carina’s cushion finished.

Miraculously, Ian reassembled the sewing machine and it still ‘went’. He got the blood off the wallpaper and a combination of Vanish and cold water sorted out the cushion cover.

Before the taxi came the next morning, I had time to refresh my mind by a stroll  amidst the flowers in the  back garden.

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Geums and forget-me-nots

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Cornflowers, Welsh poppies and hardy geraniums

 

We missed the Great British Airways Computer Fiasco by a day, and arrived in Toronto uneventfully. But rain and cloudy, cold skies, made a sad contrast to Newcastle.

For the first time, we were going straight to the boat rather than sight-seeing first, and this sharpened our anticipation. This time, we’ll be continuing through Georgian Bay on Lake Huron,  through the North Channel and down Lake Michigan to Chicago.

Britt to Chicago

We stayed the night in Toronto, and the next day  drove 150 miles north-west to Britt, on Byng Inlet, where Carina had been looked after over the winter by Graham and the staff at Wright’s Marina. She was already on the water, but the harsh Canadian winter had been less than kind to her. Several of the plastic windows on the bridge had split and really needed replacing, and a water pipe had fractured which meant that when Ian tried to fill the water tank, the water went straight into the bilges.  There was the usual collection of dead insects (only small ones, thankfully) and the covers on the upholstery, which we had inherited from the previous owners and which are an impractical shade of light blue, looked decidedly grubby and shabby.

Help with the water pipe was fortunately at hand from Dave the mechanic, but having the floor up in both the galley and the cabin rather delayed the unpacking process.

I decided instead to tackle the upholstery. My previous attempts to remove the covers to wash them hadn’t been very successful. The foam inside was unyielding and difficult to remove, and the covers had no washing instructions inside.  I had limited cleaning to spraying with Scotchgard foam and rubbing hard at the soiled areas, which had little effectiveness.

Now though, I no longer cared whether or not the covers survived the hot wash and the tumble drier. We would just sit on uncovered foam, or better still,  get new covers made. But they came out almost pristine, and after some vigorous wrestling we managed to get them back in place. This had an unusually cheering effect.

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The new cushions and the freshly laundered upholstery

The pipe couldn’t be fixed until the next day, so it was just as well that we had booked into the St Amants Hotel at Britt for the first night.

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Late evening view of Byng Inlet from our hotel room

The next day we had to return the hire car to Parry Sound, the nearest town 45 miles away.  Karrie, Graham’s wife, very kindly  gave us a lift back to Britt. She regaled us with a modern-day, role-reversed Goldilocks story. The owners of one of the cottages just down the road from the marina had come home to find a bear had pulled apart the side of the house, found the padlocked freezer, pulled open the lid, and was helping itself to the contents. It was curbed only by the arrival of a Park Ranger with a tranquilising dart.

The weather forecast wasn’t good. Strong winds in the wrong direction meant that if we ventured out of the inlet onto Lake Huron the journey to our next stop, Killarney, would be less than pleasant, and possibly even hazardous. So we decided to stay at the marina until Saturday, which meant there was time to get the new panels made for the windows upstairs and do a few other jobs on the boat too.

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Carina at Wright’s Marina, Britt

The marina has cars available for boaters to borrow, so on Tuesday we took ourselves off to Sudbury, 50 miles north-west of Britt on the Trans-Canada Highway, to Science North, an interactive science museum just outside the downtown area. It was interesting, but what impressed me  most was the story of  How Sudbury reclaimed the environment from the barren wasteland it had become after decades of mining and smelting had made the soil for miles around so acidic that nothing would grow, and changed it to the green landscape you see today.

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The spiral staircase provides access to the different levels at Science North

You can actually walk around inside the butterfly house with exotic butterflies everywhere.

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Succulents in the butterfly house

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Kash the beaver

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cyber section

The weather continues to alternate between sunshine, wind and rain. Last night we were eating dinner on Carina, with storm clouds gathering. The setting sun suddenly came out and illuminated the inlet, and I dashed out with my camera.

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The setting sun lights up the storm clouds – looking east from our dock at Wright’s Marina

Georgian Bay – Midland to Byng Inlet, and a few days in Toronto

Over the last ten days of the trip we travelled north-west towards Byng Inlet, hugging the shore of Georgian Bay, sometimes  passing through narrow rocky channels between the islands, and sometimes through stretches of the open waters of Lake Huron. The country was becoming wilder and more remote with very few towns or marinas, and  the weather could change quickly, so we had to be careful about planning the route and finding sheltered places to anchor.

Midland to Byng Inlet

Midland to Byng Inlet

Indian Harbour

Indian Harbour

Our first night after leaving Midland was a mooring in Indian Harbour.

McDonnell Channel

McDonnell Channel

McDonnell Channel, showing the lighthouse and the channel markers.

 

Starvation Bay

Starvation Bay

At Sans Souci is the famous Henry’s Restaurant on Fryingpan Island, open since 1925 and catering to transient boats and to the occupants of the many small summer homes known as cottages, which line the islands. It seemed to be one of those things that you couldn’t miss, but the anticipation and the ambience was perhaps a little better than the food itself. There were a few miles of open water which we had to cross just as the wind strength and wave height increased, but it wasn’t enough to spoil our appetites. We were welcomed by marina staff who helped us tie up. Everyone else had come by plane.

 

Henry's. Sans Souci

Henry’s. Sans Souci

At Henry's , Sans Souci

At Henry’s, Sans Souci

Our destination that night was another anchorage, at Echo Bay. When we got there, several boats had already established themselves and another was turning round, presumably having decided there was no space available. The Captain decided to try North Echo Bay instead, less popular because it involved negotiating an extremely narrow channel, with a rocky platform just under the water at either side. My job was to supplement the depth sounder by standing on the foredeck and alerting the Captain if we seemed to be getting too near the rocks, quite a worrying task as the refraction of light through the water made the rocks appear even closer to us than they really were. But we were rewarded with a night in a beautiful natural harbour, with no other boats or cottages in sight.

Daybreak at Echo Bay

Daybreak at North Echo Bay

North Echo Bay

North Echo Bay

We continued on to Big Sound Marina at Parry Sound, where we stayed for a couple of nights waiting for the weather to settle enough for us to cross the next big stretch of open water. After two days, the sun shone and it was worth waiting for the perfect day to make the trip.

Parry Sound

Parry Sound

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour Lighthouse

Snug Harbour Lighthouse

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

The weather changed again after we anchored that night near Eureka Point. The next day the thunderstorms materialized just after breakfast and we sat in the cabin watching brilliant flashes of lightning and hearing thunder and heavy rain crashing round us. On a nearby island was the famous Ojibway Club and we had fancied taking the dinghy there for lunch. The storm seemed to have passed, but by the time we had got organised and lowered the dinghy from the back of the boat, the wind had swung round and threatening clouds were clearly heading our way. We decided to have lunch on the boat and perhaps venture out for afternoon tea instead. As the rain once again poured down, we congratulated ourselves on a sensible decision. The sky had cleared a little by 3 o’clock, so we set off in the dinghy for Ojibway Island. The route involved locating a very narrow channel between the rocks, and our second attempt was successful.

Entrance to the channel

Entrance to the channel

We did eventually find the Ojibway Club though – built as the Ojibway Hotel in 1906,  it catered for American and Canadian city dwellers who wanted to sample the outdoor life of their pioneer antecedents. It was taken over as a co-operative by cottage and boat owners in the Pointe au Baril area, and has a restaurant and grocery store which are open to visitors, organised activities for children and social events too. There was a definite end-of-season feel about the place – it was due to shut for the winter the following weekend – but the young man in the restaurant managed to find us some English Breakfast teabags, after we had declined  the decaffeinated Orange Pekoe, and various  herbal offerings. We also had some Canadian Butter Tarts, which have been described rather unkindly, but accurately, by a fellow blogger  as little pecan pies without the pecans.

Sunset at Eureka Point

Sunset at Eureka Point

Near the mooring at Eureka Point

Near the mooring at Eureka Point

Ian had settled on Wright’s Marina at Byng Inlet as a suitable place for Carina to stay over the winter. The course between there  and our mooring at Eureka Point involved a short foray  into open water, and then a longer one of about 8 miles, just before Byng Inlet. With the weather becoming increasingly changeable, it was a case of going when the opportunity presented itself. We ended up doing the whole stretch in one go, and arriving at Wright’s with a few days in hand.

Ojibway Club

Ojibway Club

Pointe au Baril Lighthouse

Pointe au Baril Lighthouse

Pointe au Baril refers to the early days of trade and exploration, when a barrel was placed placed on a rock with a light burning on it, as a navigation point. A barrel is still visible behind the lighthouse.

Near Hangdog Reef

Near Hangdog Reef

Near Big Burnt Island

Near Big Burnt Island

Alexander Passage

Alexander Passage

Gereaux Island lighthouse at the entrace to Byng Inlet

Gereaux Island lighthouse at the entrance to Byng Inlet

Carina at Wright's Marina, Byng Inlet

Carina at Wright’s Marina, Byng Inlet

Georgian Bay is unlike anywhere I have ever been. Its 30,000 islands along the north shore seem to go on for ever, set in the deep blue lake studded with pink granite and pine trees. Beyond Byng Inlet, it becomes largely wilderness and even more beautiful. But that will be for next year.

We spent two days at the marina, doing all the laundry and packing the boat up. At one point we went out for a bike ride and an ice-cream and came back to find we had missed some excitement. A bear had ambled through the marina in our absence.

Public transport in this part of Ontario is intermittent. Our only way of getting to Toronto, or anywhere else, was by bus. The bus ran once a day. It passed the Byng Inlet road end at 6pm, and arrived at Toronto 4 hours later.

Graham, the marina manager, very kindly took us to the road end, where we had to wait in the sun on the hard shoulder of the busy 4 -lane highway for the bus to stop. The bus arrived 15 minutes early, so it was just as well that in our anxiety not to miss it, we had insisted on arriving at the pick up point at 5.30.

We had four nights in Toronto and included a trip to Niagara Falls before flying back to Boston and on to Heathrow. Not least among the things that impressed us about Toronto was Billy Bishop Airport, where even economy class passengers can use the free wifi, sit in comfortable armchairs in clean, spacious surroundings, and enjoy complimentary coffee and snacks.

 

Ismaili Centre, Toronto

Ismaili Centre, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

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Wall hanging by Aisha Khalid, Aga Khan Museum.

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum and Gardens

Aga Khan Museum and Gardens

Royal York Hotel, Front St

Royal York Hotel, Front St

The L-Tower from Front St East

The L-Tower from Front St East

Front St East

Front St East

Flatiron Building from Front St East

Flatiron Building from Front St East

The Distillery District

The Distillery District

Dominion Hotel

Dominion Hotel

Potluck Dispensary

Potluck Dispensary

Cannabis can be legally purchased in Ontario at registered dispensaries.

8 Elm Street, Toronto

8 Elm Street, Toronto

In downtown Toronto, there aren’t many old buildings left. This lovely building on Elm Street is scheduled to be replaced with an 80-storey tower.

We took the tram out to High Park on the west side of Toronto. The land was bequeathed in 1873 to the city for the use of its citizens by John Howard, who was an architect, engineer and land surveyor to the City of Toronto.

High Park

High Park

High Park

High Park

On our last day in Canada we hired a car and drove to Niagara Falls. It was crowded with people, but the souvenir shops and fast food outlets were well contained, the parkland bordering the ravine beautifully maintained, and nothing could take away the breathtaking splendour of the Falls.

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canna Lilies with the Falls in the background

Canna Lilies with the Falls in the background

The American Falls

The American Falls

 Floral Showhouse, Niagara Parks

Floral Showhouse, Niagara Parks

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse

 

 

 

Orillia to Midland, Georgian Bay

Despite worries about lurking rocks just below the surface of Couchiching Lake, we arrived unscathed at the Town Dock in Orillia, to find a party in full swing next to our slip. Several boats had got together, put their deck chairs on the dock, and were eating and drinking the afternoon away to various kinds of very loud music. Apparently it was an annual event.

The music started off with Latin/reggae, and progressed to heavy rock. By early evening the boaters were dancing as well, and at some risk of falling into the dock. Their friendliness did not extend to actually inviting us to join in, and we escaped to explore Orillia’s fine dining scene at the Era 67 restaurant.  They were still partying when we got back.

The playlist had now degenerated to ‘Cheesiest Songs of the 1970s’, to which they sang along with enthusiasm. We were sitting in bed reading our kindles, having already had the YMCA song, Sweet Caroline, and Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the Old Oak Tree, when the rude version of Living with Alice came on. There’s a link here for anyone unfamiliar, as we were, with this version and who may be curious. Suddenly, at 10.30, the music stopped and everything went quiet. The silence was almost as disconcerting as the music had been.

Orillia to Midland

Orillia to Penetanguishene & Beausoleil Island to Midland

We cycled a couple of miles down the lake shore to Old Brewery Bay to the Stephen Leacock Museum. Stephen Leacock came to Canada from Britain in 1875 at six years of age, and lived near Lake Simcoe. He became Professor of Economics and Political Science at McGill University, but he is best known for his fiction and humorous writings. He built the house at Old Brewery Bay in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement and it was his summer retreat.

At the Stephen Leacock Museum

At the Stephen Leacock Museum

The day we picked up a hire car to do some shopping and to pick Liz and Nick up from Toronto airport was the wettest we’ve experienced since leaving Florida and reminiscent of the tropical storms in Hongkong. We got soaked just walking from the boat to the marina office, where Enterprise Car Hire were coming to pick us up.

The next day we had the whole gamut. It was cloudy as we left Orillia to travel north through  Couchiching Lake. By lunch time it was sunny, and by the time we anchored in Deep Bay at the north end of Sparrow Lake at about four o’clock, it was raining so heavily that Liz and I were trapped upstairs on the bridge, listening to the downpour and the thunder and watching the spikes of rain bounce off the lake.

IMG_0001On Couchiching lake leaving Orillia

Leaving Orillia with the new crew on board

Couchiching Lake

Couchiching Lake

The cormorants had stripped all the vegetation on this island.

 

Nick at the helm

Nick at the helm

By 7 o’clock it had cleared enough to use the barbecue – an item of equipment we had inherited from the previous owners and which we had never got round to trying out. Nick’s expertise proved invaluable when after half an hour the charcoal was showing no signs of igniting successfully. Piling it up into a heap did the trick.

Barbecueing on the boat

Barbecueing on the boat

Sunset at Deep Bay, Sparrow lake

Sunset at Deep Bay, Sparrow Lake

The next morning was misty and although it started to clear, the cloud persisted for most of the morning as we made our way to Big Chute, Lock 44.

Morning mist clearing at Deep Bay, Sparrow Lake

Morning mist clearing at Deep Bay, Sparrow Lake

Severn River beyond Sparrow Lake

Severn River beyond Sparrow Lake

Swift Rapids Lock 43

Swift Rapids Lock 43 and the hydroelectric station

Big Chute is the most awesome thing on the waterway, and eagerly anticipated. It is not technically a lock, but a railway which transports boats up and down the rapids of the Severn River. It was originally constructed as a temporary measure, pending a proper lock being built. Construction of the definitive lock was  abandoned because of cost. Another reason for not progressing the project was that a lock would allow lamprey to move upstream and jeopardise the fisheries of Lake Simcoe.

Despite the steepness of the descent, the boats are maintained in a horizontal position by a cunning two-rail system which means that the front of the boat is supported and moves down independently of the back.

We stayed at Big Chute Marina at the top of the railway the night before we went through, so had time to have a look round and see what we were letting ourselves in for.

This boat has come up and is almost at the top of the lift…..

Coming up Big Chute

Coming up Big Chute

And a few seconds later is released from the cradle and is about to be lowered into the Severn River above Big Chute.

Being lowered into the water at the top

Being lowered into the water at the top

The railway about to go down to pick up more boats.

Big Chute about to descend

Big Chute about to descend

Big Chute Marina

Big Chute Marina

The spillway parallel to the railway

The spillway at Big Chute

The spillway at Big Chute

View from Big Chute Marina

View from Big Chute Marina

The next day it was our turn, and naturally the Captain was mildly anxious. There were prominent notices about Parks Canada not being responsible for damage to boats,  but the experienced park staff told us exactly what to do and Carina was soon settled in the cradle. There were some slightly alarming bumps, whirrings and crunching noises as we descended, but all went well and we were surprisingly quickly out into the pool below the rapids.

Carina in the cradle about to descend Big Chute

Carina in the cradle about to descend Big Chute

About to go down Big Chute

About to go down Big Chute – note dual track

Leaving Big Chute, railway on the left and spillway on the right

Leaving Big Chute, railway on the left and spillway on the right

Immediately below Big Chute, we entered Little Chute Channel, a narrow, rocky pass with a strong current. The Captain had to call ahead on the VHF to advise upbound boats of our presence. Although as a downbound boat we had right of way, as the Waterway Guide put it, ‘Upbound boats may not know this, or act accordingly.’ But there weren’t any upbound boats and after the channel, we entered the lovely Gloucester Pool, with its many islands.

Little Chute Channel

Little Chute Channel

Gloucester Pool

Gloucester Pool

Gloucester Pool

Gloucester Pool

At the last lock, Port Severn, there was a great backlog of boats waiting to lock through. We had to hover about among lots of smaller craft, waiting for our turn to moor up on the lock wall to actually get in the queue. There was a man on the dock helping boaters with their lines.

‘I think you must be Jane.’

I agreed that I was.

‘And that’s Ian upstairs.’

I admitted this too.

‘And your surname is Ainsworth?’

This was beginning to feel spooky, so I decided to give him ‘the Look’.

‘I’m from the Canadian Secret Service,’ he informed me, which prompted me to ask who he really was.

He really was Barry Jones, who with his wife Alice meets and greets all the Looper boats going through Port Severn, and who had seen the blog in the early stages of our journey, and added very helpful comments about where we could store Carina in Canada over the winter. He had not only recognised Carina, but been alerted to our presence by the owners of the boat in front of us, whom we had met earlier. It was good to meet you Barry and Alice, if you are reading this!

 

Reaching Georgian Bay was another milestone. Occupying the northeastern part of Lake Huron, the bay is almost as big as Lake Ontario. The Georgian Bay Littoral, containing the 30,000 islands which festoon its northern shore, became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2004.  As well as its awe-inspiring beauty, the area is recognised as a tricky one to navigate and the weather can change very quickly, so we had to be prepared to accommodate this.

First view of Georgian Bay

First view of Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay

At this point the channel twisted and turned through the barely submerged rocks.

Georgian Bay, navigating the channel

Navigating the channel, Georgian Bay

Navigating the channel, Georgian Bay

The forecast for the weekend was for stormy weather so we headed for the safe haven of Penetanguishene Town Dock.

Approaching Penetanguishene

Approaching Penetanguishene

The day after our arrival, the winds were creating large waves in the harbour so we spent a couple of days sight-seeing.

Big waves in Penetanguishene Harbour

Big waves in Penetanguishene Harbour

The area around Penetanguishene was first settled by the Wyandot (Wendat) First Nation around 800AD. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1615 and the area became a base for the fur and timber trades.

In 1793 following the American Revolutionary Wars, John Simcoe, the British Governor of Upper Canada, proposed a naval establishment at Penetanguishene to aid Canada’s defence. During the war of 1812 this became a reality, and even though in 1814 the Treaty of Ghent ended the hostilities between Britain and America, there was still perceived to be a need for a naval base. The British warships HMS Tecumseth and HMS Newash were maintained at the base so they could be deployed if needed. Later, the naval base was closed, but a military base established and maintained  until 1856, when war with America had become far less likely. By this time Penetanguishene had other industries, and a sufficiently large civilian population to survive the loss of the military base.

Discovery Harbour is a reconstruction of the base on its actual site and contains a replica of HMS Tecumseth and HMS Bee, as well as the wreck of the original, which was recovered from Penetanguishene Harbour in 1953.

Replica of HMS Tecumseth, Discovery Harbour, Penetanguishene

Replica of HMS Tecumseth, Discovery Harbour, Penetanguishene

The Captain's Cabin, HMS Tecumseth

The Captain’s Cabin, HMS Tecumseth

Bayfield's Point, Discovery Harbour

Bayfield’s Point, Discovery Harbour

Henry Wolsey Bayfield was a British naval officer became Admiralty Surveyor, and surveyed  much of the Great Lakes area.

Wreck of HMS Tecumseth

Wreck of HMS Tecumseth

The Officers' Quarters

The Officers’ Quarters – the only remaining original building

The waterfront area next to the Town Dock was once once the hub of several industries, fur trading, timber and leather tanning. In the early 2000s the river levels receded to reveal lots of timber and other waste, relics of the industrial past. A project was started to remove the waste which was subsequently recycled into compost, and to restore the wetland ecology. The waterfront park, the Champlain-Wendat Rotary Park, aims to have one-third manicured lawn and flower borders, one -third wetland and one third wild flowers and vegetation. Sculptures and statues commemorate and honour the dual First Nation/French heritage of the town.

The Meeting

The Meeting

‘The Meeting’ was unveiled in 2015 to mark the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival in Huronia. It shows de Champlain with Aenon, a Huron-Wendat Chief.

ornamental border, Champlain Wendat Park

ornamental border, Champlain Wendat Park

John Graves Simcoe

John Graves Simcoe

Wetland, Champlain Wendat park

Wetland, Champlain-Wendat Park

The strong winds stopped us leaving Penetanguishene but it gave us an opportunity to sample the local top restaurant, Le Maitre D. The maitre made us welcome in a courtly, French way and the food certainly lived up to the restaurant’s reputation.

The next day we able to leave for a side trip to Beausoleil Island, a few miles to the north just off the shores of Georgian Bay. Accessible only by boat, the whole island is managed by Parks Canada, with a couple of camping centres, some cabins which can be rented, and several docks where boats can tie up. There are walking trails over the island and walkers are advised not to stray from them because of bears and snakes. There was even a reassurance on the rubbish bins that they were bear-proof. We saw no bears, but the Captain did spot a small bright green snake.

We had time for a walk that afternoon, and another one the following day before we left Beausoleil for Midland, where Liz and Nick were picking up a hire car to to go back to Toronto.

Approaching Beausoleil Island

Approaching Beausoleil Island

Ojibway, Beausoleil Island

Ojibway, Beausoleil Island

On Portage Trail, Beausoleil Island

On Portage Trail, Beausoleil Island

Rockview Trail, Beausoleil Island

Rockview Trail, Beausoleil Island

There were lots of outcrops of pink granite.

Rockview Trail, Beausoleil Island

Rockview Trail, Beausoleil Island

Fairy Lake, Beausoleil Island

Fairy Lake, Beausoleil Island

Goblin Bay, Beausoleil Island

Goblin Bay, Beausoleil Island

Honeymoon bay, Beausoleil Island

Honeymoon bay, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga means rattlesnake!

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

Massasauga Trail, Beausoleil Island

McCabe Rock, Beausoleil Island

McCabe Rock, Beausoleil Island

Carina at Ojibway

Carina at Ojibway

Ojibway

Ojibway