Thursday, July 23, 2015

North Channel 2015 - Exploring Tobermory

What a sleep!  I wake up completely refreshed and ready to explore Tobermory in a fully conscious state.  I brew up a coffee, grab the laptop, sit myself down in the cockpit and alternate between writing and watching boats leaving and entering the harbour.  I check the weather forecast to find that it’s going to be a windy day, but otherwise there is only a slight chance of rain.  Ana has been texting back and forth with our friends Angela and Tony as they are planning to fly here to spend the day with us if the weather cooperates.  They have a nifty little five seater airplane and are always looking for new and interesting places to visit.
I strike up a conversation with the sailor in the slip next to us and he tells me about Collins Inlet which is a long, narrow channel whose west end pops out close to Killarney – one of the few marinas in the North Channel with an sizeable population and places to stock up on provisions.  It sounds like a great target for tomorrow’s run.
After a slow and relaxing morning, Ana and Magnus walk down to the shops to pick up supplies while Stella and I attempt to find the marker to the western terminus of the Bruce Trail – an 850 kilometer nature trail that runs from Tobermory all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We find the marker then take a short walk on the trail to the main Park office, where Stella immediately makes friends with some little girls there and they put on an impromptu puppet show.  We all meet back at the boat around 11, just in time for the arrival of Tony and Angela, who are looking dashing as usual and fresh after the 90 minute plane ride.  We decide a morning coffee is in order so we walk together up to the coffee shop on the hill and watch all the activity unfolding before us in the harbour as we sip our fancy coffees.
After letting the ladies explore the shops, trying on fancy hats and fantasizing about buying $200 pairs of shoes, we return to the boat for early happy hour on the dock and a spot of lunch.  I then fail at two things.  First, convincing Tony to have a beer.  Those damn pilots can be so sticky about the 12 hour “bottle to throttle” rule.  Second, during my attempt to open a Corona using a board on the side of the dock, it escapes my grasp and plummets like a bullet to the bottom of the lake, 22 feet down.  But the water is so clear that we can still see the beer bottle standing up perfectly, waiting patiently to be opened.  Tony and I look at each other stunned.  Who’s going to break the bad news to Magnus?  He’s going to have to dive for the beer.  News spreads fast of my shameful error and the Tobermory glass bottom boats started lining up so all the touristos can take a photo of the legendary “Beer in the Lake” on their way to other important historical sites like century old shipwrecks and Flowerpot island.  I’m glad I could contribute to the local culture and lore in my own special way.  We call off the diving mission and Magnus is quite relieved.
It is mid afternoon and the wind is howling so it seems like a nice time to take Tony and Angela for a hair-raising, terrifying, moderately risky sailboat ride.  We motor over to Big Tub Harbour to see the two shipwrecks that lie in shallow water at the far end of the harbour, but the water is so choppy we really can’t see much.  Also, I forgot to ask the ladies to wear dresses (all good captains know to do this on windy days) so we aren’t treated to any underwear flashes either, making the first leg of our trip a little dull.  I motor Bella Blue out to sea and then cut the engine and throw up the main sail.  I’m thinking we’ll sail out to a place called The Cove, which is 12 miles east, but less than halfway there we soon realize the winds are either going to capsize the sailboat or rip the sail to shreds, so I turn her around and we sail back in, taking a few photos along the way, mainly of the passengers with hair flying in their face so you can’t really tell who’s who.
After a quick stop at the gas dock for a “suck and blow” (suck out the sewage, blow in some diesel) we wait for the glass bottom boats to clear out of our slip, then squeak back in, get her tied down, and walk into town for dinner.  The moment we are seated by the server at The Crows Nest restaurant the heavens open and a massive rain storm ensues.  We congratulate ourselves on our excellent timing and then are led by Stella in some sort of iPhone charades game which soon finds Tony a crazy duck walk across the restaurant to the bewildered stares of the other patrons.  Who wants to be normal, anyway?
We take Magnus’s suggestion and grab some post-dinner ice creams and then walk back to the boat in the light rain.  Tony and I now look like a couple of Bulgarian village farmers as our wives have wrapped hideous babushkas over their heads and are walking ten steps behind.  The storm continues and after consulting the London airport, Tony and Angela decide it’s not safe to fly.  We strongly suggest they spend the night on the Bella Blue, even offering to make the kids sleep on the dock to free up some space, but they tell us it’s been quite a while since they have spent a dirty night in a sleazy, cheap motel.  So Ana books them a sleazy, cheap motel and they are overcome with joy.   Tony and I grab a ride out to the airport from a friendly local bus driver to get their overnight bag, and then make the mandatory stop at the liquor store on the way back to grab fresh brews.  The owner is pissed because we arrive three minutes before closing time and he threatens to lock us in the beer cooler, but he’s threatening the wrong guys because we would have been just fine with that.
We walk the Bruce Trail (about 25 metres of it) back to the boat and then Angela and Ana join us on the dock for the evening happy hour.  We also enjoy some lovely Romeo and Julieta Cuban cigars that Tony had stashed in his pocket.
With that, we wrap up our visit and issue Tony and Angela each their very own Bella Blue signature toothbrush and mini-toothpaste.  In return Tony hands us a cool “Tobermory Shipwrecks” book he stealthily picked up one of the shops.  We then part ways, but I know we will meet again.  Probably in two days when they get bored of Brantford again and fly out to meet us in the next town with an airport!

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