Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Analysis of a Trip and Becoming Landlubbers


Our final sailing trip is done, the miles are logged, and the boat is sold. The four of us spent 27 days on the boat, logging over 1200 kilometres (660 nautical miles), which translates into approximately 131 hours on the water, or about 5 hours sailing per day. I looked back at our previous sailing trip to the North Channel five years ago and we did about the same number of miles but in half the time, so the pace of this trip was far better. We managed to cover most of what we wanted to see, missing a few spots such as Beardrop Harbour, Winfield Basin, Penetanguishene, Meaford, and Collingwood, but we visited so many other amazing places we didn’t expect to which more than made up for it. The fact is, this area is huge and packed with so much to explore that you could never, ever be done with it, and the ever changing water levels means that new anchorages open up, new beaches appear, the shorelines change and adapt, and it really is a new experience every time. The next time we sail here I could see us taking an entire season and adding in Lake Michigan and maybe even a small part of Lake Superior before returning to the North Channel and Georgian Bay to fill in some of the holes.

It was such a pleasure boating with our buddies Tony and Angela. They are just amazing people and the best travel companions one could hope for. This is now the fourth trip we’ve done with them and I hope there will be many more. The time we spent with the German-Hinds at their beautiful Manitoulin cottage was priceless, and such a nice break from the sailing routine. We have so much in common with them and always enjoy every minute we spend together. I’d love to do a big trip with them sometime too - preferably for 3 months backpacking around Asia. Then, of course, was the incredible day we spent with the Bradshaw family in Parry Sound, where we made some new friends and spent time with old friends on their home turf enjoying the pleasures of great food and excellent company. To top it off, we got to see our friends Ken and Sheila on the final day we were with the Henriques, so although we were out exploring so many new places, it was made so much better by spending time with all these fantastic people along the way. What a trip!

So here I now sit, back at home, in our gigantic mansion of a house compared to the cramped living quarters we’ve occupied for the past month in the belly of Bella Blue, coming to terms with being boatless. Owning a boat is a huge commitment in both money and time. With Bella Blue, every weekend of the year from April to October was spoken for, from spring launch to the full weekends spend on her all summer with our dock family, our extended sailing trips, then the sad month of October where she was dry docked, winterized, covered in a tarp (or several), and put to sleep for the season. But then our schedule would change dramatically. After months of ignoring our Paris and Brantford friends, we’d reconnect and be back into Friday night happy hour at local breweries, Saturday night dinner parties, Sunday day trips around the area attending festivals and exploring shops, and all the festive Christmas activities in December, followed by three months of miserable cold winter, usually broken up with a week in Cuba, then it was back into boat season.


But this year will be different. While the COVID-19 appears to be relatively under control in Ontario, this could turn on a dime, so we are still being cautious, which means no abundance of dinner parties and keeping our social circle very limited. And there will almost definitely be no international travel this year, meaning no mid-winter trip somewhere warm to break up the monotony of the cold months. Our new boatless situation means that we are going to have even more time available for weekend activities so the challenge is going to be figuring out what to do with this time. That is going to be tricky. Perhaps I will take up knitting? Or the crochet? Or maybe I’ll finally get serious about learning Portuguese and focus on that? In any case, it’s not often one is given the gift of time, so we will make the most of it. As far as the next boat, we are already looking, but the logistics of finding, inspecting, and relocating a boat with the COVID restrictions in place will make it very difficult. But who knows what the future may hold?

So here’s to the final adventure on Bella Blue! It was a lovely ride my darling, we wish you well and thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives. Bon voyage!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Little Current to Paris


Ana and I were up at 6am, and by 7 everybody was showered and fed and hauling stuff out of the boat to the dock. I was really proud of the kids as they really pitched in and we were working together like a well oiled machine. Mark arrived by 8am with with truck and we piled that sucker high, then used a tarp to hold it all together. As usual, everything just fit. We took one last photo in front of Bella Blue then Stella kissed the hull to say goodbye to our beautiful sailboat, then we walked away, without looking back.

We drove 45 minutes to South Baymouth, which is on the south-eastern corner of Manitoulin island then boarded the Chi-Cheemaun ferry which took us to Tobermory in about 90 minutes. From there it was a very nice drive home as we talked with Mark the whole way and learned a whole lot about his career as a police officer, and he gave us some great tips on how to beat the polygraph, frame others for crimes, cover your tracks, lie convincingly in court, select the best ammo, outrun the cops, and avoid jail time. All useful life skills.


We were so happy to have found Mark and Kelly as we really wanted to sell our boat to great people who will take care of her and enjoy her just as much as we have, and we know they will.


By 5:30pm we were home, and by 6 we had Mark’s truck unloaded with our stuff then reloaded with the sailboat stands, tarps, and other bits and pieces he would need for the boat, and he was back on the road for the long drive back to Sudbury. The rest of the evening was spent unpacking and reacquainting ourselves with life on land, then we collapsed exhausted from the day.

Training Day!


We woke up to a glorious, sunny day in the North Channel and after lake baths and Stella’s last big jump off the cockpit arch, we sailed back into the Spider Bay Marina. Mark arrived shortly after that and we began Training Day. I had put together a list of all the things I wanted to show him, which began with boat documentation and training manuals, so while we were doing that Ana and the kids headed into town for a walk and to explore.

Mark and I went through all of the manuals, discussed training and licensing requirements, then later went through all of the boat systems, with Stella helping out by creating a video of these that I’d be able to send to Mark for his reference. We then all went out on the water and showed Mark how to undock the boat, use the chart plotter and other instruments, anchor, went through some basic collision avoidance rules, then had lunch near Picnic Island. An afternoon sail ensued, and we had nice steady winds to show Mark how to use each of the lines, trim the sails, and maneuver on the water under sail. It wasn’t until 5 or so that we returned to the marina and gave him the helm to practice docking - probably the most difficult part of boating,  and he did exceptionally well. Lastly, we motored over to gas dock for a final pump out and to explain the fuelling process. As we approached the gas dock Ana simultaneously overestimated the length of her legs and underestimated the distance from the boat rails to the dock surface and crashed to the dock after leaping off the sailboat. But she did something like a judo breakfall, then a masterly stuntman roll and popped right back up with nothing but a scratch on her ankle. The strange thing was that there was nobody there to witness it, and Ana usually saves her docking fails for when there’s a huge crowd of spectators. After she brushed herself off she said to Mark, “So that’s not exactly the best way to come into the gas dock!”


We finished up training day around 6:30pm and we were all thoroughly spent, plus my throat hurt like hell as I was definitely not used to talking all day long. Stella had done some research on the local food scene and guided us to Elliott’s Restaurant where we had fish tacos, pizza, and nachos, then finished it off with desserts - ice cream and an amazing bread pudding, all delicious.

Despite being exhausted, once back at the boat we continued the packing that Ana had already started and worked together to gather and bag all of the stuff on the boat that we were taking with us. And there was a lot - about the equivalent of 20 black garbage bags, and by the time we were done there was so much stuff piled up that Magnus had to sleep on the floor and Stella could just squeeze into her berth and sleep on the edge of her bed. That was it - our final night on Bella Blue.



Rous Island


Sailboats are strange creatures. They have a personality all of their own. They have guarded secrets, mysteries, rituals, protocols, and it takes you a very long time to familiarize yourself, never mind actually ever really understanding, why things work the way they work on a sailboat. Take, for instance, our boat’s barbecue grill. It is a simple device - really just some stainless steel welded together with a burner and grill, and it runs off one of those little green propane tanks. You should be able to turn on the gas, light it up, throw on your food, and cook it until it’s done. But that’s not how this sailboat grill works. First, you turn on the gas. Then you stick a BBQ lighter into the ignition hole near the burner and flick it on. Nothing happens. You can smell gas. So you light it again, and you can see the flame, but still nothing happens. It’s only when you get your arm or head or any other body part sprouting hair close enough to the grill that it ignites and scorches off whatever hair is left from the last time you lit the grill. You then have to press on the temperature control knob to give it double the gas and really get it burning, but half the time it will simply flame out, then you have to light it again, and that usually doesn’t work until you use your other still-haired arm to light it. Sometimes it will then run for a while on its own, but as soon as you put your food in, it simply will not stay reliably lit unless the lid is left open a crack using, what I call, the sacrificial wiener. I tried explaining this whole thing to Tony last week and his first comment was, “Doesn’t that hurt?” Now it doesn’t specifically have to be a wiener (and definitely not your wiener) - it can be an edge piece of whatever you are cooking, but unless there’s a chunk of food sticking out, it simply does not work properly. But it’s all part of the never-ending fun and adventure of living on a boat.


After listening to the 9am Cruiser’s Net channel 71 boaters briefing from Roy Eaton (see https://www.lcyc.ca/cruisers-net for a great story of Roy’s 15 years of broadcasts) I went for a walk downtown while the rest of my gang was getting ready for the day, and by 11 or so we were pushing off the dock for a short 4.5 mile run to Rous Island, a nice anchorage just west of Little Current. It was a very windy day, but sunny, and the anchorage was calm and empty. We got anchored then spent what I think was the most relaxing day of the trip - we swam, jumped off the boat, played frisbee from boat to dingy, caught a few perch, went for dingy rides, listened to classic rock, and Ana and I even had naps in the cockpit while the kids left us alone. It was glorious, and such a great way to spend the last real day of the trip. Nearly every day of this adventure has been full, with a mission or goal in mind, but the goal today was just to relax and have fun and that’s exactly what we did.


We stayed overnight at the anchorage and went to bed early, as we needed to be back in the marina by 9 the following morning to meet the new owner Mark and do a full day of Bella Blue training. The end was near.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Heywood Island to Little Current


Today’s blissfully short ride of 8 miles to Little Current was going to feel like a walk to the bathroom compared to the miles we logged yesterday. The morning was calm and beautiful and the anchorage looked much less dangerous during daylight hours. Last night there must have been a huge mayfly hatch as the boat was covered in bugs this morning, which is unusual for this area as we’ve been finding the bugs are really only bad for an hour or so at dusk, then during the day you just get the odd deerfly or horsefly nibbling on your ankles or toes. I spent half an hour with the bucket and brush cleaning off the buggage, trying to get the boat back into pristine condition. The kids and I then had our morning lake baths in the warm and still surprisingly clear 25 degree water.

As we were getting ready to depart, I was pulling up the anchor and the kids were in the cockpit looking around. All of a sudden Magnus says, “Dad, I think I see a bear swimming through the channel!!” I looked over and sure enough a black bear was bear-paddling his way across the anchorage entrance with his black head just sticking out of the water. I quickly hauled in the anchor then motored the boat over closer to get a good look at him. The kids wanted me to run right up on the bear so they could jump on its back and take a ride into shore but I didn’t think that was a good idea (for us or the bear) so we kept our distance, but had a great view of him swimming across, pulling himself out of the water, running onto shore, and then standing up on his back legs and looking directly back at us. The kids were thrilled! They had never seen a bear in the wild before so this was quite a spectacle. We had spoken with a boater back in the Benjamins who had told us there had been reports of a bear in the Heywood’s swimming up to boats and actually clawing his way up onto them and eating food left outside, so perhaps this was the perpetrator.

We sailed into Little Current and got docked at Spider Bay Marina, one of the worst marina names I can imagine as boaters are spiders are arch-enemies as those little buggers web up your boat nightly, drop staining poos onto your fibreglass and cushions, and explode on your sails making awful black and green stains. Plus sometimes they crawl into your mouth when you are sleeping - this is what causes bad breath. The marina itself is small, but quite nice with a nice office building, bathrooms and showers. Our new buyer had reserved a slip for the rest of the season so it was already paid for, and the dock hand confirmed we were all set and didn’t need to get registered.


The ladies walked into town to pick up a few things while Magnus stayed in the boat and enjoyed the AC. It was blazing hot outside today with full sunshine and a fair bit of activity happening in downtown Little Current. Ana and I considered stopping for a drink somewhere, but instead we returned to the boat, made drinks, and walked over to the nearby park for a potential swim, but the beach was full of scraggly weeds and goose poo and the water was shallow and mucky so instead we parked ourselves on a picnic table and talked mainly about our next boat.

It was a slow and relaxing evening - I cooked up bok choy on the bbq (delicious) along with salads and some packaged bacon wrapped chicken medallions that we had procured from the $10 bin at Food Basics four weeks ago and had been through at least half a dozen freeze/thaw cycles so were bloody awful and I feared I’d poisoned the entire crew. While Ana and were making dinner, the kids entertained themselves by playing frisbee inside the boat - yes, it is possible, and they didn’t even knock anything over.


There was mention of watching a movie, but as usual it didn’t happen. I had assembled at least 40 movies on USB sticks ranging in quality from horrible to bad to completely stupid (Nacho Libre, Blazing Saddles, Hot Tub Time Machine - you get the picture), but give me a break - after this year’s COVID lockdowns we have already seen every good movie ever made, so what to do?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lion’s Head to Heywood Island


After a couple of hours of sleep we got up, showered, shook off the sea foam from last night’s chaotic ride, then walked into town. Lion’s Head is neatly packed into a small bay, with a small marina, a large public park, and this amazing beach they have constructed from river stones - great for people who don’t like sand with their sandwiches.

Our walking tour of the town took a full 20 minutes - we saw the placard explaining the town name, visited the exceptionally well stocked Home Hardware and admired their extensive collection of Yeti drink ware, looked into the windows of several COVID-closed shops, then finished up at Rachel’s Restaurant for a butter tart and coffee. It was a nice enough town, but there really wasn’t going to be much to keep us occupied, so we decided to get back on the water and make the final big run of the trip to Heywood Island, 74 miles north across Georgian Bay, across calmer waters. I checked the weather forecast and it looked good for today so we didn’t want to miss our chance.


We walked through the park on the way back to the marina and saw all sorts of goose prevention controls, such as red fencing along the shoreline and random patches of planted shrubs which are supposed to keep geese away because they think a fox may be lurking in there. One control I’ve never seen before is a sign that said, “Service dog at work on goose control.” I wondered how that worked? Does a German Shepherd leap out of one of the bushes, grab a goose and rip its throat out in front of a bunch of little kids in the playground? That would be a natural, organic way to control geese, yet a bit horrific at the same time.


Before we knew it we were back on the water. Based on our speed the estimated time of arrival at Heywood Island would be about 11pm, which meant navigating the North Channel and anchoring in darkness. I wasn’t too excited about that, but the winds looked to be picking up substantially tomorrow and we didn’t need another bad crossing.

The sail across Georgian Bay was excellent - nice steady winds, full sunshine, few boats, great music playing all the way, and Ana cooked us an exceptionally good dinner en route. We passed through or by some interestingly named areas: Half-moon Island, Lonely Island, Grand Bank, Squaw Island Bank, Six Fathom Patch, Papoose Island, and Scarecrow Island Bank. As we neared the turn into the North Channel just north of Manitoulin Island, daylight was disappearing and we could see a thick blanket of fog slowly building behind us. It got closer and closer and eventually enveloped us, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared - just reduced our visibility perhaps by half, but didn’t completely blind us. We were now relying on the chart plotter and lighted buoys for navigation, which always adds an additional element of risk to sailing as you can’t actually see much of anything besides individual lights. And when we turned the corner of Partridge Island, we saw a gigantic wall of light - a freighter! Throughout all of our travels in the North Channel we have never seen a freighter and have never therefore had to navigate around one, which presents special challenges. First, they are gigantic, and I mean huge, and cannot stop nor turn easily so you need to take wide berth of them. Second, they do not have simple navigational lights which makes it easy to see where they are going - the entire ship is lighted so on certain headings it’s hard to tell if you are looking at the front or back of them. Third, in the dark things on the water simply do not look right. All you see is light and your senses just can’t comprehend what you are seeing, nor their distances, so you need to be extra cautious and patient. I kept Bella Blue motoring into the channel as the ship still seemed to be quite far, and from what we could tell it was moving north away from us. I grabbed my phone and called up marinetraffic.org - a website that shows you the location and heading of any commercial boat anywhere in the world - but the closest vessel I could see was many miles to the north, which was confusing because big ships always show up. So I continued motoring, which was a big mistake. In retrospect, what I should have done is either not crossed the channel, and just waited by the outside channel marker until the freighter either passed or disappeared, or simply called the vessel on the VHF radio to see what direction it was going.


So I kept on motoring across the channel, but I accelerated to top speed to get across as quickly as possible. We still couldn’t tell which way the freighter was going, nor how close it was, and I expected that if we were in the way he would have sounded his horn or called me on the radio. And then I made my third big mistake. Ana and I realized that the damn ship was coming directly at us, and was getting close, and we really panicked as the prospect of a thousand foot long ship weighing a hundred thousand tons crashing into us was terrifying, especially since it would completely crush our boat and be completely unnoticeable to them. I looked at the chart and I was not quite halfway across the channel so I quickly turned the boat around and beelined it back across. Now of course the freighter saw me - they have radar and crew on watch, and probably saw I could safely get out of their way, but when I changed direction, they were not expecting that and instantly sounded their booming horn, which sounded like the damn rapture with Gabriel blowing his supernatural trumpet announcing the end of mankind. They also powered up their search lights and shined them right on our boat so they could see us. Now I don’t know if the freighter turned, or slowed down, or what happened, but we were truly scared and shitting our pants, and just as I reached the edge of the channel the monstrosity passed us and revealed it’s gargantuan size - it looked like a floating city. We were literally shaking as it speeded past us, and felt like planktons watching a blue whale swim away. Despite all our years of sailing, all of our night passages, all of our encounters with freighters, I still made horrible mistakes, but thankfully didn’t have to pay the price.


We got back on course and slowly motored toward our destination watching the hulking beast light up the sky, headed away from us. We were happy we scraped through that one and were’t going to have to deliver Bella Blue to the new owners in small chunks.

Heywood Island was only a couple of miles away and we reached the north entrance to the anchorage and were faced with another problem. We could count at least eight anchor lights from boats already anchored there, and possible more if they didn’t have their anchor lights lit. We have a powerful handheld search light on the boat, which we had tested earlier but the light just reflected back from the fog so we didn’t think it would help us identify boats on the way in. After our close call with the freighter I didn’t want to take any chances, knowing I was probably not thinking clearly after the lack of sleep, but the near disaster induced adrenaline injection sure had me wide awake now. I checked the moonrise time and it was going to be at 11:36pm with a waning gibeous that would give us 65% of the moon and cast plenty of light to help us see our way in. But here’s a question for you. How long does it take from the time of moonrise for it to actually appear in the sky and provide light? I didn’t know either, but we made the decision to wait the 30 minutes to moon rise and see if that would help us, so I held our position about a quarter mile outside the anchorage and we waited. Moonrise arrived, but no moon and no light. We waited about ten minutes then decided to edge closer to the entrance and see if the spotlight could help, and to our surprise the fog had lifted and the light illuminated our path perfectly. I slowly motored the boat into the anchorage while Ana and Magnus stood at the bow lighting our way and pointing out the boats. We slipped in safely, got anchored in 12 feet of water, and then let out huge sighs of relief. We made it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Bella Blue Is Sold!


Today was going to be an interesting day. Tony and Angela’s buyer was coming for a sea trial at 10am and, if satisfied, would then be handing over a cheque for HQ2. We were hoping to hear from our potential buyers today as we were trying to figure out what to do next. Time was running short and we had a lot of miles between us and Sarnia, but still had a few more stops we wanted to make along the way. Our friends Justin and Heather had been in touch and were going to be passing through Collingwood tomorrow so we wanted to sail there to meet them, but if the buyers wanted the boat then that was not going to be possible as it was in the opposite direction. So we waited, and hoped that that HQ2 “sold” first so we’d get that free dinner!

Just before 10am we got a text message from Mark - Bella Blue was sold! I could hardly believe it. After a flurry of texts and discussion we decided to head out to Lion’s Head overnight tonight, then continue across Georgian Bay and back into the North Channel to deliver the boat to them in Little Current. Mark offered to give us a ride all the way back to Paris, then he could pick up the sailboat storage stands which were included in the deal. All in all, the whole thing worked out perfectly - we didn’t have to sail to Sarnia, we’d get a couple of extra nights in the North Channel, Mark would be able to spend an entire day with us in Little Current training on Bella Blue, and we had a ride home. Pending no unforeseen disasters, we would have the next few days to enjoy our remaining time on the boat, then be back at home in time for the weekend.

We celebrated the news by taking a long, hot walk into Midland downtown on the nice waterfront pathway. The downtown was in a state of massive construction as they were halfway through ripping up the entire street and sidewalks and replacing it with a beautiful, modern streetscape that looked to include cobblestones, parklets, bike path, room for trees, and outdoor furniture. As a result of this most of the stores were closed and the place was a disaster, but it was going to be a nice spot when it was finished. After downtown we walked two hot and mostly uphill miles to a big commercial shopping area where there were dozens of stores - a Winners, pet store, a bunch of fast food restaurants, and even a Superstore where we did our final grocery run.


After a taxi ride back to the marina we discovered HQ2 was sold, and that Ken and Sheila (friends of Tony and Angela’s…and ours too - Sheila was the keyboard player in our reggae band) had arrived to spend the night and drive them plus all their gear back to Brantford. We decided that our boat sales happened at precisely the same time, so no dinner was owed, but a dinner would indeed be shared when we returned home. What a turn of events - at the start of the trip neither of us had considered selling our boats, but here we were after an amazing few weeks exploring Canada’s best cruising grounds, with both of our boats sold and left up north, and rides back home. You never know what’s going to happen in life, so you just roll with it and keep things interesting.

Our final meal together as a group was awesome - mushroom pasta, leftover pizza, bbq chorizo, Caesar salad, and a nice glass of some scotch Ken brought. We talked and laughed and wondered how on earth they were going to pack an entire boatload of gear into Ken and Sheila’s small car, which already had two bikes strapped on top. Our buyer had a full sized pickup but we also had a ton of gear so it was going to be tight as well.

After a final group picture and hug on the back of Bella Blue, we pushed off the dock at 8pm, sad to be leaving our friends after such a great trip, but looking forward to the grand finale in Little Current. I checked the weather and it looked okay for the night run - west winds of 10 knots, gusting to 15, which might make it a little bumpy but nothing we couldn’t handle, plus the winds were forecasted to lighten up after midnight. The first few hours were lovely as we traveled northward up through the sheltered bay area, looking at the mansions onshore, watching all the fishing boats rushing in under the final light of the day, and enjoying the warmth of the dropping sun. At 10pm I went down for a nap, then woke up at 1am to the sounds of whistling winds and waves smashing into the hull. It was windy, definitely 15 knots sustained, so we reefed the main sail, and I settled into the helm while Ana went down below to try and get some sleep. Stella wanted to do a night shift so she came up after getting a few extra layers of clothes on, and a lifejacket, and we both tied ourselves on with ropes to the helm as the winds seemed to be increasing. By the time we reached the middle of Georgian Bay, we were getting pulverized. The winds were probably up to 25 knots at times with white caps everywhere, spray coming off the tops of the waves - some of the larger of which were in the six foot range, and little stabs of lightening off in the distance. The ride was awful. Stella stayed with me for nearly two hours, then went down and crashed into sleep quickly. Poor Ana was getting seasick again, but not as bad as last time fortunately, and tossed and turned down below, laying face down on the floor trying to find any sort of relief. Magnus slept like a champ, on the dinette, with his leg flopped onto the top of the table to stabilize himself and as far as I know didn’t wake up once, which was a good thing as he would have been sick for sure. We have not had much luck this trip with our overnight sails.


As we neared the western shoreline around 5am, we became more and more sheltered from the wind and waves and the ride improved. By 7:30 we were rounding the point into the Lion’s Head bay and I did indeed see an image of a lion’s head in the rocky cliffs of the point - it was quite a beautiful scene, but I could also have been hallucinating as I was tired beyond belief and having a hard time not falling asleep standing up. Ana helped me get docked on a finger pier caked with goose poo, then we went to sleep, thankful to be off the angry lake.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Midland


My man Brad arrived at 8:30 am sharp and within two hours he had the new control board installed and the boat’s AC system spewing clean, cold air. I felt so bad for Dan, our temporary air conditioner, as he was immediately packed away into the front berth and unceremoniously ratchet-strapped to the solid steel lightening conductor pole to keep him from flying around the cabin under sail. Dan did a fine job, and was a fine crew member.

Ana and the kids had gone to explore downtown Midland during the AC work, so when they returned we started cleaning up all the excess junk on the boat to get it ready to show. We moved a cartload of stuff onto HQ2 after they arrived, which made the boat look tidy and uncluttered. In the morning I had cleaned every single square inch of her exterior and by the time we were done she was looking absolutely magnificent; in fact, the best she has ever looked and even better than the day we bought her 11 years ago. I think I’m actually going to be a bit emotional when we eventually sell her and I have to hand over the keys, as she has been such a good boat for us. When our kids get older and have families of their own, I know they are going to look back at their childhood and the first thing they will remember are all the amazing days we spent on Bella Blue, with friends and family, on Lake Erie, on Lake Ontario, on Lake Huron, in both Canada and the US, and all those hard earned miles sailing when we were forced to work together, tolerate each other in close quarters, learn to be resourceful, learn to be prepared, handle difficult and sometimes dangerous situations, and be ever exploring new places, meeting new people, and always, always relying on Bella Blue to safely get us where we needed to go. She is going to be missed.

Ana whipped up us a lunch of a Portuguese home staple - potatoes mixed with hard boiled eggs, canned tuna, hot sauce, onions, and balsamic vinegar. Then we realized maybe it wasn’t the best meal to be making inside a small boat just before it is being shown to potential buyers. So we cranked open the hatches, got the fans running, and thought we had fully aired it out, that is until Magnus returned to the boat and said, “Well I sure hope those people coming to see the boat like tuna.” Ana lit a candle.

Mark and Kelly arrived right on time and we liked them right away. Kelly was a teacher and Mark was a cop, so they were public sector leeches just like me and we got along famously, sharing tales of water cooler slapsticks, union scams, long lunches, dereliction of duties, pension entitlements, and retirement at 47. We had so much to discuss.


Since we had the time, and they didn’t seem to be in a rush, we showed them every system on the boat, from top to bottom. Well not the bottom, as we didn’t have enough masks and snorkels to go around, but definitely the top and insides. Kelly had sailed quite a bit, but not for many years, and Mark had never sailed before. After speaking with them for a while, they seemed to be the exact type of buyers we were hoping for as they were not hard core sailors, not interested in racing, but were looking for a comfortable and manageable sailboat they could use to learn to sail and to share with their family. After the boat tour we asked them if they wanted to take it out for a sail, and they agreed so I motored her out of the marina then gave Mark the helm. And we honestly had the best sailing of the trip as the wind was steady, the sun was shining, we weren’t actually going anywhere, and we weren’t in a rush. At one point the boat was heeling rather steeply and I looked over at Mark to see his reaction. In cases like this, the most likely outcome is the newbie turning white, shitting his pants, clutching wildly at the lifelines, screaming like a little girl, and vowing to never step foot on a sailboat again, which can be really good and is what we use normally use to get rid of friends and family we don’t care for. But in this case we did want them to enjoy themselves and buy our boat. Mark was smiling and when I asked him if the heeling bothered him, he just said it’s what he’d expect for a sailboat. Good man!

We returned to the marina and I docked it in ass-end first like I always do to show off, and surprisingly it didn’t fail miserably, then we talked a bit about price, timelines (which in our case were short indeed as we were starting our return journey to Sarnia the next day and their home marina would be Little Current in the North Channel). They then said goodbye and that they would be in touch soon. We felt quite good about their visit, but it was entirely possible that they would decide it was just not the right boat for them. So I really wasn’t getting my hopes up, and I always find it’s better to assume the course of action you least desire will happen, then you aren’t too disappointed when it does. But in any case, we really liked them and thought they would be excellent new owners for Bella Blue.

With all the hard work done, I headed over to the marina’s fine pool, and Tony and Angela joined me shortly thereafter, but Ana took a pass. The pool was interesting - it had a three foot deep shallow end, then a steep transition to the rest of the pool which was five feet deep. Angela figured out that if you started running underwater right at the bottom of the transition, you could run full speed and your feet would keep slipping and you could never make it anywhere. So the three of us lined up and started sprinting like hell, in a heart pounding race to nowhere. I said, “This sort of reminds me of my career at the City of Brantford.” This brought a chorus of laughter from the HQ2 crew, as they thanked their lucky stars their destinies had taken them nowhere near the public sector.


Because it was so nice and warm outside we decided to order Domino’s pizza to avoid cooking and heating up the boats. The pizza was not great, which infuriated Magnus as he is very loyal to Domino’s, but it filled the gap and at least the scenery from the picnic table where we ate was quite nice. We felt surprisingly exhausted after our late dinner so packed it in early for the night.

Watermelon Anchorage to Good Harbour on Webber Island then Midland


The damn cold weather finally broke and we were rewarded with a perfect morning. Quiet anchorage, glassy water, the sound of birds, warm sunshine heating up the bay water and the smell of instant coffee being brewed up on Bella Blue. It had been at least five days of cool, overcast weather so this was a welcome and overdue change.

I heard back from my AC guy and incredibly he had found a new control board and expected to receive it before Friday! So we arranged for the serviceman Brad to drive down to Midland Friday morning and install the new unit, then we could show the boat in the afternoon with a properly functioning AC. I love it when a plan comes together.


We did a 23 mile sail to Good Harbour on Webber Island, following the small craft route the entire way and fully enjoying the journey on such a warm and pleasant day. The closer we worked our way into Georgian Bay, the more numerous the cabins became, and soon the gaps between cottages were fewer and fewer. I was simply shocked at how many cottages exist in this area, and we learned that some of the oldest ones have been here for over a hundred years, so the government selling off public land to private owners has been happening for a very, very long time. To me, it does seem strange that individual people own entire islands. It doesn’t seem very Canadian to me, as we are such a bunch of socialist animals, but that’s probably just because I don’t own one of them; otherwise I’d be perfectly fine with it.


The anchorage was beautiful and nearly deserted when we arrived (only 1 group of 3 boats tied up together) so we grabbed pole position at the deepest and loveliest end of the bay and set anchor. As usual, it took a couple of attempts, but we finally stuck it then went for a swim and enjoyed the warm, delicious water. Soon a whole flock of boats arrive and started dropping anchor all over the place, but they didn’t try to deke me out and we maintained control of the end of the bay. HQ2 soon arrived, tied up to us, then we resumed goofing around by hanging hammocks on the boat, leaping off Bella Blue’s cockpit arch with the Prestone rope swing, paddeboarding, dingying, having beers and snacks, and enjoying the gorgeous weather.


Around 5pm, we pulled anchor and left HQ2 there for the night while we continued on the 14 miles to Midland, in order to be ready for the AC guy and potential buyers the next day. We travelled through Honey Harbour en route and had a nice, relaxing sail, arriving around 7:30 in Bay Port Marina - one of the nicest marinas we’ve ever seen in Canada, then assembled a delicious dinner of BBQ pork loin, corn, boiled potatoes and green salad. Just now I realized how often I mention food in these journals, but trust me man, any food cooked on a boat tastes twice as good as a similar thing cooked on land. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it is.

Gilman Bay to Watermelon Anchorage in 12 Mile Bay


It was a cold, wet, and dreary morning and we didn’t get going until 10:30. Our plan today was to sail south-east towards the Beausoleil Island region, but the winds had really picked up and the weather forecast had deteriorated. Regardless, we sailed on, following what is called the “Small Craft Route” which is a path marked on the nautical charts that navigates you safely through the thousands of treacherous rocks, reefs, and shoals that allows you passage without having to go out into the wide open area of Georgian Bay, which was scary today with the north-west winds whipping up huge, confused waves with white foam flying off the top of them. We had a taste of that as we passed through one exposed area, and were happy to get into the more sheltered parts, until we realized the channel was extremely tight in spots and one mistake would send you crashing almost instantly into rocks. I was nervous with trepidation as we passed through these, hoping that my trusty diesel would not fail me. This was another moment of the trip when the nervous anxiety takes hold and you start doubting your choices, but are still secretly enjoying the thrill of the risk and the uncertainty of the outcome. When we perhaps a third of the way through our route, we decided it was just too dodgy to continue, so after a 12 mile run, we turned into 12 Mile Bay and were rewarded with….a beautiful bouquet of 8 floating birthday balloons! Like pros, Ana and Stella leaped on deck, prepared the boat hook, and effortlessly snagged up the prize. This was by far our largest balloon catch ever.

We sailed into an unnamed anchorage on the south side of the bay and found six other boats already there, seeking shelter. We anchored and HQ2 arrived shortly thereafter and tied up with us. A planning and scheming session ensured and thankfully Ana looked out the window as we were talking and noticed that our anchor had dragged and we were only 20 feet away from a rocky shoal. We leaped into action, pulled anchor, and moved into a much better location, then each dropped an anchor, plus an aft anchor to hold us in place. As we were trying to get anchored a crusty sailor lady was standing on her bow, staring at us and yelling when she felt we were getting too close, as it took two attempts to get the anchor set. A bit later on, Tony heaved severed chunks of a watermelon carcass overboard, thinking the pieces would sink, but instead they behaved just like little green boats, and floated their way right past her vessel and over to the powerboat behind her, which was the perfect setup to blame the lake pollution on the crusty sailboater, if such a thing would become necessary. Plus it provided the missing name for this anchorage - Watermelon Bay.


We decided to stay put for the night, so we had to think up something to keep us busy - movie night! We had brought along a projector and Tony had some white shrink-wrap, perfect for a screen. So we got to work constructing the theatre in the salon of HQ2, which was more complicated than you may think; it involved multi-meter 12 volt system testing, mobile inverters, blown fuses, jury-rigged electrical connections, re-constructed fuses with copper wire and tinfoil, Bluetooth speaker connections, auxiliary speaker cable, USB keys, HDMI cables, exacto knives, strategically placed pins, piled up boxes, lots of tape, and then a short photo op when we realized the setup looked just like one of Dexter’s kill rooms, so Tony grabbed a knife and Stella played the victim. That whole operation took about three hours, but it was time well spent.


Stella and I took a dingy ride to explore the bay, then we all joined forces to create a magnificent dinner on Bella Blue - pork kebabs, BBQ chicken, spaghetti squash, noodles, and lots of the finest boat-friendly boxed vino. We finished in time for Tony and I to “Skip The Dishes” and slip away for a cigar on the rocks, something we’d been planning for several days, and Magnus took on dingy chauffeur and photographer duties, and entertained us by doing wild 360’s, then for fun we grabbed a tree floating by the shore, loaded it up on the dingy, and hauled it back to the boat like a war prize. We got into a little bit of trouble for that whole episode, but movie night (Spy Game) turned out so spectacularly good that all was forgiven (I think). It also helped that Ana was contacted by a potential buyer and we had an appointment to show Bella Blue in Midland in two days! It’s nice when a day finishes with joyful events.


Parry Sound to Gilman Bay


Angela and Tony did the unthinkable and took off before us, as we had to wait for the HVAC guy to show up and diagnose our AC issues. So we bid them farewell with the hopes of meeting up later today in an anchorage if all went well. While waiting I had enough time to walk downtown and get myself a haircut. It was supposed to be an appointments only place, but the barber welcomed me in, put me in a chair, and starting buzzing. As I sat there enjoying the sights and smells of the barberia, I noticed something in front of me that I’d only ever seen in my dreams. It was a vacuum hose coming out of the bottom of the counter with a switch beside it. Sure enough, when the cut was done, she pulled out the hose, flipped the switch, and sucked every last piece of hair clippings off my head, ears, neck, shoulders, and face. Why the hell doesn’t every barber shop have one of these??? It seems so obvious, and I’ve even asked barbers over the years why they don’t just vacuum up all that horrible annoying hair instead of only brushing half off it off? After getting a great haircut, isn’t it horrible leaving a trail of tiny hair pieces everywhere you go for the rest of your day, not to mention getting it all over your hands, face and clothes, then the rest on your pillow overnight if you forget to rinse it out. I wish I’d taken a photo of it, best invention ever.

My man Brad showed up around 1:30, looked at our AC and discovered the start relay had burned out and taken out the control board too. But the good news was he was able to jump the wiring and get the system running and confirmed it was in excellent operating order besides the control board. So the next problem was going to be finding one, as I knew the company who made ours was no longer in business. But he said he’d pass the details to his boss and he would try to find one. At least I knew what the problem was now, but suspected the part was simply not going to be available and I’d need to buy a new system.

We had lunch on the boat, then finally left the dock at 2:15, giving us enough time to zip across the bay for a diesel fill and pump-out at Big Sound Marine, then sail the 2 miles to make the 3:00 opening of the Rose Point swing bridge, on the way to the south channel exit from Parry Sound. Well, our dock hand was competent, but very chatty, and provided us with much more local folklore than we needed at this particular time-sensitive junction of our trip, slowing down the pump and dump process, and leaving us with just enough minutes to make the 3:00 swing. But as I motored Bella Blue away from the dock, something sounded wrong with the engine, and sure enough there was no water coming out of the exhaust. Dammit!! So I spun her around and high-tailed it back to the dock, and just as we glided into it, the engine overheat light came on and the engine shut down. I pulled the engine compartment open. The raw water belt was fine, so it was either the impeller or the water intake. I took the easier one and pulled off the intake filter. Jammed with weeds! I dumped them out, gave it a rinse, screwed it back on, fired up the engine, confirmed water was coming out, then gave the thumbs up to the crew and we were back underway. It was 2:50 so I slammed the throttle down, raced as fast as we could, and arrived at the bridge at just 3:05, but there was no sign of it having opened, so we pulled up and tried calling the bridge on the radio. No answer. So we waited. But no dice. So we pulled into the nearby marina to wait for the 4:00 opening. At 3:55 we were back in position waiting for the swing. 3:00 and nothing. 3:05 and still no swing. So we called the operator and were told, “No swing until 5pm, only every 2 hours.” Dammit! Back to the dock, waited another hour, then finally made it through, and on the way through saw two small signs, one saying the bridge opens every hour, and the other saying it open every two hours, neither of which were remotely visible from the waiting area. Damn government sloppiness.


Fortunately the swing bridge delay was promptly forgotten as the the rest of the trip through the south channel was simply magical; impossibly narrow passages, many twists and turns, beautiful lakeside cottages, dozens of boats on the water - barges, bowriders, sea-doos, speed boats, working boats, even a small tug with an Azores flag flying, and such beautiful northern scenery. It seems one never tires of rocks and trees. We motored down past Sans Souci Island and past Harry’s, the famous fish and chips restaurant on Frying Pan Island, but sadly had no time to stop for a feeding. We continued into Half Moon Bay and past so many islands - Emerald Island, Pennsylvania Island, Moon Island, Flint Island, Moon Island, and finally into Gilman Bay, where we found HQ2 anchored solidly in the south end of the bay with hundred foot lines winding out both sides of the boat tied firmly to trees. This boat was going nowhere. However, our trusty companions were nowhere to be seen so I pulled out my 150 decibel air horn and gave it a quick, but earth shattering blast, and two stunned bed heads instantly appeared, shocked, then leaped into action and caught our lines as we glided in. So this is what it’s like to arrive second! Up until now the tortoise has beaten the hare at every anchorage, so this was a rare treat, and a wonderfully chosen spot.


As we shared our stories over happy hour and snacks by lantern light on HQ2, we learned that the massive, rich portions of fish and chips at Henry’s for their lunch stop had rendered Angela unconscious and pushed her into coma territory. It seemed her system could not handle all that whitefishy goodness, and was not even awoken by Tony’s one man comedy show trying to dingy dual hundred foot lines into the bush with a swinging boat and massive stomach pains from his own lunch overindulgence.

So after an action packed 20 mile sail, we gathered, we laughed, and we planned for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What’s That Sound? Parry Sound!



We knew yesterday was going to be tough to beat so today we focused on boat maintenance, shopping, and planning out the coming days. The weather forecast called for overcast skies and a bit of rain later in the day so we were happy spending another day here. After a rather slow morning the ladies went out to explore the shops of downtown Parry Sound while Tony and I did boat stuff. I dingy’d over to Sound Boat Works in search of the owner Gerry who knew all about fixing sailboats. I’d been trying to troubleshoot our AC unit and hit a dead end as there was no power making it to the compressor, which meant it was probably a control board issue and that’s about where my electrical expertise ends. I found Gerry, explained the issue, and he gave me the number for Todd - a local HVAC expert who did work on boats. I texted him and he actually replied (surprising as it was a civic holiday), and said he’d do his best to line somebody up to come and see the unit tomorrow.

In the meantime, Tony had gathered up a mountain of gear from HQ2 and I helped him pile into in the parking lot, then we waited for Nelson who had volunteered to transport it all back to Brantford since he was traveling there later this week. Nelson arrived and we allowed Tony a sad moment to say goodbye to all his invaluable gear, which included a leaf blower, an unused television, and a big stick Magnus had found in the bush back in Kincardine and stashed on their boat.


Tony and I then walked into town to meet the ladies for lunch. As Magnus had already bought himself a Subway sandwich he took a pass and chilled out on the boat. We went to the Bay Street Cafe, got a table inside, then realized this is the first time we’d been inside a restaurant since meeting Tony and Angela for lunch at the Cobblestone in Paris back in March! Damn the COVID. The meal was terrific, especially the deep fried Mars bar Stella was supposed to share with Angela for dessert, but all she got was a small bite as Stella greedily gobbled up the entire thing and was looking to lick the plate clean until Ana reminded her of something called table manners.

Ana, Stella and I then went to the Bearly Used Bookstore to browse through their collection of 250,000 used books. I could have stayed in there for an entire day, or perhaps week, but settled on a 30 minutes visit and walked away with two books. Stella found a fifty year old “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” which was about six inches thick and weighed several pounds, but we left that one on the shelf. After this, we took the long walk back up to Walmart to pick up a few things, which was really only an excuse to go for a long walk. On the way back we took the pedestrian bridge over the Seguin River, which just happened to pass by the Trestle Brewery so I nipped in and grabbed two sixers of their finest IPA and ale. The view from the brewery was quite amazing as it looked over a beautiful part of the river which includes rapids and two small waterfalls.


Happy hour on the dock was kicked up a notch as we had decided to skip dinner and focus on snacks, so we had all sorts of goodies, not to mention the craft beer. It was all going well until Magnus started feeding a duck corn chips, then all the duck’s mates showed up and there was a little gang of them taking food from his hand, off his foot, leaping up out of the water, causing quite a ruckus. At one point Magnus went inside Bella Blue, then the ducks swam away, but as soon as he reappeared, then spotted him instantly and raced back, like mindless worshippers.

With that, we finished off a comparatively slow day, but were looking forward to moving onto a new destination tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Holriques Meet the Bradshaws



The weather forecast today called for torrential rain, which came true as we woke up to what seemed like buckets of water being dumped on the sailboat. After breakfast Tony and I took apart the console of his boat to diagnose a beer fridge issue. Loose wire! We fixed that like champs then vacuumed the entire upper deck of HQ2 as they had an interested buyer coming at 11 to view the boat. Interestingly, this man’s family had actually owned this exact boat some twenty years prior, so they weren’t sure if they was just a nostalgia trip or somebody who was serious. While Tony and Angela were busy fluffing HQ2, Ana and I donned full rain suits and braved a walk into downtown to look for some goodies to bring along to our dinner party tonight. That’s right - we had been invited to a dinner party at our friends the Bradshaws, who have a cabin at Otter Lake, which is just a short drive from Parry Sound and used to own a fuel company and some gas stations (including the one where I filled up the propane tanks yesterday). There really wasn’t much open in town, except the LCBO which still had a damn line-up of people wrapped around the corner. Tell me something’s not wrong when you have a town with a bunch of empty buildings and closed businesses and yet the government-run monopoly is thriving. Free the booze!



Ana didn’t really find what she was looking for, but did find a couple of modest hostess gifts, then we topped it up with wine and beer packed into a cardboard box, which seemed like a great idea for carrying back to the boat until the damn thing started disintegrating in my hands and all over my rain suit during the soggy walk back. Upon returning we discovered that the HQ2 buyer was serious indeed and wanted to buy the boat! So they had arranged for a sea trial the following weekend in Midland, giving us just one more week with Tony and Angela to maximize fun.


Our friend Monica picked us all up at 2pm and we drove back to their cabin to meet up with her husband Nelson, their three beautiful daughters, Nelson’s sister Stephanie and her three sweet kiddies, as well as Nelson’s folks Brenda and David. We first got a tour of Nelson and Monica’s cabin, which they had recently renovated from top to bottom, and it was lovely and perched up on a hill with a stunning view over the lake. They then walked us down a forest path to the boathouse, which looked like a cabin in itself and was filled with all sorts of treasures - huge soaring exposed beams, a classy polished wood boat, bubblers, cool inflatable docking pads, mounted sailfish and bass, an antique fuel pump, paddle boards, composite dock chairs, and really was the coolest boat house ever. We when proceeded up to Nelson’s parents cabin (also lake front and real classy) and met them and Nelson’s sister for the first time - all such lovely people. We got right to it, drinking fine craft beer and wine, visiting, laughing, demolishing charcuterie boards, discussing everything from politics to horses to schooling. We all felt like old friends to me.

Nelson put together a five star BBQ effort - two kinds of sausages, perfectly cooked sirloins, and this delicious, buttery fresh corn mixture scorched in a cast iron pan on the grill. Combined with the salads and sides we feasted like champs around a custom build Mennonite table for 12. Dave started the meal with a fine blessing then we tucked in and kept the conversations going.


“So what are your plans for tomorrow?” Dave asked us.
 
“We’re coming back here,” I responded quickly.

Everyone thought that was pretty funny, so I had to pretend like I was kidding. After dinner we settled into the couch for some more chatting while the kids goofed around with the youngsters and the three lovely dogs. Tony and I had brought some cigars for the men, but we didn’t quite get around to those, so hopefully Nelson and his dad can have a nice lakeside smoke together this week.

We said our damn non-hugging COVID goodbyes which are a sad substitute for the real thing, and left with some new friends. I can’t say I’m surprised at how amazing Nelson’s folks and sister are, knowing him and Monica.

Back at the boat we immediately started making a list of people we knew in the area who had cabins, or people we knew who may know somebody in the area with a cabin, and also brainstormed some creative ideas to befriend locals with nice cabins as quickly as possible, as these dinner party invitations were really working out well for us.

Collins Inlet to Parry Sound



Daybreak on a sailboat is a magical experience. First, there is darkness with a million stars overhead blanketing the night sky. Every direction you look offers blackness, unless the moon is up, which sheds some light on the seascape. You may see lights if you are close to shore - lights from wind turbines, navigational markers, lighthouses, other boats, or the nuclear glow of light pollution radiating from a city or town. But it is dark and what lies directly in your boat’s path is a mystery. Then, an hour or more before dawn, the sky begins to ever so slowly lighten in the east. The change is slow, but unstoppable. If you look up there are less stars visible. Then the east starts to glow red and orange, and only the brightest stars and planets are visible, and usually a cold chill takes over the air, but it doesn’t last long. The reddish orange glow increases in intensity and expands north and south, and keeps strengthening until the rim of the glowing red ball peeks over the horizon, then rises surprisingly quickly, extinguishing any remaining starlight or moonlight. The sky is aglow, then as the sun rises, the sky turns blue, and the path ahead of your boat is lit. Daybreak has arrived. The chill leaves the air and is replaced with the warming rays of the sun, which burn off the morning dew from the boat and start heating up the surfaces. The frequent nighttime feelings of fear, dread, anxiety, and uncertainty are replaced with optimism, hope, and confidence. It is the start of a new day.

As Ana and I pulled anchor at 4am and untied ourselves from HQ2, it was dark indeed and the path out of Collins Inlet and to the open waters of Georgian Bay was strewn with treacherous rocks, reefs, and shoals and we only had the chart plotter to guide the way. This is a risky thing to do, as all it takes is for the chart plotter to fail and you are left blind in the dark, so we kept the windless on in case we needed to quickly drop anchor. We made it out okay and I was very happy to reach the open waters.

And thus began our first experience with Georgian Bay, technically the north-eastern part of Lake Huron, but it could have very easily been dubbed a Great Lake in itself. Our destination was Parry Sound, about 75 miles to the south east, and we were quite excited to be moving into a more populated area, with much larger towns, more things to do for the kids, and completely new to us as we’ve never really visited any of these towns by car or boat.

Today was the first day of the trip we’ve sailed with completely flat waters. You may think to a sailor this would be unappealing, but for us motoring on a still day across glassy water is a real pleasure. No heeling, no upchucking, no tending sails, no punishing wind burn on the face, with the only downside being the relentless hum of the diesel, which we’re used to because most of the wind we’ve had on the trip has been directly in our face so we’ve been motoring frequently anyway.

The long entrance to Parry Sound harbour was a frenzy of small fishing boats, large cruisers, long distance kayakers, canoes, sailboats, float planes, paddle boarders, speedboats and sea doos zipping around the dozens of islands, rocks, and marker buoys which seemed to be scattered haphazardly. I’m sure it all made sense to the local boaters, but for somebody new to the area, it required close attention to navigate in safely. As we neared the Big Sound Marina I radioed in on VHF channel 68 to get directions for dockage and was rewarded with the best radio etiquette and docking instruction I’ve ever heard from a marina. Andy the dock master guided us in perfectly, caught our lines, introduced himself and the marina, gave us some information on the area, and was the epitome of a well trained and responsible dock hand. HQ2 arrived shortly after us and the competence of the dock staff was the first thing Tony mentioned to me. Well done Big Sound Marina! We need could use a lot more Andys on the lakes.



After 77 miles on the water, we were ready for a break, but instead of that we grabbed our two propane tanks, called up the local taxi company, and were off into the metropolis of Parry Sound. The main road entrance into the marina was bizarre - it was a rough, gravel, back alley path which wound around the back of the main building with nothing but a tiny sign partially obscured by trees identifying the marina. Just outside of the marina was a huge performing arts centre called the Stockey Centre and a Bobby Orr museum, right on the lake front. Downtown was just a short distance away, and on the way there we saw the main tourist marina with float planes and tour boats, several restaurants, and a craft brewery. The main downtown area was nice but many of the stores appeared closed or vacant except, of course, the LCBO which had a lineup of people snaking around the corner.

The driver dropped us off at Bradshaw Fuels (remember that name) and we filled up the ten pound tanks, then left them sitting at the side of the gas station while we walked further up the street to pick up supplies. First stop was at the Shopper’s Drug Mart for…I”m not sure what, then we walked a bit further up the main street to a shopping centre with a Dollarama, Walmart, Home Depot, and a Pet Value. Stella and Magnus went to look at the furry critters while Ana and I did some grocery shopping at Walmart. Every single person we saw was wearing a mask, sanitizing their hands, and keeping their distance, and they all seemed very comfortable doing it. This is the new normal and these folks up north seem to be doing a lot better job of it than we are back in Brantford…but hopefully that has changed since we’ve been gone.



We taxi’d back to the marina with our tanks and groceries, packed everything into Bella Blue (Ana’s job, not mine…otherwise the buns would likely get squashed into flatbreads) and then sat down for a happy hour drink. Tony and Angela recent sold their sign company, so we asked their expert advice in crafting a “for sale” sign for our boat. They said they’d had a lot of customers who did exceptionally well with cardboard signs and electrical tape letters so we put Magnus to work designing a highly detailed, professional-looking sign with the finest materials and European-level craftsmanship. The sign was so good that we attracted a customer just as Magnus was pasting it to the side of the boat. It’s good to have friends in the business.

With that, the day was wound down and we retired to the cozy and comforting belly of Bella Blue.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Collins Inlet



Magnus jumped into the water for the morning bath, then nearly ran across the top of the water back to the boat like a cartoon character as the subsurface temperature was under 19 degrees - 8 degrees less than our last swim. I nearly chickened out, but then psyched myself up by going down below in the v-berth at the front of the boat and sprinting through the cabin, scaling the steps, racing through the cockpit, then launching myself cowabunga-style into the icy waters. The heart-stopping pain only lasted for a few seconds, then I had my morning bath and felt most refreshed.

The anchorage was, of course, beautiful in the morning, so we had a leisurely breakfast and goofed around until 10 or so, then pulled anchor and sailed east through the Killarney channel and continued onto the west entrance of Collins Inlet - a 15 mile long river like passage that is only accessible during high water years, like this one. Stella was in command of the helm today and she navigated us safely with only a little help from Ana and I.



There were a surprising number of boats, both meeting us and passing up, as we crossed the channel. Some parts of it became very narrow and it felt just wrong being there with a sailboat, but the depths were good throughout. We stopped halfway through and anchored for lunch, then continued onto the end, and turned south into the larger bay which was clustered full of islands, rocks and shallow spots. The wind was blowing strong from the south-east, and we had a tough time finding a good anchorage, checking out at least four potential ones before finally deciding on the east side of Toad Island. I didn’t much like the anchorage, but it was the best option we could find and as we were lining up for anchoring I pulled the boat in too shallow and we felt a slight bump of the keel as it hit rock - Bella Blue’s first contact with the North Channel! I simply reversed out into deeper water and we stuck the anchor on the first try then HQ2 tied up alongside us.



As we progressed through happy hour drinks, the winds died and we were left with a reflective and glassy lake surface. We took a moment to recognize this would be our final evening in the North Channel, and Tony and I decided to light up Cuban Partagas cigars to acknowledge the milestone. One of the empty aluminum cigar tubes accidentally plopped into the water and began slowly floating away with the current. Stella looked at it, went down below in the cabin for a while, then came back up and could still spot in the distance. She told us she felt terrible that we polluted the lake so she jumped in the dingy by herself and motored out to rescue the cigar tube. After retrieving it she was so happy with being able to solo the dingy that she started it up again and went for a ride into the island, got off and then did some exploring. While she was gone, we hatched a plan. Magnus had given Tony and Angela a miniature rubber man named Brad, as a travel companion for HQ2. We decided it was time for Brad to set out on his own journey and make his own way in life, so we jammed him into the cigar tube and then Stella wrote a note explaining he had been thrown off his last ship on suspicions of mutiny, of which he was mostly innocent, but was COVID-free and looking for a new home. She also left our email address and asked that the new owner please contact us to let us know Brad was all right, although why we’d care after ejecting him from our boat and stuffing him in a cigar tube was a little hard to explain. Stella put the threaded top on the tube and Magnus lit a candle then dipped it in wax to waterproof it and then Brad and his waterproof vessel were ceremoniously hurled overboard. We wish you luck Brad. Bon voyage!