Saturday, August 1, 2020

McNeill Cove to the Benjamin Islands

Our bad ideas for today included dinghy drag racing and testing a twin outboard configuration on one of the dinghies. You might think it’s easy coming up with new risky and ill-advised ideas every day on these trips, but it is definitely not and takes some real deep thinking from otherwise shallow thinkers. Tony is an amazing source of bad ideas, and a real inspiration for me because sometimes my bad ideas get a little repetitive and it’s always good to inject some fresh stupidity into the mix.

Before anybody else was up, I sat in the cockpit and listened to the sounds of the morning emerging like a mayfly. The call of the loon. The clicking and chirping of the squirrels. The splash of a bass surfacing for a bug. The buzz of a thousand forest insects. And then, what’s this, a new sound? I listen carefully, trying to identify the source. It’s very hard to discern, but it seems close, very close. Strangely close. Wait a minute, I recognize it - the Portuguese man snore, coming from the window screen of HQ2, tied up securely beside us. So as not to awaken the sleeping beauty, I took the paddle board out for a long ride around the entire bay and out to the larger lake. It was such a beautiful morning, with glassy waters, the smell of forest, the warm water, and a clear sky. It’s easy to see how people fall in love with the North.

Magnus took the lead for team Bella Blue and Tony was leading the HQ2 crew. They lined up the dinghies at the start line, revving their powerful engines (2.5 HP for Magnus versus a beefy 3.5 HP for Tony), igniting the forest with the tortured screams of machine revving tension. The crowd was going into frenzy, with mad cheering and hollering and every single one of us, despite paying for our full seat, were only using the edge of it.

Stella sounded the air horn and the dinghies launched into flight. Tony took an early lead, masterfully maneuvering the dinghy into Magnus’ path and snuffing out his progress with a formidable wake. Tony flipped on his turbo afterburners and the chiseled vessel rocketed ahead, slicing through a family of ducks, and seared through the liquid finish line well ahead of Magnus, sending the poor lad into a prominent position in the annals of dinghy racing underachievers. Tony savoured the win by blowing kisses to the ladies, raising his hands in victory, and imprinting this legendary moment in his mind as a forever keepsake of this magical moment.

Magnus, furious with the insulting loss, challenged Tony to a rematch, drag racing three rings around the two anchored boats. Tony confidently accepted, and once again lined up against Magnus, but when the sound of the air horn erupted, Magnus got the jump on him, burning him out and nearly swamping him with a monstrous wake, while at the same time flipping him the middle finger, cementing the insult. Tony, forced to the outside, tried in vain to catch up, but was simply outmaneuvered by the wisened Magnus, and sucked his wake the entire match. Magnus cruised through the finish line with his hands in the air, embracing the victory, claiming the throne of ultimate dinghy champion.

After all that excitement it was time to pull anchor and head west 19 miles to the Benjamin Islands - the premier anchorage in all of the North Channel. Navigating through these areas is quite easy as they are well charted and there are marker buoys throughout. We passed by dozens of islands to our north - Eastern, High, Galt, Tupper, and Hog Islands, as well as Louisa Rocks and Belcher Rocks (excuse me). As we approached Croker Island we passed to the south, had a quick look at the anchorage there, then turned north-west and coasted into the north anchorage of South Benjamin, and were soon in the company of 25 other anchored boats, which is actually a slow Saturday in the Benjys. There was enough time for a swim to the island, some snorkeling, some paddle boarding, and bbq burgers for lunch before our HQ2 partners arrived and got tied up alongside us. The anchorage is really stunning, but to really appreciate it you can climb any of the surrounding rock mountains to get the bird’s eye view.

Once settled, we hopped in the dinghies and did a full circumnavigation of the island, stopping to take some pictures on a stunning rock formation, then for a short hike on the smooth rocky surface at the south of the island, and then to grab some firewood on the east side of the island, where we found a beautifully tranquil forest scene with thick moss, deadfall, and a series of small caves naturally cut out of the rock cliffs.

The day was not done yet, for after a spectacular HQ2 dinner of chicken and shrimp pasta, we gathered up our guitar, harmonicas, drinks and bug spray and dinghied into the rock shoreline and sparked up a campfire. We played the intros of a few songs, the choruses of a few others, and Magnus did some nice finger picking, but generally our campfire song skills are really not up to snuff, but hey man, it’s all good in the forested hood.

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