After much planning and dreaming, we’re finally here! The Georgian Bay is one of the biggest highlights of any Looper journey, and we are going to take our time and savor it. You could spend months exploring the Bay, and still barely scratch the surface, as Georgian Bay is almost as large as Lake Ontario! The Eastern Shore of the Bay was first visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1615, and the Georgian Bay was named in honor of King George IV in 1820.
But before we start exploring, we needed to make a pitstop at Queen’s Cove Marina, in Victoria Harbor. The marina isn’t far once you enter the Bay, but there’s a narrow, winding channel through some shallow water that’s a bit tricky!
There’s not much here in town, but there’s a small grocery store, and the marina will provide a car for running errands further afield.
Beautiful Victoria Harbor home and gardens
Encantata pulled in later that afternoon, and we took full advantage of having a car to run our combined errands in Midland the next day. We all used our time in Victoria Harbor to provision, cook and get ready for being on the hook in Georgian Bay, as there are few marinas, and very limited provisioning opportunities.
We were also fortunate to spend time with Robin, the GM of the marina, for some time to review charts, anchorages and marinas in Georgian Bay. This is unknown water for us, and the water can be rocky and shallow at times, and local knowledge is key. We were planning on spending two weeks in the Georgian Bay and North Channel, and were grateful for her suggestions. While we ended up not agreeing with all of them, there was much we did, and we continued to learn from the locals and change our plans along the way. We had a great time exploring this spectacular waterway.
Robin, sharing her local knowledge of Georgian Bay and the North Channel
Queen’s Cove was a great marina. The staff was super professional, they have a small pool, and best of all, they changed the oil on Misty, and got the Yamaha for the dinghy running perfectly! It’s been a long standing problem, and it finally seems to be fixed!
After two nights at Queen’s Cove, we were more than ready to get out and explore the Georgian Bay. Our first stop was an anchorage in Brown’s Bay, a short 18 mile, two hour run. We quickly began to see the rocky islands and pine trees that the Bay is known for.
We were traveling with Encantada, and it was great to have a companion navigate these tricky waters.
Encantada enroute to Brown’s Bay
The Georgian Bay offers spectacular boating, but it’s not for a novice. There are rocks and islands everywhere, and while the channels are well marked, Canadian markers are significantly smaller than those in the U.S., and rocks lurk just outside channels. In fact, some (OK, many) of the channel markers actually sit ON the rocks! We were thrilled to be settled in this beautiful bay, and other than one house (who wasn’t thrilled about Encantada’s first anchorage spot!), we had the place to ourselves.
After getting settled and having lunch, we deployed our dinghy’s and went exploring around all of the islands and shallow channels.
Exploring the Brown Bay area
Cognashene Community Church, accessible only by boat. Reminded us of the show Ozark!
We had a great dinner aboard Misty with Jeff and Lucy, and were excited to see a bear wandering on the hillside while we were enjoying cocktails.
The dark spot in the center is a bear!
Brown Bay sunset
Morning mist, Brown Bay
Lucy’s morning paddle
Like the Trent – Severn Waterway, many of these islands are privately owned, with one or more family cottages and a small dock. The difference here is that the landscape is more rugged, and a bit less wooded than the islands of the Kawartha Lakes region along the TSW.
We dropped our anchor off Twelve Mile Bay in Wani Bay around noon on August 23rd, Rob’s Birthday. 🎂🎁 🥂🎈🎉 There were a number of other boats in the bay when we got there, and a few others came in during the afternoon and evening, but everyone was nicely spaced and quiet. We took another dinghy ride to explore the islands and shallow nooks and crannies, and also inflated one of the kayaks for additional exploration.
Exploring Wani Bay in the dinghy
After cocktails and a fun game of “Banana Gram” aboard Encantada, we headed back to Misty for champagne and grilled rib-eyes for Rob’s birthday dinner. Jeff and Lucy sweetly gifted Rob a Quimby’s book for the river systems! After dark, we enjoyed watching the amazing stars and the clarity of the Milky Way.
Progression of Rob’s birthday sunset
Our first stop the next day was going to be the “famous” Henry’s on Frying Pan Island for fish n’ chips. Since it was only a 6 mile trip, and they didn’t open until noon, we had a lazy morning and stayed in the anchorage until 11:30. Henry’s has been around for years. The only way to get there is by boat or sea plane, and there were plenty of both coming and going while we stopped for lunch. They acutally have “fly and eat” packages for cottagers throughout the islands, where the planes pick you up at your cottage, and fly you to and from Henry’s for your meal! While the food is just OK, this place is a hoot and it’s a must stop.
Henry’s Sans Souci Restaurant is a federally registered airport for sea planes and is serviced by at least 5 commercial airlines.
Boats AND planes at the Henry’s dock
We had a 32 – mile trip to Parry Sound, which is a 10 mile detour off of Georgian Bay. Parry Sound was a disappointing stop. There’s not much in town, and the only practical shopping requires a cab.
Enroute to Parry Sound
Nancy did attempt to take a bike ride, but was discouraged by the hills and the groupings of homeless people, some who appeared to be pretty intoxicated, and another group with two large mangy dogs. She did make it to the used book store “Barely Used Books”, and while the space was nice, with several cute reading ‘nooks”, the lack of both organization and staff was disappointing, and she came home empty handed.
Barely Used Books, Parry Sound
We regretted not anchoring out that night, as there was an amazing sunset that evening which was obstructed by the marina and other buildings in the sound.
Parry Sound sunset from Big Sound Marina
The weather reports were looking pretty awful for much of the week, with a lot of wind, and some rain and storms, but the wind was going to be the real problem. Georgian Bay is BIG, and any significant wind makes it a very unfriendly waterway. We decided to make the 60 mile run to Wright’s Marina, which is tucked in from the bay up through the Byng Inlet in Britt to get ahead of and tucked in from the storm.
Pointe au Baril
Pointe au Baril was named after the barrel on the point that originally (1870s) marking the treacherous entry to the main channel from the open water of Georgian Bay. As the story goes, early fur traders from Penetanguishene lost a canoe near the point. Their canoe included a barrel of whisky that was found by stranded traders the next spring. After a drinking spree the barrel was left on the point as a beacon. French mariners were soon calling it Pointe au Baril. Later this marker was improved to include a lantern in the barrel that would be lit by the first fisherman returning inland to light the way for the rest of the boats.
Wright’s is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so we all took advantage of being in a marina to get some projects done and clean the boats. Our friend Zyg aboard Domino came into the marina with his visiting Nashville friends on Monday. They were leaving Domino at the marina while they took a few days to stay in Zyg’s friend Rob’s family summer cottage on the nearby French River.
Zyg aboard Domino
Rob and Jeff used the marina courtesy car to drive them to a marina where a launch would meet them and take them out to the island cottage. Lucy and I spent the afternoon on our boats getting stuff done, and we all gathered for a pot luck dinner and a rousing game of Monopoly aboard Encantada that evening. Nancy was thrilled because for the first time EVER, she won. Not only did she win, she killed it! BAM!
Fun Monopoly evening…and look at that stack of cash and real estate!
Wright’s is a small, quiet spot that makes you feel like you’re relaxing in your back yard, with BBQ’s, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and swings set among the gardens. Every dock has its own garden, and they are thoughtful enough to have two garden beds for transient boaters. We picked some fresh peas and tomatoes to enjoy!
Hanging out grilling ribs in the garden with Jeff and Lucy at Wrights Marina
While we were grilling, we had a lovely chat with Bonnie, one of the Canadian boaters who lives on her boat during the summer, and winters in Toronto. She’s a remarkably talented artist, and uses a corner of the Captain’s Lounge as her studio. And, her garden in the marina is graced with her wire sculptures.
A taste of Bonnie’s talent
It rained all day on Tuesday, so we stayed tucked in. Nancy used the courtesy car to do some provisioning, and the small (very small) store down the road was surprisingly well stocked. The afternoon was spent doing some cooking, getting ready for being on the hook for the next couple of nights. Once again, the salted caramel and chocolate chip cookies were a hit with the crews of Misty, Encantada and the staff of the marina!
Boy I hope they sell these in the States!
Boat cards from 2018 & 2019 Loopers passing through Wrights Marina. Misty on the bottom of the “Class of 2019” board.
Encantada left the marina very early, as they are racing to get the boat to Sturgeon Bay, where they will leave the boat on the hard for the winter, and head home in time for Jeff’s brother’s wedding in Minnesota in mid-September. We needed to get Zyg’s boat moved (which was blocking us in), get fuel and pump out, so we didn’t leave until 8:45.
We were headed to the Bustard Islands to anchor off of Strawberry Island. To get there, we had to run 5 miles in the open Bay. The day after a storm. It was ugly. There were waves of 5”+, and Misty’s bow got buried twice. Not good. (Rob kept that bit of info to himself until we were settled!). Unfortunately, it was so rough, pictures were not going to happen.
Fortunately, we arrived at our anchorage in one piece at 11:15 am. We were the only boat in the anchorage, and were completely blocked from the wind. We enjoyed a peaceful afternoon watching the white caps out in the Bay!
Bustard Islands anchorage, off Strawberry Island
While the Captain took his afternoon siesta, Nancy relaxed on the aft deck and was lucky enough to be visited by a Bald Eagle in flight! This is her first sighting of an eagle in flight, and it was incredibly beautiful to see.
Interestingly enough, we had a Loon and a Sea Gull who both sat in the water by Misty ALL day. The Loon was off our bow, the Sea Gull off the stern. We were rather impressed with the Sea Gull, as he stayed in exactly the same spot for hours AGAINST the current! Since the water is so clear, we could see his little feet in constant motion to keep himself in place. The Loon remained silent until dusk. After dusk he loudly began his song, back and forth with another loon we could not see. Once they were done singing, he was gone, but we appreciated the show before he left!
Bustard Island sunset
Bustard Island sunrise
On the 29th we once again ventured out into the Bay, headed for an anchorage in Bad River. While the Bay was still pretty snotty, it was certainly better than the day before. Regardless, we were thrilled to get tucked into the Bad River at 9:45 after an hour of getting bounced around!
The entrance to the Bad River is extremely narrow, rocky and winds a bit. Fortunately, Rob and Zyg spent some time with a local boater at Wright’s Marina who walked them through the route.
There is a “wall” along some rocks off the main basin of the river head, but it was already filled with local boaters, so we set anchor in the pool with another boat.
Bad River is a spectacular place. We deployed the dinghy and explored among all of the many islands after passing through the “Devil’s Door”, a cut in the rocks that is usually “rapids”, but with the high water it wasn’t a concern.
Bad River is a renowned fishing area, and we passed several small fishing boats zipping through the islands. The river eventually opens up to a small lake, and has numerous creeks to explore, some that reminded us of a “mini Lake Powell” with its rock “canyons”. Just before we headed back to the boat we had an eagle fly over the dinghy. Amazing!
Just a little bit of the sights from our dinghy ride…so spectacular!
The wind remained pretty consistent throughout the day, blowing at 15 – 20 MPH, with gusts of 25 – 27. We were confident that Misty would hold in that, as we’ve done it before, but there were gusts of up to 40 MPH predicted during the night, along with a thunder storm, so we were nervous. Rob kept a close eye on the weather, setting the alarm several times during the night, and spending a couple of hours up on the bridge monitoring the weather and our position. He and the Captain of the other boat in the pool kept in communication via VHF, as he too was nervous and was monitoring his boat from his bridge. If either of our boats slipped anchor, there was only one place to go….ROCKS! We were surrounded.
Misty among the rocks
Fortunately, we made it safely through the night, but the weather had not completely cleared. It was still windy, with weather predictions calling for them to increase, so we raised the anchor at 7:35 am, shooting to make the 40 mile run to Killarney, where we reserved a slip at the Killarney Mountain Lodge.
A rough morning on the water
We only had a short time that we needed to be out in the Bay before we headed into the beautiful, peaceful, calm and protected Collins Inlet.
Jeff and Lucy/Encantada were still down the street at the Sportsman’s Inn in Killarney, so we agreed to have dinner that night at the Mountain Lodge. But before dinner…there is lunch! There is a well regarded fish n’ chips restaurant, that was originally housed in a bus, a theme on a food truck. Well, the bus is gone (except for the paintings and photos on the wall) and the building is expanded, but the food remains the same.
Fish n’ Chips in Killarney
August 30, 2017 was the day we officially moved aboard Misty, so we celebrated our 2 year anniversary with a bottle of champagne with Jeff and Lucy, followed by a wonderful dinner at the Lodge. A wonderful evening, but sadly where we would bid Jeff and Lucy Adieu.
We followed Encantada out of Killarney the next morning at 8:40 am.
They were continuing on to Gore Bay (a left turn), we were headed to The Pool in Baie Fine (a right turn).
Finally, we had a picture perfect day, which was wonderful, as Baie Fine is known as one of the most beautiful stops on this stretch of the Georgian Bay, before you transition to the North Channel.
One of the most striking things about this area is the change in topography. It gets more mountainous and while the pink granite is still around, you now see more white limestone. This, combined with the dense, dark green pines is a spectacular sight!
We found a perfect spot nestled into the corner of The Pool and set anchor. While there ended up being 6 boats at anchor that night in The Pool, we were all spaced a good distance apart. We arrived there at 12:20, had a quick lunch and deployed the dinghy both explore Baie Fine, and head over to the trail head for Lake Topaz.
Baie Fine anchorage views
Heading off to hike up to Topaz Lake
Lake Topaz is about a 1.5 mile hike, largely uphill, through the woods along a dried out stream bed. There are markings on the trees for the trail, but it can get a bit confusing. We were fortunate to run into people who were returning from the Lake who helped to guide us.
Unfortunately, shortly before reaching the Lake we bumped into a very loud, and very drunk group of people who were there to witness their friends lakeside marriage proposal. We moved a bit down the rocks to try and escape their language and noise, and got a spectacular view of the Lake. The crystal clear water is a spectacular turquoise, surrounded by white limestone and dark green pines. We enjoyed the beautiful views and watching people jumping into the water from the top of the rocks.
The evening was incredibly still, and the shelter of The Pool accentuated that, making the light at dusk and sunset so beautiful, and the reflections on the water were mirrorlike! We were also treated to the back and forth sing song of two loons shortly before sunset, and watched a beaver swim back to shore as the sun set.