Chapter Two – Georgian Bay
After weathering the first night’s storm, we set off for Killbear Provincial Park. The park had wonderful sandy beaches. There was a designated anchorage near the picnic site and we had planned to meet our friends who were camping in the park.
The weather was spectacular! A perfect wind, blue skies, and warm temperatures. After anchoring Hetarae, NIck and I set off in the dinghy to find our friends. Forty minutes later, we saw all of the gear lying around on the beach. They were serious campers who brought everything – kayaks, bikes, wind surfers, and roller blades, not to mention the four tents and full size barbecue. We visited for a while and then headed back to the boat for lunch.
After lunch, we everyone at the cliffs, Nick and Dennis jumped off the “Eagle’s Nest” but I was only brave enough to jump from the top of the “Ice Cream Cone”. We swam, roller bladed, and enjoyed the day.
Later on in the day, Dennis and his friend wanted to try fishing in the dinghy. Somehow, when Dennis started the motor, it fell off the dinghy and landed in the water. They pulled the motor out of the water and rowed ashore. They dried out all the parts, adjusted various things, Dennis even borrowed his friend’s bike and went to the nearest marina for some technical advice and motor parts. But the motor would not go. It started to get late and we wanted to get back to Hetarae but did not want to leave the dinghy on the beach. Nick and I walked back only felt slightly guilty watching Dennis row. It took him over an hour and he had new blister on top of his old blisters from the day before’s row. He was exhausted!
The next day was spent trying to get the motor going. It didn’t look good though and Dennis prepared to bring it into the next marin and have a professional look at it.
So, we had been gone three days and we had run out of gas, weathered a storm and had broken a motor. Could things get any worse? We thought not and were happy to get all of our bad luck over with so early on in the trip. We pulled the anchor and headed out for Regatta Bay and towards our next disaster!
Regatta Bay is absolutely beautiful and a very safe anchorage. Like many spots in Georgian Bay, it is rocky and filled with twisted pine trees. The bay has a narrow entrance – just seven feet in places – that opens up into a space big enough to hold a dozen boats. You have to very carefully follow the markers and chart though because the entrance can be quite tricky. We had been there several times and were confident.
We were able to go right to the end of the bay and tie ashore. We spent three days swimming, blueberry picking and snorkeling. Dennis worked on the dinghy motor (no luck though). We saw a four foot long fox snake swim by the boat and a porcupine tried to climb on board one night. Other than the mosquitoes and horse flies, we had a great time! Even the one hour of rain in the morning didn’t “dampen” our enthusiasm because we were able to break out our rainy day activities.
Our good luck held until we left Regatta Bay on the third morning. I was at the helm and Dennis pulled up the anchor. The boat didn’t want to go in the direction I wanted it to go. I still had not mastered the art of steering with the outboard engine mounted on the back of the boat. I went forward into the mud, then reversed and almost hit the rock we had been tied up to. Meanwhile, the wind pushed us closer to the shore. Dennis kept shouting directions at me and finally took over. Even he could not maneuver us out of this mess, so he grabbed the anchor and a ton of chain, and tossed it all in the dinghy. He rowed out to the middle of the bay (more blisters) with the intention of dropping anchor and then pulling the boat toward it. It was a great idea until a good samaritan stepped in. He saw that Dennis had to row, so he quickly jumped into his dinghy, took the anchor from Dennis and raced out to the middle of Regatta Bay.
Meanwhile, I somehow got stuck at the wheel again and saw that things were not progressing as they should have been.
“We’re going to hit that boat!” I shouted to Dennis. We were dangerously close to a beautiful blue 36 foot American owned sailboat.
So Dennis rowed to Hetarae, climbed up the ladder, ran to the bow and leapt onto the beautiful blue boat. He managed to shove Hetarae away just in the nick of time! Luckily the owners were nowhere near the scene of our latest catastrophe!
Finally, finally Hetarae righted her course and we skulked our of Regatta Bay. We then vowed that we would have a set departure plan every time we left an anchorage or dock. Not only was the boat hard to steer, it also had a “little” problem with forward and reverse being mixed up and I didn’t know how to drive it very well. I was too weak to pull up the anchor, so I had to be at the helm.
With a sigh of relief, we headed up the small craft channel towards Point au Baril. Nick thought that he would take snapshots of all the lighthouses along the way and we agreed that the lighthouses would be an excellent way to remember our trip (as if we could forget anything after being traumatized so many times!).
During the late morning, as we wound our way through the small craft channel, we almost met with disaster again. We were being very vigilant about the charts (this was before GPS days) and were able to pinpoint our location easily. In one spot though, Dennis misread the chart. We were headed for a shoal and the water was very choppy. Dennis quickly realized his mistake, reversed the boat hard, and backed into the proper channel. This was a very close call and we were lucky not to be stuck on the rocks. The strong wind would have done much damage to the boat had we crashed. We thought we had better look for an anchorage soon, as we didn’t want to press our luck any further.
In the afternoon, Dennis spotted an anchorage that he had stayed at before. It was very narrow, the boat couldn’t even turn around in it, but it looked appealing and safe. I headed into it very cautiously. Nick and Dennis were ready with lines to tie up on shore. I kept my eye on the depth sounder and things were going well.
Dennis told me to put the boat in neutral so that we would coast gently into the anchorage. A pine tree loomed into view and I thought that I should reverse the boat so that I wouldn’t hit it. In my panic, I slammed the boat into forward instead and then smacked right into the pine tree! No damage was done except to my already shattered confidence. Dennis and Nick couldn’t stop laughing and teased me about this for weeks. I did eventually get revenge though – but that story will have to wait!
I spent the next hour cleaning pine branches and needles off the boat. Dennis and Nick went fishing but did not catch anything.
We had our supper, got cleaned up and headed down below when the mosquitoes started to come out. We thought we had good screens but we were unprepared for the onslaught. Mosquitoes covered the screens, their buzzing was frightening. We taped up every crack we we could find but somehow the mosquitoes made their way inside. Perhaps they could smell the fresh blood from Parry Sound, we didn’t know, but they were determined to eat us alive. They were everywhere in the cabin. We killed as many as we could see and yet had made no progress. In fact, there seemed to be more mosquitoes than ever. The curtains quickly became stained with blood. We finally realized that we had neglected to close the vent across from the washroom. Once we closed it, the mosquito population did not increase. There were quite a few in the cabin though and we were forced to light a Pic coil. Within fifteen minutes, they flew around haphazardly and fell to the floor. When our eyes started to water and we gasped for breath, we put out the Pic coil. I was beginning to have second thought about boating…
We decided to turn in for the night. Unfortunately, I spotted the citronella candle burning in the cockpit. We had put it there hours before as a deterrent for mosquitoes and had forgotten all about it. Dennis said he’ go outside and put it out. I would let me because the outside of the screen was still covered with mosquitoes – hundreds of them.
“Then how are we going to put the candle out?” Dennis asked.
“We’ll let it burn itself out,” I replied.
Dennis thought that this was a bad idea since it was a brand new candle and had hours of burning time left. Besides, did I want to set the entire boat on fire? At that point, he shouldn’t have put that thought into my head.
So, he did the only thing he could and took a deep breath. Hen then blew on the candle – which was about two feet away from the screen. THe flame did not even flicker. Dennis blew harder and harder. The candle would not go out. He then took a book and fanned the air as fast as he could. That didn’t work either. We both blew as hard as we could at the candle. Nothing happened. We were forced to open up the screen and extinguish the candle. We doing this, we let in another hundred mosquitoes and had to repeat the Pic coil procedure for the second time that night.
I lay down in my bunk with ear plugs and the covers pulled over my head. All night long, I could hear the bugs buzzing. It was a night to remember.
On July 21st, we headed into Britt. I went grocery shopping and found the selection of fruits and vegetables very poor. I was not easily discouraged though and knew I would find excellent produce soon. I also went in search of a bank machine but did not find one.
We anchored in the Still River at a friend’s place. They invited us for supper and I decided to bake a cake. I was anxious to try out our new “Outback” oven. It was designed for backpackers who wanted something more than frying pan cooking. It was ideal for us. It was small, compact, worked well on a propane stove, and had easy directions.
My friend was very surprised at the cake. She was expecting a typical boater’s contribution such as an apple but instead we dined on a white cake drizzled with cinnamon and sugar topping. The Outback oven proven to be invaluable throughout our trip.
After Nick watched television for an hour, we rowed back to Hetarae, screen ourselves in, and bunked down for the night. So far, our trip was was progressing quite well, we thought happily as we dozed off to sleep.