Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bying Inlet, And Our Difficult Passage to Killarney

We left Parry Sound with the promise of a great cruising day. The weather forecast was very favorable with sunny skies and mild winds. The temperature was warm enough to make you feel comfortable but cool enough to not make you sweat. And the promise was fulfilled wonderfully. After negotiating the marked channel of Parry Sound we headed for open water northwest for 26 miles to a marker out about 3 miles from the mouth of the entrance of Bying (pro. bing, not by-ing) Inlet. Soon we found ourselves in a beautiful channel surrounded by round rocks on all sides but very deep. We found our marina and were in for the night.
Entering Bying Inlet
Behind us as we exited Bying Inlet

Exiting Bying Inlet

Our next port of call as a goal was Killarney, ON, at the end of Georgian Bay.

My usual practice is to always check the weather on the computer first thing in the morning. The forecast from Environment Canada for Monday didn’t seem all that bad. It called for winds of ten knots, more or less, and waves of around two feet or less…more or less. I was even able to get some favorable information on wind and wave predictions from the National Weather Service in the States. They have several marine forecast resources reaching up into Canadian waters. Our course to Killarney was to go south into Georgian Bay only about three miles, then turn almost ninety degrees to the northwest and make a straight line to Killarney only 26 miles up the reach. So it came as a big surprise that as we exited Bying Inlet heading out into the bay we were met with a very strong south wind with three to five foot waves. They were so strong we decided to turn back in towards Bying Inlet. But instead of going back to the marina and stay there for a couple of days (The weather predictions for Tuesday was for rain.) we decided to head up the Small Vessel Route and seek sheltered passages on up to Killarney. It would add about ten miles and two to three hours to our float plan.

Do you remember me saying that I had great apprehension about navigating in the Small Vessel Route? Well, the realization of my apprehension was a mixed bag. It was very narrow with lots of rocks and traps along the way which made for some slow going. But on the upside it was strangely beautiful with clear water. The waters were protected from the wind and waves. There were however several sections, at least up this north, that left the shore and ventured back out into the bay, the place we were trying to get away from, at least for today. The first of these reaches wasn’t too bad as the angle was favorable to a slight degree. After that reach it the course ducked back towards shore then around an island on its north side, again offering protection. Then the charted course went out into the bay again: this time for about fifteen miles northwest. And once again we were forced to turn back.

By this time we were too far along to go back to Bying Inlet. Our only option was to look for a marina or someplace to sit out the rest of the day and night. We tried going up a river called the French River which had a couple of marinas noted on the paper charts. But that was no good as the main channel of the river had a section that was unsuitable to pass. We had to double back. Not knowing what else to do we turned into the Small Vessel Route heading back southeast from French River looking for an anchorage. After only about a half of mile of some very twisty, narrow and treacherous waterways we did find a beautiful anchorage in a big pool just on the north side passage of an island with a terrible name – Obstacle Island. So we dropped anchor and relaxed in a very beautiful location ready to sit out the rest of the day (and probably the next day, too). We have plenty of water and fuel as well as an almost empty holding tank so this was not a problem.

Picture this…here we were in an isolated anchorage surrounded by huge smooth rock formations and beautiful water. There were no towns or cities anywhere near us…no cell phone signals, no internet, no television, no nothing! It was wonderful.

Update – 1:30 am Tuesday July 31, 2012

Our restful and peaceful night did not last. At 1:30 am we were awakened by the soft thud sound of our port side stern corner coming to rest against one of the sheer rock cliff faces of our anchorage. Apparently our anchor’s hold was not as good as we thought. When we anchored we could see weeds at the bottom of the water which could be detrimental to getting a good set anchor. Our initial opinion was that we had a good hold because of some moderate winds that were blowing to no effect on the boat other than to gently swing it back and forth. Apparently a strong storm swept through around midnight and pushed up towards the shore. The anchor did not hold. Lisa was woken up by the storm earlier and did do a quick look around and at the time she surmised things as being ok. I slept through it.
The little sub-inlet adjacent to our anchorage at Obstacle Island where Why Knot almost got sucked into when we were blown off our anchor by a squall line blow in the middle of the night.

We grabbed our flashlights and got out onto the deck to see that we had been blown all the way back from our original anchorage location just as we had set up. The rock wall was in a little sub-inlet to some kind of creek with a sheer facing cliff of which we were resting broadside against it. However we were be dragged by a current into the little creek which was certainly someplace we did not want to go. By poking our extra long seventeen foot long boat hook straight down into the water at the stern I determined that our rudder and prop were not in any kind of restriction. We were at first going to settle to let the boat stay where it was until sun-up but as we looked at things more closely we could see the current was working against that idea.

The depth sounder was showing seventeen feet of water under us so I took the extra long boat hook and pushed  the stern away from the wall to an angle enough that I could then fire up the engine and back us up back into the pool near where we originally had dropped the hook. There was one snafu with this idea in that the anchor was too heavy from all of the weeds hanging on it from scraping along the bottom. I was able to get it out of the water a bit before the windlass clutch started to let go. So again with the aid of the boat hook I was able to get most of the weeds off of the anchor. With this weight removed I got the anchor up.

So as it stands right now at about 4:00 am I am sitting in the salon keeping watch. Lisa is back asleep in the cabin. Every now and then I take out the big flashlight and check things out. It is very cloudy and the moon is obscured which makes it very, very dark. Fortunately when all this was happening the moon was still out. What our plans for today are is unclear. What weather reports we can hear on the radio suggest that it could either be a stormy day or clearer and calmer in the morning getting worse in the afternoon. If the former is the case we are going to have to ride it out at this location all the while occasionally hauling up the anchor and moving the boat. If it is the latter and the worse is past us until sometime this afternoon we might make a run for Killarney starting at sunrise. We’ll have to wait and see.

Update – Safe in Killarney

As it was dead calm about 4:30 am I went back to bed and fell fast asleep. Lisa got up to take her turn watching things. She would wake me up if anything happened. I woke up by myself about 7:00 am and found Lisa out on the deck talking to a man in an inflatable dinghy. He was the skipper of a sail boat that had anchored in a pool just a few hundred yards or so back out the direction we came in the small vessel channel. They were talking about the weather. It was still dead calm. As I said the forecast details that we had been getting were sketchy due to VHF radio interference on our end. He had more clear information. It was still the former/latter situation I spoke of earlier, but with a slight difference. It was calm right at that minute and the outlook was for it to remain that way for a short while. And for us the most difficult part of the route for today would be the first fifteen miles as we had to go out into the bay a short distance, then turn northwest and run parallel to the shore for a while, then cut back into the shore to pick up the small vessel channel where we had some guarantee of sheltered conditions. As mentioned several times in this blog our experience is that it is generally calmer early with winds increasing in the afternoon. We knew that it was a risk but we decided to pull up anchor about 8:15 am and head out.

Our risk taking paid off. The first, outside part of the day’s route was a bit windy but not yet enough to broil the seas from their calm condition earlier in the morning. After traversing that part we headed back into the small vessel route. And, boy, are we glad we did. It was absolutely beautiful. The first main body of water we entered was Beaverstone Bay, a fairly large lake with numerous rocky islands and outcroppings. Earlier in the day it was cloudy but by now, at least for this portion, it was sunny and bright and we were dazzled by the clear, clean water and natural formations. (The sky’s condition would alternate between very grey and cloudy to sunny and bright frequently during the day.) The route through the bay ended with the narrowest little channel we had yet encountered. The red and green buoys were barely wider than our boat’s width. 

At the end of that we entered Collins Inlet which is really a long mostly straight river with rocky cliffs and trees lining the way. This too was a delight. The depths were generous and there was plenty of room to navigate. This eventually emptied back in to Georgian Bay for a short four nautical mile leg straight to the entrance of a straight connecting Georgian Bay the and he North Channel, and the village of Killarney. Rogue’s Marina (pro. Rock’s) is our home for the next several days. From here we will move on to Gore Bay, still in Ontario, then to Drummond Island in Michigan.
Getting ready to exit Collins Inlet

Beautiful white cliff hills north or our last leg into Killarney.

Killarney straight lighthouse

By the way, it did finally rain a bit late in the day.