Lake Simcoe to Beausoleil Island
Posted on September 3, 2018
Sun, Aug 26th. Thorah Island Anchorage, Lake Simcoe. Departed early across Lake Cameron and only intended to transit 4 or 5 locks but we pushed on through 7 locks, 2 swing bridges and 31 miles and a really narrow canal called the Trent Canal. So narrow that if another boat our size was coming in the opposite direction, it would be problematic.
Along the way, we transited the Kirkfield Lift Lock which is a smaller version of the Peterborough Lift Lock but unlike Peterborough there is no town and no real place to stay. As it was windy and late in the day, we were going to stay at the bridge basin wall before entering Lake Simcoe but decided to head out to Thorah Island 3.5 miles out from the Trent Severn. Found a spot on the lee side of the island and dropped anchor. Enjoyed a quiet evening after a long hot day and jumped in the water for a swim. Woke up to find 2.5 billion bugs (as Dave Barry would say “I’m not making this up”) everywhere on the boat – the cockpit, transom, hardtop, headliner, seats, floors, etc. Took a long time to wash off the little buggers.
Mon, Aug 27th. Orillia. The winds shifted overnight and weather wasn’t looking promising so we weighed anchor early to cross the 12 miles at the north end of Lake Simcoe to rejoin the TS. Lake Simcoe is the 4th largest lake in Ontario and as such you need to watch your weather forecast. Luckily most of the crossing was with a following sea and it wasn’t too bad. Pulled into Bridgeport Marina in Orillia before lunch. Rain and thunderstorms were forecast for today so decided to do some housekeeping i.e. boat fueled, pumped out, boat washed, clothes washed, soup made. The marina was in a beautiful little spot on the TS with views of the marsh, swans, geese, and boats going by. No locks today. Yeah!
However, we were woken in the middle of the night by an emergency broadcast on our cells alerting us to a tornado warning in the immediate area. Lots of rain, wind, lightening, and incredible sounding thunder. Luckily, the storm passed without incident and we went back to sleep. Did I mention the thunder? A tornado was reported to have touched down close to where we were anchored the previous night. So lucky to have been tied up at Orillia.
Tues, Aug 28th. Big Chute. Off again early to make it to “The Big Chute” which would have us transiting 3 locks and 35 miles. What is the Big Chute you ask? Well, it is a one of a kind lock; the only lock of its kind in North America. Not a lock per se but a railway system. The original railway was built in 1914 as a “temporary” lock and the newer larger Chute built in 1978. Hard to describe the Big Chute so photos will help tell the story but instead of a lock where water raises or lowers you to the lake level, the railway carriage carries you over land to an elevation of 60’. The rail carriage is brought down to the water, you drive the boat unto a sling, the carriage is raised and your boat is completed “hauled” out of the water and carried up, over and down the hill and back into the water. 10 minutes. So before driving up to the blue line, we docked at the overnight piers and walked up to see what the Big Chute was all about. Fascinating. We weren’t sure if we would have to take our boat and dinghy separately but after discussing our situation with the lockmaster, he assured us that we could bring both boats in at the same time. Decided to “go for it” so retrieved the boats, headed to the blue line and got called in first. Locked through with two smaller boats and this definitely was the most unique experience in locking thus far. I was a bit uneasy watching from the helm as we were headed downhill so went to the back of the boat with Bob. After we were “splashed” we went right over to the floating dock to spend the night and continued to watch the action at the Big Chute.
During our Big Chute transit, one of the boats that transited with us took photos of our boat and later in the afternoon came by on a jet ski to get our contact information so he could send us the photos. Instant friends! Turns out he (Indy) had recently retired from the Toronto Police Force so of course Bob and Indy hit it right off. Not only that but every March he comes down to Pompano Beach for a week. We all chatted away for at least 2 hours and finally bid him good night. As forecasted, we had another night of thunderstorms and rain and were thankful to be tied to a dock versus being anchored out.
Wed, Aug 29th. Port Severn. Another overcast day with storms in the forecast so decided to travel to the lock wall at Port Severn, which is only 8 miles, as opposed to starting our new adventure on Georgian Bay. Port Severn is Lock 45 and the last lock on the Trent Severn Waterway if headed north or west. To date, we have transited 122 locks on our adventure!
Our new friend Indy, had emailed us the photos of our boat in the Big Chute and also offered to drive us to the grocery store once we got to Lock 45. We had a great day with Indy; lunch at the golf club, grocery, liquor store, beer store, parts store and then later he came back for docktails on our boat. While Indy lives outside of Toronto (about an hour’s drive) he keeps his boat at a marina in Port Severn and pretty much stays on it all summer. We hope to hook up with he and his family in March when they are in Pompano Beach.
Thurs, Aug 30. Midland. Decided to cross over to Midland to check out the facilities at Bay Port Marina for heated storage. In the last couple of days, we started to discuss our Plan B option which is to leave the boat up north in inside and heated storage for the winter and return next spring to continue our great adventure. The reasoning behind this decision is that we are now in the prettiest part of the whole loop and don’t want to rush through here to make Chicago by the end of September. The Great Lakes can turn very nasty as fall and winter rolls in so Loopers are advised to be off the Lakes by then. A lot of the boaters up this way start putting their boats away after this Labor Day weekend. So with this in mind, we started checking into options for leaving our boat. Bay Port Marina is one of the largest we have seen on the trip and very nice. In the afternoon, we took the dinghy across the bay to town, walked around and went to two restaurants, Boathouse & Lilly’s, for drinks and appetizers.
After more discussion, we decided on leaving the boat at Drummond Island, MI which would give us a whole month to enjoy Georgian Bay and the North Channel and not have to return to Midland. Georgian Bay is called the 30,000 islands region and has so many islands and anchorages to explore and the North Channel is described as “breath taking”.
Fri, Aug 31. Beausoleil Island. Departed the marina early to begin our exploration of Georgian Bay and crossed the bay to Beausoleil Island to an anchorage in Chimney Bay however ended up at the McCabe’s Rock anchorage. Since it is also Labor Day here in Canada, a three day weekend and the last big boating weekend for the season, we were cautioned that it would be crowded at just about all the anchorages. Sure enough many of the bays were crowded with boats and many rafting off as many as 8 – 10 boats and for the whole weekend! We found a great little spot and went to explore via the dinghy. Beausoleil Island is owned by Parks Canada and as such there are quite a few bays that have floating docks to tie up to. There was a group of friends (5 boats) that were tied up at the docks and enjoying themselves on the picnic table on top of the rock. Photo attached. As we passed by and chatted with them, they invited us back to the bon fire later in the evening. Bob jokingly told them that we would check out the other camps and see if we got a better offer and off we went.
Turns out our friend Indy and his wife Nancy came by in their jet boat for a visit and offered to take us on a tour of the area and back bays. We all hopped in the jet boat and off we went for a thrilling 3 hour ride. Indy, whom I have nicknamed Mario Andretti, has been boating in this area for 30 years and took us to all the local favorite anchorages. We hit 45 – 50 mph at times and boat handled like a sports car whipping around curves, channel markers and boulders! It was a bit chilly today and more so at 50 mph. We had an absolute blast and learned much about the area from both of them. They dropped us off around 6pm and headed back to try to make Lock 45 before it closed at 6:30 (which they did make). We enjoyed a nice evening with a Cosmo and grilled lamb chops.
Sat, Sep 1. Since the anchorages were crowded and we had a nice spot, we decided to stay put an extra night or two. We were encouraged to walk the trails on the island and so we took the dinghy over mid-morning to the docks where the 5 boats were docked. They joked that since we didn’t come for the Bon Fire, we weren’t invited for breakfast as they were all sitting down to a big camp fire breakfast. We sat and chatted with them on the picnic table and they invited us to join them to walk the trails. The escort sounded good to us as we didn’t want to get lost and so off we went after their breakfast. Bob and I had never really been on a hike like this before and it was challenging at times. Up and down big granite boulders, paths with many rocks and avoiding the poison ivy. Thankfully they pointed out the poison ivy but we stayed away from anything green to be sure. Bob and I opted to do the 1.5 hour hike as opposed to the 2.5 hour hike around Fairy Lake. Richard was kind enough to lead us back so we wouldn’t get lost. The only exercising or walking we have been doing on our adventure is the walking to marina offices, restaurants and towns and we could really feel it in our legs. In the last week, it has been down to low 50’s – 60’s at night so the water has cooled off as well. Even so, we jumped in the water once back at the boat to cool off. I was in and out quick but there were lots of people swimming around us. Grilled steaks and we enjoyed the beauty and activity around us including a nightly appearance by a beaver and listening to the beautiful call of the loons.
Sun, Sep 2. Bob’s Birthday! Still anchored at McCabe’s Rock, I invited Bob to a birthday lunch at the Top of the Cove restaurant at South Bay Cove Marina. Sat outside over looking the marina and enjoyed a delicious lunch. My pickerel (walleye in the US) was fantastic and Bob’s very good as well. We then dinghied over to the general store on Picnic Island and had birthday ice cream. In the afternoon, we hopped in the dinghy again and went touring through Little Dog River and back through Big Dog River. Later, the 5 friends at the Park docks invited us to “rocktails” where we sat at the picnic table perched high on the granite rock overlocking the bay. Had a great time and also a visit from the Park Warden and OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) as they were checking to see if everyone had their mooring passes or had paid the overnight dockage. The 5 boats were a bit concerned since in Canada you aren’t allowed to drink alcohol or have an open container on government owned land. They would have to consume their alcohol on their boats to be legal. But the warden and the police seemed more interested in checking everyone’s mooring passes and we were all fine. The other funny thing we learned that it is common for Canadians to change out the horse power stickers on their outboard engines to a lower number so that their kids can drive the dinghies. A 12 year old cannot drive anything over a 9.9 hp engine and a 16 year old cannot drive anything over a 30 hp engine. So there are also of 9.9 & 30 hp engines out there that are really 15 & 40 hp. By the way, one of the wardens spent a lot of time in Fort Lauderdale and Bimini so we talked about places we all knew.
Well, that wraps up another great week on our great adventure so, stay tuned!