This is update #9 as we cover Fred and Sidonia St. Germaine's trip along The Great Loop in their Nimbus 405 Coupe. Links to the other updates are below.
We left Sidonia and Fred safely docked at Starport Marina after transiting the Big Chute, nearing the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway.
The marina is on the east side of the lake, just north of the last lock at Port Severn, and it made sense to take a break. There is not much in the way of summer activity in Port Severn besides watching boats lock through the last lock in the Trent-Severn (or first if one is headed eastward toward Trenton).
It is only eight miles from the Big Chute to Port Severn and Lock #45, the last lock of the Trent-Severn Waterway.
Another reason to stop at Starport Marina is its proximity to Rawley Resort, Spa, & Marina. This highly regarded resort goes back 100 years, when it first opened as an early fishing lodge. Today the facilities comprise a full-service luxury resort.
“We didn’t find much reason to rush on to Port Severn, as there is only a small general store and a liquor store for provisioning, and we needed more than either could provide. We thought about moving on to Midland, but after a delicious and leisurely lunch at the Rawley Resort near the marina, that seemed out of the question.
“Roger and Marilyn (‘Uncle Wiggley’) stopped for fuel at the marina and we visited with them for a bit. They were continuing to Midland today.
“On Sunday, July 17th, we took on fuel and moved the short distance to the last lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway, Port Severn Lock #45. This lock chamber is smaller than all the other locks at only 84 feet long. Construction of the lock began in 1913 just before WWI. To complete the lock quickly, they made it shorter, with the intent to increase the size at a later date. They never did.”
Completing the Trent-Severn Waterway is a major accomplishment for those doing the Great Loop. Once the Loopers enter Georgian Bay after Port Severn, most will head into Lake Huron, then Lake Michigan, where they travel south to enter the Chicago River in downtown Chicago.
“We were sorry that the end had come to the Trent-Severn. It has been a very enjoyable trip through many villages, islands, canals, and lakes.
“Now entering Georgian Bay, the landscape already looks different. The little islands are not covered in forests of tall trees. Many barely rate the term ‘island’ as whatever trees they have are small, more like tall shrubs.
“The water does get deeper, however. We found 33 feet on the depth sounder in the short hop from Port Severn to Midland.”
Located at the southern end of Georgian Bay's 30,000 Islands, Midland is the major center for the area’s economy. Midland has a good-sized hospital and an airport to support its 18,000 full-time residents.
During the summer season, the area population grows to over 100,000 visitors who come to spend time in the thousands of area cottages, resort hotels, and national and provincial parks.
Every June, there is an annual butter tart festival, which in pre-Covid times sold over 100,000 butter tarts, the delicious treats Canadians are famous for.
Midland’s Huronia Museum opened in 1947 and was part of Canada’s Centennial Project, which opened in 1967. The Historic Art of Huronia Gallery in the museum presently displays works by many famous artists, such as Homer Watson, Manly MacDonald, Franklin Arbuckle, and William Wood. There are exhibits of contemporary art and archaeological collections of the Ouendat and Ojibway
First Nations. Other exhibits highlight Georgian Bay lighthouses, shipwrecks, maritime and military history.
Adjacent to the museum is the Huron Village, which illustrates what Huron life was like in the century before the arrival of Europeans, around 1500-1600. The village includes a shaman's lodge, wigwam, masks, fish racks, longhouse, corn field, bone pit, fur drying rack, and a burial rack.
A sight one cannot miss when entering Midland by boat is a giant mural painted on the grain elevators. The mural depicts a meeting between a local Huron-Ouendat native and missionary Jean de Brebeuf. It was done by Fred Lenz and his son, Stephen. Completed in 2001, it was the largest mural in Canada at the time.
The marina of choice in Midland is the Bay Port Yachting Centre on the northwest side of the bay.
“Entering Midland, the first sight you see is the huge mural on the grain elevators at the waterfront. It is quite impressive. We docked at Bay Port marina, a good mile from town. But there is a nice, paved pathway from the marina to town which follows the waterfront.
“It has been very hot the past several days, up to at least 90 degrees yesterday. We stay aboard during the afternoons with the air conditioning keeping us cool. At night the temperatures drop, enough that one of us at some point reaches down and pulls up the comforter.
“It rained most of the next morning, Monday, and we thought we would have to cancel our planned golf game. But by noon, the sun broke through, and the afternoon turned out to be beautiful.”
Midland is sufficiently large enough to support several taxi companies. Sidonia and Fred took a Busy Bee taxi over to the Midland Golf and Country Club. They enjoyed playing on a nice golf course with lots of trees and sand traps. It was good to get off Last Item and stretch one’s legs and muscles while walking the course and swinging golf club.
Temperatures remained in the 90s, so after golf the couple returned to the boat to cool down for the remainder of the afternoon.
The following morning, they headed over to the Huronia Museum and the Huron Village.
“The museum has lots of Indian artifacts, some of which are hundreds of years old. There are also interesting things from the early pioneer days. They also have a maritime exhibit with ship models, and dozens of photographs of ships from the 1800s.
“After more grocery shopping and another good lunch at the Boathouse Grill, we struggled with heavy backpacks back to the boat. Thank goodness for our scooters.”
On Wednesday, July 20th, the couple left Midland and continued on their Nimbus Coupe northwest across Georgian Bay. They were soon weaving their way through numerous islands of the northern bay.
They were headed to a likely anchorage about 25 miles north of Midland and hoped to drop the hook in a well-protected spot perfect for enjoying the beauty and splendor of Georgian Bay.
“We headed to a place Fred determined would be a great spot, but we had a problem once we got there. At the narrow entrance of where we expected to anchor was a sign on a tree that announced we had arrived at Camp Hurontario, but the sign told us to please not enter beyond this point. We could see kids canoeing and sailing just ahead. It was a perfect place for a summer camp, but we were disappointed we were not allowed into this picturesque spot.
“We pushed on a little farther and found another place to anchor. It was nice but more exposed. As it was windy, and there was a forecast of a possible squall and a tornado watch. The skies slowly darkened throughout the afternoon and right at 5:00, the squall hit. Thunder, lightning, wind, and rain lasted for an hour and then eased up.
“The islands around us are mostly uninhabited but we could see a couple of houses on two different islands a little distant. There was also someone camping on the island near us and Fred was sure the sounds we heard were .22-caliber rifle shots. Occasionally, a small boat and outboard would pass through the nearby channel. Overall, it was pretty secluded.
“Despite the weather, it felt good to be on the hook again.”
Anchored in the islands near Camp Hurontario, the couple experienced a blow the next morning that sent whitecaps through their anchorage, and the morning winds buffeted the Nimbus Coupe, swinging her around the anchor rode. But the anchor was secure, so they decided to stay put due to the winds.
“It would normally have been a popcorn and movie day, except we couldn’t get TV reception, which we have not been able to get since we entered Canada.”
In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the winds continued to howl. They could see a house on shore flying the Canadian flag, and it was as straight as a board all day as if it was made of wood.
The following morning, Friday, July 22, the winds finally died, and the anchorage once again became a peaceful setting.
“There is nothing quite like floating among several islands and hearing a loon warbling in the evening. It was the same sound I woke up to this morning and reminded me of the movie ‘On Golden Pond.’ The island nearest to us is covered with trees right down to the water’s rocky edge, their tops all angled to the south. In some spots, the rock is angled in colored layers eight to ten feet high. Some of the rock is a lovely pinkish-beige color.
“Last night, just after I went to bed, there was the loud sound of several feet of anchor chain going out. It woke Fred up and we pondered what could have caused it as there was very little wind now.
“It finally dawned on us that Ozzie must have walked across the console and hit the switch. Earlier in our trip, he had turned on the defogger blowers. There is really no way to keep the switches protected when he is wandering around the boat.”
(Seen below: Ozzie hides whenever he thinks the engines are about to come on.)
One thing Sidonia and Fred were not going to miss is Henry’s Fish Restaurant, a quite-famous fish and chips eatery on the Sans Souci Peninsula, known as Frying Pan Island. The restaurant is only reachable by boat and plane. It is well known to Loopers and in previous years tourists have flown in from Toronto for a tasty fish dinner.
Islander Adventure Tours offers large RIB tours to Henry’s, a part of a tour package through the scenic islands and waters between Frying Pan Island and the company’s home base on Parry Island.
Lake Country Airways also offers scenic flights from Orillia that flies over the islands of Georgian Bay, landing at Frying Pan Island for lunch at Henry’s. After a relaxing meal, the return trip back to Orillia flies over the Trent Severn Waterway, the Swift Rapid lift lock, and along Sparrow Lake before landing back in Orillia.
Clearly it should not be missed by Loopers passing through Georgian Bay.
“All the Loopers and Looper books talk about Henry’s on Frying Pan Island for good fish and chips. We just had to see what all the hoopla was about.
“We arrived at 11:30 and were told we’d have to wait until they opened at noon. Then a very large inflatable tourist boat arrived carrying about thirty people. They all went up and got tables right away. We thought we wouldn’t be eating for a long time but, sure enough, at noon we were seated.
(Seen below: Henry's warns boaters of shallow rocks by displaying bent propellers.)
“We agree with the critics that the fish and chips are very good.”
Back under way, they decided to bypass Parry Sound as they had plenty of provisions, and they prefer to anchor out whenever they can. So, Fred looked at the charts and came up with a good choice.
They decided to travel through Shebeshekong Channel to the east and anchor off King Island.
“We dumped the dinghy for the first time since the incident in the Thousand Islands. In Port Severn, we had picked up the replacement outboard cowling that Fred ordered. Now we realized that the seat was also missing, which we hadn’t noticed before.
“We took our happy hour beverages over to King Island.
The rocks there are such that it is easy to walk a fair distance on them. Where there isn’t rock, there are lots of interesting little plants and some very deep, soft moss. After we climbed around for awhile, we settled on a large rock and sipped our drinks while enjoying the view. I thought I’d like to come back here in the morning, so we tied the dinghy to the boat when we returned for the night.
“The next morning, Saturday, July 23rd, I was still in bed when Fred went out on the back deck. I watched him look down, then look out, scanning the distance, and then come back inside to grab the binoculars.
“I knew right away that our dinghy was gone. It had been windy during the night, yet the bow line was still attached to a cleat on Last Item. That meant the knot had come undone from the eye ring at the bow of the dinghy.
“Fred admittedly is not good at tying knots. Before this trip, he bought a pair of 10/40 stabilized binoculars, and they really earned their keep this morning. He spotted the dinghy on a distant island, but it was too far away to see it with the naked eye.
“We lifted anchor and moved Last Item as close as we dared to where the dinghy was, and dropped the anchor. Fred was going to have to take a swim.
“Luckily, the water was not very cold, and Fred did not scream like a little girl when he went into the water.”
Fred was able to push the dinghy off the rocks and once aboard the dinghy was able to start the outboard without issue. Everything was fine until he noticed that one of the oars was missing. That was odd because the two oars are permanently attached to the dinghy.
So, when Fred returned to Last Item, he suggested Sidonia, an accomplished swimmer, should swim over to the rocks and look for the oar. It was no doubt near where the dinghy had lodged itself on the rocks.
“It was not too far from shore, but I haven’t been swimming for a long time and during that time I’ve somehow gotten a little older.
“I put on one of those horrible, orange life jackets which may be lifesaving but are impossible to swim with. I got to shore all right, but had trouble maneuvering around the round, underwater rocks so I finally took off the bulky life jacket. A man on shore suddenly appeared above me and started talking to me.
“I was having enough problems and his poor timing to have a friendly conversation didn’t help. He said he had a house on the other side of the island but lived in Florida.
“I kept floundering around trying to find the paddle and finally gave up. I swam back to the boat but then realized I couldn’t get aboard.”
The boarding ladder on the Nimbus is located off center on the starboard side of the swim platform, and it had been bent in one of the Erie Canal locks when turbulence pushed the boat’s stern into the lock wall. As a result, it no longer pulled out to extend into the water to allow her to climb up and onto the swim platform.
“I tried climbing into the dinghy using the skeg on the motor for a step, but that didn’t work either. Fred had to take the dinghy to shallow water where I could stand up and kind of fall in.
“Later on, Fred realized that even if we had found the oar, we would have found it broken. The reason it came off the dinghy was that the plastic coupling that attached it to the dinghy must have hit the rocks and broken. We are starting to feel jinxed with our dinghy.”
(There is a way to board a dinghy from the water that is worth learning. It may even save your life. Try it and you will feel confident about getting quickly and safely into an inflatable dinghy. And it takes very little upper body strength: https://youtu.be/GQuIJ3D5Kcc )
The weather forecast called again for strong winds, so Fred decided moving over to Bayfield would offer better protection, even though they preferred more remote anchorages among less inhabited rocky islands.
On the way to Bayfield, they passed the lighthouse at Pointe au Baril and entered a tricky, curvy route towards Bayfield that wound between rocks and sharp turns and it was imperative to follow the red and green buoys. There was not a lot of room for error.
As it turned out, Bayfield was not really a viable stop for their boat as the slips were for smaller boats and didn’t look very secure. Plus, there was not much else there.
So, Fred found another anchorage northwest of Bayfield, at the edge of Alexander Channel. It was much better, and they set the anchor just fine.
“After being in the water this morning, I thought I’d like to take a real swim. There was a problem, however. After floating around for awhile, I was ready to get back aboard. But we didn’t want to lower the dinghy and go to shore as we did earlier.
“So, Fred tied two lines to the rail with the fixed loop ends hanging in the water. One loop was lower than the other. When I got my foot to the second, higher loop, Fred raised the lower loop higher, and so on, a couple of more times until I could get a foot on the swimstep, and he could pull me up.
“The water felt wonderful, but I don’t know if it was worth what we had to go through just because I wanted to go swimming in the Great Lakes.”
See you next time.
Here are links to the LAST ITEM's previous Great Loop updates:
Update #1: Let's Go On The Great Loop!
Update #2: "Last Item" Begins The Great Loop
Update #3: Up The Hudson To Waterford
Update #4: Last Item Heads To Rome
Update #5: Big Water Ahead As LAST ITEM Heads to Oswego
Update #6: A Taste Of The Thousand Islands
Update #7: Into The Trent-Severn Waterway
Update #8: Deeper Into The Trent-Severn
Update #9: This Post.
Update #10: The North Channel
Update #11: Into Lake Michigan
Update #12: Gunkholing Down The Wisconsin Coast
Update #13: Visiting Kenosha
Update #14: Great Loop Trip Continues Into Illinois
Update #15: Exploring The Heartland
Update #16: Heading Into Tennessee
Update #17: Cruising In The Tenn-Tom