Thursday, August 7, 2008

Snug Harbor - No Vacancy Covered Portage Cove - No Vacancy Pine Island - Vacancy then Tidal Waves. Let's Go To Killarney!

Well after pulling up all the lines, which entailed Bernie keeping Meridian in the middle of the channel while Phil dinghyed to shore, removed the lines from the trees, dinghyed back to Meridian, lifted the dinghy and tied it off, we set off for the dangerous and treacherous, narrow and winding, shoal-strewn LANSDOWNE CHANNEL (cue the scary music!) which would lead us to a safe anchorage such as Covered Portage or Pine Island. (HAH!)

At the beginning is Hole-in-the-Wall. At its narrowest, Hole in the Wall is an 8 foot wide boat passage. Most local boaters take their out-of-town visitors through the Hole for thrills and excitement. We're not quite ready for that kind of manuevering (hey, we're from the southern edge of Lake Michigan, to us, the Chicago River is narrow and winding!) This is not Hole in The Wall. Bernie doesn't always identify the landmarks correctly. But it does give you an idea about th shoals and upcoming landscape.

Once in the channel itself, the high cliffs of white granite, quartzite, and pine trees, are picturesque and indescribable to behold.

Beautiful, that is, once you get passed all the shoals that you have to dodge. Always remember that the first rule of boating is "Don't boat where the birds walk." The Canadian Coast Guard has to put buoys all down the channel, though, because they can't trust the darn cormorants and seagulls to stand on the shoals all day and night as a warning to all boaters.

The channel is well marked with buoys but the first time through was a little nerve-wracking. Plus, of course, the wind was starting to pick up. Although there are a couple of fully protected anchorages off Lansdowne Channel, we didn't know how full they'd be. Passing Snug Harbor, the boats looked snugly fit in there. Covered Portage Cove, next on the list, was so full that the boats were spilling out into the outer edge of the outer harbor. THAT wasn't promising. The last one on our list was Pine Island. There was only boat in there and it looked like a pretty little spot, although not as protected from the winds. So we set about putting down two anchors and getting further stabilized by tying to a tree. Having honed our tie-to-tree skills at Heywood, we were able to get that done in less than a half hour this time. We'd have some pictures of this but the North Channel Tropical Storm winds were moving in to Hurricane wind territory and it was too hard to get a steady picture.

As usual, the one direction that Pine Island doesn't really protect you from, west/northwest, is the one direction that the wind decided to blow from. The wind funneled down the little inlet opening (where have we experienced THAT before ... Port Sheldon, Fox Harbour, Hotham, etc. etc, etc.) and threw some rolling waves. We started to ask ourselves if this was REALLY where we wanted to wait out the never-ending series of tidal waves that was taking over this little inlet. About that time, the other boat in the harbor weighed anchor and headed off. We took the hint, pulled out the charts and set a course for Killarney.

We were going to Killarney anyway, so we just adjusted our schedule. Undoing the shore lines and the two anchors in the wind conditions was a thrill. Good thing we didn't go through Hole-In-The-Wall -- too many thrills in one day would be way too taxing. It only took a few minutes to undo all this. It's amazing how a little wide-eyed terror improves your boating skills. But Meridian was in agreement with our decision to leave so she cooperated.

Although Pine Island was pretty and looked like there were some good kayaking opportunities, it is not the place to be in any kind of westerly winds, especially if they are strong enough that the surfers start gathering. Here is the tree we temporarily tied to.

The Killarney West Light marks the entrance to the Killarney Channel. Of course, this picture doesn't show the tidal waves themselves, more the backsplash from the waves.

Approaching Killarney, we radioed the Sportsman's Inn Marina on VHF 68 and were told we could have the last available slip on the gas dock. We snapped that up! It worked out well because boats our size usually get put on the other side of the channel and dinghy or use their Tinkerbell Ferry to cross the channel. Those docks are a little old but are to be redone soon. The fuel dock is nice and sturdy and would allow us to gas up and pump out when we left without having to move (oh how lazy we are!)

We were one of only three boats that came in without reservations. The marina was almost full. Immediately, we had a good feeling about Killarney. There is a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere about the whole town and especially Sportsman's. (We later learned that Sportsman's is under new management and the new owners have worked to restore the main building. The showers are really big for a marina and well maintained. The Sportsman's Inn Marina restaurant recently re-opened for breakfast and lunch. They aren't serving dinner yet. The bar does serve bar food (nachos, wings, burgers) including the most economical pizza we think we've ever had. For $16, you gat a very large medium crust cheese and pepperoni pizza. It's $1.50 per extra topping, as long as the topping meets the approval of the chef. We ordered a pizza with mushroom and brocolli. The poor bartender had to come back and tell us that the chef couldn't do brocolli because he would have to blanch the brocolli first and that would add extra time (Chefs can be sooooooooooo persnickety.) We changed it to mushroom and green pepper, which apparently got the chef's OK. It was a very good pizza!

Killarney is one of our favorite towns. At first glance, it looks like the town is entirely marinas. But, upon closer inspection you find that each marina is more than a marina. As mentioned previously, Sportsman's is also an inn and restaurant.

Gateway Marina is also a bakery and restaurant. They open at 6:30am and have amazing fresh-baked Cinnamon Rolls, Butter Tarts, Granny Cakes (sugar, spices, pineapple), muffins, and breads.

Channel Marina is also the ice cream shop, which opens at 11:00am.

The other interesting part about Killarney is that all the businesses have docks for customers to tie up to. This goes back to the days before 1962 when there were no roads to Killarney. The only access was the channel. The businesses developed along the river and the docks enabled customers and supplies to get to the businesses. Pitfield's General Store has docks for customers to tie up to when they are shopping or doing laundry ($1.50/wash; $0.25/ 7 minutes and 50 seconds of dryer time. All washes are cold because they "are saving the planet one load at a time.")

Even the LCBO (liquor store) has a courtesy dock. We noticed that theirs seemed to be the sturdiest.

Herbert Fisheries was the "must stop" place. Whether it is for fish and chips from the bus or for fresh-off-the-boat white fish (filleted while you wait), we've never tasted better fish. Ever! Anywhere!

The Quarterdeck is a nice little shop for artisan crafts and souvenirs. They also have interpretive maps of two of the hiking trails accessible from downtown Killarney: The Lighthouse Trail and the George Island Wilderness Trail. We took the Lighthouse Trail, saving the Wilderness Trail for next time.

The Lighthouse trail is a 2.5km hike to the Killarney East Lighthouse. It is well-marked and rugged (hiking boots strongly suggested). The trail winds through forests, marshes, and the shores of Killarney Bay. It is all part of the Killarney Provincial Park. It is supposed to be a 2 hour hike, but ours lasted 3 hours because we took some side trips and stopped, periodically to eat BLUEBERRIES.

We hated to leave Killarney, but wanted to stick our bow into Georgian Bay before starting the return trip -- a circuitous route we haven't quite decided on yet.

1 comment:

diane and steve said...

Happy late birthday, Cap'n Phil!