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The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

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posts: 94
The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

Imagine the bliss - I had saved up a month's worth of vacation time, and we were going to sail our family sailboat from Barrie area up Georgian bay to the North Channel. If you are a boater you know that this is a trophy trip. We didn't win the trophy...

To get from Lake Simcoe to Georgian bay we had to transit the Trent Canal. 4 locks, including th e"Big Chute Marine Railroad". We took the mast down in order to fit under bridges and headed down the river.

After leaving Lake Simcoe we crossed lake Couchiching. A shallow lake with marked channels that wasn't a big challenge, except that wake is really an issue here. After leaving Couchiching we went under Hwy 11 at Severn Bridge, and continued past some very picturesque cottages.

Along this stretch there is a railway swing bridge with a marked clearance of 13 feet on our charts. They lied. With the mast down and lashed to the deck, I had to duck to fit under the bridge. Our masthead electronics caught on the cross rails of the bridge, and were promptly removed from the boat. $1500 damage.

On the way home we got the attendant to swing the bridge.

At each lock we came to along the trent, the attendants were extremely helpful, taking our lines, helping us lock through, and telling us about traffic, things to watch for, and the history of the system. Our daughter collected their endangered species trading cards and studied each one.

At the end of the day we reached Midland and stayed at Doral Marine Resort where we were treated like royalty, tools were loaned to repair the damage, and we got the mast raised back into its proper position.

The staff, other boaters, and folks in general at Doral were extremely friendly and very much willing ot help us fix the boat and get underway. We spent 2 days at the resort, enjoying the pool, restaurant, and other facilities.

We left Doral and headed north through the Minicognashene channel to Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Here we stayed in Fryingpan Bay where vault toilets, docks, walking trails, and firepits are available. LArge gazeboes house picnic tables for eating on-shore in inclement weather. The kids swam, and we really enjoyed the stop. We stayed an extra day.

From here we headed further north to Indian Harbour where we spent one night before heading north to an unnamed anchorage that was in everyway perfect. Hidden in 12 Mile Bay along its North Shore, and not shown on the charts, this spot had a sandy bottom, a private beach, and was just a foot deeper than our boat's 4 foot draft. Swim half a dozen strokes from the boat and you could stand up.

Even better, the shape of the anchorage held its water in so it heated to be much wartmer than the water out in the bay. This was perfect. We stayed 2 days, got friendly with the resident snapping turtle, explored the backwaters of the anchorage, and then headed out.

Heading out was our mistake. We should have stayed forever.

Our destination was Massasauga Provincial Park, we decided to travel an unmarked channel to reach it. Upon leaving th emain (marked) channel we were feeling pretty good. We skirted some rocks and were travelling slowly watching for shoals and danger. My 12 year old was on the bow, calling out danger spots while my wife tended to our toddler in the cockpit with me.

A call came from the bow that things were getting shallow again, and then BANG! We hit the bottom. We were moving at less than 4 knots at the time.

In a heartbeat the boat spun 180 degrees and our rudder was forced up onto the rock that had just grabbed the keel of the boat. The engine failed, the rudder broke away from the boat, and we were in trouble.

After making sure no one was hurt, I restarted the engine, but without a rudder couldn't steer. Our little outboard was called into service and by running it I could pull th eboat around in different directions. Slowly I clawed my way back to safe water.

Out in safe water, I re-rigged the rudder, and then we drove to the nearest safe-haven, Henry's Fish Restaurant at Sans Souci.


posts: 94
1. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

When we got to Sans Souci, the staff at Henry's pointed us to the nearest open dock, where we tied up, and with borrowed snorkelling gear I went swimming to inspect the damage to our keel.

The Fibreglass had been compromised, but structurally we were OK. I would have to get the boat pulled to fix the damage, but there are no facilities at this small Isalnd, so we would have to wait until we arrived in Parry Sound. In th emeantime I could fix the rudder.

I removed it from the boat and took it ashore to repair it. On th epicnic table I laid out epoxy and fibreglass, and other boaters came by to visit. slowly things took shape. My daughter took a walk while I worked.

15 minutes later she was coming back from her walk when she fell and called out to me. "Daddy, Daddy, I heard it pop! Oh it hurts so bad! Daddy!!!"

When she was walking she had hurt her leg. I ran over to see what was wrong, and was crouched beside her when another boater, a lady from Toronto came up. This lady it turns out was a nurse from Toronto.

She immediately took control of the scene. My little girl had a broken leg and needed immediate transport to a hospital. The owner of the restaurant came and arranged a water taxi to take us back to Parry Sound, a splint appeared from another boat, ice was brough to put on the break, a chair arrived to transport her on. everyone was so kind and ready to help, it was overwhelming.

While I was attending to my daughter, my wife packed up clothes to take with us in case we would be gone overnight. We got the baby's car seat out of the bowels of the boat since we could see a car trip or two in the near future. About 25 minutes after the call was made the water taxi arrived, and carefully we moved my daughter onto it.


posts: 94
2. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

I have never seen someone handle a boat a deftly and as skilled as the young man who drove the water taxi that day. He wove a trail in and out of the channel through waters he seemed to have memorized. He knew which routes would avoid chop, and how to handle wakes so that the broken leg would not be further hurt. We screamed through water that we had planned to take a week to cover in about 20 minutes.

When we reached Parry Sound, a cab was waiting to take us th erest of the way to the hospital. We moved my daughter from the boat to the cab, and the understanding driver made sure she was comfortable while we loded up the trunk with gear, and put the baby in the backseat.

Then he drove us to the emergency room, and on arrival refused to be tipped. This ride was different, he said.

In the Er, our daughter was admitted after only a 10 minute wait. Her leg was X-rayed, and she got a cast for the break. Then we were given recommendations for hotels and wished good luck as we were dismissed. Total time in the hospital was about 3 hours. Much faster than many other hospital visits I have had.

We spent the night in the Travelodge of Parry Sound. They gave us a reduced emergency rate, and the girl at the desk was extremely accommodating of our daughter's needs. She made sure we could navigate the halls and that the room was on ground floor. Spare sheets were brought when my daughter complained of chills, and all the stuff we had forgotten in our rush to to the hospital (shampoo, soap, etc.) was supplied to us.

The next morning we sent the kids home with my inlaws who drove up from Toronto to get them. My wife and I went back and got th eboat and took it directly home, cutting our vacation short by 2 weeks.

I am amazed by th ekindness of so many who lent us a hand when things went wrong, and by the kindness of the folks who went out of their way to be sure that our kid was cared for.

Thanks to you all. We'll be back next summer.

Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
3. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

Hi CPotvin73,

Oh my gosh... what a sailing tale. Glad to hear that everyone was ok. Sad though to hear about your boat :-(

As a landlubber (someday hopefully to be a sailor) I still envy your adventure. I spend a fair bit of time along the Rideau Canal and I know that the facilities, Parks Canada Staff and even the regular folks who live along side it (and or cottagers) are pretty amazing. I've never really had (or even heard) of a bad experience. Infact most of the stories are remarkable acts of kindness and help (such as the folks who helped you fix your boat in Doral)

We get a lot of "Loopers" along the Rideau (as well as the St Lawrence Seaway... another favourite haunt of mine) and I love to hear their stories (they also tend to go via the Trent, Georgian Bay and the North Channel enroute to Lake Michigan).

I anxiously await Part II.



Ottawa, Canada
posts: 13,859
reviews: 50
4. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

Hi CPotvin73,

For whatever the TA Gremlins are playing with my posts this afternoon... I wrote the above reply somewhere after Installment I but BEFORE II and III, although it didn't actually post for about one hour.

Anyways, I am sorry to hear that your daughter was hurt (that really really sucks)... But indeed the people you met were truly amazing.

Agreed, a visit next year would be a good thing... back to my "Looper" reference... I hear that there weren't nearly as many this year as in the past (US Economy) doing the Great Loop takes about a year and is very expensive... evidently a lot of folks have postponed their visits until finances are better.

Great story (although not the happiest)... Vacations are meant to form lasting memories... and the primary fact is you discovered the kindness of strangers on vacation and that is a fantastic gift, and a long-lasting memory.



PS>.. This will be one vacation your daughter will talk about for the rest of her life.

posts: 94
5. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

Thanks for your thoughts Wine.

For the other TA folks, another lasting lesson is be sure you have travel insurance. Even inside the province. The emergency water taxi here was very expensive, as was the trip home if the in-laws hadn't been available.

Our insurance should cover the taxi, hotel, travel back to the boat, upgraded cast (fibreglass), etc.

This was a very mundane incident. She was walking a groomed trail, and just mis-stepped. Too much pressure on the bone, and it broke. This could have happened in our own backyard.

Luckily she will heal, and our boat can be repaired so we can take another shot at this.

6. Re: The Vacation from hell... Sailing Georgian Bay goes Wrong

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