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.