One of the great things about the Annapolis boat scene is that everyone passes through here sooner or later. So even if you yourself aren’t mobile, if you hang out long enough, you’ll have boat-friends in all sorts of places. We’re no exception. Sometimes these boat-friends are people we met as they were passing through on the annual southbound migration, or people we met through one of our online sailing forums or groups, sometimes they’re former dock-neighbors who were here for a while, then took off on new adventures but stayed in touch. Our friend Melissa is in the latter category. We met her when she kept her boat just a few slips away from us here in Annapolis while she worked for the Federal government in D.C., then a few years ago she headed north on a grand adventure. When she told us that she was in northern Canada and invited us to join her on her boat for a few weeks, we were only too glad to escape the hazy-hot-humid Chesapeake summer for some completely different boating.
We met up with her in Georgian Bay, the eastern part of Lake Huron, for a 2-week cruise through the aptly-named “Thirty Thousand Islands.” We alternated our days between anchorages in unspoiled north woods, rocks, and pine trees, and friendly small towns right out of a travel brochure. My mental picture of the north woods was one of misty gray days, but there were plenty of sunny ones, too. The days were LONG – it began to get light before 5 AM and didn’t get dark until after 10 PM. And when it did get dark, the sky was crammed with zillions of stars, undimmed by city glare. We ate fresh fish and chips at a waterside family stand with the boat that had caught them docked just behind us. We passed a police station with animal control’s trailer and cage parked in a lot with a reminder that we were truly in wilderness - an ominous yellow warning placard with the word “Danger” and a silhouette of a bear. We saw some funny piles of rocks and learned the fascinating story of the inuksuk – traditional Inuit arrangement of stacked stones, generally in the rough shape of a human, that served as guideposts for navigation or directional aids, pointing along the trail or waterway or in the direction of good hunting or fishing.
Photo: one of the thirty thousand islands
Photo: Bear cage
Boating itself both was, and wasn’t, like the Chesapeake. When we anchored in a pristine cove in Port Rawson Bay, I was excited that there were no sea nettles and ready for a swim. The first time I jumped in was cool and refreshing for me, but comic for Dan and Melissa. See, I’m used to floating about shoulder deep when buoyed by salt water. Well, here in the Great Lakes, the water was deep and cold … and fresh. I was unprepared for how low I’d float, providing much giggles as I spluttered and flailed as the water closed over my head! Like the Chesapeake, there was a network of inviting coves in which to anchor, but the gunkholing came with a hefty jolt of adrenaline that made the biggest difference between our Canadian getaway and our home waters. The soft mud we’re used to here makes grounding no more than an annoyance. In contrast, the sides and bottom of the channel in Georgian Bay were hard granite, meaning the penalties for bad navigation could involve severe damage to the boat. Fortunately, none of that happened. The biggest damage was to our schedules, as the three weeks drew to a close and we tried to figure out how soon we could return to this intriguing land.
Photo: an exciting cove to explore
Photo: Killarney evening, by Melissa Allen