The White Spaces

We just spent the most wonderful week in the Georgian Bay.

We met up with Jennifer and Fred Bagley on “Catamount” as we passed through Beaverstone Bay, on our way into the Georgian Bay. They had spent the last 2 days anchored there and were ready for adventure!

Fred is working on a magazine article about the white spaces on charts, those areas with no numbers (depths) that are uncharted, and those of us who use handheld depth sounders and iPads to get into them. I learned just shortly before the end of the wilderness rally that Ron and Fred had talked about this “project”. It came as a surprise to me, but I learned long ago to “roll with the punches” when it comes to this sort of thing.

We initially planned to take Catamount into Fort Channel, an uncharted area we explored with friends on “Reverie” last year. However, there was too much wind, too much “ruffle” on the water once we arrived at our turning point, so we ended up at a buoyed anchorage at Bad River where we spent a delightful evening with mutual friends, Michele and J.E. on “Adagio I”. Michele and J.E. were heading back to Midland from their cruise to Lake Michigan, and then will be leaving the Great Lakes to head south on their boat for the winter. We really hope to meet up with them down in the Keys this winter, in the saltie part of our lives.

Annwfn approaching the "parting channel" at Obstacle Island. We had about 6 inches clearance on either side as we made our very tight turn around that rock in the middle!

"Annwfn" approaching the parting channel, as seen from "Catamount."

The next morning we had a bit too much wind for “thin water” exploring, so we took “Catamount” on their first adventure: the parting channel in the small boat passage. There is no doubt that it gets one’s adrenalin running. We checked out Beacon Bay, but found it too windy, too deep, and too rocky an anchorage. We went a bit further and tried out another area, but although it was okay for a lunch spot, it wasn’t one we felt comfortable staying for the night with the winds that were blowing 15-18 knots. We ended up for the night at Dead Island, a lovely anchorage on the charts (not uncharted, but protected). Dead Island has been claimed by First Nation as a spiritual and holy place, once used for burials. I was enchanted by this spot and look forward to returning one day to better explore the island when we have more time.

I can't think of a nicer message than this expressed on the sign on Dead Island.

We left “Catamount” at Dead Island the following morning. We headed into Britt for a needed pump-out and Ron was out of beer. “Catamount” went off exploring on their own.

We left Britt with a forecast of SE winds of 10 knots, increasing to 15 around noon. I don’t know why we keep trusting Environment Canada’s forecasts. The forecasts are issued at 3:00 AM, 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM every day. It is common for them to change the forecast every few hours. We know better. And yet we were incredulous to get back onto the Georgian Bay and find E15-20. We were sailing at an incredible rate of speed, since the wind and waves were on our stern quarter. We were averaging nearly 6 knots, even after we reduced our head sail to what amounted to a handkerchief of a sail. But by that time, we were seeing wind gusts of 32 knots and it was not fun. The wave forecast of a “half meter” was a joke. We were seeing a following sea more in the 2-meter range. Yikes. And we were going to need to make a turn into them if we were going to get back into the small craft channel.

To make a long story short, we made our turn, and the Georgian Bay’s many shoals and rocks helped break up those seas so that we could more easily motor into the heavy wind and actually make some headway. What a blessing! “Catamount” as it turns out had gone into Fox Island Harbour, the same area that we had wrecked the rudder on “Prudence P. Fishpaws” 20+ years ago, and a place I have refused to return. (The water was very dark, full of tannin, and we ran our 40-foot Cheoy Lee up onto an uncharted rock ledge. That’s another story.) However, the wind was howling, Fred and Jennifer were nestled safely in this beautiful spot (I remember it being incredibly beautiful) with just cooling breezes, and I just wanted to be anchored somewhere. So, I faced my fears and told Ron, let’s join them. And we did. And we didn’t hit anything. And it was the most beautiful spot we’ve been this summer. I couldn’t believe when Ron ended his book, saying we’d go back to this place. But this past summer, we finally did just that.

Annwfn, anchoring at Fox Island Harbour.

After Fox Island Harbour (and another smallmouth bass dinner), the wind settled down and it was time to make our way back west, toward Fort Channel. I learned that it is much different following someone else into a new, uncharted spot than leading someone in. I am always the bow watch. I don’t see the depth sounder that is back in the cockpit. I just see the huge boulders, big as houses, appear in the water below our bow. My, oh my. Again, neither of us hit, but we did zig and we did zag to get through the shoals and into water we could anchor. We were all ready for the adventure to conclude, and to head back west, into the known and better protected waters of the North Channel.

Catamount at sunset, anchored at Odjig Island: our final anchorage with them in the Georgian Bay.


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