Diva Di's Cruising Adventures

Day 41 - Obstacle Island, ON (Georgian Bay)

09 July 2016
Day 41 - Fri 8 Jul 2016
Anchored - Obstacle Island, ON (Georgian Bay)

[photo: the black bear we saw on the shore as we were anchoring]

We had another quiet night at anchor with nothing to disturb us at all. There were no wakes or wind gusts, just complete tranquility. Another check of the weather indicated we could safely move this morning, so we got going at 0630 under mostly gray skies with a threat of drizzle. Having the sun shining would have made it gorgeous, but it was still a pretty time passing the many thousands of islands, islets, and rocks along the way.

Most of the passage was fairly wide and deep, but Roger's Gut was quite narrow, and later when we got to Parting Channel, that was the most challenging so far. The cut between two islands is rather narrow by itself, but there are some large rocks in the middle and you need to dodge them. Even though our wide catamaran might seem like the worst boat for that situation, its twin propellers spaced 12 feet apart allow you to spin on a dime, so-to-speak, and you can negotiate very circuitous paths. You can't make the boat any narrower, of course, so if there are rocks closer than 18 feet, you are in trouble.

We anchored in the NE corner of Obstacle Island, partly for the all-around protection it offers and partly because of the challenge of getting there. There are numerous rocks all around this area and it is not for the faint of heart to venture in here. Our anchorage is clear of rocks within our swing radius, so we are safe with a well-set anchor.

Speaking of anchoring, while I was setting the anchor with commands to Diane at the helm, I was picking a spot on shore to make a range. That's where you pick two objects in line with your eye but separated by some distance from each other. If the anchor is set, those two objects will stay in line. If you are moving because the anchor is dragging, they will not stay in line.

So, I was picking a range on shore about 150 yards away and noticed a large black shape on a rock promontory. After a few seconds, I said to Diane, "isn't that a bear?" She got the binoculars and confirmed it was. If I had to guess, I would say a black bear in the 150-250 pound size range. That was the first sighting of a bear in the wild for Diane and maybe the third for me. Very cool! Her next question was, "can they swim?" The answer is, yes, they can.

Speaking of wildlife, I forgot to mention that we saw a bald eagle yesterday while we were tooling around in the dinghy. And speaking of dinghies, we were both eager to get the dinghy down and go exploring. I did so, while Diane packed a bag with our stuff, water, and a snack. We headed up the Eastern Mouth of the French River very slowly because there could be rocks anywhere and the water is not clear enough to see them. It did not help that the sun was not out, either.

Well, at first the challenge was sighting the rocks before he hit. Diane was looking over the bow, but it was not easy to do, even at a walking pace, so we hit. It turns out there was a dime-sized chip taken out of the fiberglass on the keel, but nothing too bad. We backed out and realized we couldn't go that way. This entire area has been scoured by glaciers such that it looks like hundreds upon hundreds of claw marks running basically north/south. We backed out and tried another narrow gorge between two fingers and found more impassable rocks.

We finally got some progress, all the while marveling at the colors and striations of all these large rock formations surrounding us. The guidebook's latest edition mentioned taking a dinghy up the river to visit some abandoned buildings used by the logging industry up here. Well, using my handheld GPS and the latest charts, it appears there is a possibly navigable channel, but in that exact narrow spot is a large mess of boulders. As far as we can tell, no one is getting up that river unless they portage over the blockage.

That was only half the story, however, as the dinghy engine started acting increasingly balky at idle. I could "nurse" it from idle to higher power settings, but near idle it would stall unless I used partial choke. That is a sign the idle circuit is clogged in the carburetor. It got so bad that I could not reliably go slow, and we decided to return to Diva Di.

Having a reliable dinghy is crucial for the enjoyment of this part of the trip, especially. With nothing else pressing to do, I hoisted the dinghy and took off the carburetor again. I took it apart and cleaned every orifice I could access, with little hope it would solve the problem. Lo and behold, after reassembling it all, and lowering the dinghy to test it, it seemed to work just fine.

Diane and I had a quick, light lunch of salad and then set out again. For the entire 45 minutes, the dinghy ran superbly, but once again we had problems seeing the rocks in time and Diane got a bit exasperated with staring down at the water instead of admiring the scenery. I can't say I blame her. Plus, it had started raining. It wasn't a lot of tiny drizzle drops; it was a small number of large drops that made such a splash on the water surface that any attempt to see the rocks was even more futile.

We headed back to the boat, hoisted the dinghy, happy that it was working fine again, but wondering why it had the problem and when it might recur. It was mid-afternoon, a bit early for happy hour, but celebratory beverages were definitely in order. By the time we had finished showering we had counted four large vessels (30 feet and longer) that had negotiated Parting Channel. Three were Canadian and one was $Kids$ from Texas, Loopers we met briefly in Britt.

I always knew there could be spots up here where even our Canadian Bell cellular service would not work, but I had not anticipated this to be the spot. I had warned my Mom, who I try to call every day, that if she doesn't here from me for a few days, not to worry. Fortunately, our period of incommunicado didn't start until the day after her birthday.

For supper, I took the last of the grilled flank steak and shaved it thin, then sautéed onions and pepper slivers to make a nice cheesesteak sandwich served in tortilla wraps. It was a great way to use up the leftovers we had.

About 1800, the sky darkened and we could hear thunder from the SW. We had anticipated this squall and it was worthy of our attention. I could not measure the wind gusts, but I guess they were over 30 kts with lashing rain for 30 minutes. I kept watch out the side window to confirm that our anchor was holding well. It did, but having swung 180 degrees, our stern was as close to the shore (rock) as I wanted. Unlike our home cruising grounds in FL, you don't just fetch up on some sandy shoreline, you hit sold rock.

Once the storm passed, I went outside to observe the post-storm environment. What I saw was fascinating, but not surprising. The wind had driven water across the large bay and up against the shoreline where it was rushing into all the nooks and crannies that make up this section of Georgian Bay. For at least 20 minutes, there was a very strong current rushing through the deeper sections. You could hear and see the roiling water as it moved past the many rock formations.

A short while later, that subsided, and after a brief period of slack, you could see the water moving much more slowly back out. This happens all the time with wind and water, but unless you are in a position to observe it, it goes unnoticed. The period after the storm was also one I enjoyed. There is a feeling of having survived something that nature wrought and being grateful to be unscathed. Then there are the subtle things like the drip-drop of the water coming off various structures on the boat. The sky to the W showed blue under the gray canopy of the storm clouds quickly moving off. The sound of the thunder faded as it threatened another region, having left us behind.

Tomorrow, we might head to the Bustard Islands to check them out. We still want to go up the Mad River and dinghy up the rapids.
Vessel Name: Diva Di
Vessel Make/Model: PDQ MV34 Power Cat
Hailing Port: Punta Gorda, FL
Crew: Duane and Diane

Diva Di Crew

Who: Duane and Diane
Port: Punta Gorda, FL