Midland to Beausoleil Island
We chugged out of our slip and up to the gas dock in no particular hurry. After getting all our gas cans refilled, and paying for the slip, we handed over close to $100 to the folks at Doral. I still can’t decide whether this was a good deal or not. On the one hand, they treated us really well, gave us use of the facilities, tools, and had a really nice pool, but on the other hand, that’s a lot of cash to hand over for 2 tanks of gas and a dock to tie up at. All-in-all, I think I’d go back but only stay one night on a free pass.
From Doral we headed over to the Midland town dock since we needed to refill the cooler with groceries. The town dock has a “free parking” policy if you are coming for a short stop to spend your money. It’s about a 15 minute drive from Doral to the town dock, which is right at the base of Midland’s downtown. On the way over I was thinking that on our next trip, maybe we could head straight over to the town dock to raise our mast. As soon as we arrived I could see that this was a bad idea.
Midland is a town in transition. At one time it was a shipping port, but apart from an aggregate business, that has mostly dried up. The town docks were built years ago to serve great lakes freighters, but today they serve mostly tour boats and cruisers. What was once a single slip for a cargo ship has been retrofit as a series of finger docks for small boats with a nice little parkette up 8 feet above with picnic tables and gazebos. Since the docks were designed to allow big boats in and out, there is no break wall, or other features that would slow the boats coming in. The wake and wash at the Midland dock was the worst we would see at any dock we tied to.
We tied up nose in, and instantly a gaggle of tourists came from the parkette and looking down at the boat started taking photos. The tour boat was tied up behind us, and folks standing on her rail, waiting to leave on their cruise did the same. I felt like I was in a glass house. A glass house that was bucking and rocking on some pretty rough water.
Since the grocery store in Midland is quite close to the dock, we left Chuck in charge of the boat and Cutie and I headed to town, we got our provisions, picked up a couple books, and headed back in under an hour. There were signs all over town for “TugFest” – Midland’s tugboat festival. Hopefully those boats fared better at the town docks than we did.
Out on the water, we headed for the main channel. There was a lot of boat traffic out in the Midland area, and a lot of them were sailors. Many were very big boats. We motorsailed a little, but mostly we motored rather than sailed. Soon, we were looking for the Minicognashene Channel.
The Minicog is one of the escape routes to go from the main body of Georgian Bay (Midland bay actually) into the 30,000 Islands and the inside channel. Cutie and I had agreed that we would motor Northbound while she was aboard with the kids, and that I would sail home. Since a deal is a deal, we had the sails down, and were heading for the inside to motor our way to Pointe au Baril. The Minicog would take us out of the sailing waters and into the motoring areas. The trouble was finding the channel.
Minicog is a skinny little channel that twists right after it starts, and looking forward to where we thought the channel should be all we saw was a jumble of rocks. A few powerboats came out of the channel, and gave us a clue where it was, but I was more than a little nervous. One of the big tour boats out of Midland was up ahead of us on about the same heading though, so I figured that if they could sail these waters we’d be safe as long as we kept on about the same track... Then they came on the radio.
“Securité, Securité, Securité, All stations, All Stations, All Stations, 120 foot vessel entering the Minicognashene Channel from Midland northbound in approximately 5 minutes.” Since they were going where we were going, we could just follow them through the channel. Navigation has never been easier. It’s not hard to pick out a 120 foot boat from the rocks.
The Minicog channel was neat, but not really noteworthy. We went through, and came out on the other side, then turned toward Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Our goal was an anchorage on the north side of the island labelled Honeymoon Bay.
We never actually went into Honeymoon Bay. We drove by, and it looked like there was a bay there, but outside the bay, a pile of boats were anchored with folks cliff diving, playing music, and generally having a good time. It looked too crowded for us, and our good time wouldn’t have matched theirs anyway, so we continued on our way to the next bay.
The next bay was Fryingpan Bay. We had been warned that this bay was very busy, and the charts show only 2 feet of water, but we found the bay nearly empty, with 20 feet of water in the middle of the bay, and about 10 feet at the docks maintained by the park. We tied up next to a bevy of powerboats, and called the place home.
Fryingpan Bay had docks, fire pits, picnic tables & shelters, garbage disposal, a beach, and walking trails. The cost to us was $22.50 a night ($0.90/foot). Our neighbours were friendly, and we had a nice stay. It was good to be away from things, the bay was quiet, and the company was good. One of the other boats even had kids aboard so Chuck had some playmates. We stayed 2 nights, one at the dock, and the other at anchor.
I was worried about drifting in the wrong directions, so I spent our night at anchor sleeping in the cockpit. I would wake to check our position every couple of hours, and make sure our jury rigged anchor light was working. The stars were amazing, and I wanted to get the family up to look at them, but I didn’t think they would appreciate being dragged out of bed. I think the night sky on Fryingpan Bay will stay with me for a long time.