Sans Souci to Big Chute Marine Railroad
We got out of bed at 7:00 on Sunday morning. After cleaning up, and a breakfast of butter tarts and coffee, we cast off lines and headed away from Henry’s. We had no fixed travel plans, and our only goal was to get as far as we could, as fast as we could to get home to the kids.
Iris has a max speed determined by the laws of physics of 6 knots (6 nautical miles per hour), however; the closer you get to that speed the less efficiency there is since you push a greater bow wave. For that reason I try to maintain a speed of around 5.5 knots, otherwise, whatever gain you see in speed is lost to the need to refuel. The exception to this is of course that when under sail, or when motor sailing, you can increase efficiency since the wind supplements the fuel use. On this trip though, we felt it best to hold to the inside channels, so sailing wasn’t ever much of an option.
I knew it was 38 nautical miles from Henry’s to Doral, where the gear to store our mast for the Trent canal transit was stored, so based on a speed of 5.5 knots, we should be reaching Doral in about 7 hours. Allowing an extra hour for the unexpected, I was thinking we’d arrive around 3:30. Give a few hours to lower the mast, disassemble the Barbie Dream Boat and stow it, square things back up, and get back underway, and it would be the end of the day. We’d get an early start the next morning, and be back to Lake Simcoe in 3 days, home in 4.
Then as we motored and I studied the charts, I started picking out efficiencies. We had been using the inside channels on our northbound trip. It was very relaxing and scenic, but now there were a number of corners we could cut by using the outer channels. A few minutes here and there could add up. Plus we had a tailwind, even without sails flying; this would increase our range since the wind was moving faster than the 5.5 knots we were travelling at.
We noted the anchorages we had stayed at as we moved down the bay. “That’s where we turned off for 12 Mile Bay – There’s the entrance to Indian Harbour – That’s the channel that leads to Beausoleil Island.” Every hour we recorded our position, speed, heading, and other information in our log book. We made sure to check the bilge for water and record that it was dry, just in case water was working its way up from our damaged keel. Early in the afternoon we found ourselves passing the entrance to the Minicog channel from the large-craft channel headed to midland – with Penetanguishene bay clear to be seen on our starboard side. It looked easy to spot now that we had been watching channel markers and navigating through tight spots for a week. We were nearly back to Doral – and ahead of schedule. In a day we had covered the ground that had we had used a week to poke around in northbound.
I handed Cutie the tiller and started disassembling the boat. As we went, I took the boom off the mast and stowed it below. I took our plow anchor off the bow and stowed it in the aft lazarette, replacing it with a light Danforth that fit better in the anchor locker. Cutie called out wake from passing boats and ticked off our position as we passed channel markers.
At about 2:15 we pulled up to the gas dock at Doral. We were far enough ahead of schedule that I was optimistic we could get the mast down and continue on our way if we worked efficiently. I handed our empty gas cans up to the dock staff and told them we’d be back for them as soon as we got the mast down. Upon hearing about Chuck (after they asked where our kids were) the staff gave us carte blanche to use the facilities and get back under way.
We returned to the slip we had used on our earlier visit, and found the mast support waiting for us under the neighbour’s picnic table where we had left it. Using our normal technique (no A-Frame) we lowered the mast and lashed it to the deck, and then an hour and a half later returned to the gas dock for our gas cans (now filled). After a quick exchange, we headed back out into Midland Bay. As we moved through the bay we tried to hail Fidelity on the VHF, but she never answered. They must not have had their radio on. No matter we couldn’t have stopped anyway.
After a little confusion, we found the bifurcation buoy that leads to the Potato Island Channel. This is a very tight channel that we had been led through by the folks aboard Dream Time when we first entered Georgian Bay. Now we were on our own. To be safe we issued a series of securités as we neared the narrow channel “Securité, Securité, Securité, 25 foot sailboat with spars lashed to deck entering the potato Island Channel from west headed toward Severn lock in approximately X minutes.”
We had heard other boats making these calls on our trip, but had never considered it until the folks on L’eau Rider explained to us how much of a difference it made to them knowing whether a boat was in a channel or not, especially a tight channel like this one.
As we made our final call, another boat headed in the opposite channel asked us to repeat our hail, and just as we entered he came into view. As soon as he saw us entering, he turned away from the channel to wait to enter until we were through. Unfortunately, another boat just ahead of him didn’t pay attention to his radio. We met him at the narrowest part of the channel, and were distressed to see that he was towing 2 jet skis on a 15 foot line. The jet skis were drifting straight into our path.
I called out to the skipper that I needed 4 feet of water and couldn’t move. I was quite prepared to hit the jet skis since there was no stopping and no turning in the channel. The skipper pulled in the lines on the toys, and we cleared them by a foot. I had to bite my tongue.
We thanked the other boater for waiting and giving us space to clear the channel after hearing our hail.
After Potato Island Channel, we made our way to the first set of locks on the Trent Severn, and after a short delay were lifted through, and entered the Gloucester Pool. We noticed that many more boats were reducing wake for us as we continued calling securités at each narrow channel. Just after the big Chute Marine Railroad closed, we pulled up to the blue line, and tied up for the night.
We were 20 minutes late for a ride on the railroad, if we had been a little quicker getting up in the morning, or a little faster with the mast, or if we had found the Potato Island Channel more efficiently we might have made it one lock further. As it was we had to be content with our progress – and we were.
We went to dinner at the restaurant at Big Chute Marina, where the service was fantastic, the food simple but good, and the conversation was about getting home. Home has such allure and comfort when things aren’t going well, and we wanted to get the kids back, and be sure all was well and be a family. We thought we could be home the next day if we worked hard. We might have to cross Simcoe in the dark, we might have to split up, and let Cutie off the boat at Atherly Narrows where she could get a ride to Barrie and get her van to go fetch the kids, but one way or another, home and tomorrow were together in every sentence.