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Joliet City Wall, Joliet, IL 7/22/2019
Spring Brook Marina, Seneca, IL 7/23/2019
Heritage Harbor Marina & Starved Rock Marina 7/24/2019
IVY Club, Peoria Heights, IL 7/25/2019
Logston Tug Service, Beardston, IL 7/26/2019
Grafton Harbor Marina, Grafton, IL 7/27-29/2019
A little bit about the Illinois Waterway, which includes the Chicago River, Chicago Sanitary and Ship Channel and the Illinois River. It is 327 miles long from Chicago to Grafton, IL. Grafton is where we officially started the Loop. It has 8 locks and more bridges than you can count, especially in the downtown area. Within a ten-mile stretch, there are 41 bridges. The first challenge on the Illinois is the third bridge, the Michigan Ave bridge. It’s the lowest, with a height clearance of 17’1” and it doesn’t open but twice a year for the spring and fall exodus of boats leaving and returning to Lake Michigan, so you must be able to make it under this bridge in order to do the Chicago River thru downtown Chicago. Our height, if we lower our nav light is 16’ 10”, period. I tried talking Tom in to the alternate route, the Calumet River, which has a bridge clearance of 19’7”, but he had his heart set on doing the Chicago River.
The second challenge for the Illinois Water way this year is the limited time slot to lock thru Lock 5, the Marseilles Lock and Lock 6, the Starved Rock Lock. They are working on both locks during the day, so not even commercial traffic is allowed during the day. They are locking commercial traffic towboats and barges from 6pm until 5am. They have allocated 5:30am for one south/north bound rec boat/pleasure craft lock thru. That’s it folks! You can come thru then or not.
The Illinois Locks are notorious for making rec boats/pleasure craft wait. They are in charge and they have made boats wait hours and hours to lock thru. Boaters have said the lock masters are terrible to rec boats. A fellow boater who finished The Loop a few years ago said, “skip the Illinois, it’s awful. Just ship your boat back to MN when you get to Chicago”.
Needless to say, we’ve had apprehension about the Illinois and have not been looking forward to it. We’ve had numerous discussions about these last 327 miles and in the end, we decided we are just going to ‘put our head down and plow through it’. Not exactly a Looper attitude, but the Illinois sounded like it was not going to be much fun.
Below is a day by day of our trip down the Illinois~
Day 1 – 2 Locks
We were ready to be on our way after the boys left. We knew we were going to have some wind when we left the marina for the short 5 mile jaunt up to Lock 1 – Chicago Harbor Lock, but I never imagined that it could be any worse than our crazy ride back Saturday from the Playpen when we had the front roll in with 30 mph winds and all the boats left at the same time creating 4 ft rollers inside Monroe Harbor BUT I was wrong. We got out into the harbor and we had 6 footers! It was a four-contact hold! We knew all we had to do was make it thru the lock and the waters would settle down. It didn’t help that on our way to the lock there was a Pan Pan on the VHF of a man over board. I thought it was a drill, but it was for real. Chicago Fire and Rescue, Coast Guard and the helicopter, plus numerous other rescue boats were in the area. We had to wait for the lock because all the rescue vessels had to lock back thru. Waiting in the waves wasn’t much fun, but we had no choice. (Wished we had a Seakeeper!) We locked thru with the Fire and Rescue boat and reached calmer waters.
Once thru the lock our next challenge was our height at bridge 3, Michigan Ave. Tom had talked to everyone he could think of to find out its actual clearance with all the rain and flooding. No one would commit to an actual height. The coined response from all was 17 ft. OK then, we got a couple inches and lets pray that everyone is right and that the canal authorities are managing the flood water and keeping it at at least 17 ft. Tom felt confident we could clear, but here’s what every 1st mate I know hates……”Hey Mudda, go out on the bow and watch as we get near the bridge and let me know if we are close”. My response, “SERIOUSLY?!?! So, if we’re close to hitting are you going to be able to back off??? Not likely. So, let’s just rip all the electronics off the hard top.” I relented and listened to the captain and all was just fine. We had about 1 ½ ft. clearance at that 17 ft bridge and the other 17 footers we encountered and I actually got use to standing on the bow estimating the clearance. Still didn’t like doing it though ☹
So, we made it through downtown and enjoyed seeing the big city all around us. Tom loved it! Then we cruised into industrial, barge, towboat alley pretty much all the way to Joliet. We got through the Fish Barrier- all electronics OFF, got super lucky with Lock 2 and got to lock with a full barge (no chemicals) and two other tugs. These are HUGE locks, 600 ft x 110 ft. The lock master was a peach (wasn’t expecting that at all) and told us we could lock thru and to take the floater farthest up on starboard. We cleared the lock and then had to call the series of five Joliet bridges since their clearance was only 16’6” and they all opened up for us like butter!
We found a place on the Joliet City Wall for the night and got settled in. Tom was a bit concerned about security. He’d read that the City Wall could get a little nasty at night with crime, but all was good. We had Day 1 knocked out 😊
The Electric Fish Barriers are the US Army Corps of Engineer's effort to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes system. This non-native species first escaped into the Mississippi River and have made their way up into the Illinois River. The Chicago Sanitary and Shipping canal is the only water connection from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan.
Day 2 – 2 Locks
Best described as uneventful. I like those kind of travel days. We had two more locks, we had an early start so we could get thru another bridge in Joliet that closed down for morning rush hour and the day flew by. The lock masters were awesome and we cleared both locks with less that a 20 minute wait at both. Again, we weren’t expecting that.
We arrived at the Spring Brook Marina to a cheery lad on the gas dock, Zach. What a great guy. He pumped us out and directed us to our slip. He had been working at the marina since he was in his teens and was now a salesman for the dealership located at the marina. They had a courtesy truck they let us use and we headed to town to eat lunch, get groceries and do laundry. Later we toured a Prestige 450S (that was fun!), grilled out for dinner and turned in very early so we could be up by 3am, pull out of the slip by 4am and get to Lock 5, the Marseilles lock, 7 miles away by 5am as per requested by the lockmaster when we called him.
Neither of us are fond of traveling in the dark in unfamiliar territory, but we had no choice if we wanted to get thru the lock at the allotted time.
Day 3 – 1 Lock
After a sleepless night, we rose at 3am. It was dark and foggy. I prepped the boat for a port side bollard, as per the lockmasters request, we had our electronics up and running in night mode, wiped the dew off the windows and isen glass about a dozen times, had our auxiliary high powered light ready to go if necessary and headed out into the dark, foggy, barge filled night.
Keep in mind, the barges have been locking thru all night and are everywhere on the channel.
Once we got out of the marina and into the channel, we were able to access exactly what was going on. Our electronics do a good job of showing all the AIS vessels but when there are so many AIS vessels, it’s just a mass of little black triangles everywhere on your radar and chart plotter.
Needless to say, it was an unnerving experience making our way thru the dark, fog and maze of barges the seven miles to the lock. It was still dark when we got to the lock. We cleared the lock by 6am, headed to Heritage Harbor and I went back to bed! (Sorry, I have no photos of that "unique" experience! I was a little rattled!) After my little morning nap, we decided to head further on down the river, closer to the next lock and the 5:30am lock time. Neither of us wanted to get up at 3am and deal with the dark, barges and possibly fog again. A transient that arrived shortly after us and slipped right behind us confirmed our decision to move closer to the lock. He, his wife and grandson experienced the same middle of the night travel that we did with a few more miles tacked on and agreed that with all the barge traffic moving at night, it would be better to be closer to the lock. So, at 4pm, we headed to the Starved Rock Marina, 2 miles from the Starved Rock Lock. We stayed on the gas dock. Another early night in preparation for an early departure. Fingers crossed that we have more daylight and no fog.
Day 4 – 1 Lock
Our night on the gas dock, on the channel, at Starved Rock Marina was quiet and peaceful. We departed for the Starved Rock Lock at 5:10am and even had a little daylight. When we reached the lock, a big tow was just finishing a northbound lockage and the lock was ready for us in short order. Once inside the lockmaster was eager to chat. He wrapped our bollard for us and stood and talked with us our entire lockage. He noticed we were Loopers and said that one day he too was going to do the Loop. He gave us the update on the last two locks. He said that both would still have their wickets down and we’d be able to sail right by. It was a pleasure talking with him and neither Tom nor I could believe that we were experiencing the Starved Rock Lock. We had heard so many horror stories about this lock in particular. That they’d make you wait for hours and did like pleasure boaters. That couldn’t have been further from our experience. In fact, the entire Illinois River and lock system were like that…. enjoyable!
We traveled 65 miles to the IVY Club Marina in Peoria Heights, IL. We pulled in and immediately met Tim and Ron, the harbormaster and asst harbormaster, both incredibly accommodating and kind. The marina has been flooded out the entire summer. They’ve done clean up numerous times. You could tell, the two of them were just, plain worn out. We tied up to the seawall below the restaurant and pool after fueling up. It was a great stop. We did some routing, maintenance, laundry, took a dip in the pool and had dinner in the restaurant. Nice stop on the Illinois.
Day 5 – 1 Lock
We got a later start. We didn’t leave until 9am. It was a beautiful day on the water. We traveled 80 miles. We could tell the water was getting higher each mile and bridges that we would normally clear had to open for us. As per usual, lots and lots of barges.
We were initially only going to travel 48 miles but then saw that there was a barge in Beardstown, IL that you could tie up at for the night, so we continued on another 32 miles. We were both curious about the Logston Tug Service (barge tie up). We called and they said they had room for us. We prepped for starboard. Two fellas (Jeff & Luke) were on the barge waiting to grab our lines. There were four towboats, two at each end of the barge and one working on a load just down from us. We became fast friends with the guys on the barge and chatted it up with them for quite a while and they then agreed to give us a tour of one of the towboats. It was so cool. It was awesome getting into the pilot house and seeing the vantage point of a tow captain. The engine room was amazing as well.
Jeff, one of the tow captains told us all about the Tug service. Essentially, they get the barges filled with corn or soybeans, all 15 barges and then stage them on the side of the river for the larger towboats to pick up. He was so informative. He told us that one barge holds 350 acres of corn or 1000 acres of soybeans. The barges running the rivers are an amazing, finely tuned system.
They recommended we have dinner at the Mexican restaurant in town and gave us a little history lesson on Abraham Lincoln and the "Almanac Trial". Lincoln, a lawyer at the time, successfully defended a guilty man based on the daylight available at the time of the crime. Years later, it was discovered that the man did commit the crime on Feb 29, (Leap Year) and the witnesses to the crime were able to see the defendant. Interesting story. We had a great meal and hit the hay early. Tom wanted to be on the water by 6am headed for Grafton. Someone is just a little excited about crossing our wake….
Remembert the Asain Carp Electric Barrier??? Well on this side of the barrier the carp are a jumping. Boat motors rile the up and they fly up out of the water. When we got to IVY Club, we found one in the back of the dinghy! Tim at the IVY Club told us the record asian carp on the Illinois is 91 lbs!
Day 6 – 2 Locks
We woke at 4am to towboats working right next to us moving barges and setting up tows for the day. I rolled over but Tom was up for the day. I knew he was anxious to get on the water. I was too, but not that early. I heard the coffee maker dripping and I could hear him wiping down glass and prepping to go. I held him off until 6am before I untied and we exited the barge as the sun was rising.
The river was flat and we had no wind. It was a beautiful day on the Illinois cruising to Grafton and the excitement of crossing our wake continued to build as we got closer and closer.
As we proceeded down river, it became more and more evident that the river was way up. Bridges that we could normally easily clear had to be lifted. One railroad bridge, in normal pool, had clearance of 33 ft. When we called the bridge tender for the height, he said it was just barely 18 ft and he’d lift for us. All but two bridges ended up having to be lifted for us.
Barge traffic was steady and definitely more enjoyable during the day than at night 😉
We pulled in to Grafton Harbor Marina at 1pm, officially crossing our Loop wake. We are now GOLD LOOPERS!!! It’s an INCREDIBLE feeling knowing that we have officially completed the Loop, but we both agreed when we started that it’s not over until we pull back into Slip 125 on the 100 Boom in Wabasha, MN.
We are going to stay in Grafton a couple of days, regroup and evaluate the Mississippi. With all the rain and flooding she is still running pretty high. Under normal conditions we’d be going against a 1-2 kt current. With the flooding, it could run 3-4 kt. plus debris and deadheads may be a factor.
We’ll keep you in the loop as we return up river!
Burnham Habor, Chicago, IL 7/17-21/2019
I’ve got to give Captain Tom kudos. He knows how much I like traveling on FLAT water and we waited in Racine an extra day and had a stellar ride to Chicago. It was a bit foggy, but we expected that. The day before the fog didn’t lift all day and draped the marina entrance and bay like a white wall that made you think you’d be entering a different world if you ventured through it.
Cruising up to the Chicago skyline was really cool. For me probably even cooler than the New York skyline. A few years ago, when I was doing a little painting, Sam asked me to paint the Chicago skyline for him. I know, right?! I did and you could actually recognize what it was 😉. Anyway, it was pretty amazing to be there with BELLA and see it all lit up at night from the boat.
We were slipped at Burnham Harbor, right on the river walk and close to the museum campus. Wednesday and part of Thursday were pretty rainy, so we didn’t venture out until the afternoon. We were ready to check out the city. I booked a Segway tour and we had a fun time tooling around. Our tour guide was great and we saw and learned more about the windy city, even though we thought we know a lot already! We had cocktails at the Gage after our tour and met a chick at the bar who likes oysters as much as we do and highly recommended them, so when in Rome……
Sam and Griff arrived on Friday afternoon from MN, along with our nephew Jeff, who was down in Chicago on business. We caught up on the boat and eventually ended up downtown for dinner. We solidified plans for Saturday and had fun checking out the bridges downtown that we were eventually going to be going under…..hopefully. Side note: to take the downtown route thru Chicago, you have to be able to clear 17 ft. BELLA is 16’ 10”. With all the rain and high water, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get under the Michigan Ave bridge, so anytime we were downtown we would try and estimate the height on the ferries, tour boats and pleasure craft clearing the bridges. Tom even talked to some of the ferry captains, called the Coast Guard, talked to folks in the marina, got on every website imaginable, so we would know for certain the height and we wouldn’t rip off all the electronics off the top of our boat. Spoiler: we made it through 😊😊😊
Saturday the boys decided they wanted to spend the day on the water at an anchorage called The Playpen. That’s right. The Playpen. It’s located on the northside of Navy Pier and runs along Lakeshore Drive. The Playpen, as you can imagine, is a happening place, filled with anchored boats and twenty somethings having a good time. Sam’s friend, Alex Kurth, flew in Saturday morning and joined us along with a few of his gal friends from Chicago. Jeff and Griff hopped in the dinghy and we headed to the playpen for the day. We had a great day on the water, swimming, sunning and watching the parade of boaters, until a front blew in abruptly and put an end to the festivities. Everyone in the Playpen, and I mean everyone was hightailing it back to the marinas. It was crazy!!! We made it back to Burnham Harbor, got tied up just in time for the rain. The Playpen is an interesting place to find yourself when your old enough to make the “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials.
Sunday was pretty low key. A little brunch in the morning, a little shopping in the afternoon and a concert (Slightly Stoopid) in the evening for the boys right across from the boat at Northerly Island. It was an early roll call for all the guys Monday morning heading back to MN and work. Everyone was on their way by 5am. So happy they all came down. It was an epic time in Chi-town!
More later from the Illinois River~
Port Washington Marina, Port Washington, WI 7/12-13/2019
Reef Point Marina, Racine, WI 7/14-16/2019
The best part of the Loop is traveling to new places on your boat and meeting new people.
The worst part of the Loop is missing family and friends.
When you can combine the two, pulling your boat into a new port to see family and friends, it is better than the best and Port Washington was just that! My nephew Peter and his wife Kelly and their new baby girl, Emmy came to visit us in Port Washington (Kelly's hometown) and we were so thrilled to see them and meet Emmy!
Planning dates for folks to visit us on the Loop has been a challenge since we don't really know when we'll arrive somewhere or how long we'll stay, so we felt so fortunate that it worked for Kelly, Peter and Emmy to drive over from their home in Delafield, WI to visit us. Meeting Emmy was so awesome! Tom has always said, in regard to grandchildren, "the people we are going to love the most, aren't even here yet". Well, they are starting to come. All of our nieces and nephews are having babies and it's wonderful!
More later from Chicago~
Quarterdeck Marina, Sturgeon Bay, WI 7/9-11/2019
Our Lake Michigan crossing was smooth and uneventful and we were so happy to be in Sconny! One more step closer to home. We live so close to Wisconsin, spend plenty of time here and have lots of family and friends that live here, so other than the fact that we are NOT Packer fans, it feels like home. Especially when we walked into the Grey Stone Bar and it was filled with taxidermy! Yup, we're in Wisconsin!
We were also back in Jimmy's territory and stocked up at the Sturgeon Bay EconoFoods!
Quarterdeck Marina was a good place to be for a few days. It's smack dab in the middle of Cruiser Yacht country, BELLA's brand, which are manufactured in Oconto, WI, across the bay. Amenities were great - pool, bags, outdoor fireplace, grills, walking distance to town, laundry. We needed an oil change and Quarterdecks service center was able to fit us in so we are set for the rest of the trip. Skipperbuds Sales is also located at Quarterdeck, so since we've had some folks interested in BELLA, we thought we'd get a quote from them incase we decide to sell her. We also enjoyed touring a few of the new Cruiser Yachts on the dock!
Quarterdeck is also the marina where Piltzy's folks have their boat, The Maryacht. She's now for sale across the way at another marina in Sturgeon Bay. We checked her out on our walk. She's a beauty!!!
We also did a side trip up Door County to Egg Harbor. It was a fun afternoon. A little lunch at a new brewery, a little shopping and checking out marinas. Egg Harbor's shops all have a signature egg outside their entrance, each had a unique spin....
We also got to tour the Door County Maritime Museum. Again, it was a 6 degrees situation.....the receptionist at the museum was from Caledonia, MN ;) They had a cool interactive shipwreck display, the John Purves, a ship building history section (Sturgeon Bay was a power house at one time in ship building) and a great model vessel display.
And one last pic. What every marina needs......
More from the Wisconsin side later~
Charlevoix City Marina, Charlevoix, MI 7/7/2019
Frankfort Municipal Marina, Frankfort, MI 7/8/2019
I don't know how many times we've said it, but it has been "one crazy trip!" I remember back to when we were boating and the kids were younger, we had one weekend a summer on the boat where it was just the two of us. We called it the "Kidless Weekend" and it was always on Tom's birthday weekend in June. We'd spend it on the water jet skiing, boating or anchored on Lake Pepin with Mark and Julie Stevens. We loved that time away just the two of us. Little did we know we'd have a whole year of "togetherness" and time away. If someone would have told us then that we'd be doing the Loop and boating together everyday, we wouldn't have believed them!
We decided that we are going to split up Lake Michigan and do upper Michigan then scoot across the lake and do the lower half of Wisconsin. Charlevoix was on our list to visit and they just happen to have a slip open for us. We had heard so many wonderful things about Charlevoix and they were all true. What a great little boating town. On one side of Charlevoix is Lake Michigan and on the other, Lake Charlevoix. There are boats of every kind, every where.
Lake Michigan was good on Sunday as we headed down to Charlevoix. It was a bit overcast out, but by the time we got in the Charlevoix canal, the sun was out. It was also about the time the Emerald Isle car/people ferry was coming in to dock. The Charlevoix harbor was full of weekend boaters trying to get through the bridge, which opens every 1/2 hour. It was crazy for about 15 minutes dodging boats and trying to stay out of the ferry's way!
We got Bella slipped on to a T head, checked in at the office and then headed downtown. We had a great time wandering around. Lots of eateries, shops and bars. We checked out the local brewery and had lunch at the Tap House. I did a little shopping. In the morning before we left I had to do an Earl Young home tour. Earl Young built these very unique looking homes in Charlevoix. The locals call them Mushroom homes. They really do look somewhat like a mushroom.
We both loved Charlevoix and it's summertime on the water vibe!
We had a smooth cruise from Charlevoix to Frankfort. The only wave action we had was from other boats heading north. It’s just like back home, the week after the 4th of July, there are lots of boaters on the water on vacation. We’ve been fortunate so far to have gotten slips at some really nice marinas on Michigans coast.
Frankfort felt like a sleepy little fishing town when we arrived at the municipal marina. It didn't look like much was going on. Cody, a young dock boy was a font of information. We refueled and got a pumpout to get ready for our crossing over to Sturgeon Bay. Our slip backed right up to the park and the Betsie Valley Trail. After a little lunch, I hit the trail, while Tom did some Jimmy’s work with Sam. Later we wandered downtown to find quite the little tourist mecca. It was a lot like Charlevoix. We did some browsing and then watched a glass blowing demonstration. Dinner was at the Stormcloud Brewery. Now this was my kinda place! They had great brews and they had a popcorn menu!!! They had about six different flavors of popcorn on the menu that you could order and have with your beer. I was in heaven!!! After dinner we stopped at The Scoop ice cream shop where they served Moomers ice cream, a Michigan treat. Evidently, it’s been voted the best ice cream in America. We concur 😉 Between the beer, ice cream and all the other indulgences, it's a good thing the loop is winding down because our waistlines need a break!
We plan to head to Sturgeon Bay, WI tomorrow and then head down the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan. We are hoping to connect with my nephew Peter and his wife Kelly and their new baby girl, Emmy, in Port Washington over the weekend.
More from “Sconny” later~
It took me a while to figure it out.... I know, I'm probably the last person to realize that even though it's spelled differently, Mackinaw and Mackinac are pronounced the same :) We arrived Friday, July 5th in Mackinaw City, MI. We had wanted to stay on Mackinac Island, but they were booked (go figure, it's the 4th weekend) and besides all the guidebooks and fellow Loopers recommended NOT staying on the island since the ferries run all day long and will rock you like no other with their wakes.
We found a slip at Straits State Harbor in Mackinaw City. We are right on the main tourist drag and within walking distance to ferries that take you the the Island. The marina is behind two break walls, but we and everyone in the marina still get the ferry surges when they pass. They throw some serious wakes. Even the two break walls can't stop them!
We checked out Mackinaw City Friday. It was crazy here on the 5th. Tons of tourists! This morning (Saturday), we ferried over to Mackinac Island and spent the day. We did the horsedrawn carriage tour, checked out the Fort and the Grand Hotel, had lunch at the Pink Pony and tried not to get run over by a bicycle!
Mackinac Island is a wonderful place. No cars or motorized vehicles. Everything is done by horse drawn wagons. It's truly a step back in time. The aroma of fudge shops is replaced by the aroma of horse droppings which is an interesting combination. Again, there is so much history to this little island. Definitely a loop highlight! Below are pics of both our time in Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.
Straits State Harbor, Mackinaw City, MI 7/5-6/2019
The Grand Hotel
Touring the island.....
More from Michigan later~
Big Sound Marina, Parry Sound, ON 6/28-30/2019
Wrights Marina, Britt, ON 6/30-7/1/2019
Sportsman Inn, Killarney, ON 7/2/2019
Meldrum Bay Marina, Manitoulin Island, ON 7/3/2019
Drummond Island Yacht Haven, Drummond Island, Michigan, USA 7/4/2019
We picked a beautiful day to start making our way up Georgian Bay. Wind was minimal and no waves. We exited the Trent Severn and got on the small craft channel. We’d been forewarned and read that it would be narrow and that it would be lined with rocks. Big rocks. It was. Between our chart plotter and keeping an eye on the channel markers we made our way up into gorgeous surroundings. Rock islands with homes to beautiful green hills with cottages. At times you felt as though you were following a trail of crumbs that were going from side to side, in and around islands and huge rocks just barely exposed out of the water.
If Georgian Bay were considered a lake in its own right, it would be the fourth largest lake located entirely within Canada (after Great Bear Lake, Great Slave Lake and Lake Winnipeg). With Georgian Bay, Lake Huron is considered to be the second largest of the Great Lakes - if Georgian Bay were excluded, Lake Huron would be the third largest (after Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, but still ahead of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario). Eastern Georgian Bay is part of the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, granite bedrock exposed by the glaciers at the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago. The granite rock formations and windswept eastern white pine are characteristic of the islands and much of the shoreline of the bay.
There are tens of thousands of islands in Georgian Bay. Most of these islands are along the east side of the bay and are collectively known as the "Thirty Thousand Islands", including the larger Parry Island. Manitoulin Island, lying along the northern side of the bay, is the world's largest island in a freshwater lake. The Trent–Severn Waterway connects Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario, running from Port Severn in the southeastern corner of Georgian Bay through Lake Simcoe into Lake Ontario near Trenton
When we started the Loop we often asked other Loopers what part of the Loop they liked best and Canada was pretty much always the answer. I can see why.
Our plan for the first day of travel was to get to Henry’s Fish Restaurant and Marina. It was only about noon as we got closer to our destination. We deliberated and I called Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound and they added another day to our slip reservation and we continued another 15 miles. We had checked the weather and knew it was going to rain and thought we could skip Henry’s in leu of bad weather. We were glad we did.
When we arrived at Parry Sound, Jeff, whom we met at the Big Chute with Donna, greeted us on the dock. His son, Brian, who also slips a boat in the marina came over and we met him as well. Great guys and we enjoyed seeing Jeff again.
We felt fortunate to get into Big Sound Marina since it is a big holiday weekend and the Canadians are out in numbers on the water ready to celebrate Canada Day, July 1.
High lights on Georgian Bay~
What a great little town. Home of Bobby Orr and the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, Tower Hill and Lookout Garden, watched countless float planes landing and taking off, Trestle Brewery – 30,000 Island IPA (delicious!), tried the local favorite: french fries with gravy (not poutine, neither of us could stomach that), met Blue Heron – gold loopers from 2012, really enjoyed the hiking here on both the Fitness and Rugged trails, hit the Farmers Market, met local boaters Len and Cheri
Wrights Marina, Britt, ON
Tucked back in the Byng Inlet is a little family run marina. It's in a rural, remote and quiet setting. We met Pauline the dockmaster. Great gal with a heavy scottish accent ready to make your stay at Wrights comfortable. She informed us to be aware of our surroundings....bears and rattlesnakes abound. Really.
We are here over Canada Day. Lots of red and white and flags everywhere! The Canadians are very proud folks, as they should be. We are looking forward to the boat parade and fireworks this evening :)
We met another Looper couple, Jim and Allie from Florida. We had initially met them at Big Sound Marina over the weekend. We had docktails with them on their boat and compared Looping notes. We all agreed that Canada is beautiful, but, Canadian boaters are totally oblivious to their wakes!
At the marina there were tons of cars parked everywhere. The marina looked like a used car lot. I asked Pauline the dockmaster and she told me that they were “Cottagers” cars. The marina did have a lot of small empty run about slips. Duh. The Cottagers have a runabout at the marina and they get to their cottages on rocks by boat. Its so isolated that there aren’t roads to all the hundreds of islands that their cottages are on.
Canada Day was pretty low key in Britt. They had a boat parade at 6pm. Eight boats. Lots of “happy sailors” wishing everyone Happy Canada Day, then fireworks at dark. We met a few of the local slip holders and chatted, grilled out and turned in early.
The Canada Boat parade in Britt ;)
Sportsmans Inn, Killarney, ON
We left this morning (July 2) around 8am. Beautiful morning. We are doing the outside route to Killarney. We got to Georgian Bay and were putting along when we came upon fog. We turned on our radar and a watchful eye. It cleared. Great......then it returned about 20 miles from Killarney. It’s these times when we are so thankful for electronics!
Killarney is really a cool place! We loved it. We slipped at the Sportsmans Inn. Great facility. We biked around the island, dropped the dinghy in and headed out to Covered Portage Bay for a few hours. Absolutely beautiful area. The Sportsman Inn has a sister property, The Mountain Lodge, which has restaurants, bars, pool, bikes, water toys, etc. The Canada House on the property is spectacular. We were disappointed that the Sportsmans Inn wasn't playing outdoor movies the night we stayed. The screen was directly across the channel from us. Brought back memories of years ago when the kids were little, we rented a big screen and did an outdoor movie night at the house. Fun time!
After our day of investigating the island, we cleaned up and bellied up to the Oyster Bar at the top of the dock. We hadn’t had oysters since New York. It was a treat. The proprietor, William, aka brother from another mother to Dave Weinhold, was a stitch to talk with. He also served homemade jambalaya, which was probably the best we’ve ever had. Killarney was a memorable experience and highly recommended.
Meldrum Bay – North Channel
We covered eighty some miles and arrived at Meldrum Bay, population 35 around 2pm. John the dockmaster was there to welcome us to his bay on Manitoulin Island. Meldrum Bay consists of a marina/campground, general store with a hot dog stand and ice cream, Meldrum Bay Inn and Restaurant, a church and 35 residents. A quiet, little place by the sea. We had a long finger pier all to ourselves. We enjoyed a fresh fish dinner outside on the porch at the Inn along with a scrumptious double chocolate dessert. Earlier in the day we saw the fishing boats come in and drop off their catch at the Inn and were looking forward to trying it for dinner. It didn’t disappoint.
Drummond Island, Michigan USA
Early on the 4th of July, we headed out Meldrum Bay to Drummond Island. We thought it would be cool to have spent July 1st, Canada Day in Canada and then the 4th of July in the US. We took off at 6am and the North Channel was BEAUTIFUL. During the course of our cruise I completed the rest of the requirements on our US Customs and Border Patrol app, CBP Roam, which called for buying decals for re-entry into the US. Luckily, US customs only wants the invoice number for those decals when you do it online. Our re-entry couldn't have been smoother. Just before docking, we initiated an arrival on my phone with the app, a few minutes later a US Customs agent did what is equivalent to a Facetime interview with us and cleared us within a minute and wished us a Happy 4th! So easy!
We fueled up and then headed into "town" to have a little breakfast and find out what was happening on Drummond Island for the 4th. We haven't been anywhere but Hooterville for the 4th, and have been so spoiled with all the festivites Summer Fest has so we were hoping Drummond would give us a little taste of home with a parade or something. Well, they had a parade. It was mostly ATV's, bikes and gators decorated for the 4th with crazy people behind the wheel! Pretty disappointing. Made us ( I mean, me) a little or a lot homesick ;) They did have fireworks and they were great. Drummond redeemed themselves! All in all a very quiet 4th for us on Drummond Island. Below are a few pics of the 4th of July on Drummond Island Michigan.
Canada has been spectacular!!! We loved the Trent Severn Waterway and the lock system and people. The scenery in Georgian Bay and the North Channel has been spectacular. Definitely a extraordinary place to boat and we will come back to this area again.
More later from Michigan~
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.