This was intended to be a 5-day kayaking trip from Byng Inlet down to Foster Island and potentially down to the Naiscoot River. We put in just west of Britt village on the northern side of the inlet. We had set out from this put-in once before. On that occasion the intended destination was the Churchill and Champlain Islands to the north but strong winds conspired to confine us to the much closer Cunningham islands for the weekend. We had also been to the Naiscoot River a several years ago, but starting from Bayfield inlet. This was the first time exploring the coast in between.
We followed the channel markers down the 4km trip from the put-in to Clarke Island. Cottages along the way are an eclectic mix. The last time I came down this stretch I saw one whose owner seemed to think that a door from an Ontario Provincial Police cruiser made a fine lawn ornament. Two years later, it is still there…..
The wind was from the South for most of the trip – a change from usual Georgian Bay gale from the West. So we were sheltered in the inlet until we came out into the open bay to turn south at Gereaux lighthouse. There is an inside channel that provides a sheltered route south past Burritt’s Bay to Northgate Inlet but we missed the entrance (We found it on the way back). As a result, we faced a stiff breeze as we paddled along the shoals in open water. But at least the waves were not as high as they would have been had the winds been from the west.
There seems to be lots of great camping sites along this stretch. We pulled in opposite what I think was McHugh rock (in the distance below)
Next morning we continued south to Northgate Inlet and Foster Island. When you get to the south-west corner of Foster, a sharp right turn takes you down a beautiful narrow channel. Out of the wind, the silence and still water stood in marked contrast to the conditions we had experienced so far.
Later, – as we checked out the real estate at the bottom of the channel, looking for the perfect spot to pitch tent for the evening – the heavens opened –
I had seldom seen anything like it. Tucked into our kayaks, the rain was of no particular concern, but a few flashes of lightening added a new sense of urgency to the real estate hunting and convinced us it was time to get off the water asap.
As it turned out, our quickly-chosenhome for the evening was a magnificent site. Lots of flat rock and a wonderful view. The take-out was gruesome however, and the process of getting our gear out of the kayaks and up the slippery rocks in the rain incorporated more than a sprinkling of colourful language.
Once upon a time, we lost a canoe. One of those super ultra-light things. Blown away overnight. Now, you would think that would instil a certain caution when it comes to securing small water craft overnight, wouldn’t you ? Well, not so apparently. Perhaps the absence of a tide induces a false sense of security. Anyway, on this occasion, I failed to pull the boats far enough from the waters edge and next morning, we found both kayaks and paddles afloat! In an eddy, lucky us. Seems the torrential rain and run-off raised the level of the lake. Not by much, but I could see that a particular stone I had stepped on (and cursed) many times the evening before as I unloaded the boats, was now submerged.
That morning, we decided to cut out the last day of the trip. The forecast was miserable and I had mutiny on my hands with Denise declaring that she was up for travel in any direction but south. That meant the Naiscoot would have to wait for another time. It also meant a bit more time for R&R.
We always each bring a book with us on these adventures, but more often than not, they serve as ballast rather than reading material. This time I actually got to do some reading. I also shared some quality time with this grasshopper. He shared a keen interest in my book on navigation, even though his interest was more nutritional than educational. (Look carefully- you can see where he has nibbled his way along the edge of the page)
Next morning we started back up the channel between Foster Island and the mainland. There are some picturesque wetlands and the far end of Prisque bay. We set about exploring them …. twice!
On the way back we decided to try a shortcut through the maze of islands leading back to Northgate inlet. They say a short cut is the longest distance between two points and as if to prove out the adage, our meanderings took us right back to Prisque Bay. Interesting too that my first reaction was to question the compass and not the operator.
Once into Nortgate, it was clear that the wind had shifted and was now coming in hard from the West. This gave us a tricky crossing in very confused waters. Once in the shelter of the islands on the other side, we picked our site for the final night. Exact location unknown but somewhere to the south of Marjorie Island. Denise set about “organizing” the kitchen……
And then, finally, a ray of sunshine
On the way back next day, we found the inside channel leading back to Burritt’s Bay. (Or one of them. From the chart it looks like there may be another one to the west of the one we took.) The passage was narrow and very shallow in spots, but navigable. Coming out of the channel, we saw a beat-up white triangle that marked the channel’s entrance. We saw the same marker on the way down but paddled right past it.
Back at Gereaux Island, we scouted around for a lunch spot. We spotted a narrow gap that lead into a small lagoon – a hidden gem that seemed to belong to one small duck. The forecast called for Armageddon to occur around 6pm. With only about an hour’s paddle left to the take out, that gave us some time to stretch out on the rocks, go for a swim and, -ironically given the weather so far- get sunburned.
Shortly after we packed up and started back up the inlet heavy black clouds gathered behind us and the omnipresent wind was now replaced with an eerie stillness. We sprinted the last couple of kilometers and hurried to get the boats unloaded and into the car before the deluge. Mother Nature graciously obliged this time and held off until we were safely packed up. Once the rain started, the windshield wipers remained on full speed all the way back to Toronto.
Canadian Hydrographic Service Chart number 2203 3of3