First Georgian Bay kayaking trip of the year. We set out late Monday afternoon. We would be getting to our destination too late to put boats in the water, so we camped the first night in Kilbear Provincial Park. Some heavy rain as we approached Parry Sound, but it cleared up later.
The last time we explored the Mink Islands, we put in at Dillon Cove. This time we parked and put in at Gilly’s Marina. A very friendly proprietor allowed us to use his slipway to pack the kayaks. There wasn’t much boating activity, so we were able to take our time. To get the most of perishables, Denise kept them in the car in a Coleman cooler with a bag of ice, transferring into our soft-sided cooler bag in the kayak only at the last minute. “What a shame” she said, holding up the half-melted bag of ice. “Strap it on the back” I said. “But the kayak will get all wet” she says. Denise is allowed one such statement per day.
The wind of course, is always the wild card on Georgian Bay, and today, it was definitely on the wild side. Snug Island lighthouse marks the entrance to the harbour. It is about 2.5km from there west across the Shebeshekong Channel to the southern tip of Franklin Island. However, a slightly longer but more interesting (and sheltered) alternative route goes north along the lee side of Snug Island and out the narrow channel at the top end. As we paddled up the this narrow passage, we met an older chap coming toward us in a Hobie Cat. I thought he must have been a pretty accomplished sailor to take that thing out in this weather. “Wild ride?” I asked as we passed. “Amazing!” he says, the adrenalin almost popping his eyes out.
We used the two channel markers (AC1, AC2) at the top of Snug Island and Peachy Island, halfway across the channel, to plot our line over to Phoebe Point at the southern tip of Franklin Island. Even this short hop turned out to be a workout, casting some doubt on the feasibility of a crossing to the Minks. Things got wilder as we worked our way west from Phoebe to Henrietta Point and by then it was clear we were going to have to go with Plan B for the day.
Having turned back at Henrietta point, we poked in and out of the various inlets along the southern shore of Frankin, finally settling on a site the would serve as our camping spot for the night. We spent the afternoon sunning, swimming and generally relaxing. This is not a normal occurrence on a McKeown trip. True, my camping list has an item on it that says – “Something to Read”. But almost always, any reading material remains in the hold, secure in its Ziploc bag for the duration. “Ballast” would be a better description. But on this occasion, I actually did get to do some reading.
And remember the bag of ice? Well, enough of it survived for Denise to mix up two delicious gin-and-tonics complete with lemon and ice. How absolutely pukka!
An early dinner, (another rarity on a McKeown trip) and a pre-dawn start. This might actually have been a first for us – but we figured this was the only way to make it out to the Minks before the wind picked up again.
Next morning was calm (by Georgian Bay standards anyway) but it was starting to pick up by the time we were on our way across the 6km of open water to Stalker Island, the nearest island in the Minks chain. The impressive Red Rock lighthouse lies to the south of the chain, so we kept that well to the left as we made our way across.
By the time we reached the far side and found a suitable place to land and take a break ( a lot of the Islands at the southern end are in private hands), we had been on the water for about two hours. Although the weather was sunny and about 17°C we were quite chilled and had numb fingers from the extended exposure to wind and spray. A few snacks and sunny rock away from the wind soon sorted us out though, and we were ready for the next leg.
Green Island, about mid-point in the chain, was the destination for the day. It was only about 3 km away, but it lay to the north-west – straight into the wind. Boucher Island lies about half way between. Somebody in the party, (we won’t say who), thought we would have a more sheltered ride if we came around the southern side of Boucher. As we arrived at the tip of the island however, we were met with boiling shoals in every direction. If there was way though without detouring far out into open water, I couldn’t see it. We voted unanimously to turn tail and go round the other way.
The last stretch over to Green was only about 1km away, but it was a grind. It was still only about midday when we finally got there, but we were more than happy to drag the kayaks onto the shore and call it a day. We had the island (and I suspect the whole of the Minks)to ourselves. We spent a while exploring , debating which site came closest to satisfying the rigorous requirements for the ideal site:
- Shelter from the wind (but not so much as to be buggy)
- Some sun shade
- A flat site for the tent
- A ledge to serve as a kitchen (our ‘granite countertop”)\
- Easy access to/from the water
- A spectacular view
None satisfied all the specs, but we settled on one that scored well on most.
Another leisurely afternoon and a delicious pasta dinner ( definitely have to get Denise to start a blog for camping recipes). Somewhat anxious about the possibility of being wind-bound on the islands, we opted for another early getaway the next morning before the wind got going.
Not many of my photo-opps are at dawn – but this one was dramatic. So rush or no rush, I took some time to capture some of the drama –
We had a free ride back. Winds from NW, just 8 to 10 km/hr. We could have made straight for Henrietta point , with the communications tower at Snug Harbour giving us a line. But we decided to re-trace our steps back to Stalker island in order to keep our options open if we needed to get out for a shore break.
As we reached Henrietta point, we actually had trouble identifying the spot, so different was it from the inferno just a couple of days before. With lots of time to spare, we meandered in and out of the inlets of the south shore of Franklin once more. It is amazing how you sometimes squeeze through a narrow gap and find it opening onto an idyllic lagoon, completely still and silent except for the buzz of insects, and the rumble of Georgian Bay just on the other side a ridge.
Some more snacks, sunning and watching the dragonflies and then it was time to get back in the boats for the last stretch. This time, rather than take the “scenic” route around Snug Island, we headed straight for the Snug Island lighthouse.
Back at the marina, as we packed up the car, Denise suggested we check out Gilly’s Restaurant. A good call. Lovely restaurant. Delicious whitefish washed down with a couple of cold beers. A perfect way to wrap up another adventure on Georgian Bay.