Thursday, July 21, 2011

Georgian Bay Kayak Trip - Part 1

Introduction and Background - Bob’s “Spirit of Adventure Tour 2011”

In the 1980’s, I began driving up to Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula with my friend, Olaf, every June to photograph the wide variety of orchids that grow in that unique geographic climate zone - a long and relatively narrow peninsula jutting into the center of a Great Lake. To the west, Lake Huron caresses the land via beautiful, wide, sandy beaches, while Georgian Bay’s deep waters crash onto the eastern shore’s rocky cliffs formed by the Niagara Escarpment. Most of the clear waters of Georgian Bay are 100 to 300 feet deep, but the bay is over 500 feet deep near shore not too far south of Tobermory.

Georgian Bay offers some of the finest and most scenic sea kayaking on the continent, with over 30,000 rocky islands along its shores. Most of those are along the eastern coastline, but the islands between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island are very remote and offer a challenge to paddlers because of their distance from shore. In 2006, I bought my first kayak, and have been paddling the deep waters near Tobermory for 4 years.

Tobermory is a small, scenic, former commercial fishing village now known mostly for tourism. It draws not only paddlers, but photographers and naturalists come to see the small wild orchids that grow in the area. Scuba divers come to dive in the clean, clear waters and view some of the 26 documented shipwrecks that are scattered along the bottom of the surrounding area in Canada’s only underwater park, “Fathom Five National Marine Park”. Other visitors drive up Highway 6 to catch the huge 365-foot long ferry, the “MS Chi-Cheemaun” that can take cars, trucks, and passengers to Manitoulin Island, which connects with mainland Ontario west of Sudbury.

The kayak trips I’ve done on Georgian Bay have been progressively farther and more difficult each year. Way back in 1991, I drove up with 3 co-workers for an overnight camping trip. They went scuba diving (I actually donned scuba gear and dived to 40 feet - briefly), and also brought my canoe. My paddling experience on that trip consisted of an hour or so of canoeing in the harbor. Fast-forward to 2008 when I kayaked all the way out to Flowerpot Island, a full 4 miles from town. The next year, some friends and I ventured out a bit farther and paddled around Flowerpot Island, out to the Cove Island lighthouse, around that large island, and back to town (finishing in 3 to 4-foot swells) to complete a 20-mile round-trip. Last year saw us doing an overnight 1-way 30 mile kayak trip to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island, a route that paralleled the path of the big ferry (we returned via the ferry). That brings me to this year’s great adventure - a planned island-hopping excursion of approximately 60 miles that would have us visit several small uninhabited islands, and included multiple open water crossings of up to 10 miles. I’ll write this trip report and post my story & photos one day at a time. Visit this site again tomorrow to read about “Day 1”.


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