First of All –
- First time with the mast up since leaving Lake Champlain
- First time having to wait for 4 lock cycles before being able to lock through
- First day cruising on the Georgian Bay
- First time with no more locks ahead
- Turning Rock
- Big Dog Channel
- Beausoleil Island
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 16; Sail: 0
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,100
- Hours Underway: 4 1/2
- Fuel: NA
- Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
- Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NE
- Daily High Temperature: 76
- Water Temperature: 74
I’ve raised the mast on this boat more than 50 times and I’ve yet to experience the perfect mast raising. Something always goes wrong. A line is out of position, I forget to attach the windex, something goes wrong with the flag halyard, the roller furler is facing backwards, something always gets in the way of a perfect rigging. It remains my goal, and I figure that, by now, I’ve made every mistake that it’s possible to make, and sooner or later I’ll do a perfect mast raising and rigging operation. I came really close today, and still it turned into a mess. Things start out fine, with Sandy doing a laundry, which frees me to move easily about the boat, taking my time and thinking each operation out. I’m careful to avoid each of the mistakes of the past, and things are going well. The moment of truth arrives when I begin cranking the winch and raising the mast. I get it almost all the way up and gaze upward, doing one last visual check. I spot the swaged thimble atop one of the shrouds, twisted where it connects to the mast. Not a big problem. I slack the mast raising line and untwist the fitting, then finish raising the mast and securing the pin in the forestay. The rig is now up and secure. However, when I go to disconnect the mast raising pole, which bolts to the hinged mast step, I see a new problem. I failed to plug the running light/anchor light wire into its socket on the cabin roof. And wouldn’t you know, the loose plug fitting managed to find its way beneath the hinged mast step, where it’s gotten mashed. And on top of that, it’s pressing against the bolt which holds the mast raising pole in position. I manage to free the bolt, and figure I’ll deal with the wire and fitting later. Right now, I’m focused on getting off the dock and through the last lock of our entire Great Loop cruise. It’s hard to believe that, after passing nearly 150 locks we have just one more to go. It turns out to be the most difficult lock of all.
We know we’re in for it when we round the corner and the lock comes into view. Boats are stacked up like cordwood. Every foot of wall is occuppied by parked boats, waiting their turn to go through. Several other large cruisers are loitering in the bay, trying to keep out of each other’s way while waiting for a place on the wall. It doesn’t help that this is the smallest lock on the entire system, and it’s manually operated to boot. Each lock cycle takes nearly 1/2 hour, and we watch 3 full lockings before it’s our turn. We’re so relieved to finally be able to move into the lock. As I’m wrapping my line around the cable, one of the green shirted Parks Canada lock hands walks up, gazes up at our mast, then looks down at me and asks how high the rig is. I tell him about 35 feet. He says the fixed bridge just 200 meters below the lock has just 30 feet of clearance. Swell. I’d asked a couple of boaters at the last lock above Port Severn about bridges, and was told that there was just a swing bridge below Port Severn, and it opens on demand. I also asked around at the marina and got the same report. And the Canadian charts don’t list bridge clearance heights for this location. On this basis I figured I’d be fine raising the mast at the marina dock, however, now I realize this isn’t the case. Well, at least we’re finally getting through the lock. Once we clear the chamber I head for the gray wall just outside and tie up. Then the circus begins. Off comes the solar panel. Off comes the dodger. I drag the mast raising pole out from below and try to reinstall it at the mast step. That darned mast light socket is in the way. After a good deal of prying I finally get the bolt into position. Then I reinstall the baby stays, rig the mast raising pole lines, tension the back stay, unpin the forestay, and begin lowering the mast. It doesn’t need to come all the way down, just enough to enable us to clear the bridge. I lower it as far as I can with the boom still connected, hoping to avoid taking it off too. I step off the boat and examine the angle of the mast, and then look down to the bridge. I don’t think I’m low enough yet, so I disconnect the boom and lower some more. And all this is being done in a fish bowl, with scores of curious tourists watching the show. When all is set and we’re finally ready to go, the lock gates open and I have to wait for the exiting boats to clear the lock, and a new batch of boats enter. Now we can go. We slowly make our way down to the bridge and idle under. The top of my VHF antenna clears the underside of the bridge with at least 12 inches to spare. I give the wheel to Sandy while I prepare to reraise the mast while underway. Before I can get the mast up a big power boat roars on in. I wave to him, trying to signal him to cut his speed and kill his wake. No luck. He ignores my arm waving and plows on by, giving me a scowl as he passes. Sandy turns into his wake and we bounce, but with no damage. I hurry to finish raising and pinning the mast before we get waked again.
While underway I put the boat back together, and we begin weaving our way along the Small Boat Channel on the Georgian Bay. They say there are only 2 kinds of boaters on Georgian Bay. Those who have hit rocks and those who are going to. We hope we’ll start a new third category, those who never hit rocks. It’s not going to be easy, since the channel is lined with smooth, rounded granite rocks, just barely breaking the water surface. The route is well marked with red and green buoys, but it’s still easy to drift out of the channel. We reach our destination, Frying Pan Bay in the Beausoleil Island National Park, without mishap. I’m worried when we enter the bay, since it appears to be filled with large motor yachts. Most are anchored and stern tied to shore. Many are rafted up, including one impressive group of 7 boats, all rafte together. Off to the right I spot a dock and, amazingly, there appears to be an open space. I circle near and some guys on the dock wave us in, saying the water is plenty deep. We turn in to the dock and pass lines to the guys waiting there. We can’t believe our good fortune to get a place on a dock in the middle of this busy 3 day weekend. The folks here are very friendly, and we enjoy visiting with them, until it begins to rain. Not a problem, though, since with our mast now up we can once again use our cockpit enclosure. Hopefully, our days to come here on Georgian Bay will pose fewer problems. At a minimum, there will be no more lock delays, and the only bridge I know about for sure is the Mackinaw Bridge, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to pass beneath the Big Mac Bridge without any problems.