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Teachable Moments


Teachable Moments

Part four of a story about boats, kids and dads…

Little Current is a small port town on the very northern part  of Manitoulin Island, and is the only way to get to Georgian Bay from the North Channel. For that matter, unless you are traveling west, and go all the way to  Mississagi Strait, it is the only way back to Lake Huron. Just north of Little Current is Great Cloche Island; the two are connected by a swing bridge which opens on the hour, and, as we learned later, if you’re not right there when it opens, you have to wait another hour to pass through.

Once we were tied up at the gas dock, which was adjacent to the government dock, we noticed the ‘mother ship’ for the RCMP RIB we’d encountered earlier in the day at the Benjamin Islands. Now I was especially glad we’d gotten out of earshot before playing the ‘song’.

While fueling up, our attractive young gas dock attendant wanted to know if we were staying the night, for the ‘Haw berry’ festival. According to her, it was the biggest party night on the island. There would be live music! Food! Dancing! All sort of haw berry stuff.  As tempting as all that sounded, we were determined to be in the Baie Finn by nightfall, and so declined the invitation.

The girls availed themselves of the showers, while Todd and I completed the fueling, checked engine and transmission fluids, and restocked the ice locker with ice.

Once the girls were done showering, we walked into town to find a grocery store. We restocked with water, munchies, and regular Tylenol and Advil, there being none of the codeine-enhanced stuff on the shelf. And, a first for me, we bought ice cream for the boat. Once past the cashier, we sent the girls running ahead of us with the ice cream to get it to the boat’s ice locker as soon as possible. Todd and I each took a side of the box with the rest of the groceries.  Todd had recalled seeing a pharmacy in town on the way to the grocery store, so I stopped in and found a bottle of the codeine…Yay! Maybe I could sleep tonight!

Looking at the time, we had just minutes to make the next scheduled swing bridge opening. (It was 5:56, the bridge was perhaps 6-7 minutes motoring away, and we’d been told the operator would leave the bridge open if he saw an approaching boat). Firing up the engine, casting off our lines, I shifted into gear, and went nowhere. That damn key way had fallen out again. Todd dove down below, and by the time he had found it, replaced it, and taped it up, the swing bridge had closed.

Our attractive young gas attendant was nearby, and once again she asked us if we wanted to stay for the Haw Berry festivities, but we were determined to get to Baie Finn that evening.  We motored out to the swing bridge, and spent the next 45 minutes turning circles, hoping the operator would have mercy on us and open, but the locals at the gas dock had made it clear it opened every hour on the hour, no exceptions. At 7:00, the swing bridge opened, and through it we went, finally on our way to Baie Finn.

There was nice breeze from the south, so we hoisted the main, left the motor on , and had a wonderful fast ride up to the entrance of Baie Finn. Recalling the narrow entrance, plus the fact the sun was going down, we opted to take the main down a quarter mile away from the entrance, and continue on with just the motor.

Baie Finn has been described as the only natural fjord in North America. It is a narrow body of water, with vertical rock formations on either side of it. Some parts of it are perhaps a half mile wide, much of it is maybe 100 yards wide, and some places, narrower than that. It is an absolutely gorgeous bit of water to travel, and we were mostly silent as we took in the view. There is a channel, and at one point, it is so narrow the red marker was painted on the cliff!

From the entrance to Baie Finn to the ‘pool’, the total distance is about 10 miles. From the entrance to Baie Finn to the entrance to the narrower part of Baie Finn (it is like maybe 100 feet wide, perhaps less), and generally considered to be the entrance to the ‘pool’ is about 6 miles. As it was past dusk, and Todd’s iPhone GPS reception was spotty, and there was a boat anchored in close proximity to the entrance to the pool, we decided to anchor for the night, and head to the pool first thing in the morning.

Throughout our trip, as we discussed our proposed itinerary with others, several people had mentioned Topaz Lake, a small lake near the pool (within hiking distance), that supposedly had healing power; it was a high acidity water lake, nothing grew in it, it was a spectacular color, if you went swimming in it, it cured you of your ailments, etc., etc. So, in the back of our minds, swimming in Topaz Lake had become something of a quest for us.

Awake at 7:00, we pulled our anchor, and motored the 4 miles to the pool, having entered the very narrow entrance at a slow speed. (At one point, the depth showed as 4.5 feet…on a boat that draws over 7 feet. This was likely due to weeds, as we did not hit anything. Still it was a bit nerve wracking for a second or two. But, we made it through no problem, and the chart showed plenty of water the rest of the way.  Once again, we found an anchorage that was populated with a few boats, this time only about 5-6 boats were there. Once again, the girls wanted to hear ‘Tim and Todd’ stories; tonight’s feature was about Todd’s 40th birthday party, where, in a stunning display of maturity, we had a roman candle battle, shooting roman candles at each other in a firefight that took place amidst a crowd of party guests. (Teachable moment: “Girls, this is not a smart thing to do, even if no one got hurt, maimed, burned, or otherwise injured. They could have…”)

The ‘Pool’ is a remote, yet well known destination. In the ‘Pool’ is a small island, (Evinrude Island), with a nice size cottage. The cottage was owned by Mrs. Evinrude, who was supposedly a silent film actress who married one of the Evinrudes. My understanding is Mrs. Evinrude passed away in 2005, and the property and cottage are now part of Killarney Provincial Park.

We set an anchor nearer the north end of the pool, away from the rest who were at the ‘wall’ at the south end of the pool. Mindful of the time, as we’d decided we needed to start back to Tobermory at around noon, in order to keep to our plan of fueling up there, and sailing south across the length of Lake Huron that evening, we hopped in the dinghy and rowed to the north shore of the pool.

Earlier, we’d had someone look up the lat/long of Topaz Lake online, and it was programmed in a handheld GPS. After tying up the dinghy, we climbed up the rock face, and entered a marshy wooded area, Thrashing about the woods, we tried to find our way to Topaz Lake. We were wearing swimsuits under our clothing, and we carrying towels. For the first time since we’d been in the North Channel, the legendary flies were present, and soon, we had our towels over our heads to keep the flies from biting us. Between the towel covered heads, and the baggy pants and shirts we were wearing, we looked like terrorist hip hoppers.

After thrashing our way to the edge of a marsh, we decided we were not going to reach Topaz Lake from where we were. We decided that perhaps the lat/long we’d been given were not accurate.

Working our way back to the dinghy, we got in, and rowed past Fast Tango to the south end of the pool. We spoke with a guy who was anchored there, and asked about Topaz Lake. He pointed to what looked like a private dock at the north western edge of the waters edge, just as you made the turn into the pool, and said that’s were the trail to Topaz Lake began. As we were too lazy (and mindful of the time) to row the dinghy all that way, we went back to Fast Tango, pulled the anchor, and moved the boat closer to the private dock.

Todd’s gout infested toe, and my back, despite the codeine enhanced Tylenol, were not any better. We really needed to find Topaz Lake and get ourselves healed.

After re-anchoring Fast Tango, we all got into the dinghy, and rowed to a spot on shore about 50 feet to the southwest of the dock, and walked a well trod path to the dock. There was a group who had been off loaded by some sort of landing craft with ATV’s, and all sorts of supplies. They pointed us up the trail, which looked like a dry creek bed, and said the path to Topaz Lake was marked, and we would make a left hand turn to get there.

We started up the rather steep trail, which took a left hand turn, and kept going. Todd was still looking at the GPS coordinates we’d been given on his GPS, and announced we had to leave the trail, and head uphill, to the right, to get to Topaz Lake. I stared glumly at the steep incline in front of me, and followed Todd and the girls. I was going to get to Topaz Lake if it killed me!

The finale tomorrow..