This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Trent-Severn Canal - Other Loopers

One of the benefits of cruising along the waterways is the wonderful people you meet along the way, both on boats and on land.  Two other boats cruising the Great Loop, with interesting stories, were encountered while on the Trent-Severn Canal.  A few notes about the crews of these boats may help illustrate.

The photo above is of Lovely Louise under sail on Lake Michigan with captains Katie and Jessie.  This photo was taken from Katie and Jessie's blog since the camera was left on Last Dance when the crew encountered this duo in a lock.  Louise would appreciate this photo more, as she is in action.  In the Trent her mast was unstepped, lying on deck in wooden supports, so she could clear the low, non-opening bridges.  Not in her prettiest do.

Katie and Jessie, life-long friends, decided to purchase a sailboat for the challenge of cruising the Great Loop.  They left Michigan September, 2012, when they were 23 years old.  A trip of this length is usually undertaken by folks old enough to have completed a career and saved for a lifetime.  It is unique for the trip to be challenged by people so young.

Their Loop was completed September, 2014.  More can be found on their blog:

John Guider looks with a bit of concern as the much larger Last Dance pulls into a lock behind his boat, Adventure II.  John, who counts professional photographer among his careers, is rowing the Loop.  He began his trip in 2009, leaving from his hometown, Nashville, Tennessee, in a self-built 14 foot boat.  He spends two months every summer rowing.  He has rowed down the Mississippi to New Orleans, along the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida, and up the east coast to the Great Lakes.  His goal this year was to make it to Chicago and then finish the Loop next year.  As with everyone cruising the Great Lakes this year, windy weather slowed his progress.  He ended his 2 months rowing in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, 40 pounds lighter than when he started in Trenton, Ontario.  For a view of John's photography and to learn more about his adventure, his blog is at:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Georgian Bay, North Channel Navigation


Georgian Bay and North Channel are filled with rocks and narrow passages.  Good charts and attention to navigation becomes critical in these waters.  The entrance to Georgian Bay from the last lock in the Trent Severn Canal has a tight turn, a narrow channel, a strong current on the stern, and a low bridge.  The photo above is looking back toward the lock.  This is a section that you would not want to meet a boat traveling the opposite direction.  It makes an interesting introduction to navigation.


The channel is sometimes not much wider than the boat.  The waters may be wide, but the area within the waters with sufficient depth for a deep draft boat are limited.  The next marker is a floating buoy and is visible in this shot.  Is it a red or a green?

In the image above, the red triangle marker, indicating that the channel lies to the left, is set at a point of rocks.  Looking in the distance, another red triangle can be spotted.  A large open area of water is open ahead and appears to be an appropriate path.  But, a look over the rock on the left will find a red floating buoy hiding.  The correct path is to turn left past the rock, pass left of the red buoy, then back to the right.

Not the same spot as the photo above, but a similar situation.  A red triangle is just to your right shoulder, another red triangle is ahead on right, and a square green is on the rock to the left.  It would appear that the appropriate path would be directly ahead, in the waters between the red and green.  And, so thought the captain of this trawler, sitting on the rocks.  Fortunately, the rocks here are smooth and only slightly less shallow than the draft of this vessel.  Last Dance draws a foot more and would be high and dry at the same spot.  The floating red buoy, indicating that the deeper water is to the left, can be seen to the left of this image.


Heading toward this wall of rock that is the beginning of Collins Inlet, the floating markers indicate that a sharp turn to the left is required.  The white marker indicates that a rock is at that point, with insufficient water depth for a trawler to pass.  The white marker is not on the charts.  To which side of the white marker should you pilot the boat?


The red triangles and green squares navigation aids are normally placed on islands or rock to indicate which side the channel lies.  This marker is interesting due to its placement.  Many years ago, probably before the Canadian Coast Guard placed markers in Georgian Bay, a steam-powered vessel found this underwater rock.  All that remains of the boat is the boiler used to produce the steam.  Placing the markers is a major job for the Coast Guard as all of the floating buoys must be removed before winter because when the surface water freezes, the ice would damage the marker, or at least drag them to an incorrect location.  Every spring, the Coast Guard must reinstall all the navigation aids.


While the navigation can be challenging in Georgian Bay, at least there are many aids to navigation.  Not so in the North Channel.  There are a few of the red triangles and green squares indicating on which side of an island the recommended passage lies, but no floating buoys.  In some cases, the local boaters have added their own floating navigation aids to indicate rocks.  The one above marks a rock in what could appear to be the center of a path to Croker Island.  This rock is charted, but could easily find the bottom of a boat if not indicated on the water.  As is the case much too often, a translucent one-gallon milk bottle has been used.  If only the Canadians saved their Prestone jugs.


The floating object in the image above is a 6 inch square of foam.  Looks like it could just be flotsam, some junk floating on the water’s surface.  It is someone’s marker they placed to show a rock that is in the middle of a narrow passage that is the entrance to a small harbor.  The rock is not on the charts.  This photo was taken on a blue sky day with the sun high, allowing the rock to show through the water as a yellow area.  On the day Last Dance spotted this small piece of foam, the day was gray and the water all the same color.  Again, some bright yellow Prestone bottles would be helpful.


Just in case the captain misses that the recommended passage makes a turn to the right at this island, a large arrow has been painted on the rock.  This has been the correct passage for centuries as the word Passage painted on the rock signifies the name of the island.  Navigation in these waters requires one’s attention, creating a challenge, making cruising even more interesting.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Georgian Bay – Echo Bay

There are two Echo Bays, one north of the small channel leading inland and one south.  The north bay is larger with room for many boats.  But, wisely, no boats were in the north bay during Last Dance’s visit.  The entrance to the north bay is littered with rocks.   An exploratory trip in the dinghy with a portable depth sounder found a path through the rocks about 20 feet wide and 4 to 5 feet deep.   Not sufficiently sized for most boats to pass.

Above, Last Dance is stern tied to a rock in the southern Echo Bay.  This bay is located in a provincial park, so it is surrounded by public land.


Parks Canada made stern tying easier by inserting steel petards into the rock around the bay.  This also helps protect the park as lines wrapped around trees can damage the bark.


A resident of the north Echo Bay taking advantage of a sunny day during an unusually cool summer to catch a few rays of sun.

The narrowing channel from Echo Bay to the Small Boat Channel in Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay - The Bustards

The group of islands known as The Bustards are a popular spot for visits by cruising boaters.  A number of anchorages within the islands provide great protection from weather and a base camp for exploration.  Above, Last Dance is tucked into a corner of a cove.

When at anchor, a boat can swing in a circle, sometimes much larger than a football field.  A technique employed to keep an anchored boat in one spot, and to fit the boat into very small coves, is stern tying. The line from the stern of Last Dance to shore can be seen in this photo.

The view from Last Dance to the east.  Having a home that moves allows one to select home sites with interesting views, and to change those views when desired.  This image also shows how the islands in this small bay provide complete protection from the open waters of Georgian Bay.

The Bustard Islands are a grouping of various-sized islands tightly arranged, leaving small passages between them well suited for exploration by dinghy or kayak.  These islands are part of a Canadian provincial park.  This is another spot in Georgian Bay that can provide a home for an extended period, providing new experiences every day.

A Google Earth view of the Bustard Islands can be seen by clicking on the link below.,+French+River+Provincial+Park,+Killarney,+ON/@45.8861882,-80.913667,3834m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4d2e9c2e5c30c0bb:0x8598afad4414fda6?hl=en

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Georgian Bay - Beverstone Bay

Just east of Collins Inlet lies a large bay filled with islands, many islands.  Beaverstone Bay is scenic and has a number of anchorages in coves formed by the islands.  Another area in Georgian Bay with kayaking and dinghy exploration possibilities.

A mother loon and her chick along the rocky edge of an island in Beaverstone Bay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Georgian Bay - Collins Inlet

Collins Inlet is a narrow channel formed between Phillip Edward Island and the mainland.  At times, the rock walls are almost fjord-like.  The rock is pink granite, worn smooth after millions of years.  A part of the Canadian shield, this is one of the oldest rock formations in the world.  A few, though spacious, anchorages lie along the inlet for cruisers to linger and savor this beauty.

Georgian Bay - Thomas Bay

One of the best anchorages anywhere, at least in the opinion of the Last Dance crew, is Thomas Bay.  It is one of the last anchorages in Georgian Bay traveling west toward the beginning of the North Channel at Killarney.  Thoughts of not posting about this anchorage were considered to keep this anchorage from becoming popular, and thus, crowded.  But, there is too much beauty here to share.

Thomas Bay was almost obliterated on the official Canadian Charts.  A large view chart of the Killarney Channel is overlaid on the chart, almost covering Thomas Bay.  The Killarney Channel is on the left and Collins Inlet is on the right.  This stretch of about 5 miles is open to Georgian Bay, exposed to rough waters in windy weather.

A closer view of the chart illustrates why most cruisers do not attempt to enter Thomas Bay - the many, many rocks between deep water and this tiny bay.  There are no makers or buoys in the area and no depths charted in the bay.  It is totally incumbent on the mariner to find, or maybe better stated to not find, the rocks.  Many who cruise Georgian Bay and North Channel find a rock or two, which keeps the boatyards in Little Current busy in the summers.

The mainland side of the bay has pink granite rock ledges creating a gorgeous view and great protection from winds and fetch while at anchor.

Although the rock surrounding the bay is quite steep and a challenging climb, there are spots along the edges at slight angles providing for easy dinghy landing.  This view shows the low island across the end of the bay creating 360 degrees of protection.

The view from the boat is simply stunning.

The view can be entertaining at times, also.  This otter knocked against the hull of Last Dance early one morning.  Then after some fishing, went ashore to preen.  He seemed to be performing for the crew in the water and on the rocks.

One afternoon, a juvenile black bear wandered along the shore in his search for blueberries.

The loons, most often seen alone, fished by Last Dance.  These uniquely marked birds have multiple calls, different when in the water and on land, that could be described as eerie and beautiful at the same time.

The land around Thomas Bay is part of a large Provincial Park, allowing cruisers access to the land surrounding the bay.  It provides good hiking, although this area does not have developed trials.  Hiking where there are no trails is more challenging in both climbing and orienteering.  Beautiful and amazing views continue to change as one ascends and winds around the hills.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Georgian Bay & North Channel Lighthouses

Crossing large waters on commercial ships often brings them close to shore in the dark.  Finding one's way through the rock infested waters could be impossible without landmarks on shore visible at night.  Many of these lighthouses are still standing, still operational, continuing their function of guiding ships in the night.  Above is the Snug Harbor light.

Pointe au Baril light has the old, but more modern lighthouse functioning on the point adjacent to the original light.

A replica of the original light stands proud on the point.  As a warning to sailors, a fire was maintained in a barrel on shore.  Thus, the name of the inlet and small community is still expressed in French.

This group of islands much have proved very dangerous as three lighthouses were built.

The lighthouse at Bing Inlet.

The Strawberry Island light near Little Current.