Sea Kayaking in Georgian Bay

Kayak Trips


- Harry Weidman -
July 27-Aug 3, 1997

FLOW Paddler members Frank Cabron, Steve Chopan, Bill Lawton, Greg Mosher and Harry Weidman loaded up their sea kayaks plus 300 pounds of gear and were on the road by 7:30 AM headed for the town of Snug Harbor in Parry Sound. Parry Sound is a three hour drive north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada on the east coast of Georgian Bay and 350 miles from Rochester New York. Stopping at the White Squall Kayak Shop in Parry Sound, we got some good maps of the area. We were going to need them. The area we planned to paddle through, Thirty Thousand Islands, was named so with good reason. The great folks at the shop marked our maps with allowable islands to camp on. Frank had done all the trip setup planning, map checking, and shuttle arrangements. Thanks, Frank! Bill was the crew truck driver, only one vehicle was used. Harry provided the kayak trailer and harmonica tunes. Greg was our GPS navigator while Steve, my bunkie, was a source of week-long group entertainment.

We all passed the basic Kayak Packing 101 course, some better than others, along with the initial boat gear float test. Next, the crew came aboard only to discover some of the gear just had go. The boats had plenty of ballast for stability but paddled like slugs with the extra weight. By 4:45 PM the flotilla was on the water starting a FLOW club eight day sea kayaking adventure. We would journey north into the prevailing winds, through the Thirty Thousand Islands, camp off shore on various islands and end up at Killarney some 80+ miles away.

A slight overcast 70 degree day with 15 MPH NW winds and 3 foot waves eased us on our way. passed a loon, several cormorants, the Red Rock Lighthouse marking the safe boating channel, and 18 other sea kayakers that were returning from a weekend trip with White Squall. I spied a wide grin that appeared tattooed on Steve's face as we paddled west into the sunset.

Our first destination was Aloma Island, seven miles out in the Mink Island Chain and home of Warren & Margaret Edgar, its sole occupants. We met the most gracious couple that live here for six months each year in their lovely setting. The other six months find them in Hong Kong where Margaret teaches English. Two red and white mini A-frames (three if you count the outhouse complete with a flush toilet and a terrific working view from the throne) and a small kitchen house are the only buildings on the red granite rock island. They invited us in for coffee and conversation and we ended up camping the night.

Mon. 8:30 AM- Off into light winds with a island paddle break at 10:30. The winds, which seemed to pick up about mid-morning each day, were 12-15 MPH. There were whitecaps and rocky shoals but the water was a warm 70 degrees. An open stretch from the end of the McCoy chain of islands was rougher. After a 1:30 PM lunch, we looked for and took an inside channel passage in calmer waters that ended at another red & white lighthouse; they're all red & white. By 4 PM the hot sun was getting to us. The 13.9 mile paddle day ended when we got permission to camp on a protected island and setup camp at 5:30 PM. The wind had died down some by now. It was a tiring day as we were adjusting to the rigors of extended paddling with our loaded boats. Sleep came easily as a million stars slowly appeared during the warm, clear night.

Tues.- We wanted to get a good start to get past the rough, tricky shoal area before the winds picked up by 10 AM. Greg had the led starting us at a brisk pace along the buoy line that lies a few miles offshore in the open waters of the bay. Nine miles later we stopped for lunch on a nifty smooth rock inlet inside Head Island. All of the islands are rock based with many of them having smooth waterlines on their open exposed side. Steve took a bath in the waters of a shallow rock basin found carved into the rocks. Wild blueberries were to be had for the picking. A large rock piling sat on top of a bald granite dome. All of us laid spread-eagle on the hot rocks warmed by the sun. It felt so-o-o good. We paddled back into the 20-40 km head winds all day in 3-5 foot waves stopping to camp on Canadian Provincial land. It was a island with a small bay that had a pile of large cube-shaped rocks 4-6 feet high. They were scattered in the shape of a protected ring that provided ideal cooking and dining tables. Frank and Bill set out in their now unladen speed boats and caught a few bass to show us how it was done. It was a tiring paddle day due to the conditions, but we were getting the hang of it.

Wen.- No wind, calm waters. Flat Rock Island was our break point. It was bare of any vegetation, but had plenty of birds. Experience taught us that the white islands are where the birds frequent. Stopping at them, like this one was, often proved to be smelly, short visits. Lunch stop at One Tree Island found a good sized island with many trees on it, unlike its namesake. It looked like a nice spot to camp for future trips. We met Susan, a sea kayaker from Toronto there. By mid-afternoon we reached the Bustard islands where many pleasure boaters and sailboats were anchored in protected inlets of the larger islands. The water temperature in the heel of the bay was cooler; in the low 60's. Steve put on an impressive sprint approaching the islands and I went for the bait by chasing him down. A race was on to a distant buoy while the others followed at a more conservative pace. Steve's price of fun turned into a set of tired arms that night. By 4:30 PM we had completed an 18 mile paddle day that ended on North Shore Island in the Bustards. It was nothing more than a small rocky island hill that one could cover in a five minute walk. That evening, I figured out how to tame my stove and started turning out fresh brownies, sweet bread or cake mixes on a daily basis by omitting the use of the reflective base on my Outback Oven. The day ended with a few harmonica tunes and a display of Northern Lights.

Thurs.- Clear skies, 5 MPH wind, 1-2 foot waves. Paddling started with a four mile open crossing taking us 1.5 miles from shore to Temple Rocks for a relief break. We're heading west now at 280 degrees taking us out of the NE heel of the bay. The island turned out to be a rookery for ring billed gulls where several nests, eggs and fuzz-balled chicks were found. The next 5.8 mile leg to the lighthouse on Grondine Rock was a tougher stretch when we meet 12-15 MPH head winds and three foot plus waves. Our paddling routine changed to meet the conditions by paddling for 1/2 hour then taking a 2-3 minute float break to rest, stretch, drink and eat something before continuing on. It does wonders for your disposition. The wind picked up 20-25 MPH along with 3-4 foot waves when we were less than a mile from the lighthouse. The water temperature also dropped to the low 50s. We discovered the wind had shifted more offshore and was blowing us away from the island and further out into ope! > n waters. The lighthouse never got any closer as we approached; always just out of our reach after spending considerable energy to close the gap. Plan B- head towards shore, though further away, and hope for some wind relief by heading directly into the wind. That worked. We concluded the light house was a mirage, always taunting and luring us but always just out of reach.

We settled exhausted three miles from the light house on Hen Island located in the Chicken Islands. It's a two acre island with good flat camping areas, a frog pond with tadpoles, and blueberries. This is where we lost Frank. He disappeared for an hour without his gear and boat leaving us puzzled. He later emerged from under a clump of cedar trees where he had taken a nap in the cool shade. The sun was now hot- 80 degrees, with a high UV rating. You had better cover up or burn up. Greg perched up on a large rock dome with a clear view of the open waters and waves. Frank also chose a rocky, windy location free of any bugs. The others opted for softer padding on the sod inside the island. Bill fished without much success; Steve found another rock basin bath tub to jump into, I picked fresh blueberries for date-nut bread while Greg crashed in his tent after our 12 mile paddle day. The wind continued to pickup in the late afternoon, and we were glad to be off the water. Three fellow kayakers from Green Bay, Wisconsin visited us from a neighboring island where they were doing a loop trip out of Killarney.

Fri.- Overcast, waters calmed down. A 7:45 AM start ran into light rain along the way to Pompom Point located at the end of the Chicken Islands. The 8.4 mile day trip ended on a large island with no map name, near Lowe Island. The nice campsite was on a smooth-rocked site located on the ESE end of the island under a large pine tree with a great view. It's a great hiking island with 200 ft. high rock hills, thick woods and bushes in the valleys with the best blueberries yet. Steve left a pen-pal message in a film canister for future paddlers to find. The water was very cold, in the mid 40's now. We put up two tarps just in case of more rain which of course prevented future occurrences of that from happening. It cleared up for a perfect afternoon hike providing panoramic island views. An easy day with lots of time to play.

Sat.- No wind, overcast. A great 65 degree day to paddle through a maze of red rocked granite islands. The trees grow taller here. When paddling through the cold waters one can notice the air getting warmer as you get nearer to land. The sun heats the larger coastal rock masses which radiate the stored energy back into the air. A short 4.4 mile paddle day stopped near Pinch Island. Another island joins this one with a 5 foot gap between them that varies with the lake level. There were several nice camping areas here. Some took an afternoon paddle of Thomas Bay where visiting sailboats were anchored, surrounded by red and white granite outcroppings .Bill, Steve and I went onto Killarney for a beverage run (beer) returning in a heavy, warm rainstorm five minutes from camp. Within 10 minutes all was dried out by the sun. We almost got blown off the island around 7 PM when a strong storm front hit us from behind the island with gusty 30 MPH winds. It spun Frank's boat around like weathervane sitting on the rocky shore then scattered camping gear and clothes in all directions. A neoprene hatch cover blew into the water. It ended just as quickly as it appeared while we scampered to fetch the unanchored belongings. Another lesson: watch for these fast hitting storms, especially if you're out on the water.

Sun.- Calm waters. A 7:30 AM start put us into Killarney by 8:45 with a nice tail wind assist. A red and white Coast Guard radio tower marks the harbor entrance. The small tourist town supports a church, a general store, liquor store, marinas with showers, lodging, restaurants and a sea-plane ramp. Killarney Outfitters, three miles out of town, rents/sells kayaks and canoes and carries a good selection of camping supplies. They provided us transportation back to our truck at Parry Sound, 2 1/2 hours away. There, a quick transfer loading job put us on our way back home. All was fine until we noticed a bent trailer frame while stopping at a rest stop along the NYS Thruway. The boats were rearranged to favor the bad side and all went well thereafter.

We returned a happy group, each gaining a bit more experience and skills in open water paddling, navigation, packing, camping and cooking from one another. Next issue we'll some statistics, costs, contacts and tips for future reference.

- Harry Weidman -

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