I recently started working at the Nautical Mind after spending five years as the Captain of TS Playfair. For those of you unfamiliar with the Playfair, she is a 72-foot brigantine operated by Toronto Brigantine to conduct youth sail training throughout the Great Lakes.
Over five years I was able to spend about 5 months all told cruising around Georgian Bay, and had a lot of time to gunkhole and explore the many locations. I would like to share some of my favourite spots, only a few though, as otherwise the list would go on for pages! There is no best to worst here, rather I went from East to West so as to keep some order to the list.
Starting off about as east as you can get in Georgian Bay, my first pick is Parry Sound, and I do mean the body of water, not the town. I think Parry Sound is very under appreciated. You can easily spend a week inside the sound at a different anchorage every night. There is great sailing with almost no swell, regardless of the wind. On top of this, the water is warm! (at least compared to the North Channel). The icing on the cake is that the sound is centrally located; you can jump down to the Midland area, up to Britt or across to the Bruce, all within a days sailing. I must add though, I do really enjoy the town of Parry Sound. [Chart 2224]
Next along is Rat Portage. This is a small inlet at the far east end of Frazer Bay, which is the bay that Baie Fine stems off of. It is just northwest of well known Portage Cove, on the other side of Badgeley Point. This is a small and somewhat isolated cove, and there are rarely other boats there. It is well worth the trip down to the end of the bay.
The next location going west would have to be the Benjamin’s, in particular South Benjamin. There can’t be much surprise here, and you may think I’m not being very original, but hey, there’s a reason those islands are so popular. The scenery is gorgeous, the shelter is great, and the islands themselves are incredible for hiking. There are usually a fair number of other boats there, but everyone gets along fine.
Go north and west, and just before Little Detroit is Shoepack Bay. This is an incredible place that usually does not have many boats in. Towards the western end there are still rings sunk into the rocks from lumber days that you can tie to, or you can anchor out a bit. You will be very well sheltered from anything but south-easterly’s, and it has a huge table rock that provides the absolute best campfire location I have come across. [Charts 2257 & 2268]
The last location, and almost at the west end of the North Channel is East Grant Island. Full disclosure, I’ve only been there once, but it was really quite nice. Very quiet, secluded and relatively far from anything else (still only a few miles though, this is the North Channel). The one caveat is that the anchorage is exposed to anything from the west, and the fetch allows a bit of swell. Its a good mid point though if you want to do the western end of the Channel in short hops. [Chart 2251]
So those are five of my favourite spots. As I said there are plenty more, in fact it is hard to find a spot that isn’t nice. Looking for your own spots can be a lot of fun, and with the geography of the North Channel there are countless little bays and inlets. Just because the soundings don’t continue into a bay it does not mean that there is no depth in there. Take your dinghy and a leadline and do your own soundings!
If you like to cruise with others then I would say that July and early August are the time to be up there, but if you prefer a bit of solitude then nothing beats late August and September. That is my favourite time to be up there, and not only do you have the spots almost to yourself, but the wind is great and there are no bugs!
Lastly, I just want to remind everyone to be respectful of the environment and the other boats. Make sure you clean up any garbage and take with you anything you bring ashore.
Be sure to check out the new edition of PORTS: Georgian Bay, out May 2011.