Thursday, August 30, 2018

Picking Up The New (To Us) Equinox

We went to our doctor's appointment at 9:00 AM only to find that our GP had decided to stop having office hours on Thursdays. Somehow, no one notified us but the receptionist was very apologetic as she rebooked us for next Tuesday.

As a result, we were early for our 10:00 AM appointment to exchange Equinoxes at Southside Chevrolet Buick GMC nearby. Ray offered us coffee while we waited for Clare with the paperwork. He arrived not long after and we finished the deal by trading a bank draft for the registration slip and bill of sale.

All that remained was the ceremonial switching of the licence plates from the 2014 to the 2017.

Plates on the 2014

Plates on the 2017

With the plates swapped, we set out in search of new adventures.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cruising the North Channel

The Ontario Provincial Police Veterans Association welcomes retired all sworn officers, civilian employees and auxiliary members of the OPP and other forces as full members. They specifically include Special Constables who served with the Snowmobile Trail Office Patrol (STOP), which is how several of us who worked beside a number of these officers ended up as members. In fact, I am currently the Treasurer of OPPVA Chapter 13 Sudbury/Manitoulin.

Chapter 13 usually holds an August Fish Fry in Sheguindah on Manitoulin Island hosted by members Rick and Gail. This year, however, a family event prevented this, so Chairman Ron suggested we take a cruise on the North Channel to visit the Benjamin Islands. North Channel Tours operated out of Little Current and offered a number of cruise options including this one.

There was no rush to get started this morning because our cruise started boarding at 9:30 AM and the dock was a ten minute walk away. An intial look outside confirmed that it was raining but the weather app on the phone promised it would stop soon.

Rain, rain go away....

We went down to North46 and ordered breakfast. Sandy just had oatmeal while I ordered off the sides menu to avoid toast and potatoes. I asked for two scrambled eggs and sides of bacon, sausage and ham. The bacon was a regular size order, as were the very tasty sausages. But the ham consisted of three thick slices which would have been sufficient on its own. I ate it all even though, in addition to avoiding carbs, I am supposed to be watching the calories. 

I did not eat the fruit

The rain had stopped by 9:00 AM. We opted to leave the car in the hotel parking lot and walked along the waterfront along what appeared to be a rarely used street.

This tree has seen better days but it has character

The Little Current waterfront

Triumph was getting ready to cast off

The rest of our tour group and others were waiting to board when we arrived at the Grand Heron gangplank just before 9:30. I could see our friend from yesterday on The Triumph was pulling in his water and power lines, preparing to get underway.

After being welcomed by captain/owner Chris and crew member Brittany, we got settled. It started raining off and on just after we cast off at 10:00 AM, heading northwest towards the Benjamin Islands. Brittany set out coffee and pastries shortly after we got started. I had coffee and looked longingly at the baked goods.

The Chapter 13 contingent

Life ring

Life jackets

Inflatable raft

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, a huge GPS screen on the wall kept us abreast of our route and position. The people at the next table operated a farm east of Ottawa and were camping on The Island in a 42 foot 5th wheel towed by a Ford F450 diesel. They were snowmobilers, so we had a number of things in common.

Captain Chris and the GPS screen

Low lying clouds over the La Cloche Mountains

Moving right along....

Most folks stayed inside due to the rain and spray

Many rounded granite islands in the North Channel

I forgot the name of the First Mate/Boat Driver (Helmsman)

Captain Chris

It all looks like a Group Of Seven painting

The North Channel

Before we arrived at our anchorage spot in a bay at South Benjamin Island, the crew (Brittany) served lunch. We had sausages on a bun. hamburgers on a bun, potato salad and pasta salad. I had sausages and hamburgers (no buns) with a diet coke. I did cheat with one small spoon of potato salad but I went outside when they served the desserts.

Someone moored in a secluded area (I need a bigger zoom lens)

South Benjamin Island

After we dropped anchor, Captain Chris took anyone who wanted to explore or swim ashore in the Zodiac. Norm (retired CP Police and friend) was the only one in our group who felt so motivated. There was a nearby cabin that was for sale along with five acres of land. They were only asking $799,000 Canadian dollars. It would be a nice, secluded location if it wasn't for the cruise boats:-))

Look for a corner of the cabin roof on the left side

Low lying wind swept rocks

Rick is pointing something out to Ray and Ron

Some of our gang

Norm ashore in the yellow shirt and yuppie sweater

The explorers return

After a couple of hours, we weighed anchor and started back towards Little Current.

Underway again

Near Little Current - less rock and more trees

Old lumber mill on Picnic Island

Happy sailors

I like a classic cabin cruiser

I can see our dock

Brittany prepares to tie us up

Unlike Gilligan, we all returned safely

We arrived back at the dock a little before 5:00 PM. Norm and Leslie Ann, who parked near the dock, gave us a ride up to the hotel parking lot. Again, the traffic light was green as we approached the swing bridge and started the last drive in our trusty old 2014 Equinox. We stopped at Tim's in Espanola for a bathroom break and then made it the rest of the way home without incident.

Today's Route (86 Equinox miles):

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

An afternoon in South Baymouth

Kim, Mike and the girls were spending a last holiday before school at a place near Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. They decided to take the ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun across the mouth of Georgian Bay to Manitoulin Island for a day. Mike and the granddaughters had never set foot on the largest freshwater island in the world.

Chi-Cheemaun route

They were just going to walk onto the ferry and arrive in South Baymouth at 1:05 PM. The return trip would depart at 5:50. South Baymouth is only about a two hour drive from Sudbury, so we agreed to go down and meet them. Because we needed to be back on Manitoulin the next morning for an Ontario Provincial Police Veterans Association cruise out of Little Current, Sandy suggested we spend the night on the island. I made a reservation at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current.

On the way out of town about 9:00 AM, I stopped and put what would probably be the last tank of gas into this Equinox. That would carry us to South Baymouth and back and I was not going to fill it up again before turning the car in on Thursday.

Highway 17 from Sudbury to Espanola was a study in road construction. The four lane was only two lane with no passing allowed. Then a lot of the two lane after that had been scraped and was being repaved. One of these days, it will be a really nice road. Maybe.

After a bathroom and coffee break at Tim's in Espanola, we headed south on Highway 6 towards Manitoulin Island. This thirty mile stretch included some of the best motorcycle riding in the area. The highway went back and forth and up and down through the quartz mountains to Whitefish Falls and beyond. Then it straightened out and finally became flat across Great La Cloche and some smaller islands as the road approached the famous swing bridge to Manitoulin Island.

Highway 6

Quartz rock cuts

Near Willisville

Motion activated deer warnings

The quartz gives way to sedimentary layers

Great LaCloche Island

The swing bridge comes into view

The traffic light was still green as we reached the one lane swing bridge. We had some time to kill, so we stopped in Little Current. This gateway to The Island had a quaint one block main street with mooring facilities for many small craft and a few large ones. The landmark Anchor Inn still serves the public every day. It was from here that we of Inco Metals Accounting used to drink beer and observe those of Inco General Engineering while they surveyed piles of iron ore on the Turner Coal Docks across the water. This was part of our annual metals inventory process. It was a dirty job but somebody had to do it.

Little Current - Manitoulin Island - Ontario

Downtown Little Cuurent

The famous Anchor Inn

Memorial to those who served in The Great War

Strolling the waterfront, we checked out the watercraft. There was a large cruise ship, the Victory 1, docked for the day. It was on a ten day Great Lakes Grand Discovery cruise. Then there was the Grand Heron, which would be taking us to the Benjamin Islands tomorrow.

Victory 1

The Grand Heron

Many smaller yachts and boats were docked here including a Beneteau 423 out of Michigan named Triumph. I noticed that the name was styled after the old Triumph motorcycle logo, while the man on board noticed that I was wearing a tee shirt that said "Never underestimate an old man on a motorcycle". He was on vacation and they had been visiting ports along Lake Huron since August 2nd. He still owned a 1973 Triumph Daytona that he bought new plus a Ducati Multistrada as a daily driver. He was familiar with riding both the Smoky Mountains out of Waynesville, NC and northern Arkansas. We compared some notes and then wished him safe travels as we continued on our way south.

I wouldn't mind a week or ten on this

The Triumph

We encountered two construction zones on the way to South Baymouth. Both involved flagmen and single lane traffic. The second, on the outskirts of South Baymouth, also involved a pilot vehicle.

BMW outfit in South Baymouth

Luckily, we arrived at the ferry dock before the ferry. There was no problem parking on the street while many cars were waiting in the boarding area on the other side of the curb. We spoke to a gentleman from Niagara Falls who has been taking the Chi-Cheemaun regularly since it was commissioned in 1974. Every tenth sailing is free.

The ferry dock

This house looks out at the ferry dock

Tobermory bound waiting to board

The brightly painted ferry arrived right on time. It pulled past our position and then backed up to the ramp. When the rear door opened, the vehicles debarked like animals leaving Noah's ark. First came the motorcycles, followed by a tour bus and several semis. The empty cattle hauler had a distinct aroma as it went by. Next came the cars from both levels. There was a nice ramp at the side for the pedestrians to debark but it was jammed and could not be extended to the ship, so the foot traffic walked out the vehicle ramp last.

MS Chi-Cheemaun

Backing into the ramp

Tie it up well

Motorcycles followed by a bus

Next came the semi's

The pedestrian gangway was out of service

So the family walked off the vehicle ramp

The many cars are now free to board

Because the Equinox only seated five and it was a long way to anywhere else on The Island through the long construction zone, the visit was confined to South Baymouth. The first order of business was lunch. The preferred establishment would have been Carol and Earl's on the outskirts of town but they were closed on Tuesdays. Sadly, I also learned that Carol passed away in the spring and Earl had stopped the great breakfast service. We settled for the Pierside Restaurant where the service was slow and the prices were high. I stayed low carb with a Caesar salad and grilled chicken.

Eye catching advertising

But we did not eat here

We ate here instead

After lunch, we walked around the corner to the free museum. Actually, there were three museums operating on a donation basis. The main building had many items from the history of The Island, while another showed things related to commercial fishing and the last was a one room schoolhouse. It is really nice when communities honour their past, but I really don't think than many people take the time to appreciate it.

The main museum in South Baymouth

Women and children first...

Buoy and girl

Little Red Schoolhouse museum

One room

Moving on

From the museums, we moved on to the South Baymouth Marina. They spent some time making this a pleasant place with rest rooms, walkways, a playground and a lighthouse.

A nice place to park your boat

Shirley U Jest has seen better days

We saw the honour system several places around South Baymouth

View from the marina walkway

The big water is out there



Benches for the older folks

Our ladies

The Koolen girls

The girls liked the playground equipment

Sandy and Kim started back frst


I like people who think of our canine friends

Park dedication

Busy Highway 6

From the marina, we walked up to see the Gallery. It is actually the Southbay Gallery and Guesthouse, including a highly regarded bed and breakfast. We looked at the wares and I talked to an older lady working there about some striking acrylic paintings. She had them on consignment from a prolific First Nations artist named Duncan Pheasant. He worked for the town of Little Current and was a member of the Redrum Motorcycle Club.

A little encouragement never hurts

Here we are

And quilts as well

The foot traffic was supposed to be ready to board a half hour before departure. That would be 5:20 PM so we headed back to the waterfront where the girls had some Farquhars Ice Cream. Then we waited for the Big Canoe. Robyn and I went down to keep an eye out and soon it appeared coming around the point.

Nose plugs, anyone?

We always honour our American neighbors


One tall tree stands out

Robyn and I at the waterfront

Ship ahoy!

Right on time

Boarding via the vehicle ramp

With the family safely aboard, we returned the forty miles to Little Current where we checked in to the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. I was pleased to see the lobby and restaurant walls festooned with Duncan Pheasant originals. We took our minimal luggage up to the room and then came down to the in-house restaurant, North46, where we each had the special of roasted chicken with a white wine mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. I traded my potatoes for more vegetables and found the  whole meal quite tasty.

After we ate, we returned to the room. Again, I skipped the photos and notes faze and went straight to bed with my Kindle. I do believe I might have finished two pages before falling asleep.

Today's Route (165 Equinox miles):