Archive for August, 2009

Summer vacation

Author: Stephen


Above: Fathom Five National Park at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

“Full fathom five thy father lies;¬†of his bones are corals made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes; nothing of him that does fade

But doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange.”

(Song from “The Tempest” by W. Shakespeare)

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2009

It’s a sunny day and Ruth and I are 32,000 feet in the air, somewhere over the Rocky Mountains. On our way to Seattle for a week-long reunion with her mom, siblings and the beautiful faces of the next couple of generations. My canoe is stored in a woods next to a motel in Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Gear is piled in my parents’ basement. I’m on vacation from my vacation.

Like the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, reaching Tobermory was a milestone. Ruth met me there Saturday, Aug. 15, driving from Petoskey across the Upper Peninsula, and crossing into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie. She followed the northern coast of Lake Huron to Little Current, where she took the bridge connecting the mainland to Manitoulin Island. At the east side of the island she took the ferry to Tobermory, arriving about 8:30 p.m. I was still on the water, just turning from northwest to east around the peninsula, when she called to tell me the ferry had docked. I was about seven miles from Tobermory. I had been paddling since about 9 a.m., with an hour break for lunch about 3 p.m. A fairly stiff wind had been blowing from the southwest all day, and I had to keep an eye on the waves, staying away from shore to avoid the breakers. But I was full of energy at the thought of seeing Ruth and anticipation of a few days’ rest, and I was determined to finish the day in Tobermory Harbour.
I stopped on the shore of little Bishop’s Island to grab a couple of apples and a bag of peanuts, attach green and red lights to the bow, and clip a white light on the back of my hat. Hopped back in the boat, and paddled for just a bit before taking photos of a most beautiful sunset. Then, with each stroke, day slipped into night. By 9:30 p.m. the moonless sky was as inky as the water. The waves and wind were behind me now, and had calmed significantly, but it was still eerie to be paddling in the dark. I could see cottages with lights on, but all the bays and islands made it hard to get a bearing. A blast of fireworks on shore scared me. I slowed down, repeated my mantra “everything will be all right,” and paddled on.
About 11 p.m. I finally reached the mouth of the harbor. Ruth called me on the phone, and said she could see my lights from the ferry dock. I looked through my binoculars at the dock, and saw her waving behind the fence. She gave me directions to a boat ramp a bit farther into the harbor, where we met about 10 minutes later. As patrons stumbled out of the wharfside bars, we unloaded gear, pulled the canoe from the water and tied it to the top of the car.

So, my beloved “Seaweed” rests in the woods, awaiting our return Thursday. Wind and waves willing, we’ll be back in the water Friday, Aug. 28, for the crossing from the peninsula to Manitoulin Island.


Author: Ruth

Together again; Stephen reached Tobermory well after dark last night after an epic 28 mile paddle in one day. I had driven north from Petoskey through Sault Ste. Marie and down through Manitoulin Island to meet him. My trek ended with a beautiful ferry passage on the Chi-Cheemaun, translated from Ojibway as “big canoe”, to Tobermory on the northern tip of the Bruce peninsula. What does he want to do on this day off? Take a boat ride (of course) out into Fathom Five National Park!

Niagara escarpment

Niagara escarpment

A map showing the extent of the Niagara escarpment, a fascinating geological formation that keeps the four western great lakes at their current level until the water reaches the Niagara Falls and spills over the escarpment. Thousands of years ago the big waterfall was just off Tobermory and scuba divers can see the narrow polished chute the rushing water created. The deepest spot in the Georgian Bay is around the base of this ancient waterfall quite near the cliffs of the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Sorry about the long pause between posts and pictures. Will have lots of pictures up soon of the changing lakeshores Stephen has been documenting. From the wetlands of Saginaw Bay, the sandy cottagey southern Huron shores, the wild rocks and islands of the Bruce peninsula and the Niagaran escarpment and the interesting people he has met (to whom I say a heartfelt thank you for your kindness and generosity!)

Grand Bend, Ontario

Author: Stephen

Monday, Aug.3

Lunched at a picnic table on the wharf overlooking the Au Sable River, in Grand Bend, Ont. I’m just a half kilometer (I’m trainable!) from the mouth of the river, at Purdy Fisheries: “Share in Over 100 Years of Family Tradition. Producers of the Finest in Fresh Lake Huron Fish Since 1919.” On a powerboat tied up just next to my canoe sit two couples speaking French, smoking cigarettes and drinking Labatts. They have a fishing line out. When I pulled up, I asked the gentleman in the red Purdy’s shirt if they were serving lunch. “Yes, if they don’t catch all the fish,” he said nodding toward the boat next to mine. The man in red was Milford Purdy, the family member currently in charge of the business, which he told me was started by his great-grandfather and his grandfather. Milford, “I’ll be 72 soon,” said he still goes out fishing. He said his son and daughter work in the business, too. “My 8 year old grandson loves to fish – so who knows?” The restaurant isn’t usually open on Mondays, but today is a federal holiday, “Civic Day,” or something like that. No one seems to know exactly what it’s called, or what it’s about. Milford told me his company has 10 boats, and it has the fishing rights between Sarnia and Grand Bend. The red, green and black flagged buoys I’d seen on my way up the coast marked their trap nets. Milford also told some stories about people falling overboard, one of whom fell off a sailboat, at night. It was an hour before he was missed. He wasn’t wearing a lifevest, but somehow managed to blow air into his shirt and create a bit of bouyancy. The sailboat was able to backtrack and rescue him. He’s now one of Milford’s favorite examples for why people on his boats should always wear their lifevests. The moral of this story, though, is that Purdy Fisheries serves up the best plate of fried perch and chips I’ve ever had!

Milford Purdy

Milford Purdy