Nov 8, 2018

Cruising With KidsLaura and Royce live near Lake Nipissing but boat on Georgian Bay. This year we were out of Key River so sadly missed a month due to the big fire.

The pair have boats in their blood. Laura provided some background: “Some is from my time as a child on our 36 ft Chris Craft. My husband grew up on Georgian Bay. We did take a couple of boating courses and I plan to take more. Most specifically navigating, as our dream is to do the loop one day. (Once we manage an upgrade!)”

Two years ago, my husband and I did something on a whim. Royce was scrolling through the buy and sell ads and suddenly looked up and said, “let’s buy a boat!” At first, I was skeptical, can we even afford it? Can we afford to even run it? But, then I started thinking about the good times I had had as a child on my parents’ 36-ft Chris Craft. I wanted our kids to have those memories so, I decided can we afford not to? We have five older boys already out on their own but the boat had room enough for Royce and me, Ryan aged 11 and the twins Colt and Remington aged 8.

Rem On Boats Rem on the boat

Our new dream and adventure started with a 1989 26ft Doral Citation. We got it at a price we could afford as it needed some love and attention. Once we brought it home, Royce started to lovingly bring it back to life.

Some elbow grease and sanding and staining and all the woodwork shined like new. The carpeted ceiling in the cabin was falling as the glue had let go. Some trim stained to match the other wood and the ceiling was fixed with more character than it previously had. A new water pump and mechanically it was ready to go. We had successfully made “Cents-less” our new boat.

We got our boat licenses and started taking other courses through the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron. It was time to test our sea legs! Summer of 2017 was our first major trip. We put in at Killarney, a favourite spot for boaters on the North Channel of Georgian Bay. We spent our first night out on the water near Fort La Cloche. The kids enjoyed some swimming and fishing while Royce and I quite simply enjoyed the simple: peace and quiet, and relaxation with the kids. No tv, no video games.

The next day we made our way north to Blind River where we stayed for two days as rainy weather came in. The marina staff here were superb. We met a retired vet who suggested we make a stop in Kagawong on our way back south. He said that the kids would really enjoy seeing the beach there and the Bridal Veil Falls.

We followed his suggestion and as promised the kids loved Kagawong. They had a blast swimming at the beach there. They even found some fossils that still sit upon a bedroom shelf of keepsakes. The trail to the falls was beautiful itself. Mini waterfalls on one side of the trail, a shallow river running down the other side. (Watch out for the poison ivy that grows in abundance alongside the trail!) Bridal Veil Falls it self was stunning complete with a pool under the falls for swimming enjoyment. We took the road home and stopped for some fish and chips as a treat at the Riverside Takeout stand.

We had new dock mates when we got back to the marina and met two very nice women who had pulled in with their custom-made tug boat. The sunset that night was beyond description. That morning before we left we visited the church that was right beside the marina known as “The Sailors Church”, the kids were amazed by the pulpit that is made from the bow of a boat. I would suggest Kagawong as place to visit whether by water or land.

Kids at Sailors Church Kids at Sailors church

The remainder of this trip we spent anchored in a bay in Collins Inlet south of Killarney. We did more fishing and swimming and just being together as a family.

Summer 2018 was an entirely different summer for us. We had the boat in a marina. This made it so much easier for us to make use of it. And, we did making a point of getting out on the water on our days off. Each trip out we explored more and new areas near our marina in Key River. We were able to try out different navigational aids, I finally settled on an app called Navionics.

Our 10-day vacation was in the middle of July. This year we decided to head south to Parry Sound. As this was our hometown we felt this would be a good trip to take to explore the waters between Parry Sound and Killarney some more and get the chance to visit family and old friends.

Bridal Veil FallsWe spent our first night at St. Amants marina in Britt (this has since become our go-to marina for fuel and pump outs as it is close to our home marina which does not have these services and we plan to move to this marina next summer) for an easy evening at the dock. We then spent the day travelling to Parry Sound. It really did take us all day, the fog was as thick as soup. Thankfully we had the Navionics app. We hadn’t decided on a permanent chart plotter yet. But the app did the trick for us. Took us from buoy to buoy with no errors.

We spent three days at the Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound. The kids spent their time swimming at the beach I swam at as a kid and just plain enjoying themselves. The ducks in the marina were tame, they would come right up onto the swim platform and let the kids feed them by hand! We were indeed able to visit with friends and family as they came to the docks to see us. We met new people and enjoyed the boat watching.

Sailors Church in KagawongTravelling home we were able to see so much more as there was no fog on the return. Growing up in the Parry Sound area I had heard the stories of how Pointe au Baril had gotten it’s name. It was very neat to finally see the barrel on the point that had been left by traders. As the story goes, fur traders out of Penetanguishene lost their canoe with a whisky barrel in it. The barrel was later found by stranded fur traders, after consuming the contents of the barrel it was left on the point as a beacon. Hence the name Pointe au Baril.

Heading north towards home we were dismayed to see large amounts of smoke billowing into the sky near Britt. As we continued to Fox Island north of Key Harbour we watched the water bombers circle the area where the fire named Parry Sound 33 continued to grow and spread.

We spent the night anchored near Fox Island, however we needed to resupply so we headed in to the marina. The closer we got to the Key River the thicker the smoke was. We were surprised to realize how far the fire had spread overnight. We were traveling through the active fire complete with flames dancing in the trees and brush. We made it back to the marina just as the MNRF shut the river down to civilians. We spent the next four weeks on land glued to the news and social media watching as this fire destroyed acres of bushland, cottages and shoreline.

Kagawong SunsetOur next time out on the boat the river was greatly changed. Shoreline was now burnt and sad looking. It was hard to see the damage done from the highway as the fire didn’t make it that far inland but, from the water the shoreline showed how much damage had been done. All the cottages in one bay had been lost to the fire. So sad to see all that loss. Besides the need to take care of nature, we learned that life is indeed short, enjoy every moment that you can.

On one of our weekends out we made our way to the mouth of the French River. We travelled as far as we could which wasn’t far in. I knew from looking at the charts that there were parts of a “ship wreck” the kids would be able to see. It was in fact parts of an old iron steamer called an alligator. These ships were used for transporting lumber out to the mouth of the river in the logging days.

Duck On PlatformOn our travels on the water we have seen so much. The kids have been able to have experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Needless to say, our whim was the best decision we have made. From ship wrecks on the French River to feeding the ducks in Parry Sound to seeing the Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong. It was all worth every penny spent.

Our whim has started a new dream. We hope to, one day soon upgrade to a larger boat. One more suitable for a family to live on. We plan to cast off the shores of Georgian Bay and travel new waters. See even more sights. In this light we have started a Facebook page Boatingwithkids. On it we are detailing our adventures and experiences on Georgian Bay and maybe one day we will be able to tell about our experience swimming with the pigs in the Bahamas or about crossing the Panama Canal.

- Laura Schell