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Shipwrecks in Tobermory

The last two weeks have been why we spend the summer in the North Channel – great anchorages and even better people.

Two weeks ago, we left Parry Sound and motored sailed east to Wingfield Basin in Cabot Cove. The 45-mile crossing of the Georgian Bay to the northern end of the Bruce Peninsula couldn’t have gone any better. We would have liked to sailed but light winds meant a motor sail but we’ll take flat and light winds over the alternative.

Wingfield Basin is about 15 miles east of Tobermory and is the eastern entrance to the area’s shipwreck viewing. There is a tug on the western shore of the harbor which was scuttled in a few feet of water years ago. Looking at the metal hulk it is hard to determine from a distance that is was a ship but up close it is a sad reminder that ships often have a fixed life span as well.

The harbour is surrounded by high cliffs to the south which at sunset remind us of the cliffs along the English Channel.

We sailed the next day to Tobermory, past Flower Pot Island and several other interesting geological features.

Years ago,Tobermory was a sleepy fishing village but in recent years it has been rebranded and marketed as the dive capital of Ontario.

There are more than 20 shipwrecks in the area, many in 50 feet or less of water that are great for those interested in scuba diving and many much closer to the surface that can easily be seen with a snorkel or from any one of the many glass bottom tour boats.

Tobermory is also the southern port for the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry provides transportation to and from Manitoulin Island to Tobermory. The car ferry is unique in that it loads from the bow which the entire front of the boat opening up as if it is ready to eat the vehicles entering the ship.

Tobermory sits at the northern end of the Niagara escarpment, the northern end of the Bruce Peninsula hiking trail, and at the southern end of Little Tub Harbour and during the summer season a constant stream of tour, dive and recreational boats are traveling in an out of the harbour as well as full of hikers and climbers.

More interesting to us was that as we pulled our boat in to the slip at the southern end of Little Tub Harbour, we were suddenly in the middle of an international community. We counted at least a dozen languages being spoken on the nearby docks. After spending more than a month in areas with few people and almost none that English was their first language, it felt much like we had been suddenly transported to another world.

Tobermory is 3.5 hours north of Toronto and the diverse population of that city has fallen in love with the small community. Many days the only two-lane road up the Brice Peninsula is wall to wall vehicles crawling along at 20 KPH.

We decided to play tourist and take a glass bottom boat trip to see some of the shipwrecks and to visit Flower Pot Island. Turns out that the first wreck we visited was the wooden ship Grand Rapids which was built in Grand Haven in the late 1800s and sunk in Big Tub Harbour years later.

Flower Pot Island gets its name from the geological structures which dot the shoreline of the large island. The rock has been worn away leaving the vase-like structures which people climb.

After three days in Tobermory we were ready to head back north to the North Channel to get back to being at anchor and to get back to the quiet we seem to crave.

Back in the North Channel, we hit Killarney once again and pumped out the boat and had whitefish for lunch before heading to Covered Portage where we have been many times and still love.

We first meeting of the years of the Portage Cove Yacht Club took place one of the nights we were there at anchor. The unofficial group meets on the rocks on the western end of the Cove for drinks snacks and of course story telling. I think we have about 18 boats. The view from about 60 feet above the Cove is still one of my favorites.

Respite is working its way back to the west. We'll talk soon.

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