Day 3: Point Grondine To the Bustard Islands
- weather: sunny with little wind
- distance: 22.5 km.
- campsite: east side of The Bustards
By Day 3 we were getting into the groove of things. Everybody was okay with the 6:45 get-up time; it meant that by 8:30 we were on the water and continuing our paddle along the coast. The three following photos were taken at an island stop about ninety minutes later as we stretched our legs after an easy start to the day. We were just south of Bottle Island at the bottom of the French River delta.
Thanks to the fairly placid water we were able to take a direct route to the Bustard Rocks and its three lighthouse towers across an open and exposed stretch of the Bay. Thirty minutes later we were paddling our way into the image below. The main tower at 11.3 meters and the two smaller ones at 8.2 meters are tapered square and painted white.
The shorter front light towers – for the inner and outer ranges – were retired in 1999 but the main one still flashes out a beam every ten seconds. It was electrified in 1951 and a couple of years later the Coast Guard took over its upkeep. In 1965 the old lightkeeper’s cottage was removed; all you see now is its concrete floor.
We stopped at the Lighthouse for lunch, getting comfortable on the west side of the main lighthouse. What wind there was coming from the east/south-east.
The cottage of the lighthouse keeper – pictured in a 1930s or 40s image below along with another building to the north – are gone, as is any evidence of the garden that the keeper Tom Flynn (he served from 1928 to 1951) had established there by hauling earth from some of the other islands and the mainland.
The above cement platform also makes for an excellent landing pad! See here for a shot of a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter sitting there while the lighthouse is getting serviced.
From the Bustard Rocks on the west side of the Bustard Islands group, which is apparently made up of some 600 islands and rocks, we headed up the channel between Long Island and Burnt island towards the Gun Barrel channel. It is well-known to sailors for excellent anchorage spots at its east end. Then it was further east down the channel between Strawberry Island and Tanvat island.
Rick had noted a campsite on his well-worn map at the north-east corner of Tanvat but as we neared it other campers came into view. However, there are a number of good campsites as you paddle down the east side of Tanvat so we headed for the next one.
Another good day on the water – and another great campsite at the end of it! I was liking the rhythm of our exploration of Georgian Bay’s wildest and probably most scenic stretch of rock and water! Below is one of the few small wood fires we made during the trip!
Day 4: The Bustards To S of Byng Inlet
- weather: another sunny day with manageable winds
- distance: 33 km. (our single biggest)
- campsite: an island campsite south of Byng Inlet
We began Day 4 – again, at about 8:30 – with a paddle across some open water to Dead island to the east before spending the rest of the day heading in a south-easterly direction past Byng Inlet to a campsite a few kilometers to the south. It proved to be our single biggest day of paddling – 33 kilometers – and it felt great to crawl out of my kayak at the end of it. The problem I was having with the back of the seat and the resulting pain in my lower back may have had something to do with it! I never did feel 100% comfortable in that kayak.
The Kas Stone book Paddling And Hiking the Georgian Bay Coast has a brief section on Dead Island. I thought about her write-up as we munched on our energy bars and sipped our water and checked out the map as we sat on the southern tip of the island.
As the story goes, in the 1800s and before the island was used by an Ojibwe band living nearby as a place to leave the corpses of their dead, either in the trees or under piles of rocks to keep animals from getting at them. Supposedly in the late 1880s, these remains were stolen by people involved with the Chicago World’s Fair and keen on having the remains of indigenous Americans on display. Given that the corpses were not mummified or intact – we are not talking Egyptian mummies here – it seems an unlikely story. Then again, stranger things have happened.
A couple of hours later it was another sculpted horizontal rock face and time for lunch. Given the scarcity of good campsites to the north of Byng Inlet, we knew that we’d be paddling a bit further. It would turn out to be another six kilometers south of the McNab Rocks at the mouth of the Inlet.
Rick had an island site marked on his map that he had apparently camped at before so that was our target. We got there around 3:30, early enough for a swim and some time to wash up. At the site was a picnic table – perhaps a sign that the spot was used by fishing groups for shore lunches. However, mould covered the table and it did not look like it had been used yet this year.
It was at this site that we would spot the only bear of our trip. A curious cub in the bush behind us watched us for a moment or two as we were setting up our tents at about 4:00 p.m. As the cub took off into the woods, we did wonder where momma bear was.
And now that I look at the images I clicked on this Day 4 I see that I took very few. Clearly, I was focussing on the paddling and not on photo ops! As darkness came I looked over to the far shore and saw the lights in the two cottages there. While there are a few cottages and camps all down the coast, this would be the only night that they would be so close.