Honestly Officer, the rock just jumped out in front of us!
147 Days Looping
2,088.3 Nautical Miles Total (2,403.2 Statute Miles)
14.6 Nautical Miles This Week
1.8 Hours Underway This Week
8.0 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 129 Total Locks
Monday – Sep 2nd – 0 NM – 0 Locks – To: Nobel, Ontario, Canada
On Monday, Labor Day, we planned a fairly long day to Byng Inlet which was about 45 miles. We did plan to take a scenic route through some of the back channels as recommended by Ken from Bay Port has recommended.
We left Henry’s Fish Restaurant at 8:45 and headed out. It was slightly overcast, but not too cold and we were driving from the upper flybridge. The channel was narrow in places but with great views of some islands. We passed a marker “CP30” which reminded us of “C-3PO” from Star Wars. We passed through a few bays and were able to make some good time, past a few lighthouses, and then out of a side channel, and into a wide bay. It was fairly windy, but our channel was shielded by the many islands, and when we were in exposed waters, we were headed into the wind so it wasn’t bad.
As we entered the bay, on the chart there was a large rock called Iron Rock that was well marked with a large red triangle, a couple of 100 ft off to the side of the rock was a red marker. We’ve seen a lot of these where the triangle is on the main obstruction, and the red floating marker indicates the safe channel. I turned and went around the red marker, WHAM! The entire boat lurched violently, followed almost immediately by another big bump. I grabbed for the throttles and brought the engines to idle, and looked at the depth finder, We were in over 50 feet of water! The string of expletives from both Brenda and me has been edited out.
The boat glided to a stop, and with our hearts racing, we tried to take stock of what had just happened. Obviously, we’d hit a rock, a closer look at the zoomed-in map showed that I’d miss-read the markers, the floating marker marked another rock “Niger Rock”, and was intended for a different channel that joined ours just past the rocks. We were not zoomed in enough on our electronic chart to see the “recommended route” which went BETWEEN the two markers.
After our hearts slowed a bit, I advanced the throttles, and it was obvious that we’d done damage to the propellers. I also had some issues with directional control of the boat, so we feared that we may have damaged the rudders as well. We moved the boat along slowly to an area that was away from the two rocks so that the wind wouldn’t blow us into them, and then I went below to check for damage. The Starboard propeller was really putting up a vibration. The Port propeller seemed okay. I could hear the bilge pump running, and a quick look under the engine room floor confirmed that we were taking on water. The leak was not too bad and the pump was keeping up with it.
We took stock of our situation. The area that we were in was pretty rocky and exposed to the wind. There were a few summer cottages, but no marinas or docks. A look at the chart showed that the nearest marina was called Killbear about 4 miles away. While I was checking for the damage, we’d started to drift toward a rocky island so we put the boat back into gear and ran at just above idle where there was little vibration. We called Killbear Marina, and as luck would have it, they have a “lift” there that could handle the boat. This was fortunate as the next closest marina with a lift that could handle our boat was back in Midland where we were two days before.
We spoke with the Marina Manager who asked if we were still stuck on the rock and if we could make it in under our own power. We said that as long as we didn’t take on water any faster that we could make it in, and we set a course for Killbear. It took us about an hour to get there, and they were waiting for us on the dock. They helped us into a slip, and we tied up.
Word had already spread at the marina, so there was a “Welcoming Committee” to see the stupid boater that had hit a rock. Walt, the marina manager, grabbed a mask and jumped into the water to look under the boat. When he came back up, he said that both propellers had significant damage and that there was a crack and damaged fiberglass on the keel.
It was obvious to him that it was more damage than could be repaired at his yard, which was more for smaller boats. He made a call to the closest marina in Penetanguishene (locally known as Penetang, “Pen-e-tang”, like the orange drink) to see if they could take us. They said that they could take us. The weather on Tuesday and Wednesday was slated to be very windy and rainy, and we figured that it would be best to tow it right away to avoid weather delays. We called our insurance company and let them know about the accident, while Walt arranged for a tow crew. The two tow operators drove the 80 miles to Killbear Marina. We were lucky that the towboat was already at Killbear so we only had about a 2-hour wait for them to arrive by car rather than 6 hours by water!
While we were waiting, Walt pulled the boat out of the water with the Travel Lift so that we could get a better look at the damage. Both propellers were severely bent, and there were large chunks of fiberglass hanging down from under the boat. Walt disabled the propellers for towing by tying them to the struts with rope, and we put the boat back in the water. When lifting the boat, it must have opened the split in the keel because the bilge pump started to run continuously, and in watching the water level, it was not keeping up with the inflow of water. We tried a water block product that I had on the boat and it helped some, but given that we were looking at a 50-mile tow, we were not confident that it would solve the problem, so we pulled the boat back out of the water again. Walt got under the boat and used a caulking compound called “3M 5200” which is designed for marine use and will cure while wet and underwater, after pumping two tubes of the stuff into the hole, he screwed a mat over the area to protect it. We let it sit for about 30 minutes and then put it back in the water. There was still a trickle of water, but the pump was handling it fine and only turning on about every 60-90 seconds.
The towing crew showed up and we prepared the boat for towing, taking off all of our valuables and some clothes. Walt the marina manager is also a fireman for the local fire department, and they went to the fireboat and carried a large gas water pump and some hoses to the towboat. That made us feel both better and worse. Better that if something bad happened they’d have a large pump to deal with water coming in, worse that they thought they might need it!
At about 1:00, they hooked the boat up to the towboat and watched as they pulled out of the harbor. We hoped that the tow crew would have a safe crossing as the wind had started to come up and it had started to rain.
Brenda and I were loaned the pick-up truck that the two crew had driven up in to drive back to the marina in Penetang and meet them there. We drove back with heavy hearts, it took almost two hours due to heavy Labor Day weekend traffic and the rain.
We arrived in Penetang at about 3:30 and checked in with the marina. They had not heard from the tow crew. We have a satellite tracking system on the boat and were able to see that they were out in open water moving at about 5 knots. We asked about hotels where we could spend the night until we figured out what to do, and there is a “Floatel”, a floating hotel, at the marina! It’s a large barge with 5 good-sized hotel rooms about like you’d get at a Holiday Inn. The marina called over and got us a discounted rate, and we went over and checked in.
At 5:00 we walked back over to the marina office and they said that they didn’t expect the boat to arrive until after 8:00. We hadn’t had lunch, so we took a cab into town (about 10 minutes away) and had dinner in a local pub called “Flynn’s”. After dinner, we went back to the marina and the Floatel and tracked the boat as it made its way in.
At 8:30 we saw that they were just rounding the point into the harbor where the marina is and we walked to the dock to meet them. Several marina employees had stayed late to help pull the boat back out of the water. It was well past dark, and just after we arrived, we saw some lights appear at the end of the channel, and the towboat with KSF in tow, pulled up to the dock and the lift. Within a few minutes, they had the boat in the lift and out of the water on dry land.
Everything seemed to have gone fine. The patch had held, the bilge pump was still cycling on and off, and they didn’t need to use the big pump. When we went into the boat to shut things down. I noticed that there was a lot of stuff that had gotten knocked on the floor. It seems that had run into a bit of rough weather on the trip down.
We thanked the tow crew and the staff that had stayed late to help pull the boat out of the water and walked back to the Floatel.
Tuesday – Sep 3rd – 0 NM – In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
The marina “Hindson Marina” where the boat was towed, is a large marina and boatyard. They have all of the resources to fix boats of our size including certified mechanics, a fiberglass shop, a paint shop, and a full parts center. We meet Ian, the service manager, and Kelly Hindson the owner. We explained what had happened and that we were in progress on the Loop with a very short window to get to Chicago before the bad weather set in. Ian and Kelly both assured us that they would do their best to make things happen quickly and would get someone on the boat that day to remove the propellers and shafts to send them out for evaluation, also that they would have their fiberglass person look at the keel and evaluate what would be required.
It was generally agreed by everyone that looked at the propellers that while the port prop looked like it might be repairable, the starboard propeller was pretty much ruined. When we hit the railroad tie in Baltimore back in May, we’d checked on getting replacement propellers from the manufacturer and it was an 8 week lead time. Our mechanic Michael in South Carolina did some investigation and he was able to source some props here in the US for us. I called Michael and he made arrangements to have new props shipped up to us here in Canada.
We knew that until they got into the boat they couldn’t tell us time frames, but they said that we were looking at a minimum of two weeks.
With that in mind, Brenda and I called Enterprise car rental for a car to get around in and looked for some longer-term hotel arrangements. The Floatel was nice, but they had horrid wi-fi and were a bit pricey for a two-week stay. There were a few economical hotels (Motel-8, and some local places that had off-season rates as it was after Labor Day, but as this is a tourist area, we were still looking at close to $100 per day. Also, there were no “long term stay” hotels with cooking facilities, and we didn’t want the expense of eating out all the time. I thought to check Airbnb. I’d used Airbnb in England a few times, and our friends Darlys and Dave use it all the time when they go on vacation. We found a two-bedroom apartment only about 10 minutes from the marina for $68 a day. The apartment is in a 200-year-old church building. The owner is still doing renovations on the building, but the apartment we saw looked nice so we booked it.
When we chatted with the owner Becca, she explained that the current renters of the unit we had booked had asked to stay one more night, but that we could have her other unit which was not quite as nice for the night, and then move into the better apartment the next day.
We arranged to meet her at 5:00 so went back to the Floatel, checked out, cleaned out the refrigerator, and got together some cooking supplies from the boat, then just drove around town in the rain checking out what was in the area. At 4:00 we got a message from Becca that she was at the apartment and we could check in. We were just around the corner so we drove over and moved in. The other unit was okay, but it was broken up over 3 floors and there were lots of stairs, so we told her that we’d like to move the next day.
Wednesday – Sep 4th – 0 NM In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
On Wednesday it was another rainy and windy day. It was a good thing that we were able to get the boat towed on Monday as it was too rough for the past few days to tow. Hindson Marina got the propellers and propeller shafts removed and sent to the machine shop for evaluation. The fiberglass guy, Larry looked at the damage and said that he would have to cut out part of the keel and re-build it, but that there was no real structural damage.
We spent the day settling in to the flat, did a bit of grocery shopping, and talked to our insurance company.
Thursday – Sep 5th – 0 NM – In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
Thursday we were waiting to hear from the propeller shop and the marina. We stopped down to the check on the boat and saw that the fiberglass guys had cut away the damaged section of the keel and were drying it out. It was a bit disconcerting seeing a large hole in the bottom of the boat!
We spent the rest of the day checking out the town and doing a few geocaches. We walked around the neighborhood and found the “Loyal Order Of The Raccoon” across the street from our apartment.
Friday – Sep 6th – 0 NM – In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
Friday was another rainy day, we spent most of the day at the apartment. We planned out our route for when the boat got fixed and then spent most of the day tracking Hurricane Dorian and chatting with our friends in South Carolina, and watching Netflix videos.
In the late afternoon, we heard from Ian the service manager that the machine shop had called, and that the shafts both had slight bends in them, but were repairable. They also gave us a price on repair of the propellers but said that until they get them on the machine, they couldn’t guarantee that they could be fixed. We gave them the go-ahead to start the repairs. It was too wet on Friday for the fiberglass guys to do any work, so there was no progress on that front.
Saturday – Sep 7th – 0 NM – In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
When we planned our Loop trip, we assumed that we would be driving from the top deck (flybridge) most of the time. Until we reached the canals, we did drive use the flybridge on most days except if it was raining. Once we hit the canals and were locking, we operated from the lower helm most of the time so that I could assist with the lines in the locks.
When operating from the lower helm, there is a fold-down step at the steering wheel so that you can see over the front of the boat when it lifts as you go fast. The problem is that Brenda can’t see from the other side of the boat. (no step and she’s, errr…. not as tall as some). Normally this isn’t an issue as we don’t run fast for very long at a time. In order to make up time, we’re looking at several 7-8 hour days at near full throttle. I (obviously) need a second set of eyes to watch for markers and obstructions, so we went to Home Depot and got some lumber and built her a step so that she can see over the front of the boat.
Sunday – Sep 8th – 0 NM – In: Penetang, Ontario, Canada
On Sunday we decided to take a ride while it was nice and to get our mind off the boat. We drove to Parry Sound one of our intended destinations on the trip. We won’t make it there on our revised schedule and we wanted to see the sites. We made a quick stop at the Bobby Orr Hockey museum. Growing up in New Hampshire, we cheered the Boston Bruins and as a kid, Bobby Orr was the big headliner! He was from Parry Sound, Ontario, and is the local hero. His family still lives in the area and you still see the Orr name on lots of businesses in town.
We then went to the West Parry Sound District Museum and climbed the Observation Tower for a great view of Georgian Bay and the surrounding countryside.
From there we went to the local history museum and checked out the displays. One of the galleries had a collection of local “First Nation” (Indian) artwork. The local Potawatomi tribe, part of the Algonquian Nation, make “quill boxes” and “quill art” where they take porcupine quills, color them, and weave them into birch bark to make artwork and treasure boxes and baskets. Each line you see in the artifacts below is an individual porcupine quill. The baskets are made of bark and sweetgrass similar to the baskets in South Carolina.
After viewing the other galleries in the museum which included a women’s fashion over time and fishing in Parry Sound exhibition. We went up to the gift shop to see if they had any of the quill boxes available to add to Brenda’s collection of baskets and boxes. They didn’t have any in the gift shop, but one of the curators had two suggestions in town. We drove back into town to check out the two shops she had suggested. The first, right on main street was closed on Sunday. The second which ended up being in someone’s home was also closed as they were away at an art fair.
It was about 1:30 and we had a 90-minute drive back to Penetang, so we decided to stop at the Trestle Brewery for lunch. The Brewery has a great patio overlooking the harbor and the train trestle, so we sat outside and had some lunch before driving back to the apartment.
NEXT WEEK: Waiting for the boat to get fixed and hoping that there is no hidden damage.
Tom & Brenda
Wow Tom, glad you guys are safe.
You are amazingly calm in a stressful situation. Best of luck with the repairs
Wow, wow, wow! Thank goodness you are safe and boat hull, propellers and shafts repairable! You are blogging about it so good that you are taking this in stride. Hugs to you and Brenda and may repairs go smooth and quick and you are underway again! Brenda and Tim Hagen