It happened Wednesday night and I’m just ready to talk about it here now. Pretty traumatic experience.
On Wednesday I left Parry Sound in the early afternoon. I had slept in, refueled, done some maintenance. Didn’t feel any urgency. The plan was to meet Samantha and Sarah Thursday night late in Killarney. Weather looked benign, though to be honest I hadn’t looked at a marine forecast in almost a month. The joys of inland voyaging 🙂
Had a beautiful inside passage up to Pointe au Baril, and detoured inland an hour or so to visit the actual hamlet. Nice country. Dropped the hook for a quick break and started thinking about where to stop for the evening and next day plans.
Whoa. Looking at the chart in detail I realized that there is no more protected passage. It’s into the big lake for most of the 40 miles to the south entrance to Collins Channel. I knew I could get to Killarney from there in any weather.
I knew this, but didn’t remember quite how desolate this coast is in the northern section. Islands change to rocks. In fair weather it’s beautiful. In bad weather it’s menacing. When I came through here in 2016 going south it was gloriously sunny and flat calm, and I casually threaded my way through the small boat passage with awe and wonder.
The marine forecast wasn’t looking great. Winds had been NW 15 knots all day and were forecast to go to west 20 knots overnight with building seas through the next day.
I should say that I approach open water with trepidation. It’s mostly because I get easily seasick. The boat seems ok in moderate seas. Sometimes going faster helps and I can cruise at 10-12 knots when I want to.
After some consideration I decided to continue on, and do a night time straight line offshore run to Beaverstone Bay. I could anchor there and have an easy day getting into Killarney. About 37 miles across and up to ten miles offshore. Doable as long as the waves weren’t too bad, I’d have a head sea.
I reached the Pointe au Baril lighthouse about 9:00 in the dark and headed out. 20 minutes later I turned around. Waves were short and nasty, and I was getting thrown around enough to realize that this probably wasn’t prudent, and certainly wasn’t going to be fun. Went in past the lighthouse and immediately started thinking about finding an anchorage. I was getting a bit queasy and was happy to find flat water and regroup.
I should say that unless I’m in open water with good visibility I drive from the flybridge. Guess my sailing instincts rule here. I have a bimini but hate the idea of an enclosure. I like to be exposed to the elements. Also at night I want to be able to see and hear clearly. I keep a hand held spotlight, horn, binoculars, and vhf radio there at all times and have a Garmin chart plotter there, but for the most part I keep everything dimmed way back and try to maintain good night vision. Generally it works, and I often use the binoculars at night too. Anyway, it was a nice night, clear with a moon.
I poked into one little cove just a few hundred yards from the lighthouse. There was a boat moored there and 20 feet of water and I wasn’t confident that there was sufficient room to swing so I headed out through a different route. My plotter showed a clump of three very small islands to pass by on the starboard side to get into a larger bay. The passage through was perhaps 100 yards wide. I could see the islands clearly and went through at idle speed. With a clear path ahead and a steady 20 feet depth I increase throttle a bit as I passed the islands, and about 10 seconds later ran up on the third island, which was about 2 feet underwater. I was probably going five knots.
I’m sure I had the gear in neutral before I stopped moving. It was a gentle bump followed by the bow rising. First reaction was shock. At some point shortly after I put the motor in reverse and tried a strong shot of reverse. Nothing. I was stuck.