Cove Island passage – Tobermory

When the gales of November come early

It’s not all just smiles, sunshine and the birds. During the early spring and late fall I have been able to extend my boating season. This past fall during the month of October till the end of November I spent most of my time up in a place on the Saugeen peninsula called Tobermory. I gained a contract with the Aquarius (my 24ft zodiac rib) to transport a crew of workers back & fourth to an island on Lake Huron called Cove Island. The contract was for an environmental site remediation & the Cove Island lighthouse cleanup.

Although I am an advocate for Long Point & area, I have had my fair share of travelling and am well aware that there are many other beautiful places in the world. Tobermory & area is definitely one of them. Having said all that I would also like to add that it was one of the most challenging water bodies (if not THE most challenging) I have ever navigated (time of year played a roll of course).

I could right a novel on the 2-month experience I had up there, but to keep it short & sweet I’ll just mention a few interesting points and stories.

After the long drive, a blown wheel on captain Tim’s trailer and a few lessons in preparedness we finally made it to Tobermory. The first day we arrived we managed to get our boats in the water and moored to the wharf. That evening we took the Aquarius for a reconnaissance mission to Cove Island & began making our game plan for the weeks ahead. The next day was interesting because a crane had arrived at the harbour and was pulling all the other boats out of the water. I guess it was a sign because after the town’s only boat launch was also removed for construction we were the only boats left in the harbour (aside from the coast guard). The next couple days a crew of 10 workers arrived and we began running supplies out to the Island (10km run each way) and removing waste on captain Tim’s barge. For the next couple weeks most days were like that. I would make a morning run with the Aquarius, drop the crew off and go back to port. After I returned to port I would hop on Tim’s barge and make a few waste runs. The first couple weeks weren’t that bad; we missed a few days work due to weather but all in all it seemed like things were coming along nicely. After that though the weather really turned on us.

As we got into November the changing pressure systems began to take its toll on the job. We began getting 70-100km/hour winds on days and making the passage to Cove Island was impossible 50% of the time. I will say this; I learned more in 2 months running through November weather then I have in a lifetime of boating in the spring, summer and early fall.

Unlike operating a tour, if there’s a bit of wind or a bit too much chop I don’t go out and the tours gets cancelled. This is mainly because of the level of experience people have on boats is often unknown, comfort levels and the level of enjoyment on windy/choppy days doesn’t always make for the best experience.

I will tell you this: I have pushed my boating skills farther on that job then I ever thought possible. Delivering supplies like food, blankets, heaters, paint, equipment to the guys staying on the island was an essential part in keeping moral up and keeping things moving along. The water conditions up in that area are a little different than what we experience here in our little pocket on Lake Erie (the Inner & Outter bay). A 3ft to 4ft chop would be a rough ride (on most days) and you wouldn’t bother going out. This is because Lake Erie is a shallow lake and the wind can kick up the water much faster & easier. Up on Lake Huron you are wide open to both the Huron side and Georgian Bay so the wave action often creates long rollers. On a 3ft to 4ft wave isn’t a smooth ride but it’s not a rough one either. I’ll make a point in saying; these statements are generalizations, wind and weather have all kinds variables to watch out for.

Anyways to sum up this blog post I will end it with saying; as much experience as I may have already had, as much confidence, sometimes it takes getting out and trying new things to be able to relearn what you thought you knew. Change is improvement and constant change leads to perfection. Cheers!

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