June 29, 2014

Day 287 - June 28, 2014, Part 1: Danger at D30!

The morning was cool, and I awakened to the soft light of the early dawn. The sounds of nature’s beings were all around and made for a pleasant atmosphere. There was no hurry to get going, as we had only 45 miles up to the Mill Lake anchorage; however, it would be cruising through some of the prettiest areas of the Georgian Bay, and that was exciting. 

We came back out of Sandy Bay and rejoined the channel at buoy D4. The channels here follow the convention that red buoys mark the starboard (right) side of the channel and red buoys mark the port (left) side. I was at the helm and Anne was reviewing the charts for the day and keeping a sharp eye out as usual. With all going well, Anne stepped down for a few minutes into the saloon. Soon we would be nearing Rodgers Cut, one of the many narrow and difficult cuts we would encounter, and since I was anxious to know exactly where we were, I called Anne back to double check the charts. 

At the same time, I was approaching a narrow cut through two large rocks marked clearly with a red marker on the starboard and a green marker on the port. As I headed for the center, I foolishly took my eyes off the channel for a quick moment to talk with Anne. In that moment, I missed a red buoy D30, placed well to the left of this approaching cut. Seconds later, there was a large thud, with three more scraping thuds to follow. I quickly pulled back on the throttle, shifted into neutral, and a second later another thud followed as Great Laker ground to a stop. I had committed the error that everyone warns about. What ever you do, stay in the channel! 

Horrified, I quickly did a series of safety checks below to ensure we were not taking on water. Anne, fearing the same thing, wondered if we should lower the dinghy. Satisfied there were no leaks, we hurried to examine the situation outside. The boat was resting on the rear third of its keel on a flat topped rock. We had gone over the first flat rock but hung on the second. I measured the depths with a tape measure, and there was 3 feet 3 inches of water at the stern (our keel is 3 feet 6 inches), and 4 feet 6 inches at the bow. The boat would not rock, so I was convinced we could not get her free. 

View from hard grounded Great Laker with buoy 30 on the port
Looking down at the rock shelf under the bow
The rock shelf near the stern
We called the marina in nearby Britt, and Graham, the owner, said he would gather two assistants and come out within the hour to see if he could help. He said there was no Boats U.S. towing here and the Canadian Coast Guard only comes in emergency situations. He said if we were hard grounded, it would take floatation equipment he did not have to be brought in from another area. We both went to the bow to transfer weight forward, and waited and worried. After twenty or so minutes, I unexpectedly felt the bow start to very slowly swing around, nudged by a gentle breeze and the very slight motion of the water. This gave me hope that we had a chance to get Great Laker off the rock.

Meanwhile, an 18 ft outboard approached with a father, Anthony, and his young son aboard. They were from the same marina as Graham, and were returning from fishing north of us. Anthony examined the depths in the water behind us and offered help. I gladly gave him a 100 ft towing line (onboard for just such an emergency). With his gentile pull, and my nudging the throttle on Great Laker, we were able to slide off and glide back into the channel. What a blessed relief!

I took my diving mask and went under the stern and concluded that there was no damage to the prop or rudder. Just then Graham showed up, quickly recognizing that we were off the rocks and O.K., and we learned we were the 4th or 5th boat to get hung up near D30 this year. We gave our sincere appreciation to both Anthony and Graham, neither of whom would accept any cash for their services. I started the engine, gave thanks for our safety, and continued cautiously and sheepishly up the channel vowing never to miss another buoy. 


  1. Thank God for the kindness of strangers! So glad you three (you, Anne, and the Great Laker) are OK. You were quick to react...loving the blog. Just like being there!

  2. Yes, we were lucky with the way this worked out! Thanks, Ann