Stormy Night Sailing


By Liz Tosoni


Curacao, ABC Islands Caribbean

My dream has always been to sail around the world. I would do it if I could but I can’t afford it.” How do you manage to pull it off?” This is a common question we get. Often. Recently I came across an anonymous author’s thoughts on this subject:

“‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security’. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheel of routine- and before we know it, our lives are gone. What does a man need- really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in- and some form of activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all- in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry; playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.” And it goes on.

Well, I have to say that although it may be a little far- fetched and old fashioned in tone, I tend to agree with the main message. Saying you can’t afford to do something you really want to do can sometimes be an excuse. We can find ways.
For Tom and me, the motto has been: a little working, a little cruising. It didn’t start out that way.In fact when we set out we had no idea it would evolve the way it has, but now we can say that it’s what we’ve been doing for 25 years. It’s worked so far and 2010 has been no exception.

Here’s the 2010 Boathouse crew on the Marina dock with Mr. Maury East, owner of Killarney Mountain Lodge. The Lodge, our place of employment during the summer months of 2008 and 2010, is a rustic yet elegant wilderness resort on the North Channel of Georgian Bay.
Killarney Mountain Lodge is strategically located on the northern shores of Georgian Bay, sometimes dubbed the sixth great lake. It lies on the eastern end of the North Channel, a favorite for those who like a touch of wilderness in their cruising grounds.
It is in the land of pre-Cambrian Canadian Shield where the famed ‘Group of Seven’ (Canadian artists during the early 1900s) came to capture the essence of Canada’s boreal wilderness on canvas. It is a land of pine, birch and maple forests, precariously surviving on pink granite and white quartzite bedrock.

Once again, Tom and I put our “Dockmaster” hats on at the Boathouse, leaving Feel Free high and dry in a boatyard in Curacao. You may recall Tom’s “What I Did in the Summer” log in 2008, describing our summer of working and playing in this wilderness paradise. That time, we left Feel Free on her own, in Malta.
This year was a little different though. During the month of September, after four months of working in the Boathouse, we took over the helm of Stormy Night, the Lodge’s Cal 2-46 sloop, from David Allester and Eileen Quinn. (Remember that David crossed the Atlantic with us this past season.)



For four summers David and Eileen took Lodge guests to some of the most scenic corners of Georgian Bay, to waters that are accessible only by boat and require local knowledge. They shared their knowledge and entertained the guests with stories of the area and of their years of sailing on distant shores. They retired early this year though to pursue other goals, and passed the reigns over to us after filling us in on all aspects of the job. It would be a hard act to follow but we were determined to fill their deck boots as best we could.


First, let me paint you a picture of this magical corner of the planet so you can visualize its unique character.

In the background is an ancient mountain range of bright white quartzite rock clothed in green windswept pines.


Towering, sculptured cliff faces plunge into clear turquoise waters.



Shades of pink granite scoured clean by glacial movement aeons ago make up shorelines, islands and islets that dot this sweeping scene of nature’s design. There are wide open waters, countless protected bays and coves and a maze of remote inland lakes.

Close up, on shore are picturesque plants and flowers popping improbably out of unlikely crevices.


The blue dome of sky above with its ever changing cloud formations, completes and complements this elemental palette.
OK, enough of waxing poetic, but it’s hard not to. I have to mention too that the history of the place is hugely fascinating, starting with tales of the original inhabitants, the Plano people and then the Ojibwa who believed the land here to be “Heaven’s Gate”. Europeans from France (and later England), adventurers called “coureurs de bois” and “voyageurs” came in search of great profits from beaver pelts, travelling great distances in large, heavily laden canoes, enduring incredible privation.
One Etienne Augustin Rochbert de la Morandiere was a merchant with a sailboat, and in 1817 was on an expedition with his Odawa Nation wife Sai Sai Go No Kwe (Woman of the Falling Snow) of Michigan, to set up a trading post. Their first one burned to the ground. Fortunately their children were saved but all goods were destroyed. They were left with the sailboat when they headed to Shebahonaning- “safe canoe passage”, half way along the voyageurs route, between Montreal and Thunder Bay, cast a tent and established a trading post and pioneer farm that grew to be the flourishing community it is today, Killarney.

You’ve probably gathered that Tom and I are smitten with this area, but running the little marina attached to the Boathouse six days a week, with separate days off, didn’t give us much time to really explore. Now though, it was our turn to sail in this pristine wonderland, on a well found sloop, Stormy Night, share the experience with guests, and get a salary to do it. Now how fortunate is that?! It’s just another one of those fortuitous things that happen to happen in the world of cruising.

Along with the job of running the tours on Stormy Night, came accommodation in a rather funky house on George Island, across the channel from the Lodge. Our morning commute by skiff from the house to the Lodge was, well, like no other- no rush hour traffic, no line-ups, no pollution.

But, here’s a typical marine weather forecast we got from Environment Canada:

Gale warning in effect. Wind southeast 15 knots increasing to southwest 20 early this morning and 30 this evening. Wind increasing to west 35 overnight then diminishing to northwest 30 Saturday morning. Wind diminishing to northwest 20 Saturday afternoon. Waves 1 metre (3 feet) building to 2 to 3 (6 to 9 feet) this morning.

So, as is often the case in these parts, September proved to be very changeable in the weather department, very cloudy, often blustery, with plenty of rain and sometimes, thunder and lightning. Guests did not exactly queue up to go sailing. There were some hardy souls though and we ended up sailing a total of 12 times, four full day sails to the remote Fox Islands via Georgian Bay and eight afternoon sails to Covered Portage Cove via Killarney Bay.

Despite the lousy weather though, repeatedly we got these kinds of comments from guests:
(From a pair of geologists) “This is our 13th visit to Killarney and we’ll be back again next year. We can’t get enough of this place.”
“This is the only place I know of where I can truly relax. It’s so peaceful.”
(From a former Killarney Mountain Lodge employee) “I spent two summers in Killarney and it was the best time of my life. I named my daughter Killarney Sky.”
“I feel like I’m coming home when I come to Killarney. It’s only happened in one other place, and that was a small town in southern France.”
(From the bride of a wedding held at the Lodge) “When I came here for the first time, I knew that if I ever got married, this would be the place.”

When temperatures started dropping and the autumn leaves began to show off their brilliant display of colours, the contract was over and Tom and I realized it was time to move on. We were fortunate to be able to spend the summer in Killarney at work which often felt like play, but now it was back to reality. Remember our motto- “a little working, a little cruising”.

Funny how the cruising part often feels like the working part. We just finished de-commissioning Stormy Night, only to return to our Feel Free, on the hard, waiting to be re- commissioned.

“Let the work begin” she bellows out to us as we arrive from the airport, suitcases still in hand. No wonder they say that cruising is a full time job!