After the crazy long winter of 2014 followed by the freezing snowy spring, it was such a relief to see open water again on Georgian Bay. Photos from the International Space Station showed the great lakes frozen completely over and Georgian Bay off Lake Huron was no exception. In fact I even wrote an article about running my Kayak route of 12 kilometers on solid ice only a few months ago! I’m certain we are at least 1.5 months behind this year with the spring/summer weather.
The Niagara Escarpment
When the Niagara Escarpment is viewed from the vantage point of the kayak it is a uniquely beautiful perspective. It’s impossible to take it all in from land the way you can from the water. The Niagara Escarpment reaches it’s highest point near the town of Collingwood, Ontario, Canada and is designated a world biosphere reserve by the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A biosphere reserve is an international designation of recognition from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) for an area in the world which is deemed to demonstrate a “balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.” By this is meant that collaborative efforts among people in the designated area serve to promote the sustainability of local economies and communities, as well as the conservation of the terrestrial/or coastal ecosystems they are in.
The Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse
The lighthouse on Nottawasaga Island was built in 1858, the same year our town of Collingwood was incorporated. It was one of 6 built around Georgian Bay of the same design using local limestone. The lantern room at the top was made in France and represented the height of mid 19th century French craftsmanship. In typical French style the drip spouts from the roof gutters are gargoyles with the water pouring from their mouths!
Sadly the lighthouse in Collingwood has fallen into disrepair over the last 15 years. Parts of the outer cladding stone have fallen off and despite a series of steel cables surrounding the structure, the stones are constantly falling off. It is hold that a local lighthouse preservation society can not only purchase the lighthouse from the federal government but restore it to it’s former glory.
The Collingwood Harbour
It’s always interesting to paddle into the harbor in Collingwood right into the ship launch channel. In this channel ships were launched up until 1986 after over 100 years of shipbuilding. Ships as large as 730 feet in length were launched here to join the Great Lakes bulk freighter fleet.
Today you see new condo and town homes built on the site that used to be home to the bustle of shipyard work with cranes and launch ways. A beautiful pedestrian promenade opens the area to pedestrian traffic.
The Big Banana Boat
My 14 foot Necky sea kayak is never going to be the fastest most elegant boat like some of the fiberglass kayaks out there. It does however have some advantages like it’s toughness, and it’s low price. You don’t mind the odd scrape when coming ashore on a gravel beach. It’s blazing yellow so I named it my Big Banana Boat!
Whenever you go out on the great lakes or any other open body of water particularly far from shore it’s important to carry minimum equipment. I’ve seen people 4 km off shore with no lifejacket (PFD) and no other equipment. Any sort of experience teaches that a kayak can be one of the most awkward things to get back into if you capsize. Ejecting from your boat far from shore can be deadly in cold water. Here is what I carry:
- Paddle Float
- Throw Rope
- Bilge Pump
- iPhone in Otter box for emergency calling and navigation
- Paddle Lanyard
- Electrolyte Replacement Drink
Check that your deck rigging is in good order, the rudder rigging if you have one, watertight compartment covers etc. Also tell someone how long you expect to be out and what your route will be. Have a safe, active Kayak experience!