It’s one month past the Winter Solstice and we seem to have finally developed a skim of ice over the Big Sound. (That’s ice, not water.) There still seems to be open water further out when seen from Belvedere Hill. Things will continue to be cold, but it will be many days before people can get their ice huts and sleds out on the Big Sound. The Walleye season ends March 1st, so there may be little incentive to get the huts out, once the ice gets thick enough to be safe. There may be an early start to the boating season.
It seems the US Navy’s new Zumwalt class destroyers, while novel, don’t seem to be better. The issue seems to be stability according to this article at Wired.com. It looks like it’s forward to the past in terms of design.
Not fit for skiing, ice fishing or boating, the Big Sound is a mess. We’ve had about three days of above freezing daytime temperatures and it has basically turned the snow on top of the ice into slush with a crust. It’s pretty much impossible to walk, ski or snowshoe on the Big Sound and snow machines send up a spray as they shuttle around trying to get the ice shacks off the ice. The ice is still nice and thick so it will still be too many weeks before the Big Sound is fit for boating. This the time of the season where you wished you had a hovercraft or one of those air boats used in the swamps of Louisiana.
Making Tracks on the Big Sound (2015-03-11)
This is the final installment in the series on boat launches in Parry Sound. Previous posts provided an overview of all sites with individual posts on the Champaigne Street, Waubuno Beach and Smelter Wharf launches. While these launches all provide access to Georgian Bay the Mill Lake launch provides access to, surprise, Mill Lake.
This launch is in a corner of Parry Sound just on the north east side of the Highway 400 bridges that cross the Seguin River and many people assume is part of the neighbouring municipality of McDougall. Mill Lake itself is a smaller lake that does not provide access to either Georgian Bay or other lakes in the area. It is largely surrounded by cottages and homes. Here is an aerial look at the boat launch.
The launch itself is shallow with a gravel base, suitable for the boats that might be used on this smaller lake. Parking is available and once again I suggest people contact the Town of Parry Sound if they want to leave their vehicle and trailer there for any extended period of time. Here’s a photo looking at the launch area. It’s a pretty relaxed facility with few users and lots of space.
The dock is about 40-feet in length. A sign at the launch states that dockage is limited to four hours.
That’s it for the review of boat launches in Parry Sound. With a little bit of help we may be able to provide information on boat launches in the surrounding communities.
JB – Communications Officer
Also known as the Salt Dock (it’s a major facility for the offloading of road salt for the district) the Smelter Wharf is ‘in transition’ in my opinion. The launch was repaired last year to the tune of about $50,000, and as you will see from photos below it seems to need additional work. At present the launch is restricted in terms of the launch width, but it should not present an issue for any vessel that can be trailered on the road. The aerial photo below (click for a closer view) shows the launch site last Spring while it was still closed off and awaiting repair, with the docks not yet installed.
The two following photos show the condition of the launch as of June 2, 2014. The width of the launch is limited and a small section of the launch requires some resurfacing (construction cone). Otherwise the launch is quite functional with a 40-foot dock. There is a rapid drop off, so it isn’t necessary to back up too far before a boat will float.
Looking at the Smelter Wharf Launch
There is lots of parking available, assuming that there are no events/ongoing in the wharf area. Despite this I rarely, if ever, see vehicles with trailers parked in this area. The Champaigne Street launch seems to be where people leave vehicles and trailers. I suggest you contact the Town for information if you you are interested in longer term parking at this site. I expect there is no issue for same day, or single day overnight parking.
Looking Back at the Launch
Extended docking is not appropriate beyond the time required to launch.
JB – Communications Officer
On April 22, 12 boaters graduated from the Maritime Radio Course held at Lakeland. This is important for boaters since a certificate is needed when operating a VHF radio.
This is the time of year when boaters harass marina operators to get their boats into the water. Four or five calls per person is common. The local saying here is that the Sound is clear of ice within a week of April 21st. 2012 broke the belief with an early break up. Some boats were in the water on the first day of Spring. It looks as though 2014 will break it the other way.
So: Before planning on early season boating remember: The early bird gets the worm. The second mouse gets the cheese.
The early boater gets to boat alone. Silence and still water can be delightful but first boaters can be subject to the floating debris left after the ice is gone. This can range from planks and trees limbs to docks that have broken free.
The first mouse, the one who gets onto the bay before a strong wind has blown it clear of this debris, can have some dangerous experiences. Planks torn from docks, their four inch nails sticking up, can damage the smooth underwater hull of a boat. There is nothing like skimming along through an early Spring fog and having a tree, branches and all, loom out of the mist in front of you.
Then there is the ice. It doesn’t all melt overnight. An invisible skim of ice can do quite a number on a boat too. And if it does and your boat is sinking, who are you going to call who can possibly get to you any time soon? I do boat in the early season. My rules are simple. Carry the seven or eight items you must as demanded by law. Boat like you will never need to use them. Boat carefully, one hand for the boat – one for yourself, and make no mistakes. Or wait ’til things warm up some.
Last fall I provided a series of informal reviews on navigation apps that could be used with a GPS equipped Apple iPad. That would be the Wi-Fi/Cellular version, which is priced at a $130 premium to the WiFi only model in Canada. In theory these apps should also work with the the WiFi/Cellular version of the iPad Mini and the iPhone. After using these apps last summer I suspect the screen size of the iPhone and possibly the Mini is a little too small to be practical if you are traveling more than 20 kph, at least in our waters where there seems to be a rock every few hundred meters. In theory, if not in practice, these apps are also available for Android tablets and phones. The basic Nexus 7″ tablet, available for about $250, has the advantage that it has GPS built-in, and represents a significant savings over an iPad with GPS functionality. The “in practice” comment earlier relates to the fact that not all of these apps are yet available in an Android version.
All of the apps reviewed last fall have received updates over the winter. This review covers the changes in a general sense and updates my opinion of their value for my uses. A reminder, I operate a 21-foot Scout Dorado with a 150 hp Yamaha in and around Georgian Bay. There are a claimed 30,000 islands, and an estimated 100,000 shoals. We typically motor at about 40 kph to optimize travel time and fuel economy. Even at 40 kph things move by pretty quickly.
Becuase we still have ice on the Big Sound I have only been able to ‘desk test’ the upgrades. Desk use of the apps is really quite important. I spend hours looking over the charts and planning new routes and destinations. Google, Apple and Bing maps are well short of adequate when looking beyond where roads run, and available nautical charts are generally not detailed enough once you go off the charted courses. Paper charts also don’t zoom or scroll very well, although they do rotate very nicely.
The bottom line in my opinion (details follow).
#1 – Navionics for iPad (~$55.00, US & Canada)
#2 – iSailor for iPad (~$15.00, Lakes Superior, Huron Ontario, ..)
#3 – iNavX for iPad (~$120, app plus Georgian Bay only
#1 – Navionics
This app has made some changes in their app, but nothing that really makes a difference in my life. Although it’s not the cheapest it represents the best value in my opinion with vector graphic mapping and very good accuracy in terms of markers. I was also encouraged speaking to an individual at the Toronto Boat Show in January who said Navionics is actively doing depth measurements in Georgian Bay to fill in areas with limited existing information. Those are exactly the areas that I spend my time, off the beaten track. This is a good application that is easy to use on the boat and when sitting at the desk. The standard chart package covers all of the USA and Canada, much more than I need, but I’ve actually had fun using it while on a 3-hour dinner cruise out of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.
#2 – iSailor
They recently announced a major overhaul of their interface. I guess it’s actually different, and presumably improved, but it really hasn’t registered with me. I have a couple of beefs with this app. The first is that it is missing markers in an area I regularly boat, the area outside of Regatta Bay in particular. I’ve spoken with them in the past and they added in the markers outside of Snug Harbour but are still missing Regatta Bay. If these markers are missing what else do I need to be worried about? The second issue concerns the mapping when I’m sitting at my desk and ‘snooping’ around for new destinations and routes. It seems the variously scaled charts maps don’t overlap properly and it just looks strange. This gets to be a real problem with the Mink Islands where actual islands are missing if you have the view at the wrong scale. It’s not an issue of the scale being too wide, it’s just a glitch in the system. But this app is the least expensive and if the markers are correct in your part of the world it represents a bargain.
Looking at the app again as I sit here writing this post I’m finding the app to be quite buggy, not only is there a misalignment of the charts, the markers come and go as I pinch to zoom in the various areas. The markers are visible when zoomed out but not zoomed in. I see that the markers for Regatta Bay are now shown, but only if you are zoomed out sufficiently. Zoom in and they are gone. Regarding the chart misalignment, here a screenshot showing the problem (click on the image to see a larger version).
#3 – iNavX
This was my first app for the iPad. It matched up with the strip charts. That’s a virtue and a real liability. The benefit is familiarity but your are limited to the strip charts. If you want to head a couple of kilometers off the charted routes you are on your own. The charts are not vector based, so there is a real limitation on zooming in on the details that don’t exist with the other two apps. Price is also an issue, for two reasons. The first is the $120 ‘start up’ cost to get just the Georgian Bay charts. It’s probably cheaper than the paper charts, but I still need to carry the paper charts if I’m boating commerically. And then there was the mid-winter upgrade. You know how it works, you get a message that an app has been updated, click here to update. Well I did just that with the iNavX app, which uses the Fugawi X-Traverse charts. When I then opened up the app all of my charts were gone. Gone! Not only was the app updated but my original charts were removed. I realize that I am not eligible for updated charts (things don’t change much in these parts), but delete the charts that cost me $60? My paper charts don’t disappear when there are updates. I contacted the company and was told I could get the updated charts for $10. Well that’s not too bad, but I still haven’t done it yet. I probably will pay the $10 to have them and salvage something from my original $120 purchase, but I’m still ticked off. Please, let me know that I’ll lose all of my charts if I choose a ‘free’ update. I was perfectly happy with the previous version of the app.
So there you have it, a users opinion of three navigation apps for the GPS equipped iPad. I may decide to try the Navionics app on my Google 7″ Nexus tablet (2013 version) but that promises to set me back $55 plus tax. It’s hard to rationalize when I have a paid-for 3rd Generation GPS equipped iPad sitting in an Otter Box. The Nexus is very useful when traveling in the car and you use it to complement a Garmin GPS system. That involves about a $2 investment in downloading road maps to the Nexus that can be used offline.
We in Georgian Bay are not the only ones wringing our hands with the prospect of low water levels this summer. Water levels are just that, level. Despite scientists telling us that Georgian Bay is likely to face even lower water levels over the centuries and millennia to come as the land continues to experience post-glacial isostatic rebound, the reality now is that low water levels in Georgian Bay mean lower levels in Lake Michigan and the west coast of Lake Huron. So if there is a ‘conspiracy’ to steal Great Lakes water the impact will be felt by both nations. With that out of the way, here’s a link to a report (USA Today – Low Great Lakes water levels plague shipping, recreation) that suggests the water levels will rebound this summer, but not as much as we would like.
That means paying more attention to the charts. What was known to be close to the surface, and a hazard, will now be visible and easily avoided. But what wasn’t a problem last year or the year before will now be lurking just below the surface, ready to ding a prop, or take off the whole lower unit. So to take a line from the television show Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there”.
Provided below is a list of the many documents that were prepared before and after the low water meeting that was held February 6th in Parry Sound. This meeting involved the Mayors, Chiefs and Reeves of Parry Sound and the surrounding communities. I was unable to attend because the meeting was closed to all but participants and the ‘official media’. But the North Star did a nice summary of the meeting, here’s a link to their article if you haven’t seen it already.
The Town of Parry Sound has, since the meeting, posted up the meeting report, the agreed meeting resolution, and the various presentations. You can access the town’s webpage through this link. Or you can open the individual documents through the links below. The Parry Sound Power and Sail Squadron has ‘inventoried’ these documents on this site to ensure continued access to them. Also note that the Town of Parry Sound webpage has a very useful link to the Township of the Archipelago’s website where there are associated documents on the low water issue.
Here are the links to the individual documents hosted on this site related to the low water discussions. They are also available on the Town of Parry Sound’s website through this link.