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)
The Big Sound still pretty much looks like Antarctica. We are expecting a few days of above freezing by the beginning of next week. It could be a cruel hoax, but the thaw has to arrive at some point. It promises to be a slow start to the boating season. Out at Hole in Wall last Saturday the ice was about 60 cm (24 in.) thick, great for sledders and skiers.
What I haven’t seen yet on the Big Sound is snow skiing, in the style of water skiing. Not only should it be possible it should be reasonably safe. A quick internet search turned up a couple of images of sled skiing but not much else. Hmm, I may need to make friends with sledders if the snow and ice insist on hanging around.
JB – Communications Officer
As I joked in a post a couple of weeks ago, this is not part of a disguised Parry Sound missile defense system. Since then we’ve had a fair bit of snow ice and the buoy is getting buried. I’m told the ice on the Big Sound a couple hundred meters from the shore is between 45 and 60 cm thick.
This is a photo from the 28th. Clear skies, below average temperatures, and little snow have been the norm since the Big Sound and Georgian Bay pretty much froze over earlier this month. The Sound is basically ice with a bit of hard packed snow which makes it easy for walking, but perhaps not that great for X-Country skiing. I spoke with a fisherman today and he estimates the ice is 12 to 14 inches (30-35 cm) thick in the Sound. (January 2015)
Cold and crisp, full ice coverage, all with gorgeous shades of blue. There have been a few snow machines on the ice but discretion is the better part of valour, and a little more cold will ensure safe travel. This is the view from the ground at Waubano Beach in Parry Sound looking to the northwest. That black ‘blight’ to the upper right of the photo is the salt pile on Smelter Wharf. Parry Sound provides the only practical deep water harbour on Eastern Georgian Bay for the marine delivery of road salt. The shipments start in the Fall and are gone by the time Spring arrives. It was a tough season this Fall with deliveries delayed by wind and waves.
The ice coverage has meant the daily dump of snow, largely lake effect snow, has eased and temperatures have dropped. Time to get out and play on the trails.
‘Clic on the Pic’ for a closer view.
Both the harbour and Big Sound are frozen over as of January 14th. It likely ‘came together’ the night of the 13th or early on the 14th. I was out very early on the 13th, a very cold day with the mist still rising from the slightly warmer water. The ice coverage may mean less snow for Parry Sound and colder temperatures without the moderating effect of the open water, and perhaps a little more sun. I have seen hovercrafts but not yet snow machines on the Big Sound. The brave ones will be out before long.
JB – Communications Officer
That’s Parry Sound Harbour. Remember yesterday’s photo of the Big Sound, wide open and with just a bit of ice on the far shore? Well here’s a photo taken the same day with Parry Sound Harbour to the left and the Big Sound to the right. Quite a contrast. Tucked in to the lower right you can see where the Seguin River flows into the harbour.
Despite the apparent complete ice coverage I didn’t see any snow machine tracks, but there was a hovercraft heading away from the Champaigne Street dock. By the weekend with the big freeze there should be a virtual highway for the snow machines as they head down the South Channel. The Big Sound will doubtless be iced over but perhaps not yet thick enough to support the weight of a snow machine and rider.
The Big Sound – Parry Sound.
Clear sailing as of yesterday (January 5th), but cold with a guarantee of ice in the next few days. But don’t try and enter the harbour (more on this tomorrow). The Big Sound was frozen over on January 1st last year and I suspect it will be ice covered by the weekend with the cold weather we had yesterday, and the forecast for the coming days. It will soon be possible to walk on water.
After last year’s remarkably low water levels in the Parry Sound region of Georgian Bay this year has seen a welcome rebound. The question now is whether the levels are still low, somewhat high, or perhaps ‘normal’. Well the levels certainly aren’t ‘normal’ in as much as there is seemingly no real normal with anything remotely impacted by weather and climate. What can be reasonably asked is whether water levels in this part of Georgian Bay are close to the historical averages and/or chart datum.
With respect to chart datum in June it seems we are about 0.6 meters above the mean average low water levels and 0.8 meters below the average high water levels. Comfortable average perhaps? Here’s a link to the most revcent Canadian Hydrographic Service data.
Here’s a simpler measure of water levels – a photograph of Zhiishib Rock in the Big Sound just outside Parry Sound harbour. Taken last week with calm conditions it suggests we are probably close to average in terms of water level. There doesn’t seem to be a high water mark, the topmost dark line, much above the current level, perhaps 20 centimeters (8 inches) or so. This may well represent the mean high water mark for the last few decades where there has been a fluctuation between alarming high and low water levels. (Click on the photo below for a larger version.)
Regardless, the water levels make boating a bit more comfortable in the area. I was talking to one sailboater who said he was able to get into the government dock at The Pancakes for the first time in a decade.
Despite the high water levels it seems boating traffic is down in this part of Georgian Bay. It might be the higher price of fuel, but it’s probably the cooler and less predictable weather. Temperatures certainly seem to be ‘comfortably cool’ for this time of year with a bit more rain than might be expected. That’s based on my realization that the lawn and garden haven’t yet required watering, and there hasn’t been a need for fans in the windows.
Boating this year is wonderful – lots of water and not too hot. Come on up and enjoy it while summer is still around to welcome you.
JB – Communications Officer