The idea of circumnavigating Manitoulin Island was instigated by my introduction to the tip of Bruce Peninsula on my very first visit to Tobemory. I was out hiking what most consider the most breathtaking part of the Bruce Trail, that section that passes the "Grotto and sea tube" and the round baseball sided granite "pebble" beach, both in the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
My next trip to the Bruce Peninsula, I arrived with kayak, gear and enough provisions, charts and planning to hop the ferry from Tobemory for the hour and forty minute ride to Manitoulin Island. On the way over, I learned the winds were to blow from the SE for the next few days. I bet that the wind direction would not continue and eventually the SE (caused by the remnants of hurricane moving up the NE Coast of the US) would fall back to the predominant summer wind direction of SW.
My trip was to start from the small town at the ferry landing on Tobemory where I was to head due east (my only section of the trip where I bucked the wind) for about 15 kms before heading NE for the roughly 40 km north where I would cut back and head due west for close to 120 kms along fairly sheltered waters during the summer months along the north channel of the Georgian Bay.
I managed the first day to only make about 20 kms progress as the wind was whipping up to 25-30kms and progress was about what I expected. I had planned for the trip to take 7-10 days, making 30km on the worst of days. The entire trip was expected to come in at about 300 kms. There was easy camping along the way as numerous islands along the north channel are Crown Land and open for camping for Canadian residents or anyone who purchases an annual "Outdoor" card. Along the sound end of the island, the land is mostly remote and farmland and I had talked to various local politicians who filled me in on the owners of the lands where I had expected to camp.
My second day out was a good day, I managed close to 60 kms with a 20mph tailwind pushing me and giving me gentle rolling swells to push me gently to an 8-11km per hour speed. That second day was the highlight and best part of the trip. I stopped in a town called Kagawong. Charming town, local outfitter, nice waterfall, and nice side trip up the Kagawong River to Lake Kagawong. This town was one of those places where everyone was friendly. When I pulled into the small harbor, the owner of the small general store came out to see if I needed to buy anything as that was his habit for arriving boats. We talked for a bit, he filled me in and found me a place to stay for the night and pointed me toward a new restaurant that had just opened and was quite good.
The next day, I paddled a few kms out to Clapperton Island in the North Channel of the Georgian Bay and this was a nice diversion and provided a sharp focus point for the wind that had shifted that day to almost due east and pushed me the slightly ESE that I needed for maximum speed..
The rest of the trip, I made better progress than expected, although the rest of the circumnavigation was more in the realm of pure exercise than expedition. The wind as I predicted switched to the SW just as I rounded the tip of Boathouse Bay on the SW tip of the island. I averaged about 50 kms per day and finished the trip in less than six days.
Clapperton Island in the North Channel of the Georgian Bay was a nice diversion and provided a nice focus point for the winds that had shifted that day to almost due east.
I saw no one the rest of the trip except the occasional boater. All in all, proud of myself for picking a 300+km island to paddle around but not that impressed with the scenery.
All in all, I prefer places like Philip Edward Island off Killarney channel instead although the distance seems by comparison to the beauty an impressive balance. I didnt find the people on Manitoulin Island very friendly, which is a very exceptional experience for me. The people I meet along the way are often the highlight of the trip. Not the case for Manitoulin.
Impex Category Force 5
Ferry from Tobemory on the Bruce Peninsula
Garmin GPS mapping