A Social Distancing Vacation in Paradise
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography Courtesy Jack Jorgensen and Glen Muir
Everyone has their own vision of what “living the dream” entails, but many of us can agree one that ranks among the top is traveling by luxury watercraft to a beautiful destination. Extra points for that beautiful destination being in Ontario.
This past July, Jack Jorgensen, President & C.E.O. of Advance Business Systems, and Glen Muir of RE/MAX Preferred Realty Ltd., lived the dream on a 15-day voyage that included stops in Grand Bend, Kincardine, Tobermory, Killarney, Gore Bay, Little Current, Port Elgin and Bayfield – a major league trek of 600 nautical miles. A vacation in any one of these locations would make for a memorable summer. Jack and Glen managed to string together the K-tel Greatest Hits of Cottage Country in one fell swoop.
To begin at the beginning, Jack and Glen have been friends for 27 years and have boated together for nearly as long.
It’s said that people are not truly friends until they travel together. And traveling by boat – well, any mode of transportation where “walking the plank” is an option will test the strongest of bonds. Jack and Glen hedged their bets a little in this department, each taking his own boat: Jack’s yacht – Jackie’s Rose V – is a 60-foot Sea Ray 540. Glen is the proud captain of a 50-foot Sea Ray 460 yacht. Both are equipped with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchenette, dining area, full sized fridge and freezer, washer/dryer. They are like seaworthy luxury condos.
“We live on the boats,” Jack Jorgensen says. “We have everything we need, there. I have been boating for forty-plus years and there is no better way to see our province.”
Relaxation is naturally enforced: some of the areas to which they traveled have little to no cell phone coverage.
At night, darkness closes in like the black void of space.
“With no light pollution,” Glen says, “you cannot believe the view of the stars.”
The boaters were fortunate the weather was in a (mostly) cooperative mood. At one point, however, while docked in Little Current, Jack and Glen were relaxing on the back of their boats, each enjoying a cigar, when suddenly a gust of wind whipped up and blew a chair off the back of Jack’s yacht. It promptly sank.
“A storm came through the area,” he explains, “but it was as though it had split in two and either side went around us.”
The next day, Jack put on a pair of goggles and dove for his chair. He located it and with Glen’s help, returned it to leisure duty on his deck.
When talking about such a voyage, the inevitable, impossible question arises: “What was the highlight?”
Both Jack and Glen are hard-pressed to narrow it down, but if either is forced to choose, it seems to fall to Killarney. Particularly, a day spent at the Pool – a destination within a destination. As the geography of the area would have it, the Pool lies at the end of a three-mile waterway bracketed by mountains and gorgeous scenery. The voyage there is as breathtaking as the final arrival point.
The Pool is a secluded inlet with a large “pool”, approximately 1,000 feet across. The location cannot be accessed by land.
“The Pool is a special place. I first visited it many years ago,” Jack says. “This was Glen’s first time. It’s a little tricky navigating around the rocks in the narrow opening, but it was worth the effort.”
The friends anchored there and stayed the night, swimming during the day, taking in the view, barbecuing their meals and stargazing at night.
“We had our dogs onboard,” Jack remembers, “and we brought them ashore in our dinghies so they could take care of business. On one of those trips, Glen and I found a trail that went up to the top of the mountain. It took about thirty or forty minutes, but the view was amazing. That’s where we saw a lake up inside the mountain – Topaz Lake.”
A voyage of this duration takes a fair bit of planning. Reservations are required in popular destinations, like Tobermory and Killarney, to secure slips for the boats.
“Planning began in January,” Jack recalls. “We were originally going to ports in Michigan, such as Lexington, Port Austin, Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, skipping across the top of Lake Huron to Gore Bay, the Pool…”
Then the global pandemic happened, threatening to derail the voyage entirely. But if there is one trait a yachting captain needs, it’s flexibility. Jack shifted gears and continued piecing together the itinerary.
No detail of the trip was left to chance.
“We needed to know where to fuel-up,” Glen says. “My boat takes four hundred U.S. gallons of diesel fuel, so we can’t just pull in anywhere.”
When traveling together, Jack and Glen alternate who fills up. Glen filled up at a marina in Grand Bend. Jack filled up the next day at Kincardine.
Just as important as fuel – “You have to have your charts,” Glen says. “We have GPS, of course, but a dead battery or some other failure with the system can leave you spinning in circles. We always, always have our charts. Jack is our navigation guy. You must be good with your charts. Jack knows them inside-out.”
Completing the triumvirate of tools required by yacht captains are reliable weather apps. Weather on the Great Lakes can turn ugly quickly. Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the Edmond Fitzgerald is not about a myth. Mariners need to know what’s coming. The stakes are high. We’ve all seen the TV show Gilligan’s Island.
“Wind is your major factor,” Glen explains. “We can handle rain. It’s not fun, but it’s more an inconvenience than anything else. If you have a strong wind on your nose, you’re going to have a long, bouncy day on the water. We consult Environment Canada, but I also use an app called My Radar. Jack uses a government app. We pool our info so it’s as accurate as possible.”
Glen remembers a voyage two years before where he and Jack had to leave a marina in Niagara on the Lake. “They were having a regatta, and all the slips were booked,” he says. Glen and Jack headed back out onto Lake Ontario. It wasn’t long before the weather turned, and the boats faced six foot swells.
For this reason, the final leg of the voyage – to Port Elgin – was delayed a day. The apps warned of bad weather. The apps were correct, and an unpleasant, bumpy ride was averted.
So, after loading up on provisions in Windsor, packing the vessels to the gills with food and drink (which included several cases of wine, vodka, and rum – the last being the best libation for pacifying pirates), the captains set sail.
On the journey back, during their second stop in Killarney, the boaters were surprised by friends who had made the 10-hour drive from Windsor to be a part of birthday celebrations onboard.
The voyage brought back fond memories of their last major trip.
“Two years ago, we did The Loop,” Jack says.
That was a 26-day voyage, which took Jack and Glen through the Detroit River, around Lake Erie, down the Welland Canal, into Lake Ontario and into the Trent Severn Waterway.
“We passed through forty-five locks,” Jacks remembers, “taking us all the way through the Kawarthas and into Georgian Bay.”
“That was one to remember,” Glen says. “The lift lock in Peterborough raised us up ninety feet. The thing was just massive. Later, in another area we took a rail lock that secured the boats with slings and lifted them down a mountain, over a highway.”
Glen refers to the Big Chute Marine Railway, Lock 44, the only marine railway of its kind in North America. It’s such an engineering marvel, it’s worth checking out its Wikipedia page. There are also YouTube videos of it in action.
Summing up the experience, Glen reflects, “I’m fortunate to have a good friend who is an accomplished boater, who made it possible for me to enjoy this…Boating is great when you have great people. Always—safety first. And plan!”
“There is a reason why this region is known as the greatest pleasure boating waterway in the world,” Jack says. “Every port has its own attraction. The harbors are so different. They all have their own beauty.”