Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking for Mr. Perch

Yes, the water really IS that blue.  Actually, it's even MORE blue--aquamarine, shading into pure clear turquoise.

And the water is clear!  It's a bit startling--but quite wonderful--to be gliding in 20 feet of water, look over the side, and see all the way to a sandy bottom dotted with rocks.
From Beaverstone Bay we travelled to Killarney--a town that marks a dividing line on our journey. From Port Severn to Killarney we've been cruising Lake Huron's "Georgian Bay" with its thirty-thousand islands; at Killarney we move into "the North Channel."  Fewer small islands, bolder scenery--and distinctive blue water.

All the guidebooks say, "cruising the North Channel is like cruising in the Mediterranean."  "Oh, come ON," I said mockingly, when I first read this a few months ago.  "How can an area at the latitude of the north woods of Maine possible resemble the Greek islands?

Insert here the sound of Berger eating her words.  Scrubby pines and cypress sprouting from craggy white cliffs above technicolor blue water . . . Canadian filmmakers on a budget could definitely shoot here and pretend they're on location.

The run from our secluded anchorage up to Killarney was fascinating and typical of travel in Georgian Bay.  We started the day in Beaverstone Bay, which in its own right looks like a very large lake.  From there we entered Collins Inlet, a narrow channel, more like a placid woodland river, that ran for miles.  Along the way we passed the ruins of a wooden wharf at Collins Inlet (the town, not the landscape feature).  This area seems remote and unsettled, but a hundred years ago time this was a boom-town port for shipping lumber and minerals.

Then we sailed out of the narrow channel and suddenly the landscape shifted from deep woods to glorious open water--the backdrop, a range of low mountains with exposed cliffs of shiny white quartizite winking in the distance.

The port of Killarney has the feel of a frontier town.  (Here's the general store, with its 1880s style wild-West false front and veranda itchin' for some cowpokes to put their  boots up on the rail.)  Notice that this is a water view and that the store is fronted by a dock--as are many of the businesses in town.  Killarny was established in the 19th century but had no access by road till 1962, so the town is laid out with an orientation to the waterfront and to boat traffic, rather than car traffic.

In Killarney we gave ourselves a treat and stayed for a night at a hotel, so Bill could stretch his 6-foot-three-inch frame on something larger than our boat bunk, which is wider than a twin bed but narrower than a double--not to mention overhung with wooden shelves at the head and at the foot that make negotiating the terrain while getting up in the morning an exercise best conducted while wearing a protective helmet.

We chose the recently remodelled Sportsman's Inn.  "All our king-sized beds are taken," the clerk said apologetically.  "Will a queen bed be OK?"

"You're staying THERE?"  a neighboring boater asked dubiously.  "Is it  . . .  ahem, nice?"  Apparently this establishment was showing its age a bit, though we admired the old black-and-white photos showing the original rustic decor, including the head of an eight-point buck over a stone fireplace, and rough-hewn tables made from slices of a large tree trunk.

Those Adirondack-style tables have been preserved (with a coat of fresh varnish) in the lunchroom; the rest of the place has been expensively remodeled to resemble a Wyndham Hotel--all pale green walls and gray stone.  We had read that many in the town were concerned to keep the business a going concern; cruisers organize summer "rendezvous" in Killarney, having a facility that can host a large crowd in modern style brings in business that spreads to other establishments.  But the finances must be complicated with such a short season.

For 60 miles--since we entered Georgian Bay--people had been telling us, "You HAVE to visit Mr. Perch when you are in Killarney."  

To explain:   In many a parking lot in Canada you'll find a "chips truck," basically, a lunch cart that serves up fish-and-chips.  In Killarney, the "chips truck" is an old school bus, painted a patriotic red-and-white and parked, permanently, on the town dock.   For years, the name of the business was "Mr. Perch," . . . a name we puzzled over, since, in this neck of the woods, if you order fried fish it's generally pickerel.   At any rate, when so many people tell you not to miss an attraction, you check it out!

You can't beat the setting--a rustic wooden wharf, where the fishing boats (just docked), signal that the catch is VERY FRESH; the colorful bus, anchored by pots of flowers; picnic tables with shady umbrellas where your dog is welcome to join you for dinner.

And the meal?  Well, the place is no longer called Mr. Perch, and maybe the original owner took his secret recipe with him.   Or maybe we just need to sample more fried fish.

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