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Cruising Through Tobermory's Crystal-Clear Waters

© by Gene Chambers
Tobermory Sunset

The rocks flashing by underneath the glass-bottom boat window appear so close it seems that we will run aground any instant. However, the crystal-clear water looks are deceptive, as we have several feet of space under the keel. I'm in the Great Blue Heron, a 125-passenger boat ranked as Canada's largest glass-bottom boat. We're touring the Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada off the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
     Fathom Five is Canada's first National Marine Conservation Area. It contains several historic lighthouses as well as 22 shipwrecks within its pristine waters. The islands within the park are an extension of the Niagara Escarpment stretching underwater, separating Lake Huron from Georgian Bay.
     My tour originates in the town of Tobermory, situated at the northernmost tip of the Bruce Peninsula. The Blue Heron V is the largest of several tour boats operated by the Blue Heron Company out of Little Tub Harbour. In the early part of the 1900s, the harbour was a loading port for lumber schooners shipping timber from the many sawmills surrounding the harbour. Later, it was home to a fleet of fishing tugs harvesting the vast catches of fish found in the nearby waters. Today it's a popular recreational boating spot, as well as the base for the Chi-Cheemaun, the ferry to Manitoulin Island. Sunken Wreck
     My 2-hour tour begins with a cruise past the Big Tub Lighthouse and a visit to 2 shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour. The first wreck we visit is the Sweepstakes, a 36.3-metre two-masted schooner that ran aground in 1885. The boards on her upper deck appear to be only a foot or so underneath the glass bottom viewing windows as our boat hovers directly over the wreck.
     The second wreck is that of the City of Grand Rapids, a 37.3-metre propeller steamer cargo and passenger vessel that caught fire and burnt to the waterline before finally sinking.
     Our cruise tours around several of the smaller islands south of Big Cove Island, then cruises around Flowerpot Island. The 200-hectare Flowerpot Island gets its name from two unusual rock formations resembling flowerpots on its eastern shore.
     The Blue Heron Company runs a jet boat and a smaller glass-bottom boat that takes passengers to see the shipwrecks and then to Flowerpot Island. They also run a jet boat shuttle to and from Flowerpot. Passengers can go ashore at Beachy Cove and hike the 4.3 km of trails on the eastern side of the island, visiting the Flowerpots and the lighthouse and old lighthouse keeper's home.
     I also take the Great Blue Heron for a 2-hour sunset cruise along the rugged eastern coastline of the Bruce Peninsula National Park. The cruise passes by some cottages above the rugged rock shoreline just outside of Tobermory, then continues south along the points and bays of the National Park. The highlight of the shoreline cruise is the close-up view of Overhanging Point, the Grotto, and Cave Point, spectacular high rock formations along the shoreline that are part of the Niagara Escarpment.

     The cruise back to the harbour is capped by a vibrant red sunset over the islands of Fathom Five Marine Park. I spend the night at the Harbourside Motel, also owned by the Blue Heron Company and located right on the harbour directly above their cruise boat docks. Guests staying at the motel receive 2-for-1 discount coupons for the cruise boats. I finish the evening sitting on the deck outside my room watching twilight descend on the picturesque harbour scene.

Harbourside Motel

Photo Credits
Gene Chambers
Harbourside Motel

Gene Chambers is an author of three secondary school textbooks on computer studies in data processing, and a travel writer.
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If you go
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobermory,_Ontario
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Tobermory_%28Ontario%29
About.com: http://usparks.about.com/library/miniplanner/canada/blfathomfivenmp.htm
Tour Maps: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive/visit/visit5/visit5a.aspx
Fiction: http://www.openbookontario.com/news/ifoa...
Places of worship: http://www.yellowpages.ca/locations/Ontario/Tobermory
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Search?q=tobermory...
Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=&find_loc=tobermory...

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