A tradition at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been the return trip of the Angus Bruce from Toronto harbour to Wolfe Island harbour in the early fall. Last Thursday, I made the trip for the third year in a row, making notes and taking pictures along the way.
The trip was unique in that for the first time, the route was around Prince Edward County via Main Duck Island and not through the Murray Canal. There were 2 good reasons for changing course. First, it is not often the weather allows for the open water trip. Second, the high water level for this time of year meant for the first time the boat was not likely to slip under the Murray Canal draw bridges and with a public service strike leaving infrequent lifts during the day, it was best to avoid the canal all together.
After driving the boat from the Pier 4 Marina to Bluffers Park the night before, I left Bluffer's at 8:00 am. The wind was calm, but blowing slightly out of the North West. The temperature was around 12 C but forcast to improve. The boat had a full tank of gas and I filled 4 red cannisters of gas to keep on board in case of problems finding an open marina. Gas prices at the Toronto Island marina were reasonable at 93 cents per litre, given that street gas was 84 cents. I packed lots of cloths for the trip thankfully, as well as a GPS, camera, additional batteries, 2 gallons of water and a banana.
The first thing I noticed leaving port was the brown stain circling the Lake. With a north west wind I expected clear skys but the emissions from the Canadian side of the Lake blew across the water and left their mark on the sky. Looking down at the water, the brown sludge and staining in and around Bluffers Beach explained the reasons for this particular beach being closed mostly all the time. The encove of the beach seems to suck in the city run-off without any opportunity for the water to escapre due to the berms built out into the Lake to protect the marinas.
I moved East very quickly, as the weather was perfect. The smells of the urban landscape were particularily sharp on this day as the light Northwesterlies brought all the city air over the water. Most pugent were the scents of the sewage works near Scarborough, Pickering and Ajax. On a clear day like this, it appeared as though the Lake was rimmed with smoke stacks in all directions.
I made my first stop at Gold Point to check out the discharges that pour out of the banks. As usual, many ducks and geese were in the vicinity of the Gold Point pipe and the discharges were heavy. I took pictures of the flow and the background landfill that sits directly on top of the bluffs. We still don't know what the pipe is draining despite considerable effort to find out. Nobody seems to know who owns this pipe or what it is connected to.
Moving East, I crossed path with a police boat coming out of Whitby Harbour. This was the first time in three years that I had come across the police on the Lake other than in the Toronto Harbour at this time of year. I passed the Pickering Nuclear station and took lots of pictures. Further East, the big cement factory and its large smoke stack were messing up the air. I took pictures of the stained sky and moved on to Darlington nuclear plant. This was the first year it was calm enough to really observe the huge water discharges coming out of the plant. The water outflow sticks way out into the Lake and when it discharges it causes all kinds of turbulence hundreds of metres out in the Lake. I went right through the rough water and noticed all kinds of brown staining on the water that appeared to have discharges with the cooling water.
The next stopping point was Port Granby, the well known nuclear waste dump that leaks into the Lake.The site appeared as peaceful and quiet as ever. Lots of fall ducks were floating around the rocky shoals of the discharge pipe and seeps from the dump. Other than some grass cutting inside the dumps fences, little else changed from the last time I was here.
The next town on the trip of note was Port Hope. Given our recent involvement with the community in scrutinizing the plans to start blending slightly enriched uranium at the Cameco plant, I was taken by just how dominant the hazardous waste manufacturing plant was on the town's waterfront. It was hard to even notice a town behind the factory.
I had to make a gas stop at the Coburg Marina. It was still open and thankfully served coffee. I had to put on more layers of cloths before heading out as the weather was getting overcast, but still no wind. So, at 10:30 I left the marina, took one more listen to the weather report (all clear) and headed out around the County and not through the Murray Canal. New territory for me.
As I approched Jonhston Island, I saw more birds on the water than ever before, and not just cormorants although they were numerous as well. The water was so clear and the outcropping of islands and shoals were isloated. As I approached Point petrie, famous for its numerous mentions on the CBC weather reports, the waves began to crest and swell.I looked at the charts and noticed the extreme change in depths at this point, and credited the waves to the change in depths. A very dark cloud passed overhead, and a little rain fell as I surfed across the swells around the point. Once past Point Petrie I could see the Main Ducks Island and knew I was close to home. I had been to main Duck in the past and it was only 25 km from the Wolfe Island village.
I slowed down and took many pictures at the Main Ducks. This is surely the most remarkable place on Lake Ontario. Now, a federal park, this Island has a long history for being an outlaws hang out during prohibition and a number of boarded up building remain. From the west shore of the Island I could look south and see the steam rising from the Nine Mile Point nuclear reactor near Oswego, and north to the stacks at Adolphostown gas fired generator.
I then left the Islands and went East to Wolfe Island. I arrived at Brophy's Point at 2:30, a fast trip for sure. In fact, the 6.5 hours was record time.
-- Mark Mattson