Titania at anchor June 06
The remote little island of Main Duck is all but
unknown today on Lake Ontario save to those who go there by boat. It is a
special place dear to me and to other Lake cruisers who value something
increasingly rare here- an undeveloped uninhabited shoreline. But a proposal
for a 710 MW offshore wind farm, to be located on the ledges south and east of
the island may soon forever change this quiet refuge for wild things. The
electricity produced by the farm would be sent to the mainland via underwater
cable, to the Lennox oil/gas power
plant located on the bay of Quinte near the Upper Gap. From there high-voltage
transmission lines could carry the power to Toronto and surrounding populated areas.
According to one Internet article, the turbines
would be 5 MW which makes them really big, and they would be mounted on some
sort of anchored floating platform tethered to 3000 ton concrete anchors. An
outfit called Trillium Power has proposed this billion dollar project, to be
perhaps the largest wind farm in North America and close to the size of the
huge farms off Denmark and northern Germany.
According to the Internet article, wind turbines bigger
than one MW capacity are still a fairly new
Technology but one study in Denmark suggests the
profitability of them-there 3 MW turbines
are said to have the potential to return their cost 35 times over during
their service life.
Readers of the Log are well aware that the author
takes a dim view of splitting atoms to boil water, and that I generally look
with favor upon wind power as one of the less obnoxious ways to light up my
computer screen. But I do worry about the impact of construction of the wind
farm on Main Duck itself. And while aesthetic changes from a wind farm are
probably no worse than that of Nine Mile 2’s cooling tower visible all over the
east end of the lake, it will be forever different out there on the island. The
estimated time to approve and construct the wind farm is three years which
means, quite likely this is the last year Main Duck will exist in the form we
knew and enjoyed since it became a Park Island.
MD resident sunbathing
Below is a tribute to this special small place that
was published in Cruising world magazine a couple years ago originally adapted
from Passages On Inland Waters, a book I published in 2003 that is still
available through www.chimneybluff.com
or thru orders to this site.
While salt water literature is rich in island lore
there are also islands surrounded by freshwater known to and loved by cruisers. One such is Canada’s Main Duck on Lake
Ontario. Though scarcely twenty miles from downtown Kingston and visited by
hundreds of boaters each summer, the small island still retains its wild remote
Always I feel a little lift of joy when I first
sight it. To me Main Duck has always been a sort of Brigadoon, a slightly
magical place that exists just for one fair summer day before it vanishes
astern and disappears again from my world. Last summer we picked nearly the
longest day of the year to visit its
pebble beaches and walk its shoreline ledges.
I always leave
with regret. Yet when I try to describe it I have difficulty capturing
its essence and fall back on clichés like "it's just a neat
place". There is really very
little here. Perhaps that is much of its appeal.
Main Duck lies about ten miles east of Prince Edward
County's long out thrust arm of Point Traverse. It mostly consists of stone.
The glaciers scraped the region clean of soil, leaving bedrock and a few
pockets of thin earth behind. The island tilts gently north-south reflecting
the general lay of the land in the lake's northeastern corner, and tapers off
underwater on its south side so even a half-mile offshore, shoals reach out to
threaten the unwary vessel that cuts the corner here.
But on its north side the island drops away sharply and the shoreline is indented with
several large coves that make fine anchorages in calm weather. This asymmetry
lends to the hint of mystery about Main Duck. It's different from all the
lake’s other islands.
But none of these coves is a good all weather
anchorage. When the wind goes north you find yourself on a lee shore with poor
holding, and more than one yacht has ended up in a situation like the hapless
little coal carrier John Randall whose bones are still visible in the
largest cove. Main Duck has one inside
harbor. Once through its key
hole entrance, you lie within a completely sheltered little pond fringed by
cattails. A narrow strip of gravel separates this tranquil little backwater
from the windswept open lake to the south. Here even our Titania with
five foot draft can consort with muskrats and snapping turtles while a boat
length away bullfrogs bellow from shore and a blue heron stalks his
we picked our way through the tall grass at the end of the harbor, wary of
stepping on a snake or nesting turtle, surf murmured on the gray shingle shore
a few yards away and a cool breeze moved over the land. I paused to listen to the stillness. Mixed
in with the sound of the surf I kept hearing faint plaintive cries, keenings
and what sounded like distant shouts. I suppose it was only the voices of
gulls, but I kept wondering about the shipwrecks around the island and the lost
rum runners fishermen and mariners cast away on these ledges during storms
calling for help with no one to hear them.
The mile and a half hike out to the lighthouse takes
you past a curious landscape. The nearly flat low lying island's thin soil and
frequent large areas of bare bedrock don't lend themselves to rapid
re-vegetation. Today they form little savannahs or "barrens" similar to larger nearby mainland areas
where globally rare plants and insects are known to reside. The trees that do
grow often seem to sprout right from stone. A few bits of rusty farm machinery
and the rutted road worn down to bedrock by the now departed light house keeper's truck are the only obvious
signs of a century of human usage. But
the island has long been a place of keen interest to humans. Its two best known owners were Claude Cole and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
Many wrecks have left their bones upon its limestone
ledges over the last three hundred years. At the time of our visit, a big power
cruiser had just been holed after she dragged anchor and signs of her salvage
still lay strewed about the shore. Two twentieth century ships the Sarniadoc
and the Hickox left their still visible bones upon the shoal pointing
west from the light house. Another
reminder of the lake's wrath lies in School House Bay, the wooden ribs and planks of the steamer Randall
that sank in 1920. She had anchored here for shelter in November only to have
the wind shift into the north and drive her ashore. Today water polished lumps of coal still wash up on the island's
beaches from ruined ships.
more on Main Duck visit http://www.silverwaters.com/page2.HTM for an excerpt from Peterson Gateley’s book Passages On Inland Waters
On being a good eco tourist
Duck is a fragile place. Please use it gently. Anchoring in its lee is an
excellent hot weather option as a pleasant prevailing southwester off the
expanse of the lake provides a cool breeze. The holding here is poor, gravel,
rock, and ledge. You can usually inspect your anchor in clear water and be
ready to leave if the wind shifts north.
is no trash pick up and camp fires are a very bad idea, (and prohibited by
Parks Canada). In summer the island can get crispy-dry. It would take many
decades to recover if it ever burned.
exploring, stay on the paths so as to minimize disturbance to sensitive
breeding habitat. And watch your feet lest you crush a small island inhabitant.
The empty beaches are a good place to hike (though occasionally they can be
snake-y).By August some areas of ledge up by the light house may furnish rest
and food for tired migrant shorebirds traveling from near artic lands to far
away South and Central America.Give them space and practice good pet management
while here, too.
have left their mark on the cottages and other structures here. Hopefully the
cruising community will note and report any boat they see engaging in
inappropriate behavior here. Main Duck is a treasure, easily destroyed by
misuse and over use and the cruising community needs to act accordingly. U.S.
boaters, clear customs first. The Canadians tell me you’re being watched here!