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 feel.


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 dinner.


   Ashore as 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.





For 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


Main 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.


There 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.


When 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.


Vandals 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!