August 2004 – The North Channel and Canada

August found us still in Gore Bay, but moved to an anchorage just outside the marina. The delay was our mail, which we had requested the previous week. However, it takes two days to get to Canada and we did not realize that Monday was a holiday! Got the bikes out and went for a long ride out to Janet Head lighthouse at the entrance to the bay. Next day we rode the other way along a boardwalk through the reeds at the end of the bay.

Both dogs have accustomed well to being taken ashore in the dingy for walks, and have started to jump out if the dock is low enough. Sure enough Lilly tried to follow Max but with only one foreleg landed wrong and took a dip in the bay. That is three dips for Lil and one for Max-Harvey so far. All have occurred at dock or loading into the dingy. Their harnesses are easily grabbed for rescue.

Mail finally arrived Tuesday afternoon which gave us a chance to catch up on bills – still have some mundane things to address occasionally. We do enjoy the letters from home though! Thanks to Margaret for the “care” package. Seems only yesterday that we were on the sending end of “care” packages sent to various institutions of higher learning.

Wednesday morning we finally hauled up the anchor and left for the Benjamin Islands. Once again the wind was on the nose and we motor sailed over to Croker Island. Found a great little anchorage on a cove with the stern tied to shore. The bay is very deep; we were anchored in 20 feet and comes up to 8 – 19 feet only feet from the shore. The Benjamins are unique for their pink granite rocks, most of the other islands are limestone or white granite. Took the dingy and went fishing and caught four small mouth bass, kept two.

Next morning the wind built up to a point where our stern was swinging into shallow water so we decided to move to another cove. Wind kept building to 30+ knots so we had a good test of our anchor and chain in about 15 feet of water and a mud bottom. Went exploring in the afternoon and found some wild blueberries, theBlueberry Cobblern late in the day when we took the dogs ashore on a small island we found the mother of all blueberry patches. Friday morning we had blueberry pancakes and we have enough for a blueberry apple cobbler later.

Friday we had a great sail from Croker Island to Little Current except for a close encounter of the rock kind off the tip of Amedroz Island. The chart is from the 1800’s and does not apparently show the full extent of the reef as we were at least half a mile offshore. Fortunately we just clipped a rock – no warning from the depth sounder and just as quickly we were back in deep water. Gave us a good wake up call and we will certainly give reef areas more clearance in future. Did mention this to some Canadian sailors in Little Current who said they felt the Coast Guard should buoy the reef as they have had similar close encounters.

Little Current is a nice town with mooring along a wall. First spot available was marked 5 ½ feet but we got in OK. Dropped the lead line over and found the wall marking was correct, but the depth on the other side of Forty Two was 7 ½ feet, so figured we had 3 inches under the keel. Fortunately a spot opened later in the afternoon and we were able to move to a deeper tie up. We decided to stay two nights in Little Current to take advantage of Farquhar’s Ice Cream and the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, as well as the Laundromat within yards of our position.

Saturday afternoon about 1600 we were treated to what may have been the biggest happening in Little Current. Brian had just left to buy some ice and was walking down the dock when that was a large “bang” which was an unoccupied camper van rolling backwards down the hill into one of the dockside electrical boxes. This fortunately stopped the van from running all the way onto the deck of the Catalina 36 behind us. As it was, he had glass from the rear window showered over his deck. The fire department responded then a wrecker and the power department to disconnect some of the dock power. The van owners finally returned after a couple of hours to find police tape surrounding the scene and the locals with deck chairs on the lawn to watch the proceedings! It became the afternoon entertainment!

Sunday morning we left and passed through the bridge at the 1000 opening for Baie Fine (Narrow Bay). Once again flat calm and motored. Baie Fine is a fjord about 9 miles long with lots of little anchorages around. The end of the fjord is a pool that we were advised not to use as the bottom is very weedy and not good holding, but every one goes there anyway. We stopped about halfway up in a very nice anchorage that we had all to ourselves. Next morning we took the dingy all the way up through the Narrows to the Pool. This was an interesting side trip and a good run for the dingy. We trolled a lure through the Narrows which is reputed to be good fishing, but no luck.

Baie Fine was another milestone for us, as we have just passed to 500 mile mark. Not so good was the opportunity to dive on the keel were Brian found that about 10 inches of fiberglass sheathing over Baie Fine Sunsetthe keel has been ripped off by the rock encounter. Not a major problem but we will probably pull the boat out at the next opportunity and patch the bottom so that we do not get too much water between the glass and the lead keel.

We left the anchorage at 1200 for Heywood Island and Browning Cove. Browning Cove is supposedly a secret anchorage so we were surprised to find 20 boats in the Cove and another 3 down channel and 7 in the end bay – all sailboats except for two power boats. Got our first rain storm since leaving Racine just as we were coming into the entrance. Good anchorage on the east side of the cove in 20 feet of water in very well protected water.

Took the dingy and explored the entire anchorage. Saw our first Inukshuk which are Inuit trail markers made of stones assembled in a human shape. Not indigenous to this area, and obviously erected by visiting yacht crews. We also found an old totem pole in the woods on the east side of Browning Island that was shaped as an eagle.


Stayed a second day and visited with several of the yachts, one of which we had met in Croker Island and another had a quilter on board so Judy had a good chat.

Our next leg was from Browning Cove for Covered Portage Cove at the end of Lansdowne Channel. For once the wind gods cooperated and we sailed a broad reach to the channel entrance then had a down wind run all the way to Covered Portage Cove. We went into the inner cove but decided that 8 feet was just too shallow (not surprising after the rock encounter) finished up anchored with six others in the outer cove. A pleasant anchorage and finally found a small mouth bass that was prepared to sacrifice itself on one of our lures. The Northern Lights as well as a lone persiad were spotted at 3:30 A.M. from the vee berth hatch. We enjoyed the bass along with homemade bread and blueberry jam from the Little Current farmers market for breakfast.

Thursday morning we motored over to Killarney, a little more than 4 miles away. We had hoped to get hauled in Killarney and repair the bottom, but the one yard there is closed since the owner retired. May have to wait until Port Huron but at least the damage is cosmetic and not structural. Killarney marks the end of the North Channel and our next leg is across Georgian Bay to reenter Lake Huron proper. Killarney was disappointing as we found it to be very expensive since there is only one general store and a few other convenience stores. The redeeming feature was ‘Mr. Perch’ a Mr Perchconverted school bus that is the local fish and chips shop. Generous portions of whitefish and lake trout were so good that we ate there two nights! We also found a bakery at Gateway Marina that made an outstanding apple and cinnamon bread with real apple chunks inside. Killarney was also an opportunity to once again get the bikes out and ride to the lighthouse at the east end of the channel. On the way back found some roadside blueberry patches and picked enough for blueberry pancakes for breakfast. The second evening we met a couple, Ian and Kathy, who were staying at the Sportsman’s Inn. We had a really great evening of conversation about the live aboard life and their desire to do the same when Ian retires. Ian is the police chief at Greater Sudbury and was kind enough to present Brian with one of their baseball caps. This is the best fitting cap he has found in a long time and will be a treasured memory of the shared evening we had with them.

Saturday morning we left to cross the top of Georgian Bay. Again we found ourselves motoring for about half the trip to Club Island but the wind filled in the afternoon and gave us a pleasant sail for a couple of hours. Anchored in the bay at Club Island and were later joined by Dave and Donna from ‘Swallow’ who we had last met in Browning Cove. This was their last stop before hauling their boat onto the trailer in Tobermory and they invited all five boats to join them for fresh baked cookies!

Next day was a great sail to Tobermory with ‘James’ steering most of the way. Took a slip in Little Tub Harbor for two nights. On the way back from a dingy run into town Brian stopped and talked with Mike and Laurel on a C&C 38. Upshot was an invitation to a pot luck dinner at Laurel’s sister’s boathouse on the bay. Great food, outstanding sunset, great company and an all round good time.

Tobermory turned into a weather hold with continual south winds blowing up the lake. There were at least seven sailboats waiting out the weather. Finally on Thursday, after four days in port, we got a brief westerly window. We decided to go for it along with Yet to Be, a Beneteau Oceanus 36. Traveling with another vessel was a first for us and resulted in adding two wonderful people to our circle of friends as well as Lucky their dog. We had a really lumpy sea motoring out through the Devil Island Channel, but moderated to a quartering sea about 3 feet high for the rest of the trip. Long day, nearly 10 hours with a final arrival in Port Elgin just after sunset. Tony and Donna off Yet To Be invited us home for dinner after we got in, then provided a vehicle the next day for runs to the grocery, which is about two miles from the docks. The generosity of people we meet never fails to amaze us. Once again we are holding for the weather which is blowing a steady 25 – 30 knots from the south. The delay enabled us to return Donna and Tony’s hospitality with dinner aboard Forty Two.

Saturday morning we found fair winds for getting south to Kincardine and we had a great run past the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant all the way to the harbor entrance. This town has a tradition of a marching Highland Pipe Band on Saturday nights over the summer. So at eight o’clock we joined several hundreds of people and marched behind the band to the top end of the Main Street and back again. They finish with a recital in the city park which included “Amazing Grace”. All in all it was a most unusual and entertaining evening.

Sunday found us still in Kincardine waiting out yet another day of persistent south and south west winds. Today the wind really got up and the only yacht to try leaving, Two Moons, came back in after a couple of hours beating into the wind.

Monday morning we left with Two Moons, 100 Proof, and Incorrigible for Goderich. We stopped there but the rest continued on to Bayfield. Goderich was the toughest entry we have had so far, very narrow (at most 40 feet wide between the buoys) with a rock wall on the leeward side and the north west winds pushing a swell across the entrance. Not a very good marina but again with the weather we found ourselves there for two nights. Since the weather was not cooperating we decided to leave Thursday morning for Bayfield, about 13 miles south and a much more interesting town and pleasant marina. We found we had to motor the whole way into south winds but there were little swell which made the trip easier.

But once again we found ourselves weather bound for three days. Finally broke out on Sunday in company with 100 Proof and Glory Days for Port Huron. Really good sail for most of the way on a beam reach. Getting into Port Huron was interesting, as the beginning of the St. Clair River has a strong current and we found ourselves coasting downstream at over 10 knots. Port Huron has a series of marinas up the Black River, good facilities but difficult docking with wind and current pushing us downstream. Took three attempts to get into our assigned dock. Port Huron had an outdoor art show so we took advantage of that to stretch our legs.

Sunday found us motoring down the St Clair River, through Lake St Clair and on to the Detroit River. This was our first day of almost continual rain and we spent ten hours wrapped up in full foul weather gear including sea boots! At times visibility was less than a boat length. Our stopping point was the Tricentennial Park Marina near the Renaissance Center and downtown Detroit. Imagine our surprise to pull into a marina that has been completely refurbished with 50 slips and only one other boat tied up! We did have a third boat join us later in the evening. They provided laundry facilities at no charge and we did three loads. Detroit was a major mail and parcel pick up point thanks to Greg and Gwen, old friends from Brian’s Oxford, NC days. Greg dropped all our parcels over, and it was just like Christmas in August even though most were parts. We now have the sunbrella fabric for the bimini, a new main traveler to install on the Erie Canal, and some other minor maintenance parts.

Monday was an early start down the Detroit River to Put in Bay, Ohio. Once again no wind but lots of commercial shipping to worry about. All ‘eyeball’ navigation down the river checking off buoys as we passed them. Arrived at Put in Bay at 1615 to find the mooring area and marinas almost deserted. Apparently there had been a problem with contamination of some wells that supply water to the island, and the tourists had stayed away. We read a day later that the most recent testing was still positive and over 1200 people had reported being ill. After three days of pushing hard we decided that a lay over was earned and took the opportunity to get the bikes out and ride around the island and visit the Perry Memorial. This commemorates the victory by Commander Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie over the British fleet during the war of 1812.

As so we ended August in Put in Bay with 867 miles behind us and some great memories of the North Channel, the places we went and the people we met. We’ll leave you with a thought from the boat card of Steve and Marika, a couple we met in Little Current who had lived aboard for several years before coming back on land: Address – where the water runs deep and clear and the wind blows through our hair, where the sun turns our bodies a luscious brown, that’s where we and “DreamMaker” will be found.

Fair winds and following seas,

Brian & Judy