(For years I have dreamed of cruising with my children, Jay (age 11) and Cat (age 8), in the North Channel. Finally, I am about to fulfill that wish. It has been a battle to acheive this goal. My ex-wife refuses to allow me to take my children sailing. I file a motion in District Court to permit me to do this, and in June a judge decides in my favor. YES! We can go sailing. At the last minute, the night before we are to leave, I get a telephone call informing me that the boat is out of commission! The steering cables have broken, and the replacement parts are stuck in Customs, somewhere in Canada. The last charterer has left the boat in the marina, sitting empty and unuseable. I scramble to change our plans, so that we can take the parts we need with us and fix the boat. It has been an uphill struggle, but finally the long awaited cruise begins. )
We are leaving Beverly Hills at about 1000, heading east to Thomas Hardware in Grosse Pointe to see Warren Jones. He's an expert with sailboat hardware and rigging. If anyone can select the parts we need sight unseen, it's him. Warren is a jovial fellow and kids everyone. He fixes us up with $25 in cables, shackles, thimbles, etc., that he thinks will repair the steering problem on our boat. Off we go northward. We're taking the eastern route, via Sarnia and Tobermory.
By 1200 we are in Port Huron, where we fill up with cheaper U.S. gasoline. At the duty free shop, we get a giant bottle of Drambuie (40 oz.) for $18.00 (U.S.) On to the Blue Water Bridge: What a Jam-Up! I cut ahead of a quarter mile backup of cars. I am worried about the ChiCheemaun sailing without us. We make it to Canada after a twenty minute delay. Once in Ontario, we "sail" northward. Chris and Cat are asleep. I stop at Port Elgin (pronounced with a hard "g" like "begin") for ice cream. The kids see the big, clear water for the first time. It's back on the road to Tobermory. We finally get there about 1745. The next ferrry sailing is 2000.
We idle around the town, having dinner at the new ferry-restaurant, which is decent but a little expensive. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry sails in. Jay and Cat are surprised by how big she is. We load the car aboard; we're on the upper ramp again, but at least we're on the level portion. The kids love the big boat. We have a nice night sail, with rain and lightning all around us. At last, nearly 2200, we are at South Baymouth. Yikes! The gas is low on the car, but we make it to Little Current with only fumes in the tank. We find the boat and drag on our gear. We have forgotten how lovely Voyager III's cabin is. It has been a long day, and everyone sleeps well in the quiet of the marina. The Hostel Youths berthed next to us awake us at 0600. Never moor next to a Hostel Youth boats!
A busy day: Chris goes shopping with the kids; I fix the boat with Mike from Boile's Marina. We think we are ready to go about 1430. I drop the car off at Boile's, and Jay takes his first adventure in the inflatable to pick me up. He is nearly run over by the first boat to come up the channel in hours! He rows back to the pier at top speed. But, when I return to the beach, he is there waiting. He is proud to have made the crossing. I row back. The wind is strong from the west, so we warp the boat out of the slip, and cast off. Chris is at the helm, and, suddenly, we're going straight at another boat! Whoa! I slip as I jump back into the cockpit and hit reverse. "There's something wrong with the boat!" yells Chris. I take the wheel, and, after a few seconds, I diagnose the problem: The steering is hooked up backwards! Carefully, I manage to get us back to the berth.
Mike returns. We restring the cables to the steerting quadrant; it takes about an hour. This time the kids want Dad to take the boat out of the slip. Success! We make it as far as the gas dock, two hundred feet away. Water, fuel, pump out--we're finally ready, but now our timing is bad for the bridge opening. We are forced to circle for 45 minutes in Little Current. This is relaxing and calms everyone down (especially me!). Finally the bridge opens at 1800, and we motor east to Browning Cove. We anchor near Pepper V, a red C&C 33. A fish is caught; taco dinner is eaten. Loud music is uncharacteristically heard in the harbor. A storm rolls in at night. Voyager III sails on her mooring, but holds.
We swim and frolic until late morning, then we go out into the Bay. It is blowing 15-20 knots, and we sail with Genoa only. We find the elusive red E28 buoy at East Mary Island, and then turn towards the Lansdowne Channel. It is rough wind and sea for the new sailors on board, but they seem to be doing fine. Once in the Channel, the winds and waves diminish, and Cat takes the wheel for a reach eastward up the Lansdowne. She is afraid of nothing sometimes, yet she screeches whenever a bee flies near! On to Snug Harbour and another anchorage we go. We fish with all four of us cramped in the Metzler dingy. We all get at least one fish, and dinner is pan fried perch, crappies, bluegills, and smallmouth bass. More weather moves in overnight, but it's great fun in the sun during the day. The kids are swimming at ease without their life jackets. The falls and slips are going away, too, as everyone learns how to walk on the boat. Pepper V joins us in this anchorage, as well.
We motor out of Snug Harbour into the Lansdowne. There is a nice breeze, and we sail with genoa-only, again, making it all the way to Ann Long Bank before we have to roll up the sail and turn the motor on. Into Covered Portage Cove we go. We drag our anchor all day and argue about where to set it. Finally, we hold, and we settle down. More hot fishing from off the boat makes for another fish dinner. This time we cook them on the grill with barbecue sauce; pan frying is better, we all decide. We try to hike to the top of the big hill to the east, but the grade is too steep. A mean dog blocks our ascent on another path. Back to the boat we go, where Cat and Dad star gaze. Pepper V is here, too!
Up fairly early, we motor to Killarney, where we get a pump out, fresh water, ice cream cones, telephone calls, penny candy, and more. Leaving Killarney's beautiful harbor about noon, we head out into the open waters of Georgian Bay for the (kids') first time. When we first set sail, we can just about fetch our destination, Club Island, at close hauled, but, as the day goes on, the winds veer and force us to tack back and forth. At mid afternoon, we find ourselves facing a 15-20 knot southwesterly, building head seas, and Club Island just barely visible on the horizon.
The gill net tug, the Michael Al, calls us on the radio. Its captain, a talkative fisherman that we will hear often on the radio the next few days, wonders where we are headed. He comments that it is late in the afternoon for a sailboat to be going to Tobermory. I decide that it is too late to even go on to Club Island, so we turn west at 1630 and head for James Bay We motor into an increasing west wind, and we begin to wonder if the bay will offer much relief from the now 20 knots or more winds. At least the waves are way down, and then, at last, we get some relief as we "cozy" up to the shore in nine feet of water. Actually, we are lying about a quarter-mile off the shore, which is fine with me, because we sight a large, temporary campsite on the beach, We don't want to anchor too close to them. As we settle the boat down, we back off on the main Danforth with 100 feet of rode, and I row out the smaller lightweight on all its rode as a stern anchor. Chris gets dinner going, while I try to get the charcoal lit in the stiff breeze. It is hard to keep a flame going in the grill, and the charcoal isn't lighting well. Down in the cabin, Jay is on fly-swatter duty, and he counts off his kills. "Ten, eleven, twelve...", he calls out. When he gets into the fifties, I wonder what is going on! I get below to help; we install all the netting over the hatches. On and on we kill flies! We must have over one hundred in the cabin! Another hundred wait outside for us! We rename James Bay as "Fly Bay." There is an old saw about how each harbor has a certain number of flies in it, and they divide themselves among the boats anchored therein; we are the only boat within thirty miles! We've got all the flies to ourselves.
Dinner becomes chaotic, with the flies, the reluctant charcoal, the kids tired out from several days of high adventure and feeling some extra stress from the anxiety they sense in me about the security of our anchorage. (This is by far the most wide open bay we've ever anchored in. It offers no protection at all for winds and waves from the north clockwise through south, and a wind shift will mean big problems.) In the close quarters of the cockpit a hot pan burns Cat. She cries and I tell her to jump in the water to cool her hot skin. Jay, worried, tired, and weary from all the events of the day, suddenly breaks into tears; it's been too much for him. Food falls overboard from the charcoal grill overhanging our stern! Flies buzz around us. God, what a day! Finally, we recover and have what's left of dinner, which, unfortunately, was one of the best on the menu!
As evening comes on, the breeze drops off, the waves calm down, the flies depart, and the only hazard left is the possible impromptu visit from the campers on shore. Their loud music and voices drift out to us on the offshore breeze that lingers in the bay. They are having a party. I hear men laughing. It is a warm night. Will they get drunk and decide to swim out to our boat? Ah, the sounds of women's voices join the party. The men won't be getting too inquisitive about our lonely boat anchored in their out-of-the-way harbor tonight. Off to an early sleep we all go.
At 0130, the crack of thunder awakens me. More weather is moving in overnight. This time it is a thunderstorm out of the northwest. Fortunately, we are well sheltered from that direction for wind, but, for massive bolts of lightning, we are wide open. After all, our mast is about the highest thing for a mile to the west and for thirty miles to the east. I keep an eye on the storms for fortyfive minutes; thankful, I watch them slide just to the south of us.
The morning is cloudy and the coldest it has been so far, but everyone gets in a swim and washes up. I dive on the boat with my new mask and find a nick in the leading edge of the keel, similar to Serenity's last year. Someone has hit a rock and been aground in this boat. Off we go to the south again, but now with favorable winds. Under reefed genoa only, we hit 7.8 knots reaching down the coast of Manitoulin Island. I reef in more of the roller furling headsail so we can eat lunch with less heel on the boat, but in a few minutes the breeze freshens, and we're back up over seven knots again! Another reef is made, and we eat lunch with the boat straight up instead of heeled over on its side.
In a few hours we are at Rattlesnake Harbour on the northeast tip of Fitzwilliam Island. We calmly motor in and set bow and stern anchors so we don't swing around. We've been warned that there are lots of deadheads in here. I tell the kids no diving off the boat. Jay stays on board alone while the rest of us explore in the dingy. We locate a 180 foot long sunken schooner. We step cautiously ashore and take a few pictures. [The cruising guide has warned us of rattlesnakes.] We see a big "deadhead", but then it swims away! What a big fish. The winds build overnight, again, but we hold steady. Another boat in the harbor drags and moves to a new spot at night. That seems risky given the number of deadheads reported in here.
There are big winds and waves outside, so we stay put. So does Zephyr, a Bayfield 36. Cat, Jay, and I row over for an afternoon tour. Cat shows her agility in climbing aboard; it is a big step from the top rung of Zephyr's swim ladder to the taft rail. Scott and Chris are aboard. They're heading to Chicago, then on to Florida. Cat jumps in from the dingy on the way back and swims to Voyager III. Jay and I row over to the wreck (that he didn't see yesterday). It is awesome. We see a beaver swimming. Jay chases him with the Metzler. When the beaver dives and swims away underwater I realize it was him we saw yesterday, not a big fish! Fishing is unproductive. At dark we all gather on the foredeck for a "lecture" on the stars. We find the anchor light of the adjacent sailboat - "see that bright star low on the horizon"--and the Big Dipper--"follow the line formed by the two stars... one of those is the north star" It gets a big laugh from Jay for the next few days. It takes the hand bearing compass to point us to the North Star. There are so many of them! I explain that usually you use the star to find direction, not a compass to find the star! Finally we all retire to bed, nearly 2200. We needed the restful day at anchor. Tomorrow's forecast is for pleasant sailing to Tobermory.
The stern anchor comes up fine, but the bow anchor is really stuck. I rig a snatch block to the pulpit and we winch it up as far as we can, until we get to the chain portion of the rode. Using the boat and its 11,000 lbs. of momentum to yank on it, we try to break the anchor loose. As we carry forward, we seem to have broken loose, but then suddenly a big deadhead appears ahead of us. We have to stop, and then we're snagged again. We try it again, and now it's clear: our anchor is fouled on a long log! As we pull it up from the bottom, the end of it appears in the water just ahead of the boat!
The spare jib halyard is shackled to the chain and we winch some more of it up. I dive into the chilly water and attach a line around the log, now about three feet below the surface, which lets the boat hold it up, while Chris works our anchor loose from the huge tree. Finally, we get the anchor free. Now, however, we are tied to the deadhead by the other line, which we hope we can easily release. We take twenty minutes or so to get the boat in shape, and then I finally slip the line off the tip of the log and let it settle back to the bottom, some twentytwo feet below. We are free of Rattlesnake Harbour's hold on us at last! It has taken us over an hour to just pick up our anchor. We motor out, and we decide to take the long way, around the north end of Wall Island, since there is less chance of another problem going that route.
Once east of Wall Island, the breeze fills in from the northeast, and we have a nice sail, close reaching at four to five knots. We home-in on the Cove Island Light, slipping past all the shoals. The Chi-Cheemaun sails across our bow, also bound for Tobermory. We notice Jay and Cat both in the bow pulpit without life jackets! What a change over the last few days: not as much fighting, lots more confidence around the boat. We finally lose our wind as we need to come up for Tobermory. Back on the motor, we pass the now departing Chi-Cheemaun starboard to starboard--a "two whistle" pass. It has been a delightful sail, downwind mainly, with gentle seas and winds, coupled with lots of sunshine.
We are hailed by the Dockmaster as we motor into Little Tub harbor. He gives us a nice berth, and we are moored up safe and sound. I am looking forward to a good night's sleep. I've been up almost nightly with the high winds and rains we've been getting every night about 1:30 a.m. Oops! Cat drops Chris's sandal overboard. She starts to cry, but we reassure her that we'll just dive in later and retrieve it. Because we can clearly see the shoe resting on the bottom, we don't realize that we are in 17 feet of water! Mom and Fred, who have driven up from Michigan, locate us. Everyone is here!
Off the boat goes Cat. She just loves exploring. Up and down the docks she goes, trying out her new, longer leash and fresh territory. Jay tries his out, too. The two of them are having a good time. Off to dinner we all go at the Grandview Motel dining room. The whitefish special ($11) is decent, but not as fresh as you'd like it. No splake available. After dinner, it is a nice walk back to the boat and then to the "Sweet Shoppe" for ice cream. The Spumoni flavor was great, the rest just okay. At bed time, the Canadian Coast Guard has a large ship in the harbor, and they're unloading and loading equipment and supplies using a barge and a crane. It's quite a bit of noise and commotion, and it makes it hard to get to sleep, again.
A lazy morning, then we rush to make the 10:45 a.m. sailing of the Seaview III. They take us to Big Tub Harbour where we can see two giant ship wrecks. The first has about eight feet of water over her; the second has less. Divers are visible, exploring underwater. All boats must give precedence to the divers. Next Seaview III heads for Flowerpot Island. She makes a nice crossing at twelve knots. On the island at Beachy Cove is a Government Dock. Moored there is Raft, Jim Hitchins' C& C 36 (Chris' Cousin's Husband's Uncle). It is a tight squeeze getting into the harbor, as it has only six feet of water. (Charted at 4 ft, with levels runing about 2 feet above datum this year.) As we disembark the captain tells us we'll have ten minutes extra to roam the island because they're running ten minutes late today. We head north on the trail towards the flowerpots... then on to the cave... then on to the lighthouse. Finally we decide we have enough time to take the long loop back. It turns out to be quite a hike. The trail gets progressive harder to find and the climb gets steeper. Up, up, over, and down the middle bluff of the island. We get back in the nick of time, 1:18 p.m., and we just make the boat as the crew swings the boarding gate closed. They're now running eighteen minutes late!
Back on board Voyager III, Jay and I try out the solar shower on the foredeck. Then I try to dive for Chris's shoe, but it's too deep for me. Chris tries it, and finally grabs the slippery slipper on the third try, up from seventeen feet down! We do the laundry at the laundromat; it takes five washing machines and two giant dryers to get it all done. [Returning the kids with clean laundry is a requirement from their mother!] While waiting and folding clothes, we run into a crew member from Raft. We comment about the shallow harbor at Beachy Cove; she confides that they bumped the bottom going in!
Saturday night's dinner is at the Tobermory Lodge and features splake. Unfortunately frozen splake because the weather has been too rough to fish for splake the past few days. The nets have to be set in shallow water to catch them and the high winds and waves cause too much damage to the nets in shallow water. The fisherman can't take the risk of ruined nets. After dinner it is down to the Sweet Shoppe for another round of ice cream cones. Spumoni is the adult's flavor of choice. Although it's late in the summer, this far north the sun still takes its time getting below the horizon. The twilight lingers on well past 9 p.m. About 10:00 p.m. we're back on board Voyager III for our last night together with the kids. Everyone is pretty well out-of-gas from the long week's activities. The kids are still juiced up enough to tell ghost stories! Jay spins out a yarn that lasts for at least 45 minutes! Finally, I insist that the boat quiet down, and we get some sleep. It is nearly 11:00 p.m. But, it's Saturday night and the harbor is jumping with activity. The music from the big dance down the road rumbles in. Rowdy and drunken sailors and dancers yell and shout across the harbor. It is still tough to get to sleep. Then, the wind, noticeably absent for the past two days, suddenly shifts to the north and comes rolling into Little Tub, which lies open somewhat to that direction. It sets up a little swell and a roll on the boat, now moored crosswise to it. Oh well, maybe tomorrow we'll get that full night's sleep!
We're up early to get off to breakfast. At 7:00 a.m. Fred drives us up to the Tobermory Inn. We wait, and wait, almost 50 minutes with just coffee, and still our order hasn't made it to the grill. There are two big dive groups of twenty five or more getting breakfast and box lunches prepared. There's only two or three people in the kitchen and dining room. We decide to leave, perhaps a mistake. Back to the boat Chris and I fight, then decide we've got to get ready for sailing; on to the muffin shop the kids and grandparents go. When the fight's quickly settled we decide to run over and say goodby properly, but when we look over at the muffin store... the car's already gone! Darn, we are both sad that we didn't get one last hug, kiss, and a good bye before the kids left us. Our boat seems empty and very quiet without Cat and Jay on board. Feeling a little foolish about the morning and how it went, we get Voyager III ready for the open water of Georgian Bay and a day's sail northward, back to the enchanted lands of Manitoulin Island and the North Channel.
The first step in getting ready is to move to the gas dock. There we take on fresh water, top off the diesel tank, and pump out the holding tank (for which we are charged $8.00). At 0915 we motor out of Little Tub Harhour into a fresh northeast breeze of some twenty knots. It has built up fair sized waves, which we are taking on the starboard bow. Under reefed main and roller-furled jib we are making 4.5 knots close-hauled on a true course of 345.
At 1010 we are abeam Echo Island, and out here the waves are really rolling in, making our travel less than comfortable. By 1100 we are clear of the shoal at White Shingle, and stop the careful DR track we've been keeping this trip. We sail by the seat of our pants, as there aren't too many hazards between here and Fitzwilliam Island that we can't see clearly. A few tacks are needed to clear James Island. Fortunately the sun shines, but it is not very warm today. After a while we are headed by the wind and we decide to motor the rest of the way. At 1600 we glide into Rattlesnake Harbour for the second time this trip. We are glad to be out of the wind and waves again. We sailed 30.8 miles in 6.5 hours; that is an average speed of 4.7 knots, almost all upwind against substantial waves. As we settle down for a peaceful evening in the harbor, I get the urge to make a radiotelephone call to the kids, who I have calculated should be back in Detroit by now. After a few tries, we finally catch up with them at their mother's home, where they have already been out for dinner. It is a joy to hear their voices over the radio, as we recall all being in this lovely place together just a few days earlier. The radio also brings us the weather for tomorrow: SE 10-15 becoming SE 20.
At 0700 we weigh anchors in Rattlesnake Harbour. Both the bow and stern come up with loose smelly mud. On the way out Chris is at the helm in her PJ's (We are fighting again about getting going so early, but I have laid out a plan for sailing that gets us to Killarney by 1420 if we leave by 0800.) As we motor out, I am at the bow on lookout. I spot an enormous deadhead just a few feet under water. I am suddenly at a loss for words or action. I realize that we will miss it so I say nothing and we glide just past it. Any yell for a change of direction might have brought it closer to us. It lies slightly to the north side of mid-channel and abeam the second ruin on the shore just east of the point. It is a definite hazard! At 0810 we are making TC 000 at 5.5 knots and are abeam the south end of Wall Island. A group of guys chartering an Express 35, Wildflower, had been in the harbor with us and left a little before us. We are both heading north. They are a little ahead, but we are motor sailing, and we will finally catch them. This is becoming a beautiful day, as the breeze comes up to be just enough to allow us to kill the engine. The waves are very small, practically a calm sea about us, and we are nourished by another day of strong sunshine. This is the kind of relaxation and rest we need after the tough sailing of yesterday and the hectic week with the kids! I am keeping a very accurate DR track today, and from our 0900 fix to our next fix at 1110 I am only a quarter mile off with my DR plot!
About noon we finally catch Wildflower. We exchange destinations and other insights; they are heading to Killarney, while we decide to go west for Snug Harbour. At 1242 we are abeam J13 southeast of Badgeley Island, and we meander into Snug Harbour without benefit of plotting our course. The sun is behind us as we enter Snug and we can see clearly into the water for a depth of at least 10 feet. The rocky ledge to the east is very visible as we ease into the narrow entrance. We sailed 29.8 miles getting here. In the back end of the anchorage we drop our big bow anchor in about 22 feet and back off of it over 120 feet. Chris rows ashore with a stern line, and we tighten up by winching in the stern line until we are lying nicely taut on our bow anchor, with our stern towards shore. This arrangement puts us generally head to wind, and we are really dug in on that bow anchor. As evening comes, on we decide on a fish dinner, but the fish are not as productive or as large as before. I must fillet about eight or nine small ones to get a meal for us. In the dark of the cockpit I am doing "brain surgery" trying to get the bones and skin off the tiny fillets. They taste great, so it is worth it!
We encounter the worst weather so far, as all day it rains and the wind blows rather stiffly. We force an outing by dingy to go ashore and hike to Devils Bay Lake. We find it rather lower in level than in previous years, with the muddy shallows now uncovered for ten to twenty feet. It offers no productive fishing, either. We head back to the boat. The day's entertainment consists of watching a Canadian power boater anchor and tie up his 26-footer. His attempt at bailing his dingy ends up with him falling overboard with all his gear on! He seems to be immune to a chill, as he continues all morning in wet clothes and often no shirt or jacket, while we are trying to stay warm and cozy in jackets and caps against the cool temperatures, the rain, and the building winds. We decide there is no purpose in leaving here today. We can stay anchored in the rain here as well as anywhere. We will just take a day off and read.
At 0807 the radio weather forecast calls for variable 10-15 knot winds, mist patches and showers. We decide to move out of Snug just to get back in motion after languishing here for a day and a half. The weather is unstable, but in a patch of sunshine around 1130 we motor out and head west for Sheguiandah. At 1250 we are just south of the gap between Partridge and Centre Islands and about to enter some open water. A squall line is definitely heading our way. I get ready for it, with full foul weather gear, while Chris stands by in the cabin. It hits us, and the rain is very heavy. The south side of Heywood Island looms barely visible in the mist. But after about thirty minutes, the squall passes, and visibility returns to normal We decide to turn for Beaver Island Harbour, and find it a nice anchorage, protecting us from the SW breeze that fills in after the squall raced by from the NW. We anchor in about 15 feet, out in the middle, and swing on just the bow danforth. A cottager comes out to fish in his outboard, trolling for pike. He seems to be having some success, but I get nothing, as a worm left in all afternoon comes up untouched. To break the boredom of the rain I give Serenity a call on the radio. To my surprise they are moored in Snug Harbour tonight. We agree to meet them tomorrow in Browning Cove. It rains on and off most of the afternoon and evening. The cottager, a young fellow of perhaps eighteen, fishes continuously in spite of the rain.
The weather is still on the wet side, but we are drying out, and tired of being stuck in the cabin. It finally clears up a little and we weight anchor and head off to Browning Cove for our rendezvous with Serenity. We make the short haul to Browning with only a reefed genoa. In two weeks of sailing we have had the main up only four times so far. I trail a daredevil in our wake, and we regulate the boat speed by reefing, trying to keep it under 4 knots, so we can fish. We watch a gillnet tug working her nets, so we conclude there must be some fish in the area. We catch not a thing, and probably just as well, as a large fish would present a problem for the light tackle I am using, to say nothing of how I would get it in the boat! The wind is building from the west now and the sky darkening along with it. We get anchored in Browning Cove just in time to take a dip in the last of the warm sunshine. The rest of the afternoon brings a steady progression of boats seeking shelter from the growing westerly. Out in Frazer Bay it looks rather rough, but in Browning Cove it is delightfully calm.We catch this radio weather report: Snug Harbor (the town) has 48 knot SW winds, visibility 5-11 miles, air temperature 17C (66F), water temperature 20C (72F) Glad I'm not out in that breeze!
Lying just a few miles from Little Current, we are none the less faced with another uphill climb to get there. Today's weather is: Winds W 20-30 backing to S-15 with mist patches and scattered showers. We get going early to take advantage of a little sunshine this morning, and head into the teeth of the 30 knot westerly. With double reefed main and our jib rolled up to just a small patch, we get out and enjoy some heavy weather sailing to windward. Our friends aboard Serenity are out later and motoring, but, seeing us having such a good romp, they finally raise their main. They have some difficulty tying in a reef under the heavy breeze, and it takes them a while to get squared away. With a string of quick tacks, we approach the lighthouse on the north end of Strawberry Island. At the very tip the wind is really howling and funneling to dead on the nose; it takes us several tacks to get through. A sheet overrides a winch at a crucial point and we loose ground to leeward. Finally we stand-on to the north, approaching the Garden Island Bank shoals and their buoy rather closer than perhaps we would otherwise. It gives us enough room to tack and make the tip. We fall off to the southwest heading for Long Point.
The Little Current Swing Bridge timing is now crucial. We have just enough time to dash for the 1100 opening. We drop sails in an instant and start the engine. Running at maximum 3000 rpm, we take a direct course to the bridge. As it swings open, we are just entering the outer channel. Then we realize a problem: the current! As Marjorie Cahn Brazier had noted, someone had a sense of humor when they named this place! With the strong westerly breeze blowing millions of tons of water down the North Channel, it all has to funnel through the narrow passage at Little Current. As a result there must be five knots of current running under the bridge against us! We maintain maximum rpm, but our progress slows in proportion to our distance from the bridge. The closer we get, the slower we go, because it is at the bridge that the current is strongest. The bridge keeper must have noticed our plight, and he leaves the bridge open a few extra minutes. As we slowly strain our way under, we look at the boiling current and image what we'd do if our engine failed at this crucial moment! Once west of the bridge, the current abates some, but the wind increases. Where in the lee of the island it had been blowing to thirty we guessed, it now seems much stronger. The breeze is rolling in from a forty mile fetch down the channel, and it greets the western shores of Little Current with a greater intensity.
As we motor abeam of the Spider Bay Marina Channel entrance, we turn south and take the fresh breeze on our beam. Even under bare poles we heel over, and I must give Voyager III plenty of helm to weather to keep her from blowing sideways onto the channel's eastern shoals. We make fast to the gas dock, where the stiff breeze makes fenders unnecessary to hold us off the pilings. After gas, water, and pumpout, we're ready for assignment to a berth. All slips lay crosswise to the howling wind, and getting the boat safely into one will be about the greatest feat of boat handling of the entire trip. To help us are two young dockgirls, both teenagers and neither capable of handling the weight or pull of Voyager III in this wind if she gets away from us. We pick a slip with a vacant one adjoining, and with some skill at the helm --and after a quick leap off the boat to fend her off a piling-- we have her safely secured. If ever in this situation again, make the first line secured to a piling one lead from the center of the boat; that way the bow or stern will not tend to blow away while the other is fixed to a piling.
Back on land, we now face an afternoon of work on the boat. All our gear must be packed up and dragged back to the car. The boat has to be cleaned, inside and out. The head is now off-limits, since we've just had the holding tank pumped empty for the next charterer. It takes hours of work to get the boat ready for the next charterer.
So finally, and seemingly too soon, our lovely summer sailing has ended. But what dreams it fulfilled! The joy of easy sailing with the kids! The wonderful relaxation! What finer relaxation than living aboard a small sailboat for a fortnight? All the usual cares are gone, and worries of work and money and the like are replaced with worries of anchors holding, weather declining, sails and gear functioning, and other more basic cares, such as staying warm, dry, comfortable, clothed and fed--the things we take for granted in our usual existance. There is probably no finer place to do this in than the glorious outdoors and fresh waters of the North Channel and Georgian Bay. We have sailed over these magical waterways for 14 days and nights, and already we look forward to the next opportunity to sail and explore here.
Copyright © 1996, 1998 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: February 14, 1998