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North Channel Cruise 1993

  Vessel........Voyager III
  Crew..........Jim, Chris, Jay, C.C.
  Duration......14 days
  Dates.........August 7-20, 1993
  Destinations..Clapperton Island, Meldrum Bay,
                Harbor Island, Drummond Island,
                Les Cheneaux Islands, Mackinac Island,
                Detour, Pilot Cove, Turnbull Island,
                Croker Island, Little Current

The annual Wilson-Hebert family vacation cruise to the North Channel starts this year on August 7th, the first Saturday in August. We arrive earlier than usual, about 10:25 a.m., but we don't catch the previous charterers, as usual! The boat is in fine shape, but two items need some work before we can depart; the starboard cockpit locker is filthy and needs a complete emptying and cleaning, and the pedestal steering throttle linkage is broken. This is about the third time I have repaired this, so it is not a problem. I get the machine screw I need from the new hardware store a few blocks up from the waterfront. Chris has brought almost all the food, and she only needs to buy a few things in town.

Saturday, August 7, 1993

Little Current to
Clapperton Island Harbour (15 nm.)

When we leave Little Current on a Saturday, we always seem to need a close-by destination. A few years back, we would just barely turn the corner and head to Neptune Island, if going west, or stop at Browning Cove if heading east. Now, we've stretched ourselves to the point that we can sail past these harbors on our first afternoon. One thing that seems a constant is that the wind is always on-the-nose on these initial legs of our journey. This year is no exception. We depart Little Current and head west into a moderate westerly breeze. No sailing--just motoring!

(These notes are reproduced from a contemporaneous log kept during the voyage)

Aug 7, 1993  Voyager III
Jim Hebert   Chris Wilson  JayHebert   Cat Hebert

1500 LORAN   45  59.59 N  081  58.73 W Abeam Narrow Island Daymark
Hobbs Time= 2501.0 hours

    TC   261   to James Foote Patch
     v     9w
    MC   270
    d      4w
    CC   274  motoring + 5 = 279

D=4.3 miles   T=56min   ETA 1556 at James Foote Patch

Thence TC   266 to Kittawake Rock
        v     9w
        MC  275
        d     5w
        CC  280 motoring +5 = 285

1555  Abeam James Foote Patch  J66
LORAN 45 58.95 N; 082 07.94W
Now steering 285 to Kittawake Rock

1710 Abeam Kittawake Rock  LORAN 45  58.65 N;  082  13.53 W

Note: LORAN will be off air 8970 (M) 9960(z) Dana Tx off
15-17 Z Aug 18 and Aug 19

(I am picking this story-telling up almost ten months later, in June of 1994)

We are going due west, heading straight for Clapperton. There is a slight dip to the south to pass close abeam to starboard the James Foote Patch buoy. As we approach the Clapperton Island passage, the wind picks up. It's coming off the main body of the North Channel, and the wind has to funnel through the relatively narrow passage of the straits. At Clapperton we drop the hook amid some other boats. Although we have been there before, we've never anchored near the Harbour Island site. This time we find some clear water a hundred yards from shore and in the lee of the brisk westerly. I launch the dingy and row ashore, making a very quick landing to pump the air up and bail. C.C. and Chris have some dinner whipped up. It's good to be cruising again!

Sunday, August 8, 1993

Clapperton Island Harbour to
Meldrum Bay (40 nm.)

The next leg is a rather long one. We have the usual discussion about how early we should leave. The weather is fair and warm. It looks like a long motor is in store for us. The course is practically due-west. The Loran keeps track of the progress.

8 Aug 93 Day two

TC  270 due west
 v    9w
MC  279
 d    5w
CC  284 motor at 290

LORAN @ JD14    45  59.79 N;   082  19.02 W

0820 Set waypoint for 46N 082 40.00 W as WP80
R-BRG= 13.27 nm @ 280

1000  LORAN     45  59.50 N;  082  33,21 W  Speed=5.3 TC=270

TC  273
 v    9w
MC  282
 d    5w
CC  287 motoring at 292

1200 Almost abeam Cape Robert
Motoring at < 3000 rpm @ 5.3 knot indicated

1212  Range 10.28 nm  BRG  270 Mag  (261true)  to WP80

1630 Arrived Meldrum Bay.  Anchored of south end of gov't dock.

1930 Marine Broadcast Water level 0.94 m above datum

Weather  Forecast for 4 pm Sunday, valid until 4 pm Monday,
revised at 10 pm

Lake Superior  S 10-15 becoming S-SE  then SE 20-25 Monday morning

Lake Huron  SW 5-10 becoming S 10-15 Monday; Fair; waves less than 1 meter

Synopsis: Broad NE/SW ridge central pressure 1025 mB moving
          SE to Boston/WVa

Nearshore Marine Forecast at 6:30 p.m. for the North Channel:
  S to SW 5-10 ; fair ; wave less than one-half meter
  S 10-15 ; fair ; afternoon showers; risk of thunderstorms

Station KIG83 162.55 MHz  (US)
Winds S 5-15 ; clear ; waves less than 2 feet; water temperature 66;
Winds becoming S 10-20 with showers possiblly thunderstorms;
Winds SW 10-20 and thunderstorms.

We pass the north shore of Manitoulin close abeam to port at Cape Roberts. Just to the west of the cape are some interesting shoreline features; there's a big bluff with white cliffs. We're sailing along the 46th parallel of latitude. The iron-genny is working fine, and the miles slowly slide past. Soon we are in Meldrum Bay, which is suprisingly windy. We anchor out. Everyone takes a turn at shore patrol, but it seems too windy. I don't like to leave the boat alone. It's another dinner aboard tonight. This is cruising!

Monday, August 9, 1993

Meldrum Bay to
Harbor Island, Michigan (40 nm.)

Day Three  Monday Aug 9  93

0700  Computing variation; use 9 W

TC  288 to Drummond Island northern shore
 v    9w
MC  297
 d    6w
CC  304

0800 Sailing with 1 reef in main, roller furling jib at 50%
Speed 6.6 kts, peaking 7kts with 12-degrees heel on the boat.

0810 LORAN  45  58.71 N;   083 10.25 W

0900 LORAN  45  59.68N;    083 17.16 W

After 7.8 nm of sailing we are in the lee of Cockburn
Island. We mistook Tolsmaville and its bay for False Detour

1000   LORAN  46  01.60  N;   083  23.04  W

1010   TC 302 new sailing course
        v   9w
       MC 311
        d   7w
       CC 318

1015  Noted 16 foot depth at 46 02.15 N  083  24.54 W

1100  LORAN  46  04.27 N;  083  30.12 W    Had nice lunch

1200 Between Poe Pt. and Reynolds Pt. LORAN  46  05.96 N; 083  35 .54 W

This morning the weather holds fair and brings a good breeze out of the Southwest. This is perfect for our plans to head west-by-north. We motor around Twenty-Minute Point and into some nice winds and waves. We're off on a great day of sailing. The course takes us to the north of Cockburn Island. Soon we are all alone on the big blue waters, with Manitoulin slowly dissappearing in our wake. In the gap between Cockburn and Drummond, the wind builds --and the waves, too--and we are really moving along at 7 knots and a gentle reach. Soon the coast of Drummond appears and we alter course to the north to head round the top of the island.

The winds stay abaft the beam all day, until finally we are headed just as we arrive at the entrace to Potagannissing Bay. It's just as well that we have to douse the sails and resort to the motor. Approaching from the north, the dozens of islands are quite confusing. We resort to checking the Loran position and plotting it as a fix, taking a few bearings on some islands, and, after a few minutes of calculation, deduce our position and find a new course to enter the bay. Inside there are plenty of shoals and not too many markers. Chris has some local knowledge of our destination, having been there years past, but it still takes good piloting and DR plotting to keep our track on the intended course. Eventually, we arrive at another Harbour Island, this time an American one. It's now a wildlife refuge--besides a great harbour--and as the evening sun sets we see Great Blue Herons in flight.

The nearest restaurant is twenty miles by water , so it's dinner aboard again. Fishing is not productive. I row around to visit some other boats for a gam. A Pearson 42 ketch with cruising liveaboards is a nice neighbor, and the boat appears positively huge when viewed from the waterline perspective of a small dingy.

1800  Weather Forecasts    Water temp  64 F at the Soo.

Nearshore at 10:55 am Monday Aug 9: S 10-15 becoming SW;
chance of thunderstorms Tuesday: SW 5-15 becoming W; partly sunny

1800 weather roundup:
Thunder Bay   Cldy    visibility 12
Soo           Cldy    visibility 15   Winds SW at 7    Temp 25C   (80 F)
Gore Bay              visibility 15   Winds SSW at 12  Temp 23C   (76 F)

Weekly mean water levels August 3, 199
Lake Huron 0.94 m above chart datum

Marine Forecast Environment Canada at 4 p.m. August 9, 1993

Lake Superior   SE 20-25, becoming SW 15-20 tonight,
then W overnight; showers ending tonight

N Lake Hurion   S 15-20 becoming S-SW 20-25 tonight;
showers and thunderstorms developing and ending tomorrow morning.

MAFOR  11420  13420  19549  14520

Synopsis: N to S trough of low pressure just west of Lake
Superior moving to lie through Northern Lake Huron by Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 10, 1993

Harbor Island, Michigan to
Whitney Bay, Drummond Island, Mich. (10 nm.)

Day 4 Tues Aug 10

Wx: Wednesday to be great; Thurs scatterd showers;
Fri mostly cloudy 16-25; Sat mostly sunny 13-23C

N Lake Huron S to SE 15-20 becoming W this evening;
showers today; fair tonight

North Channel  SW 15 becoming W late afternoon; showers
ending in the morning; redeveloping in the afternoon.
Water temp 17C at St Mary's River

Synopsis: weak disturbance crossing the region; mist and
showers cleariing in the afternoon as system moves east.

Wednesday sunny and warmer. Tonight low 13; Thursday hi 27

This morning brings a change in weather. It's cooler and there is a definite mist in the air. Looking southward, out the opening of this natural harbor, it's hard to see the adjacent islands. The sun burns off some of the mist and it is time to go. We up-anchor and motor out, bound for the main shipping channel and Detour Passage to Lake Huron.

0845 Achored at Harbour Island
LORAN  46  02.99 N ;  083  45.72 W

1000 Depart Harbour Island  CC 240

[Lots of course calculations and distance checks]

Out in the shipping channel the fog is worse! You can barely see across the strait to the Upper Peninsula mainland. We work our way south along Detour Passage, but when we arrive at Lake Huron, a wall of fog and a fleet of salmon tournament fishing boats greet us. The Lake has a strange color; it's very dark and it has a big swell running on it, a leftover of winds past. Here it is back to navigation from bouy to bouy with careful courselines. We manage to feel our way into Whitney Bay. Once inland off the lake, the mist dissapates, and we can navigate a little more easily. We tuck ourselves into the farthest corner of the bay, where we can anchor in about ten feet and be totally protected. This looks like a great spot to fish, but none are volunteering to be caught.

Some local fishermen come out to try their luck. They are loud and crude. We can hear their entire boat-to-boat conversation, as the loudest and crudest of them brags about his (probably ficticious) conquest of some woman he picked up in a local bar. This is really an unfortunate intrusion into our family vacation, as daughter Catherine gets a taste of just how lewd men can be!

The fog slowly rolls in off the lake, and by late afternoon the shoreline fades from view. A few minutes later the other end of the boat fades from view! We are left in an eerie fog as daylight fades into evening. At somepoint, I scare the heck out of myself when I look up from the vee-berth through the transparent forward hatch and see the black sail cover on the mast. In the mist it appears like some grim-visaged-reaper! The kids want to see what is so scary, and even forewarned, its strange appearance scares them, too!

It's shipboard dinner again tonight. Our complements to the cook(s). The beer is still cold and the food is delicious. There's some mutinous talk among the kids, particularly C.C. Perhaps 96 hours straight aboard this small boat is too much for them. No one has been ashore since Meldrum Bay, and that was Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 11, 1993

Whitney Bay to
Government Bay, Les Cheneaux Islands, Michigan (30 nm.)

In the morning the sun rises strong and clear overhead, but there is still plenty of fog and mist on the water. Jay and I give fishing another shot, but there is no result; our creel is empty. Fish are a thing of the past for us!

Our destination will take us out into Lake Huron today, but at the moment the lake is uncooperative. It's a wall of fog offshore. Around 11:30 a.m. things look much better. We raise anchor and motor among the islands of the bay towards the big lake, but when we get to the last of the islands, the first bouy we need to pick up offshore is not visible in the fog. I decide we'll drop anchor and have lunch while we wait for the sun to work some more on the fog and mist.

Just West of Bellevue Island we drop the lunch hook in about 18-20 feet of water. As soon as it hits bottom I can tell something is wrong. It is snagged! Before it can get an even better grip on the bottom, I make the rode fast to the bow cleat with as much tension as I can pull into it. Chris gives us reverse power and, thankfully, the anchor breaks out of whatever had it in its grasp. We pick a new spot for anchoring and this time we find a better reception. The thought of having to dive down 18-20 feet in this cold water still makes me cold! We were right off the big lake and I am sure that the temperature at that depth would have been very, very cold.

After lunch I announce that we will not leave until we can see the first bouy out in the lake that we need to hit. About 1 p.m. the mist begins to recede enough to reveal the destination marker, and off we go. In a few more minutes the whole lake is clear of the fog, and visibility is excellent. There is nothing but blue sky overhead.

The wind is not strong enough to sail, so we are forced to motor again. We cross Detour Passage just behind the Steward J. Cort, the first 1000-footer on the Great Lakes. Unconstrained by the speed limits of the St. Marys River, she is making about 15 knots when we cross her wake. The wake itself is not much, but the turbulence in the water from her propellor is amazing, even though she is a mile away. A few moments later we hear her make a "SECURITY" call to announce her anticipated transit through the Round Island Passage (near Mackinac). She'll be there in half an hour; we'll be there in two days!

It is an afternoon of motoring as we make more westing. We are just south of the shoreline of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. About twenty miles west from Detour Passage we will tuck our little sailboat into the Les Chennaux Islands for the night.

When we enter "The Snows", as the locals call them, at around 4 p.m., the afternoon has turned hot. Swimming is a must. We try to anchor away from the powerboat crowds at the southern end of the bay, and we succeed in starting a little sailboat anchorage about 2/3rds of the way up the shore. A couple of other sailors join us, keeping a neighborly distance away so that we can all enjoy our privacy. The jet-skiers give up in time for a quiet dinner.

Later that evening Chris and I enjoy some star gazing on the forward deck. We also marvel at the nighttime waterway activity. This place is a little Venice, with boaters navigating the channels until after 2 a.m. The purr of their restored Century runabouts and the glow of their navigation lights make for good entertainment.

Thursday, August 12, 1993

Government Bay to
Mackinac Island Harbor, Michigan (25 nm.)

Today is C.C.'s birthday! We have a surprise for her, too. We've been keeping the destination of the cruise a secret. Jay finally figured it out by looking at the charts, but C.C. still does not know where we are or where we are headed. We think, naively, that she'll be impressed with a landing at Mackinac Island.

When we get underway, we hold to the inside passage and take a leisurely motor through the inland water-highway, past Cedarville and on to Hessel. (Later I find out from Dad Hebert that he spent a summer in this area back in the early 1940's, at which time he and a crew of men ran the first electrical power lines to some of the larger islands, including the one that was the home of Prentice Brown's summer cottage. He tells of how Mrs. Brown made dinner for them and treated them kindly. I think it was during the war, but I'll have to double check on that some day.) The diversion has been worth it; we get a glimpse of how the summer days of the affluent are spent up here! It seems like everyone owns three boats: a Boston Whaler for utility use (like getting the groceries via boat), a perfectly restored Chris-Craft or Century Runabout for going out in style, and a Pearson Ensign for daysailing. The number of sightings of this triple combination is significant.

We finally get back to the Lake, and now our destination, Mackinac Island, is only 15 miles to the Southwest. There are still some tensions aboard, however, and they seem to localize themselves in my lower back. In a moment of frustration, I heave on a genoa sheet a little too hard and something goes. In just a few minutes I am reduced to being barely mobile. I have to lie in the vee-berth, for an hour of so, just to ease the pain. The next few hours will not be pleasant. It usually takes a few days to work this out once it has struck. I am mad (at myself) for getting so upset and then for hauling the sheet in such an awkward postion.

We are now closely monitoring the radio to catch traffic from the Mackinac Island harbormaster. He is calling vessels that have been waiting in the harbor to come to the dock for a berth. We have optimism that we may find the harbor has room for us tonight, too.

As we approach Mackinac, C.C. still has not a clue what our destination will be. Finally, we turn the corner on the island and the huge Mackinac Bridge comes into view. She finally realizes where we are, with some prompting. She is NOT impressed. It seems like a long week aboard. My back is out. My daughter is not too happy about her situation (spending her birthday at Macknac Island aboard her own personal yacht). To make matters worse, the harbormaster tells us that there is no room at the dock tonight, so we will be spending the evening at anchor in the harbor.

Inside at Mackinac Island Harbor, the breakwater only extends eastward from the island, leaving the roadstead open to swells from the east. The transit of huge frieghters through Round Island Passage brings into the harbor unabated their considerable wakes. This makes riding at anchor quite interesting. The boat wants to lie stern to the southeast on the prevaling northwesterly, so when a big wake rolls in, it slaps the stern quarter quite hard.

Making things more interesting is the depth--20 feet-- and the crowd of boats, necessitating a short scope. Finally, things calm down, on the boat and on the seas. About 10 p.m., the old fort stikes the colors and plays taps for all of us riding in the harbor.

Friday, August 13, 1993

Mackinac Island harbor to
Mackinac Island State Marina Dock (100 yds.)

(Resuming this story, now June 1995!)

After the morning checkout, the harbormaster calls us in for a slip assignment. We get a nice shoreside slip, although it is a little shallow. When big waves roll in, it looks like the boat might even hit the bottom, so I move it as far out in the slip as possible, into the deepest water. The rest of the day is spent in a bicycle trip around the island, some shopping for food, and sightseeing. In the warm afternoon, the girls wander over to the beach to the north, really part of a hotel's property, and take a dip in Lake Huron to cool off. My back is still bothering me, so I stay aboard.

For dinner, we take carryouts to the shoreside park, across from the Round Island Point Lighthouse, the finish line for the Mackinac yacht races.

Saturday, August 14, 1993

Mackinac Island State Marina Dock

On Saturday we arise early to meet the first ferry coming over from the lower penninsula and become practically its only passengers for the return trip. In Mackinaw City, we hike over to the bus stop to await the Trailways Bus back to Birmingham. The kids are leaving for their first summer vacation bus ride. Carol Wilson will meet them at the other end. There's sadness when they leave, but also some relief as the past few days have been filled with conflicts between Catherine and me.

Chris and I walk to the biggest supermarket in Mackinaw City and do some more grocery shopping, then catch the ferry back to the island. We spend the rest of the day relaxing, and take dinner at a cafeteria that caters more to the working students than the carriage trade. We are finishing two nights on Mackinac Island during the height of the season; our accomodations have cost us only $42! Not bad considering the cheapest rooms at the Grand Hotel are about $300/night.

Sunday, August 15, 1993

Mackinac Island to
Detour Passage Marina (50 nm)

Sunday the weather turns overcast and cooler, but there is no rain. We depart the State Docks and motor eastward, this time bypassing the Les Cheneaux Islands and heading straight for Detour Passage. Later in the morning the breeze appeared breifly, but it is a day of principally motoring while using the mainsail for shade.

When we finally raise the Detour Passage Light in late afternoon, we are greeted with a pleasant surprise: heading southbound is the USCG Cutter Mackinac. Its beautiful white hull and canopied topsides are a delight to see. After a quick trip up the passage, we dock at the Detour Municipal Marina.

We want to top off the diesel fuel while still in the U.S., but a huge Viking 48 Sportfisherman beats us to the fuel dock. It's owner is Jerry Nixon from Chicago. We chat while he finishes the first of his three tanks, and he lets me jump in to pump my few gallons. He'll ultimately take over 1,000 gallons aboard! While discussing places we've been, he comments about wanting to avoid hitting any rocks and dinging a propellor. For this size boat with this much power (twin turbo charged Manns diesels) new propellors can cost as much as $ 12,000 a prop!

The rain finally arrives early that evening. After a mediocre fish dinner at a local restaurant, I join a few fisherman for a beer and a gam aboard their 20-foot outboards. The marina is loaded with guys fishing in the tournament that week.

Monday, August 16, 1993

Detour Passage Marina to
Pilot Cove, Drummond Island (25 nm)

Monday dawns fair and hazy, and we are off early for the east and the North Channel. We motor our way across Potagannissing Bay. We plan to pass between Little Trout and Bow Islands. The six-foot shoal is invisible in this lighting, and we hug the eastern side of the passage to avoid it. Leaving Saltonstall and Mare islands to port and Standerson to starboard, we transit the bay. We round Chippewa Point and return to the wide open and deep waters of the North Channel for the first time in a week. Initially we are not too sure of our destination, but as the afternoon wears on and the winds are light, we turn southward and head for Pilot Cove, a wonderful anchorage in Siltgreaves Bay on the eastern end of Drummond Island.

Pilot Cove is extraordinarily well protected, but entering it requires a careful navigation through a very narrow channel. The deep water portion of the channel is only perhaps ten feet wide, and you must slide your keel through it carefully, otherwise you'll join the hundreds of others whose stripes of bottom paint on the rocky bottom bear witness to their bumpy entrance.

Once inside, the water deepens to more than 15 feet. The little harbor contains a huge school of perch, but none are biting this day. In the late afternoon a young man, his wife, and two dogs enter in a huge 37 foot express cruiser. He does not seem too worldy about anchoring so I offer to help him by taking a stern line ashore for him. He becomes our neighbor, but at a prudent distance, thanks to where I tied his stern line.

After so many nights in marinas, it is grand to be back under the stars, although the little harbor has quite a few boats in it. Chris and I snorkel over to the entrance, We are both surprised at how narrow it really is! Later we take a long walk around the rocky beach.

Tuesday, August 17, 1993

Pilot Cove, Drummond Island to
Turnbull Island, Ontario (35 nm)

We return to sailing as a nice westerly fills in and carries us eastward, diagonally across the North Channel. First to Sanford Island, where we don't see any outstanding anchorages as we glide by its southern shore, and then on to Turnbull Island. Here we find a delightful stopping place, which we have all to ourselves. Fishing is still unproductive. We enjoy a quiet evening aboard and a short row around the place. As the wind builds from the west, we are completely sheltered.

Wednesday, August 18, 1993

Turnbull Island, Ontario to Croker Island Harbour, Ontario (25 nm)

For our return eastward, we skip the Whalesback Channel and stay "outside". We are rewarded with some fine sailing, but the wind keeps veering to the east and eventually we are forced to turn the motor back on. After letting the DR plot get rather lazy, I turn to the LORAN for a fix, only to find out that today is THE day that the LORAN is not working due to maintenance at one of the stations in the chain. We'd been hearing broadcasts about it for almost two weeks, but of course, they didn't carry much meaning until this moment.

Once in its vicinity, Croker Island becons us again. In the southern harbor we are quite alone.

Thursday, August 19, 1993

Croker Island inner Harbour, Ontario

The long two weeks of sailing have worn us out, and we just spend a lazy day at anchor.

Friday, August 20, 1993

Croker Island inner Harbour, Ontario
to Spider Bay Marina, Little Current, Ontario (20 nm)

The grand trip must come to an end. As always, we sail back to Little Current in a reflecting mood, remembering the fun and adventures of the past two weeks crusing. The winds build all day, and by the time we reach Narrow Island, we are in a hell of a blow and have quite a time reefing the last little bit of the jib. It ends up blowing the whole jib off the furling, and we have a typical moment of panic that is inevitable in sailing.

On the way in we reflect on the disaster of [a friend's] grounding in this area a few years ago. Just then the foul cross winds practically blow us out of the channel as we are trying to clear J55 at Picnic Island. Eventually, we are safe in Spider Bay marina.

Ahead: the boat clean up and the long drive home.

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