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North Channel Cruise 1994

  Vessel........Voyager III
  Crew..........Jim, Chris, Jay, C.C.
  Duration......7 days
  Dates.........July 16-22, 1994 
  Destinations..Snug Harbour,Bustard Islands,
                Burnt Island, Mill Lake,
                Covered Portage Cove, Covered Portage Cove
                Little Current

Because of the conflicts with all of our summer schedules, we have settled on taking our sailing vacation this year as a one week cruise in mid-July. Chris is leaving on a Wednesday to spend some time with her family as it gathers at Aunt Lollie's in Blind River. I will follow on Friday, with C.C. and Jay, the latter just returned from three weeks at debate institute at U of M.

Saturday, July 16, 1994

Little Current to Snug Harbour (15 nm.)

Traveling in two cars this year, Jay and I arrive earlier than usual, pulling into Spider Bay Marina about 9:45 a.m. The weather is partly sunny and temperatures are mild. It is a good day to load all the gear onto Voyager III. Chris and C.C. arrive about 11 a.m., having stopped to do some shopping at a farm market along the way. The produce is generally better at these roadside stalls than anything available at the IGA in Little Current.

Time seems to be plentiful as we pack the boat down with gear, ice, and food, but suddenly it's 1:10 p.m. We have a small window available to make the 2 p.m. bridge opening. There are a few last minute things to buy in town, like a fishing license, and a few chores, like inflating the inner tubes, so we dash off to get these done. When all reassemble at the boat, it is about ten minutes until 2 p.m., and we make a quick escape for the bridge and the eastern waters of the North Channel/Georgian Bay.

A few quick looks at the charts and we are back in familiar waters, heading now for the excellent anchorage at Snug Harbour, about 15 miles to the east. Finding the Lansdowne Channel is harder than we remember, as the wooded shores all blend together to conceal it from the casual observer. A few checks with the compass and the binoculars show that we are heading toward the right place. Around 4:30 p.m. we are at anchor in Snug and ready for a swim in the cool (70-degree F) water.

The swim introduces the first of our series of "lost" items for this week: Chris's prescription sunglasses. They come off while she is swimming in them, and settle to the bottom in about 16-18 feet of water. Unfortunately, no one of us is a good enough diver to be able to comfortably search for them at these depths, and while Jay and Chris take a few attempts, the glasses appear to be lost in the deep. Maybe we can find a SCUBA diver to look for them on a future visit. They're about 90 feet off the west shore, marked by the first big rock from the entrance. A fallen tree lies parallel to the shore behind two other tree trunks; it is to this tree we have our stern line tied.

Sunday, July 17, 1994

Snug Harbour to Bustard Islands (38 nm.)

After a nice comfortable evening with no winds or wave, we awake and plan our long sail to the Bustard Islands. Departing Snug Harbour at 0930, the wind is from the East--bad for us, perhaps!

0950 Oops! We are heading between Harris Island and Centre Island--the wrong way! We reverse our course and correctly depart from the Lansdowne and enter the northwestern end of Georgian Bay. Our course of 090-degrees will take us just north of Green Island.

1100 Sailing in light and variable SE winds, we have trouble holding 090T and are more often about 20-degree lower, around 070-degree.

1205 We are north of our course line by about a half mile. We douse sail and motor for a while to get back on the track.

Once east of Green Island the wind hauls and lifts us right back on our track. The waves increase as well, as they now have the full fetch of Georgian Bay behind them.

1400 (Approximately) We discover we have lost the dingy! I turned around to look back at our distance off Green Island as a gauge of our progress eastward. On the first observation, I didn't see anything unusual, just a nice stretch of open water behind us. A few minutes later I noticed the speedo was up to 5.7 knots, higher than it had been, and I turned around again. This time I saw a small boat (ours!) about 100 yards behind us. We quickly come about and retrieve it on the first pass.

The Pt. Grondine Rock light appears and a few minutes later the buoy also materializes out of the mist--directly ahead. Good sailing.

1447 Abeam buoy "DB2". The winds diminish, which makes our motion in the waves less steady. We change course and fall off the wind a little, This puts the seas broad on the starboard bow, but again the motion is unpleasant.

1500-1600 We are making vows that sailing is getting too tough for us. Maybe a cottage and a fishing boat (plus a day sailer) is more our speed.

1600 The RW buoy "DJ" appears dead-ahead. We start the motor and motor-sail down the entrance range. Some confusion occurs in locating " The Gun Barrel ". It looks smaller than anticipated due to the large scale chart. We enter very slowly, following the suggested route and making a u-turn around Pearl Island. We end up anchored off the NE tip of Burnt Island

Monday, July 18, 1994

At anchor in the Bustard Islands

As planned, we just spend the entire day relaxing and exploring the area. I troll for some big fish in the morning until the borrowed Cruis-N-Carry outboard stops working. I think the plug is fouled; the motor had been smoking from too much oil in the fuel mixture. The weather is great. There is plenty of sunshine but it is not too hot and the boom tent makes an excellent wind scoop through the cockpit.

Tuesday, July 19, 1994

Bustard Islands to Mill Lake via Beaverstone Bay (25 nm)

The forecasts are as follows:

Near shore Marine Forecast from Wiarton Coast Guard Radio via Meaford on Channel 81B
Lake Simcoe: Winds light and variable becoming SW at 10 kn.
Georgian Bay: Light SW increasing to 10 kn. and then backing to South in the afternoon.
Lake Huron South 5-10 becoming S/SW 10-15. Mist then Fair. Wave less than one half meter.
North Channel: Light South. Scattered Showers and Thunderstorms. Fog lifting. Showers redeveloping. Thunderstorms.

Synopsis: A weak High from Western Ohio to Eastern Lake Superior

The weather looks clear for our local region and at 11:30 a.m. we depart the Bustards. The thinking is that we better move part-way back west today, while the weather is good. This way if the weather deteriorates tomorrow, we won't have the whole north end of the Bay to cross in bad weather. From here, the route is initially all on the "outside." Westward from Beaverstone Bay, there is an option of an inside route.

1200 Motoring out on the Bustard Island range, I check the observed course versus the predicted: 271-272 observed vs. 271 predicted. An excellent check on our compass error.

1215 Under sail at 5.5 kn.

1300 Loran position shows us north of our intended track by 0.25 miles! Heading up, and still plenty of wind to spare on this tack.

Once clear of Pt. Grondine Rock, we head for the RW "DB6" off of Beaverstone Bay. We transit the rather tricky (four ranges!) entrance under motor. Inside the bay, we return to sailing by unfurling the genoa. This gives us 5 knots of speed.

Our intended anchorage, Muskrat Bay, is filled with three large power boats. We decide to go farther and look for a spot in Mill Lake. While Chris and C.C. make dinner preparations (5-layer dip), Jay and I navigate the narrow and shallow dredged channel at the head of the Bay. The lake level was reported 0.85 meters above datum. The lowest reading seen on the depth sounder is about 6.0 feet, with an occasional 5.7 showing.

The beauty of Collins Inlet surprises us! We were here two years ago, but we forgot how wonderful this stretch of the trip was. We motor on into Mill Lake where we find a nice tie-to-shore and stern anchor arrangement in 8-9 feet of water. Fishing produces 4-inch perch at will. Dinner was great. Chris and I do a long row around the southern end of Mill Lake.

Wednesday, July 20, 1994

Mill Lake to Covered Portage Cove via Killarney (25 nm)

The morning sun produces a better angle of view into the water, revealing a rather large submerged rock we could not see yesterday that lies a little closer than one would prefer. This makes the retrieving of the shoreline and stern anchor a little more interesting than usual.

We motor back into Collins Inlet and proceed along the small craft inland route towards the entrance at Lake Huron. When we finally arrive at the lake, there is a rather large sea running and the wind is up to about 15 knots from the Southwest. This produces a very mixed and confused sea along the shoreline towards Killarney. I immediate think of the phrase broadcast with every weather prediction:

"Remember winds and waves can vary considerably
due to shoreline effects."

We reflect on the wisdom of having sailed the long leg yesterday in relative calm and fair winds. Although our distance to run is short, perhaps only three miles, it is a rough ride and we are very glad to enter Killarney's calm water.. The only problem is so is everyone else! The harbour is filled with boats, so we forego our usual stop for a pump out, ice, and water, and instead, we motor directly for Covered Portage Cove. By evening everyone else gets there, too. There are over fifty boats in the inner harbour and more anchored just outside.

Thursday, July 21, 1994

At anchor Covered Portage Cove

Unlike our previous days, when rain had threatened but never come, Thursday brings rain. It starts about 1:00 a.m., accompanied by strong winds that funnel through Covered Portage from North to South. Since we are anchored E-W, this means they hit us broadside, causing the maximum possible strain on our anchor tackle. Just to port of Voyager III, a large Cabo Rico 38 breaks her anchor loose and begins to blow down on two other boats tied to shore. As luck would have it, this is the night I am most tired. I swam hard all day and suffered very painful cramps in my legs that awakened me a few hours earlier. Now I stagger on deck to find the towels hanging on the lifelines snapping in the 20-30 knot gusts of the thunderstorm rolling in. Even worse, the boom tent is still rigged, and it presents considerable sail area to the wind. Just as Chris and I start to unrig the boom tent, the rain increases to a downpour. We decide to leave it up since to remove it would drench the cabin. I stand by while the unfortunate captain of the Cabo Rico manuevers to find a new spot to anchor. Eventually, the storm passes and we get back to sleep around 2 a.m.

When morning comes, the wind has left, and behind it is more rain, accompanied by mist and fog. This is the morning for that pancake breakfast we have been saving. Cooking, eating, and cleaning up fills most of the morning. The rains comes and goes, but mostly hangs around in a continuous drizzle. It is a good day to catch up on your reading.

Around 4 p.m. the rain finally lets up. I take the dingy for a row while Chris, C.C., and Jay take a swim. Our neighboring boat, a black hulled traditional looking steel ketch, attracks the attention of a number of fellow sailors who drop in for a visit with its owner/builder/captain. I accept his invitation for a later visit, and after dinner I row over for a tour. It is quite a nice boat. He's a millwright at the Steel Mill in the Soo and built the boat and just about all the fittings on it from steel. Catherine accompanies me, and she takes great delight in flirting with the two boys aboard.

Since we had not been able to get a pump out on Tuesday, we are now resorting to extraordinary measures to conserve room in the boat's holding tank. We really should have waited for the pump out!

Thursday evening brings the last hand of Liverpool Rum. Jay wins. He's getting to be a good card player.

Friday, July 22, 1994

Covered Portage Cove to Spider Bay Marina, in the fog (20 nm)

The rain stops Friday, but in its place is a heavy fog and mist, which, with very little wind to blow it off, looks like it will hang around for quite a long time. Around 10 a.m. we decide that we might as well attempt the navigation to Little Current in the fog, and we make ready to leave. The 13-pound Danforth that held us so well on Wednesday night now requires some extra effort to pull out of the mud. We leave just behind three much larger boats, two of which are equipped with radar. By the time we are clear of the entrance rocks of Covered Portage, we see our trio of gold-platers returning! Eavesdropping on their radio conversation we learn that one's radar is not working and the other does not feel confident in leading the pack. We press on, radarless, but equiped with LORAN and good navigation skills.

The fog is heavy enough to obscure our first destination in its mists. We motor slowly off into the fog, heading for the reverse track back towards Killarney. We pick our way along several islands and shoals, and soon we are turning SW around the bouy at Mary Ann Bank. From this point there is nothing but deep water and a few islands ahead. A pair of those islands materializes almost in our path about fifteen minutes later; we are off our intended track a few hundred yards to the right.

By noon we are rounding the southern end of Badgely Island, and the weather has cleared enough to allow us to clearly locate the bouy that marks the only harzard in this stretch. I calculate our arrival at Little Current based on our current speed, a conservative 4 knots, and I find we will miss the 2 o'clock bridge opening. However, if we increase to 6 knots, we should make it in plenty of time. The throttle comes full forward, and the diesel revs to a noisy 3200 revolutions, its service maximum.

From here, the weather suddenly changes to heavy rain, which in turn almost becomes hail. The rain relents, and as we eventually circle outside of Spider Bay Marina waiting for a berth, the sun returns to create a beautiful day. Unfortunately, we spend the rest of the day dockside and cleaning the boat.

Copyright © 1996-1998 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: January 18, 1998;