continuousWave--> Sail-Logs --> North Channel 2008

A narrative of our week-long 2008 trip to the North Channel of Lake Huron.


Date:Saturday, July 26, 2008
Weather:Warm and sunny
Winds:Strong Westerly
Departure:Beverly Hills, Michigan
Destination:Blind River, Ontario
Distance:458 miles by highway

(A note on prices: we use US and Canadian units interchangeably since the currencies were just about at par at the time of this trip.)

We are departing at 8:30 a.m., a bit later than planned. We take a detour via I-96 and I-127 to avoid a delay with the closed northbound lane of I-75 at the Zilwaukee Bridge. This adds about 36 miles to the trip by jogging west then north, but avoids an ugly traffic tie-up possibility.

We add fuel to the truck at the exit for the litle town of Waters on I-75 south of Gaylord. We hope to have enough to make it to Blind River and back to the U.S. without purchasing fuel for the truck in Canada. The truck gets about 11-MPG when hauling the boat. With 40-gallons we should have 440-mile range.

We cross the beautiful Mackinac Bridge and pay a $6 toll. An hour later at 3:55 p.m. we arrive at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, and exit at THREE MILE ROAD prior to the bridge. We get gas for the boat. Many of the customers at this gas station have boats on trailers and are adding fuel to their boat prior to crossing to Canada. I don't want a full-to-brim tank because we have several hours of driving left, including a rather steep descent coming off the bridge span to enter Canada. I don't want any fuel spilling at customs and immigration inspection. We leave with about 60-gallons in our 77-gallon tank. (Details of fuel purchases and fuel consumption are given in a summary at the conclusion of the narrative.)

At 4:20 p.m. we are on the International Bridge to Canada; the toll is $4. We clear customs at 4:35 p.m. with minimal delay and questioning. We are on the highway again at 4:40 p.m. after a weird new detour west, north, east, and south around the center of the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

We have been having very high winds all day. On the road we are heading eastward at 55-MPH and maintaining pace with shadows of clouds moving overhead. In other words, the winds aloft at 55-MPH or more We experience a short delay on Trans-Canada Highway-17 when it is reduced to a one-lane bridge at Desbarat, Ontario.

We arrive at Blind River at 5:45 p.m., 458-miles total. We take a wrong turn to the launching ramp, necessitating an awkward turnaround on a narrow pier. The ramp is rustic but functional. Its slope bottoms out quickly and we have to really bury the trailer in the water to get CONTINUOUSWAVE to come off. Launch is complete at 6:00 p.m. Pat on HOME ASIDE has driven here by highway, too. He is preparing to launch after having relaxed a bit. Dave on GAMBLER and David and Kathy on HOOSIER have also arrived recently, coming across by boat from Detour. They had a rough crossing with all the wind and waves today.

We proceed to A-Dock with a 20-knot cross wind, then we enter the fairway between the finger piers heading downwind with a strong tailwind. It is difficult to turn upwind in the narrow channel, made even more so by some larger boats which hang out into the fairway. To enter our slip we have to turn in an area where the channel dead-ends at a break-wall with rip-rap. With the big winds, we have a very difficult time making the turn. We have a few very anxious moments among the other boats.

Five of us go to dinner at 7:30 p.m. at the Auberge ELDO on the main highway a mile away. Pat hangs back to wait for Paul and Suzanne to arrive by highway with CICADA. The ELDO owner comes to pick us up in his car. He's from India, and he and his wife have just purchased the motel and restaurant. They arrived in March, and they have not spent a winter here yet. Dinner at Auberge ELDO is fresh pickerel and whitefish, nicely prepared; $45 for two dinners.

It rains overnight.


Date:Sunday, July 27, 2008
Winds:Strong Westerly
Departure:Blind River, Ontario
Destination:Little Current, Ontario
Distance:60 miles by boat

Photo: Blind River Marina docks with overcast sky and high winds.
Blind River Marina A-DOCK host CONTINUOUSWAVE, HOOSIER, and GAMBLER with strong westerly winds and overcast sky. To make the flags stand straight out from their staff you need wind speeds of 25-MPH. It's a blustery morning. All photos are by the author, unless otherwise noted.

Photo: Blind River Marina docks with overcast sky and high winds.
TAMPICO, HOME ASIDE, and CICADA lie on the north side of A-DOCK.

Winds are still strong and the sky is overcast. There is no rain. Dave Pendleton and TAMPICO arrive around 9 a.m. and make the same error in proceeding to the launch ramp; he makes the same awkward U-turn backing maneuver and launches about a half-hour later. Our fleet is assembled, all six boats we expected to meet are here and ready to go.

The continuous marine broadcast informs that the swing bridge in Little Current will not be operating due to high winds. The weekly water level for Huron reported at 0.27-meter above chart datum. We depart Blind River by boat at approximately 11 a.m. and proceed eastward fifteen miles to the Whalesback Channel.

Photo: Whalesback Channel as seen from astern CONTINUOUSWAVE.
By late morning the sky begins to clear somewhat, and we have made 15 miles of easting to the Whalesback Channel. We are now in calmer water and running in the lee of a series of offshore islands.

Photo: CICADA in Whalesback Channel.
CICADA, an OUTRAGE 18, is heavily loaded with gear and supplies. The Wm. J. Mills & Co. forward shelter, windshield, side curtains, and flying top turn the open boat into a mini-cruiser.

Photo: Little Detroit approaching from west.
The eastern exit from the Whalesback Channel is via Little Detroit, a narrow passage where nature had provided only a foot of water. A 75-foot wide breech was blasted in the rock to create a deeper passage. We slow down to let the sailboat ahead make its transit.

Photo: Little Detroit looking back to west.
Behind us CICADA is about to turn onto the range to transit the narrowest part of Little Detroit. Following are GAMBLER, TAMPICO, HOME ASIDE, and HOOSIER.

We transit Little Detroit at 12:40 p.m. and proceed eastward in the McBean Channel. We divert southward and loop back west at Eagle Island for lunch. Making way upwind for a mile or so is very difficult, even though we are in the lee of Eagle and the waves are small. Winds are still strong off the North Channel and SW at 15 to 20 knots. We have a leisurely lunch in the wind shadow of Eagle Island until the anchors drag as the winds build.

We depart Eagle Island anchorage approximately 3:30 p.m., and proceed eastward in McBean Channel. East of Fox Island and Croker Island we are exposed to the southwest wind and waves. Confused seas return from the north shoreline and create mixed waves. The passage is difficult despite being downwind and following quartering seas.

We divert southward at Bedford Island to get some lee from seas and winds. We pass carefully among shoals between East Rous Island and Schreiber Island, and enter the Wabuno Channel, relatively calm and sheltered. We approach Narrow Island from the north, exposed to a big swell from the west now. We turn left and head directly downwind to Little Current, and the winds and waves funnel into the Little Current narrows, as they always do when westerly. The wind is 20-knots or more.

We arrive at Spider Bay Marina approximately 5 p.m. I make an upwind entry into the cramped last slip on the pier adjacent to a shoal and rip-rap. It's much easier to control the boat going upwind than downwind in these docking situations.

After cocktail hour on the boat we walk 0.25-mile to town for dinner at the Anchor Inn where we have fresh lake trout, probably from an aqua-culture farm nearby, well-prepared, and $33 for two dinners. The quality of the food is excellent and surprises us as previously the Anchor Inn was not expected to serve such good food.


Date:Monday, July 28, 2008
Weather:Warm and sunny
Departure:Little Current, Ontario
Destination:Killarney, Ontario
Distance:20 miles with a long 35-miles side trip by boat


Weather is fair, warm and sunny with scattered gray clouds.

SYNOPSIS at 0300 28 JULY (transcribed from broadcast)

At 0300 EDT today a N-S trough over Lake Ontario
At 0300 EDT Tuesday a NE-SW trough over eastern Quebec

At 0300 EDT today a N-S ridge over northwest Ontario
At 0300 EDT Tuesday a N-S ridge over Lake Huron

At 0300 EDT Tuesday a 995-mB LOW over Manitoba

MARINE FORECAST (Wind speed in knots)

Western Lake Superior: Winds W-20 veering to SW-20
Tuesday afternoon; showers Tuesday morning.

Eastern Lake Superior: Winds NW-10 decreasing to light,
then becoming SE-15 in the afternoon.
Increasing to SW-20 on Tuesday and veering to W-20
Tuesday evening. Risk of showers and thunderstorms.

Whitefish Bay: Winds NW-10 decreasing to light,
then becoming SW-15 overnight and Tuesday.
Risk of showers and thunderstorms.

Northern Lake Huron: Winds NW-15 decreasing to
NW-10 at noon, and becoming light. Tuesday morning
winds SE-15 building to SE-20 Tuesday afternoon.
Showers. Risk of thunderstorms.

We depart our slip and move to the fuel dock approximately 10:15 a.m. LOG is reset to 0 from 50.3. I don't recall resetting the mileage LOG at Blind River, and this number seems a little off. (According to GOOGLE EARTH we should have made about 61-miles in this passage. But that number does not work well with the fuel burn, as it puts the fuel economy too high. I must have reset the log after we left Blind River. It's about ten miles short of what was probably our actual distance travelled.)

At approximately 11 a.m. we depart Spider Bay marina and head eastward to the swing bridge. We are low enough we can get under without waiting for the once-per-hour opening. A large sailboat barrels through the NO-WAKE zone at hull speed under motor, trying to make the bridge before it swings closed at 11:15 a.m.

Photo: Spider Bay Marina at Little Current.
CICADA idles out from Spider Bay Marina at Little Current, Ontario. The fuel dock is very busy and can be seen in the background.

Photo: Swing Bridge at Little Current.
The swing bridge at Little Current only opens for 15 minutes on the hour. A backlog of larger boat traffic builds up on either side. The large sailboat has timed it right. It's 11:05 a.m., and the bridge has just finished opening.

Photo: Swing Bridge at Little Current close up.
By the time we transit at 11:17 a.m. the bridge has swung closed again. It was built in 1913 for the rail line and wasn't converted for use by automobiles until after World War II. The 95-year-old structure is Manitoulin Island's only direct link to shore.

Photo: Lighthouse at Strawberry Island with HOME ASIDE in foreground.
HOME ASIDE, a 22-foot Boston Whaler REVENGE model, passes us close abeam just north of the tip of Strawberry Island and its lighthouse.

We transit the bridge and proceed eastward, passing Strawberry Island at 11:30 a.m. Then we turn north into Frazer Bay and divert westward to visit Dreamer's Rock. The rest of the flotilla decides not to follow due to extreme shoaling and no aids to navigation. We find the narrow channel despite less than ideal lighting conditions as clouds roll in and obstruct direct sunlight. The depth shoals from 95-feet to 3-feet in a straight vertical wall. I take a few pictures of Dreamer's Rock and then we return to the relative safety of Frazer Bay. Time is noon.

Photo: Dreamer's Rock, just east of Little Current.
Dreamer's Rock has historical importance in the local First Nation culture. Young men went to its top for fasting rituals in which they would receive their vision quest. The overcast sky dulls the appearance of this otherwise remarkable landscape. It also makes reading water depth impossible, so our approach is very cautious and a bit too nerve wracking for my co-pilot, Chris, who says, "This is the last time I do this!"

The group of six boats proceeds eastward to the entrance to Baie Fine (pronounced "bay fin") then onward for approximately 11-miles to The Pool. Navigation is not difficult. We raft together for lunch and relax. We enjoy the day. The anchorage is overgrown with weeds, an exotic pest--Eurasian Milifoil. The small islet with the cottage of the Evinrude family shows no sign of recent occupancy.

Photo: Boston Whaler OUTRAGE V-20 underway in Baie Fine.
David and Kathy travel on HOOSIER, a Boston Whaler OUTRAGE V-20. They are carrying a ton of gear and supplies, giving the boat a bit of load in the stern. The fuel economy of their Suzuki four-cycle motor is remarkable. They're proceeding along the north shore at low speed as we begin our delightful trip into Baie Fine.

Photo: Boston Whaler OUTRAGE 18 underway in Baie Fine.
Dave on GAMBLER overtakes us at high speed in a mutual photo opportunity. Astern you can see the fjord-like nature of Baie Fine.

Photo: Approaching The Pool at the head of Baie Fine.
About ten miles up into Baie Fine, the passage narrows as we approach The Pool. This image shot with gray skies does not convey the true beauty and grandeur of this area.

Photo: Helm area of CONTINUOUSWAVE while approaching The Pool at the head of Baie Fine.
This smile on Chris's face indicates the fun of cruising in this remote but accessible area of Lake Huron's north shore.

Photo: Cockpit of GAMBLER while rafted in The Pool at the head of Baie Fine for lunch.
Dave breaks out lunch gear from the many stores in the cockpit of GAMBLER, a Boston Whaler OUTRAGE 18. The fleet is rafted together for lunch.

Photo: Cockpit of TAMPICO while rafted in The Pool at the head of Baie Fine for lunch.
Everyone relaxes after lunch and has a gam with other members of the fleet. Here are TAMPICO, HOME ASIDE, and CICADA.

Photo: Narrows at head of Baie Fine.
Heading back west from our lunch anchorage, we approach this narrow passage into Baie Fine. The depth shoals to about five feet here, limiting the draft of boats which can come up to The Pool.

We depart The Pool about 3:30 p.m., retracing our path outbound in Baie Fine to Frazer Point. At 4:30 p.m. we are heading south across Frazer Bay to the Lansdowne Channel. There is some confusion at Richards Reef, but the shoal is avoided. (NOTE: The aid marks the southern end of the shoal and is intended for the east-west channel to the south, that is, the aid would normally be on the north side of an east or west passage. When approaching this shoal from the north, you must pass wide of the mark to avoid the shoal which lies entirely due north of the mark.)

Proceeding eastward in Lansdowne Channel toward Killarney, we hail Killarney Mountain Lodge (KML) on VHF radio and arrange dockage. Unfortunately dockage at KML turns out to be next to a large yacht with two families aboard. They're a somewhat high-noise environment with public address loudspeakers playing ABBA cover band recordings and six children using the yacht's launch and other aquatic entertainment devices. Also the yacht is leaking oil and our hulls are being fouled with an oily scum line.

A shore party takes a room at KML. Unfortunately the rustic accommodations are disappointing, particularly with respect to the cost. The REBEL ALLIANCE group (GAMBLER, HOME ASIDE) departs the KML dock for anchoring out in a wilderness cove. The KML dock eventually quiets as the entire crew of our neighboring yacht take shore accommodations for the night.

A subgroup of married couples have a quiet dinner at the Lodge. The fish choice is again Lake Trout, and again presumed to be from local aqua-culture farms. The fish is not prepared in a manner which takes best advantage of its freshness. Price is a bit steep, too. There is no blueberry pie. The lodge touts "Grandma's Cooking," but this Grandma is not up to the usual standards of Killarney Mountain Lodge.

Our position on Dock 12 is at its extreme outward end, and this gives us direct exposure to Georgian Bay to our south when we look down the channel. As there is no breakwater, a very small remnant swell is rolling in off the 60-mile fetch of the bay. We are moored crosswise to it. To ensure immunity to any discomfort from the slight rocking motion we now have on the boat, we increase the dosage of our evening liquor (B&B) to compensate.


Date:Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Weather:Warm and sunny
Waves:Less than one-foot
Departure:Killarney, Ontario
Destination:Pot Hole Portage, Iroquois Bay, Lake Huron
Distance:25-miles very carefully by boat


Marine Forecast

North Channel: Winds light then increasing to SE-10,
then backing and increasing to E-15.
By Wednesday morning W-15 and decreasing
to W-10 by evening. Showers this evening.

Local: Wind E-6, Temperature 16-degree-C, Barometer 1016mB

About 10:00 a.m. we settle the bill with the lodge ($89 for dinner and dockage, plus a $10 cash tip) and we depart the dock. We move just a short distance north to the fuel dock at Pitfields Killarney General Store. Fuel is cheaper than at KML.

We rendezvous with the REBEL ALLIANCE off Ann Long Bank, and we head back westward through the Lansdowne. As we reach open water, we give VINGILOT many calls on VHF Channel-16. We are anticipating a rendezvous with them today, however our transmission are not answered. Just before noon we transit the very narrow entrance at Hole In The Wall. Dave on TAMPICO elects to avoid it entirely and takes an easier route into Frazer Bay.

Photo: Hole In The Wall, a narrow and shoal short cut to Fraser Bay.
With a beautifully sunny day and crystal clear water, it was not too difficult to negotiate the narrow and shoal entrance to Fraser Bay by using the Hole In The Wall shortcut. This is a bit of insanity, as the shortcut saves about a half mile, while requiring you to find the 20-foot wide channel of deep water in an unmarked passage. The locals zip through here at 35-MPH.

Photo: HOOSIER, a Boston Whaler OUTRAGE V-20 underway in Fraser Bay.
While Dave drives HOOSIER, Kathy takes pictures. Part of the fun of cruising with other boats is seeing the other boats in scenic settings like this. The weather has finally cooperated with some strong sunshine.

We head north across Frazer Bay, turn eastward at McGregor Point, and enter the very rocky and shoal water of McGregor Bay. This area was for decades uncharted and known only to locals. A hand-drawn chart was available at TURNER'S store in Little Current, the work of some adventurous Great Lakes Cruising Club members. The area was carefully surveyed by the Canadian Hydrographic Office in the 1990's, but publication of a chart was very slow. Finally, in 1997 CHART 2206 was issued. It unlocked the mysteries of McGregor Bay to all who wished to enter, albeit with soundings in meters, just to make it interesting.

Photo: Boats trasiting the very narrow Government Cut in McGregor Bay.
To transit Government Cut, we slow down and follow the leader. This passage was created by blasting away a lot of rock. The JAVEX bottle float marks a big rock and was placed by the local boaters. Unofficial buoyage is common in this area.

Photo: Boats trasiting the very narrow Government Cut in McGregor Bay.
After we make it through Government Cut, I take a look back to see how it appears from the other direction. This will help us visualize the proper courseline on the way out. You can see the broken rock which was removed from the passage following the blasting. The locals say this cut was created in the 1940's to permit Franklin Roosevelt to go fishing in this secluded area following a secret meeting with Winston Churchill. Even in 2008, with GPS navigation and excellent charts, it is rather hard to find!

Following GAMBER's lead, we all successfully navigate to Pot Hole Portage, a small cove in the extreme northwest end of Iroquois Bay. This is about as far off Lake Huron as you can get by boat. In the cove we initially tie up in three groups. TAMPICO joins the REBEL ALLIANCE and sets anchor at the western end. CONTINUOUSWAVE makes fast to a tree clinging to a vertical rock face on the south side. CICADA rafts off us. HOOSIER explores the fishing possibilities on the north side.

Photo: Six boats in Pot Hole Portage, a remote anchorage of Lake Huron's North Channel and Iroquois Bay.
Pot Hole Portage, as seen from its northwestern end. Photo by David Buckalew.

After we have our lunch sandwiches made, we set them out in the sun to warm up, and we dive in for a swim over to the REBEL ALLIANCE raft. We are about 50-yards away, and the swim across the cove (in 71-degree water) is refreshing. We renew our acquaintance with Dave and Pat, and we're about to swim back. Then HOOSIER hails us by radio with news that they have sighted a snake swimming near their boat. We're not sure if they're kidding, but they're far enough away that we consider the snake not to be a threat. We jump back in and swim the 50-yards to our boat.

Photo: Boats rafted in Pot Hole Portage
All six boats raft together in Pot Hole Portage for the evening. We are riding on two anchors and two lines ashore. TAMPICO has the best swim ladder, and it becomes the point of return for swimmers.

The lunch was delightful: cold beer and warm sandwiches. Later in the day we move over and join the raft, as does CICADA and HOOSIER. All six boats are snug in this remote cove. We have a leisurely dinner, and then gather on TAMPICO for a slide show shown via a laptop computer. A rather prodigious amount of fine blended Canadian spirits are consumed in the course of the evening. We retire to our own boats and have a very quiet, very calm evening in our anchorage. No charge for anchoring out.

Photo: Shoreline in Pot Hole Portage
Much of the terrain in this area was created by movement of glaciers. The granite in this region has a pinkish brown hue. Getting ashore on those rocks from the water proved to be rather difficult.


Date:Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Winds:Building westerly
Waves:Building to 2- to 3-foot
Departure:Pot Hole Portage, Ontario
Destination:Kagawong, Ontario
Distance:45-miles by boat

We have some rain overnight, and an east wind comes up. Our position exposes us somewhat to the east, but the raft holds firm on the two anchors we set, TAMPICO's large Delta claw and CONTINOUSWAVE's 15-lb Danforth.

Photo: En route leaving McGregor Bay in overcast and mist
Leaving McGregor Bay finds us in overcast skies and mist. In these conditions it is very difficult to read water depths. Our navigation is careful and deliberate. In spite of all caution, in one moment of inattention a boat in the flotilla briefly touches the bottom while underway at dead slow idle. Fortunately there is no damage.

Photo: En route leaving McGregor Bay in overcast and mist
Onboard GAMBLER, Dave has his chart plotter's cookie trail of our course track on the way in yesterday. We follow the trail on the way out in the mist. Chris pilots CONTINUOUSWAVE right in GAMBLER's wake.

Photo: En route leaving McGregor Bay in overcast and mist
After more than an hour at dead slow, we finally transit the last--and one of of the most difficult--narrows on our way back to open water. TAMPICO has moved up to tuck in behind GAMBLER. With a Duo-Prop stern drive, he is justifiably worried about finding the rock bottom.

After 10 a.m. we break up the raft, retrieve our anchor, and begin the slow passage of finding our way out of this remote harbor. It takes us until noon to make our way to the open water of McGregor Bay. From there we get on plane and run at speed toward Little Current. We arrive just a few minutes before the swing bridge will open at 1 p.m. This is advantageous, as there is a flotilla of larger boats waiting for the bridge to allow them to proceed westward. We beat all of them to the open dock space in Little Current.

We take care of all sorts of chores while in Little Current, including taking on fuel at Wally's Gas Dock. By 3 p.m. we are all still at the dock, engaged in a discussion of where to proceed next. We select a target of Kagawong, not more than 15-miles westward. The winds have switched back to westerly, and there is a strong breeze blowing through the narrows at Little Current. This foreshadows some head seas for us when we depart.

For about an hour we bang into 2-foot or larger waves, making our way westward toward Clapperton Island, where we turn south into Mudge Bay. Here we part ways again with the REBEL ALLIANCE, as they turn north to find an anchorage. CONTINUOUSWAVE, TAMPICO, HOOSIER, and CICADA take overnight dockage at Kagawong.

The dock is now being operated by the local municipality, The Township of Billings. Their accountant has been pressed into service as dock master. He is doing a good job. The marina charges $1.40/foot for dockage.

Photo: Municipal dock at Kagawong
The small marina at Kagawong has just enough space for four of our boats. These old docks contain spiders of astonishing size and numbers. This view shows the length-beam ratio of CONTINUOUSWAVE, 3:1.

Photo: Municipal dock at Kagawong
TAMPICO and HOOSIER tie to the end of the next dock. After a long upwind passage to get here, everyone was glad to take a break on solid land for the afternoon.

We take a hour-long walk to Bridal Veil Falls and return. Then we have an excellent dinner at Chase's Restaurant (formerly Needle's Restaurant), which serves us perfectly prepared whitefish and chips--gravy and vinegar optional. The meal for two with generous tip was $41.00. As they have no liquor license, they graciously allowed us to BYOB for drinks, which saved a small fortune on the dinner bill.

Back at the dock, the wind has been building and continues to blow through the Clapperton Passage and then veer southward. As a result we have a wave pattern from the northwest hitting the dock. It is not a solid break wall, so again we have some motion on the boat as we sleep. The wind blows out all the clouds, giving us a perfectly clear sky. Paul assembles his large, powerful, and home-made telescope, which gives us all an impressive view of the heavens. I see the striations of Jupiter with my own eyes for the first time. An terrifically bright object transits about 10 p.m. Dave Pendleton says, "It's the space station." (Several months later, after looking up some orbital data, it turned out Dave was correct: we saw the International Space Station!)


Date:Thursday, July 31, 2008
Weather:Cool and overcast
Winds:Building Westerly
Waves:Building to 3-foot
Departure:Kagawong, Ontario
Destination:Gore Bay, Ontario, via the Benjamin Islands
Distance:45 miles by boat


Fair weather, sunny and warm at 7:30 a.m. Cloudy and cool at 8:30 a.m. Overnight the NW winds eventually died, leaving remnant waves rocking us at the dock all night. The worst was around 3 a.m.


North Channel and Northern Lake Huron: Winds NW-15
decreasing to W-10. Friday chance of showers.
Risk of thunderstorms

1030 EDT today a 1000-mB LOW in western Quebec
1030 EDT Friday a 1004-mB LOW in southern Quebec

1030 EDT today a N-S ridge in NW Ontario
1030 EDT Friday a N-S ridge in eastern Lake Superior

A little after 10 a.m. we leave the dock and reassemble in Mudge Bay. We head north to rejoin with the REBEL ALLIANCE. They have spent the evening in Logan Bay, a good anchorage on the east side of Clapperton Island where they probably spent a calmer night than we did at the dock. As we run on plane the weather is decidedly cooler, and the skies are full of gray clouds. We see heavy rainfall on the horizon to the east. We're glad it missed us.

Photo: Cloudy skies
To the east of us the meteorology looked considerably worse than our overhead sky.

After rousing GAMBLER and HOME ASIDE from Logan Bay, we pass south of Croker Island and west of Secretary Island, and then we turn northwest and enter the western half of the pluton formation of the Benjamin Island Group. We explore several possible anchoring locations, looking for a good lee and wind break from the westerly breeze. Eventually we anchor just east of South Benjamin Island, tucked in its lee and behind the rocks known as The Sow and Pigs. We have a new REBEL ALLIANCE, as CONTINUOUSWAVE and GAMBLER raft, while CICADA, HOME ASIDE, and TAMPICO join a separate floating unit. HOOSIER goes fishing and exploring.

Photo: GAMBLER explores a very small anchorage on Porcupine Island
Dave took GAMBLER in for reconnaissance of this very small but somewhat famous cove on the western side of Porcupine Island. Although the waves to not look particularly large, there was quite a sea running that afternoon. Photo by Kathy Hart.

Photo: View from stern of CONTINUOUSWAVE during transit of western entrance to Benjamin Island area.
CONTINUOUSWAVE leads the way west from the Benjamin Islands via this unmarked but relatively deep passage. With the sun having returned it again became very easy to spot shoal water.

After lunch we exit the Benjamin Island group westward by the narrow but startlingly deep (25-feet) passage at the center. Now the flotilla divides again, with the original REBEL ALLIANCE heading for a wilderness anchorage, while the rest of us make way for Gore Bay.

It is a rough passage upwind and against rather large (3- to 4-foot) quartering head seas. Finally we are rewarded with the calm of the beautiful marina at Gore Bay. It has been significantly improved and enlarged since we last visited it (about a decade ago), and it now appears like the Hilton Head of the North Channel, as it has attracted many fine yachts. "We look like Whaler-trash," says Dave Pendleton. The docks and facilities here are excellent. The marina charges $1.50/foot for overnight dockage--a bargain.

Photo: Jim Hebert relaxing in cockpit of CONTINUOUSWAVE.
Your author aboard his boat: after we made fast to the beautiful docks at Gore Bay, the sun dipped below the yard arm and we took our ration of grog for the day. Photo by David Hart.

Photo: David Hart at Gore Bay Dock.
David Hart tries the cellular telephone network from the beautiful new docks at Gore Bay.

Photo: Mooring line with Flemish finish.
With very yachty neighbors we had to Flemish our mooring lines. Those stainless steel mooring bits must have cost a fortune.

At Gore Bay we organize an impromptu pot-luck dinner. It is a good evening, as we are amazed at all the food people can pull out of their coolers. The menu is very eclectic: Boursin cheese with crackers, smoked salmon, bratwurst sausage, fried baloney, sauteed parsnips, lamp chops, dark chocolates, and plenty of beer.


Date:Friday, August 1, 2008
Weather:Scattered Clouds
Winds:Strong Westerly
Waves:Building to 2- to 4-feet
Departure:Gore Bay, Ontario
Destination:Blind River, Ontario
Distance:45 miles by boat

We depart Gore Bay at 10 a.m. headed for Beardrop Harbour via Moiles Harbour. Dave on TAMPICO has slept in. He will meet us there later, using a more direct route. We have to run against some head seas again, and TAMPICO likes to go faster than some of the other boats. He will probably catch up to us easily even if he leaves later. Once we make the open water of the North Channel we see the challenge ahead. The seas are still running quite strong from the west, in spite of our relatively early start. The breeze came up this morning around 8:30 a.m., and it has picked up since. We are looking at another upwind passage in 3-footers. There are just three of us, CONTINUOUSWAVE, CICADA, and HOOSIER. We try to get on plane on a course of 345-Compass. This a bit to the west of our intended course, but I figure that we need to allow for some leeway in these seas. It takes us about an hour to raise the coastline of John Island. We have overshot Moiles Harbour by about a half-mile to the west. We run downwind and line up for our entrance. We transit Moiles Harbour and its old commercial dock ruins.

Photo: Moiles Harbour looking southeast.
Entry into Moiles Harbour brought our trio of Boston Whaler boats back to calm water. Manitoulin Island can be seen about 15 miles distant on the horizon to the southeast.

Photo: Moiles Harbour looking north
Chris pilots CONTINUOUSWAVE to the northern exit from Moiles Harbour. The Canadian mainland is visible in the distance, across the Whalesback Channel.

Photo: Pine trees growing at angle on rocky island.
The tilt of these pine trees reminds us of the prevailing wind direction of winter storms.

Our rendezvous time with the REBEL ALLIANCE is approaching. We hear them on the radio. And they've come with a surprise: they've found our lost cruising partner VINGILOT, with Terry and Donna aboard. They tried to rendezvous with us in Killarney only to arrive a day late. A radio problem on VINGILOT has made their communication range very limited. We have to be almost within shouting distance to receive their radio transmissions.

Photo: VINGILOT in Whalesback Channel.
VINGILOT joins the flotilla.

Photo: Whalesback Island.
The distinctive shape of this island gave it the name Whalesback Island. The original 1800's survey party headed by Lt. Bayfield made this their base camp to escape the black flies of the forest mainland.

Our six-boat flotilla proceeds westward through the Whalesback Channel, this time enjoying its scenery in beautiful sunshine. And just as we turn to enter the inlet at Beardrop Harbour, we see TAMPICO arrive from seaward. Now we are seven Boston Whalers strong.

We raft up in Beardrop Harbour, tucked behind a small island's shelter. We enjoy a leisurely lunch, and do a bit of electronic and electrical diagnosis aboard VINGILOT to see what is wrong with the new radio. It just does not make any output power.

Photo: Seven boats rafted for lunch in Beardrop Harbour, North Channel of Lake Huron.
The only time during the week-long cruise that all seven boats came together for an extended period, we rafted for several hours in Beardrop Harbour (also known on some charts as Wickstead Harbour). From left to right we have HOOSIER, GAMBLER, VINGILOT, TAMPICO, CONTINUOUSWAVE, HOME ASIDE, and CICADA. Your author salutes photograher David Buckalew. David is very proficient at swimming ashore with his electronic camera while not submerging it, getting a great picture, and returning to his boat.

Photo: Towering thunderstrom clouds.
In mid-afternoon a big thunderstorm cell passes just to our north.

Photo: RADAR image.
The thunderstorm cell shows very clearly on the weather RADAR received via satellite on VINGILOT.

Around 2:30 p.m. we notice that some big thunderstorm clouds are approaching. Weather RADAR delivered by satellite to a multi-function display on VINGILOT gives us the exact relationship between the storm cells and our anchorage--very close but missing. When a clear stretch appears to the west, we break up the raft--and just in time as we notice we have begun to drag our anchors.

The group cannot form a consensus on where to go next, so we split again. The REBEL ALLIANCE leads TAMPICO and VINGILOT to the small town of Spanish, while CONTINUOUSWAVE, CICADA, and HOOSIER decide to battle their way upwind to our ultimate destination, Blind River.

We make a slow 15-mile passage to Blind River, hiding behind the lee of every island we can find to gain smooth water. By late afternoon we have safely arrived in Blind River. The winds continue, bringing a sudden downpour. Immediately after ten minutes of very hard rain, the skies clear completely and brilliant sunshine illuminates a beautiful double rainbow with full arch, a sign, we think, of a blessing on our trip. By 6 p.m. the winds are calm, and the seas start to lay down. If only we had known for sure, we could have waited it out in Beardrop and run over here on an easy plane.

Photo: Double rainbow.
After a brief but intense rain, the sun returns to give us this beautiful double rainbow. HOOSIER, CONTINUOUSWAVE, and CICADA enjoy a quiet evening at the dock in Blind River marina.

We have a fabulous fish and chips dinner of fresh pickerel at the local cafe right in the marina. With the second dinner half off, the bill is only $25. It is some of the best fish of the whole trip. Kathy and Dave from HOOSIER, who have been cooking out most nights, join us, along with Suzanne and Paul, and we have a nice last-night dinner with three boat crews present.


Date:Saturday, August 2, 2008
Weather:Warm and sunny
Winds:Strong Westerly
Departure:Blind River, Ontario
Destination:Beverly Hills, Michigan
Distance:422 miles by highway

We have a lazy morning, drink some extra coffee, and about 9:20 a.m. make a move toward the ramp. Just as we are backing in our trailer to haul the boat, the REBEL ALLIANCE fleet comes into the harbor. They must have gotten underway much earlier than usual, as they were staying about 15-miles to the east.

Not too long past 10:30 a.m. we have the boat on the trailer and all cleaned up. Blind River is at the confluence of two rivers that have been extensively used for lumbering, so the water has some tannin in it, which can give the hull a stain. I like to scrub the hull clean while it is still wet.

We say "fair well" to our mates: Pat on HOMESIDE, Paul and Suzanne on CICADA, and Dave on TAMPICO. They are also hauling out and driving back to the United States. Dave on GAMBLER and David and Kathy on HOOSIER are going by water to Drummond Island. Terry and Donna on VINGILOT have already headed out to sea to cross Lake Huron to Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

We have a long and often slow drive home, making our arrival back in SE Michigan about 9 p.m. We take the more direct route home, which is only 422 miles. We made it to the U.S.A. before we had to add gasoline.

Summary Data

Fuel Consumption

SUN    50.3   29.0     1.73
MON    57.8   31.4     1.84
TUE    26.4   15.8     1.67
WED    44.9   25.4     1.77
THU    38.9   24.2     1.60
FRI    44.2   27.2     1.62
TOTAL 262.5  153.0
AVERAGE                1.72

OIL Used = 2.5 gallons
GAS:OIL ratio = 153 / 2.5 = 61:1

Boat Fuel Purchase

Soo       $4.20   35.0  $147
LC         5.50   29.0   160
Killarney  5.67   34.0   195
LC         5.49   19.8   109
Gore Bay   5.30   25.0   132
TOTAL            142.8  $743
AVERAGE   $5.20/Gallon Includes taxes

Oil 2.5 x $17 = $42.50
TOTAL Gasoline and Oil = $785.50

Boat Dockage

Launch       $11.00
Blind River   38.50
Spider Bay    38.50
KML           44.00
Kagawong      30.80
Gore Bay      33.00
Blind River   38.50
DOCKAGE      234.30
Tax 15%       35.15
TOTAL       $269.45


Blind River ELDO          $45
Little Current ANCHOR INN  33
Killarney KIL. MT. LODGE   55
Kagawong CHASE'S           41
Blind River CAFE           25
TOTAL                    $199

Highway Expenses

880-miles at approx. 11-MPG = 80-gallons
80-gallons at approx. $4.10
Gas   = $328
Tolls =   20
TOTAL = $348


Copyright © 2008 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!

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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared August, 2008.