The North Channel 2009

Sault Saint Marie, Canada to Sault Saint Marie, USA:

Sault Saint Marie has twin cities, one in Canada and one in the USA. The Saint Mary’s River divides the two. We spent four days on the Canadian side before moving across the river to the US side. Sault Saint Marie, Canada is very industrial with a dependency on the local steel mill. With the recent economic problems of the auto industry, this area has been hit hard. The downtown seems very bleak and deserted. There is a large Italian presence here with several family owned Italian restaurants. We have a great home cooked Italian meal at Vincenzo’s. In recent years the city has started promoting tourism and is putting a lot of efforts into the downtown waterfront. Just next to the marina, there is a new pavilion and walking trails all along the St. Mary’s River. Lots of people are out strolling each day along the docks.

Directly in front of our marina are the locks for entering Lake Superior.

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Just as there are two “Soo’s” there are also two sets of locks, one for Canada and one for the US. The huge lake freighters all use the American Locks. Boaters can use either the Canadian or US locks regardless of which country they are staying in but most use the Canadian locks to avoid the commercial traffic. It has been fascinating watching the comings and goings of these huge ships while here at the marina, some as long as 1000 feet. There is also a constant stream of small fishing boats as they fish for lake trout and salmon just below the locks. The fishing must be really good in this area. There seems to always be 10-20 boats trolling. The local fishermen also line the shore banks. As we were walking the dogs one day, we watched as a young boy reeled in a nice 18 pound salmon from the fishing pier.

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There are lots of activities for tourist in “The Soo” on the Canadian side. We spent one morning touring the Bush Plane Museum which is just down the street from our marina. It was very interesting to see how these airplanes have contributed to Canada’s travel and firefighting efforts in the back country. Seaplanes hold a special fascination for Jeff since they combine the best of each that he loves to do. The Agawa Canyon Rail Train also departs from the Soo.

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We spent an entire day aboard this wilderness rail excursion as it took us on a 228 mile journey through one of America’s oldest mountain ranges, the Canadian Shield. We traveled through some rugged landscape while skirting the shores of several lakes and streams.

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At mile 102 we started our descent into the Agawa Canyon which was created over 1.2 billion years ago by faulting and was then widened and reshaped by the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Here we spent the afternoon hiking to several falls before reboarding the train for our 114 mile trip back to the Soo. On our trip we did spot a bear running across the train track and also a bald eagle. We really enjoyed this very scenic trip into a part of Canada we could not reach by boat.

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After four days we moved across the river to the marina in Soo, USA. Our primary purpose of traveling to the Soo was to clear Customs. Traveling with two parrots complicates coming and going from the USA. Before leaving the Canada side we call Canadian Customs to come “check the birds out of Canada”. The US Fish and Wildlife requires that the bird’s passports (Cities) be stamped out of the country we are leaving. We have an 11:00 am appt. on the US side with both Customs and US Fish and Wildlife.
The Fish and Wildlife officer is driving from Port Huron just to inspect Nate and Homer. At 5:00 PM this evening, the USDA vet is also coming to inspect the birds. Canadian Customs does the work of these three agencies here in the US. I guess this is our tax dollars hard at work.

Once across the river, we again hoist our yellow quarantine flag and call Customs. We are instructed not to leave the boat until Customs arrive. Inspector Fuller from Fish and Wildlife and US Customs show up promptly at 11:00 AM. A few minutes are spent stamping the paperwork and we are now released. Customs looked at our passports but asked no questions about anything onboard or purchases we made in Canada. It is just crazy that Inspector Fuller has to drive six hours from Port Huron just to stamp the birds passports. It would be much more efficient for Customs to have the ability to perform this task. At 5:00 PM, Dr. Groover, the USDA vet arrives. There are about 10 different government forms that must be filled out. Dr. Grover had been out on medical leave and just returned to work yesterday from hip surgery. He is unable to climb aboard so we bring the birds out on the dock for his inspection. We feel very fortunate that he was willing to come inspect the birds. Our original plans called for the birds to stay quarantined on the boat until Grand Haven. At that point a vet from Lansing, MI was going to drive over to inspect them. Had this happened we would be required to pay their travel time of 3 hours at $125 per hour. Dr. Groover’s fees came to a total of $35.00, a much more reasonable amount.

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Dr. Groover is great and we enjoy talking with him. He could very easily be James Herriott from the novel All Creatures Great and Small. He has been a large animal vet in this area for over 35 years.

Once cleared from Customs, we head into town in search of a computer store. Our lap top computer crashed last evening and will not respond at all. We do have a backup computer but all of our summer’s journey and pictures resides on the broken laptop. We are hoping these files are not lost. At this point we don’t know if we have picked up a virus or hardware problem. We are very fortunate to find National Office Supply, a locally owned office supply store with a large computer repair facility right downtown. The manager, Shawn, stops everything to help us and soon has our problem diagnosed as a bad memory board. We leave the computer with him overnight for repairs. They even offered to have their owner deliver the computer to us on Mackinac Island by his boat if they can’t get it repaired before we leave here. Understanding our situation, they do a rush job and we have the computer back and running by 10:00 AM the next morning. We owe Shawn a huge thanks! We spend the remainder of the afternoon grocery shopping and picking up our mail which has been held for the last few months.

Our time in Sault Saint Marie, USA is very short but enjoyable. The town seems much more prosperous than its Canadian sister. We are docked directly in front of the Valley Camp, a retired laker boat which is now used for tours.

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Tour boats come and go every hour taking passengers on trips through the SOO Locks. We have been through 72 locks this year but none compare to these. There are 4 different locks in this system, however two are currently closed for repairs. The size of these locks is just mind boggling. The largest lock is 1350 feet long and 80 feet wide. More than 11,000 vessels, carrying up to 90 million tons of cargo pass through these locks every year. One 1000 foot laker is equal to 2308 large tractor trailer trucks or six 100 car trains. The lock wall starts just past our marina and it is fascinating to watch these Lakers coming up and down the river to and from the locks. There seems to be one or two each hour.

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We spend some time at the locks watching the huge ships pass through. We would like to take IT through these locks sometime. We are contemplating a trip into Lake Superior for next year.

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We enjoy a great dinner just across the streets from the Soo Locks at The Lockside Diner which has been serving customers here since the 1940’s. We try some locally caught pan fried walleye and white fish. Both are excellent. Tomorrow we will start heading towards Lake Michigan. We can’t explain it but there is a comforting feeling to be back in the USA.

The Grant Islands to Sault Saint Marie:

West Grant to Milford Haven:

From West Grant, we continued through the open waters to our next anchorage on St. Joseph Island. We really could not see much at all today. We hit a fog bank just after leaving West Grant. The fog is really thick and we can see only a few feet in front of the boat. The seas are calm and no traffic on the radar. About half way across, we start picking up several targets on the radar. We continue to monitor one as it gets closer. It must be a fishing boat. At first its track is headed directly towards us then it makes a 90 degree turn. As the target gets within ¼ mile we start scanning the horizon. We should be able to see him. The target gets closer and closer and still no sighting. Our VHF is sounding the fog horn every two minutes. There it is, directly on our port. Wow, it is a big group of Loons all swimming together.

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Well, at least we know how sensitive our Radar is if it can track birds.

We pass within two miles of the Canada/US border on our way to Milford Haven. Detour Island, just a few miles further, is the logical place to clear customs. This is where all the other loopers have cleared. Because of our birds, we will continue on to Sault Saint Marie. On the subject of loopers, we had another email today from some of those stuck in Chicago due to the Army Corps closing of the Illinois Waterway. The Army Corp conducted testing yesterday to determine the effects of their electric current on fiberglass boats traveling through that area. They were to report their findings to the Coast Guard today. The Coast Guard will then determine if it is safe for boats to transit that area. In the mean time, all the loopers are still stuck in Chicago unless they are willing to pay the $600 fee to be towed by a steel boat for that ½ mile section. Let’s hope they get the green light soon.

The fog lifts and we soon see the little cove of Milford Haven ahead. We anchor half way down this long narrow bay. The scenery here is very different than the rocky granite shores of the North Channel that we have become accustomed to. Here we have sandy shores in a very bucolic setting. If we didn’t know better, this could be an anchorage on the TN River.

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When anchoring today, we once again decide to give our anchor float another try. We are thinking that our problems the other day were due to the fact that we were in only eight feet of water and did not have a lot of anchor chain out. Everything goes well as we deploy the float. During the day we keep our eyes on the float. As the wind shifts, the float is once again back beside our boat and the stabilizers. Jeff decides to go swimming and retrieve the float. We don’t want another repeat of the other day when the float got caught in our stabilizer. The anchor float is a great idea and we like knowing where our anchor is but for now the float is retired until we can come up with a better solution.

This evening the bugs come out. Flies engulf our back deck. We retreat inside for the
remainder of the evening.

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Total Miles Traveled West Grant to Milford Haven: 28
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2826

Milford Haven to Andersen Bay:

From West Grant we continue around the west side of St. Joseph Island. We have a dramatic change of scenery. The high rocky bluffs have returned with cottages perched on many of the small islands. This area is very similar in appearance to the small craft channel of Georgian Bay. The water is now a milky green color. We can feel the cool air blowing down from Lake Superior.

We anchor for the evening in a little bay called Andersen Bay.

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There are several cottages here but no other boats. We try some more fishing and catch a small Muskie. We feel sorry for him and decide to throw him back to grow a little larger. Sebastian stays entertained for the next hour by the small fish that Jeff catches for bait. We later glance in the bucket to discover the little fish gone. Either Sebastian ate him or dropped him back in the water. Let’s hope he just picked him up and dropped him back overboard.

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Total Miles Traveled Milford Haven to Andersen Bay: 23
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2849

Andersen Bay to Sault Saint Marie:

It is another beautiful day for our trip to Sault Saint Marie. We continue around the west side of St. Joseph Island admiring the beautiful log cottages. The main shipping channel into Sault Saint Marie is on the other side of this Island. Along this channel, lighthouses are perched upon the rocks and are used as range markers to guide us across the shoal prone waters. Buoys are few and far between. Once a lighthouse is spotted on the distant shore, you head straight for that.

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As we round St. Joseph Island, Nebish Island and the unbound shipping channel is dead ahead. We spot a “Laker” heading unbound.

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We slow down to let her get ahead of us before entering the shipping channel. She is huge! In fact our AIS tells us that she is the “Montrealias” and is 778 feet long heading for Duluth. These boats carry primarily iron ore down from Minnesota. For commercial traffic into and out of Sault Saint Marie there are separate up bound and down bound channels for these freighters.

We are now traveling in US waters. Sault Saint Marie has both a Canadian and American Side. Our first port will be the Roberta Bondar Marina on the Canadian side. Since we are not anchoring or docking, we will not have to clear customs with the US. We will stay here until for several days. We will then move over to the US side of “The Soo” (as it is referred to by locals). We have an 11:00 AM appointment next Wednesday with both Fish and Wildlife and US Customs.

Total Miles Traveled Andersen Bay to Sault Saint Marie: 28
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2877

Long Point to The Grant Islands:

Just when you think everything is under control, something new reaches up and bites you. Today we are weighing anchor and continuing our journey west. We start to pull up the anchor as we have done many times in the past. This should be a simple process. It is a calm morning with plenty of room between boats and we are only anchored in eight feet of water.

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Nothing to concern us. Well, things don’t go exactly as we thought. As we are retrieving the anchor chain, our new anchor float is no where to be seen. It is somewhere under our boat.

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Jeff doesn’t want to put the boat into gear as he is afraid our line cutters will cut the float line. We decide to continue hauling up the anchor in hopes that the float will reappear. The anchor reaches the surface and is being pulled hard backwards against the boat hull. He reluctantly puts the boat in reverse. The anchor is still hard against the hull. Just what we were afraid of. The float line is wrapped around our stabilizer and holding the anchor against the boat. After several unsuccessful attempts of lowering and raising the anchor, we are no further along. Our only option is for Jeff to dive the boat. Jeff quickly changes and goes swimming in the cold water. Luckily, there is no wind today. Our boat is now free floating while he tries to free the line. After a few minutes underwater, Jeff reappears with float in hand. The float line had wrapped itself around our stabilizer and was holding the anchor up against the hull. Just as Jeff is getting out of the water, another boater, seeing our problem, comes over in his dinghy to offer assistance. Jeff explains what happened and thanks him for the offer but we are now free and ready to go. Had this been a windy day or tight anchorage, we could have had a major problem. We were lucky today. Our anchor float procedures need some improvement.

We have an easy day of 33 miles to a grouping of islands called the Grants. After a quick look around the harbor, we decide to anchor at West Grant. East and West Grant lie in the middle of the North Channel. These two islands are open with not much shelter from the winds. Anchoring at these islands would not be safe in any type of weather. Most cruisers bypass these islands for this reason. The forecast is good with calm winds and clear skies for the next few days so we decide to stay. Inside the harbor, the water depths are almost too deep for anchoring. We ease close to the rocky shore in search of some shallow water. About 100 yards from shore we find 20 feet of water and drop the hook. After backing down and letting out almost 150 feet of chain, we are in only eight feet of water and very close to the shore bank. It is calm and we have lots of chain out so we feel pretty comfortable being this close to shore. Jeff dives the anchor just to make sure it has a good hook. The water temperature is a cool but manageable 66 degrees.

This is a great spot to spend our last day in the North Channel. From here we have a fantastic view of the open waters. No other boats are here and we enjoy the peace and quiet of West Grant. This could easily be some remote island in the tropics. The water is a crystal clear aqua green color with visibility down to 20 feet. We try hiking the island but the forested growth is just too dense. After seeing three snakes sunning themselves along the rocky shore along with lots of poison ivy, we quickly retreat back to the boat for a quiet evening. We have certainly enjoyed our time here in the North Channel and are a little sad that it is now time to leave. We have found no better cruising area than here in the North Channel and hope to be back soon.

Total Miles Traveled Long Point to West Grant: 33
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2798

Beardrop Harbor to Long Point:

At 9:00 AM we tune in to the Little Current Cruisers Net on VHF channel 71 for our daily morning update on the weather and news. We can barely pick up the Net from here as we are almost too far west. Today is the last day of the year for this great service to the boating community, so we are really excited to be able to pick it up over the VHF. The Cruisers Net is only operated during the months of July and August. This has become part of our daily routine and we will miss Roy’s morning voice. For the last month, our mornings have centered around this 9:00 AM broadcast. The number of boaters calling in today is only 46 compared to over 100 only a few weeks ago. Most boaters have already left this area for the season. I am sure we must be the last looper in the North Channel. The other loopers don’t know what they are missing. This has to be the best time of year to be here. With most boaters gone, we have the anchorages to ourselves. The fishing is great and the temperatures are still warm. What a great place to be!

Today we are traveling only a few miles to scout out a new anchorage off Long Point Island. On our way, we hear Invictus talking over the VHF. They have also just left Beardrop on their way to Long Point. They report just seeing a bear swimming across the channel to one of the islands. What a sight that must be.

Long Point Cove is hidden behind a patch work of rocky islands. We cautiously weave our way around these islands and soon see our narrow entrance into the protected cove. Four boats are at anchor but there is still plenty of room for one more.

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We relish the seclusion of this little cove for two nights before continuing west. While here we enjoy several hikes on the tiny island keeping our eyes open for bear.

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This fishing is not as productive here as it was in Beardrop. Jeff manages to get a nice size bass on the line. After a good fight, the bass manages to flip free and live another day. Maybe we will get him next year.

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Total Miles Traveled Beardrop Harbor to Long Point: 8
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2765

John Island to Beardrop Harbor:

Today we are traveling just a hop, skip, and jump across the Whales Back Channel to the anchorage in Beardrop. It takes us longer to pull up the anchor than it does in travel time. Adagio I, a Krogen Whaleback, is anchored in Beardrop. We have been invited over for lunch this afternoon.

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Beardrop is a much prettier anchorage than John Harbor. Like John, the anchorage area is very roomy with plenty of spots to drop the hook. Grey granite boulders line both shores making for a very scenic spot to spend a few days.

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We drop the anchor just behind Adagio I. Jeff backs down to set the anchor but it only drags in the mud and weed. We haul the anchor up and try again. After three unsuccessful attempts we are both starting to get frustrated. We have never had any problems setting our anchor. Usually she grabs the first time. We decide to try a new spot in deeper water just in front of Adagio I. This time we feel the anchor set immediately. The winds are forecast to blow 35 knots tonight so we let out extra chain just as a precaution.

We spend the afternoon on Adagio I with J.E. and Michael. After a tour of their boat, we enjoy a fantastic lunch. Michael has fixed a wonderful spread of cold salads, cheese, meats, and fruit. It has a very European flair. We later learn that they lived in Paris for two years. Thank you for your hospitality J.E. and Michael.

Our internet coverage has been very spotty since leaving Little Current. We haven’t been able to get all the information yet, but we did learn that many of our fellow loopers are now trapped in Chicago. The Army Corp of Engineers has closed the Illinois River just below Chicago for a ½ mile section to all boat traffic. They have set up and electric fence there to block the Asian Carp from migrating up the river and into Lake Michigan. This is an evasive species that rapidly takes over. The electric fence has been in operation for a while but they recently increased the voltage in trying to halt the migration. All fiberglass hull boat traffic has been halted with no date set for resumption of traffic. Many of the loopers were in Chicago and the marinas there are very expensive, charging up to $200 per day. Some of the loopers have now headed back north. The head of the AGLCA has met with the Army Corp of Engineers trying to find a solution. Hopefully this will be resolved soon.

Fish Tales:

After two days of absolutely miserable weather (cold, rain, and high winds), the sun finally shines. We were starting to get cabin fever and are anxious to get out. As soon as the wind calms down, we head out it Time Out for some fishing. Everyone has told us that Beardrop is the place to fish. After just 30 minutes, something really big hits my bait. The fish dives deep and we know this is the big one. After a good fight, we manage to get the fish up to the surface. It is a five foot Muskee. Wow!! As I am trying to get it close to the boat, Jeff reaches over to grab the fish. I tell him “What ever you do, don’t let this one get off like the big one we lost in Mill Lake earlier this month.” The fish is so big, we don’t really know how to get it in the boat. Jeff reaches for a bag to scoop him up with. The fish dives for a second time but we manage to get him back up beside the boat once again. Just as Jeff is about to scoop him up, the fish dives again and somehow manages to get free of the lure. This is the second big fish that we have lost trying to bring into the boat. I tell Jeff we really need a net. Why don’t we have a net? To this he replies “we do have one back on IT”. We immediately head back to IT and get the net. Now we are ready to fish. We head back out to the same spot and soon hook another Muskie. This one is smaller but we manage to get it into the boat. It not long before two more Muskies are also in the boat. These are a good 3-4 feet but still not the monster that we lost. We again try the exact spot where we lost the monster Muskie. Something big hits. This fish gives no fight what so ever. It just lays on the surface as we reel it over to the boat. As it gets close, we can’t believe our eyes. It is the same exact fish that got away earlier. This time we are ready with the net. Just as Jeff scoops him up into the net, he gives a gigantic flip of his tail and is back in the water. He is still hooked. After one last fight, he is back next to the boat. Jeff again scoops him into the net. This fish does not want to be caught and makes one last attempt at freedom. To our amazement he shakes the hook free while at the same time manages to untangle himself from the net. We watch as he slowly swims back down into the dark depths below.

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We can’t help but laugh. How many people catch the same fish twice and loose it twice? He was a really nice fish. All is not lost as we head back to the boat with three nice Muskie and a small mouth bass.

Total Miles Traveled John Harbor to Beardrop Harbor: 5
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2757

Oak Bay to John Harbor:

We have another beautiful day for our cruise to our next destination. From our anchorage in Oak Bay, we reenter the McBean Channel and continue west to the Whalesback Channel. Just at the entrance to the Whalesback Channel is a narrow passage known as Little Detroit. This passage is only 75 feet wide with rock walls on both sides.

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Just before entering, we call a “Securite” over the VHF to notify any concerned traffic that we are entering the channel. After the narrow passages on the Trent Severn, this passage is a piece of cake. Once through Little Detroit, we are now in the Whalesback Channel. This passage stretches for seventeen miles. The scenery is once again amazing with the white quartz rocky islands sometimes dotted with evergreens.

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Just as we are turning into our anchorage at John Island, we spot another Krogen on the horizon. It is the Whaleback Adagio I with J.E. and Michele aboard. Through the grapevine, we had heard that Adagio I homeports in these waters and we had been on the lookout for them. After contacting them by VHF, we learn that they are heading to an anchorage just across the channel.

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It is an easy entry into our anchorage at John Island. We find a nice spot to drop the hook off of Dewedy Island.

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This spot is very picturesque with a nice group of rocky outcroppings along the shoreline. We test our new anchor float for the first time. Just before dropping the anchor, I attach the 20 foot nylon line attached to the “LaPorte memorial crab pot” anchor float to a clip on our anchor. The float goes overboard next and then we deploy the anchor. Our new system works like a charm and we are very pleased with the new addition. Thanks again Mike and Jana for the great gift.

Not long after we anchor, another sailboat comes into the harbor also. The anchorage goes for almost a mile down the bay and is completely empty. Where does the sailboat decide to anchor? Just a couple hundred feet from our boat. This seems to always be the case. For some reason other boaters seem to anchor as close as possible to our boat. It never fails that although they have the entire harbor to choose a spot, they come right beside us. Why?

This afternoon J.E. and Michael from Adagio I dinghy over from their anchorage in Bear Drop to say hello. It is always nice meeting fellow Krogen owners. J.E. is the incoming Commodore of the Great Lakes Cruising Club. This is a wonderful organization and we had already decided on joining this group even before meeting J.E. The information that this organization offers to cruisers on the Great Lakes is very valuable. I am sure IT’s and Adagio I’s paths will cross again.

Total Miles Traveled Oak Bay to John Island: 21
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2752

South Benjamin to Oak Bay:

Jeff was up several times during the night listening to the VHF. Last evening just before dark, we heard a distress call from a sailboat named Acadies. He was calling Thunder Bay Coast Guard because he had run aground on a rock ledge. Thunder Bay Coast Guard responded and then started calling for any boaters nearby who could assist. After checking the GPS coordinates, we determined that Acadies was about six miles south of us. Just as Jeff was about to respond, we heard fellow looper and Krogen owner, Mike aboard Second Star, responding to the Coast Guard. He was only about two miles from Acadies. After some discussion, they agreed it would be better to wait until morning for the attempted freeing the boat from the rocks. Acadies said he was in no danger of sinking and felt comfortable waiting until morning. The Coast Guard notified Acadies that they would radio him every three hours to make sure he was O.K. Jeff then contacted Second Star and offered to act as backup in case it was needed. Evidently there is no large Coast Guard presence in this remote area. It appears that there is also no commercial towing service like we have in the U.S., such as Sea Tow or Boat U.S. When you are in trouble here in the North Channel, your only help seems to be other boaters. At the 5:30 AM check in with Thunder Bay Coast Guard, Acadies notified them that he had drifted overnight and was now almost a mile closer to Second Star. The winds continued to pick up. At 7:30 AM he was blown free of the rocks and notified the Coast Guard that he no longer needed assistance. Boy was that good news!! Although we would have been glad to help, we really didn’t want to get into the rescue business.

Upon hearing the news that we were no longer needed for the boat rescue, we decided to pull anchor and find a new anchorage. The winds have shifted and are now blowing out of the south. South Benjamin Island is not protected from these winds and our stern is getting pretty close to the rocky shore.

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There are strong wind warnings for tomorrow. After checking our charts, we decide to head for an anchorage in Oak Bay. This area looks very protected from all wind directions. We have a short trip of 17 miles and are to Oak Bay by 10:00 AM. Here we find a wonderful protected anchorage and to our surprise loopers, Sea Ya and Tortuga are here also.

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It turns out they are leaving today but are soon replaced by looper Second Star who anchors beside IT. Mike and Jana come over this evening and we enjoy spending time with them and getting to know them better.

We end up spending three days here in Oak Bay enjoying this fabulous anchorage. All of the land is part of the Sagamok Indian Reserve and the area is completely undeveloped.

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These waters should be prime fish habitat but we have had no luck. It is not for lack of trying. One of the Sagamok Indians came by one day and we watched as he fished a net out of the water just near our boat. There must have been 20-30 bass trapped in the net.

On our last day, we enjoyed a nice five mile kayak trip exploring the scenic coves of Oak Bay. There are many nooks and crannies on both sides of this secluded bay which stretches for about six miles. Arriving back at the boat, we discover that Second Star has moved on and we now have the anchorage all to ourselves. We find a nice surprise on our back deck. Mike and Janna have left us a crab pot float to use as an anchor locator. Many boats while anchoring will put out a float attached to their anchor which aids in marking the set position of the anchor. This also warns other boaters of its location. We had admired the float that Mike and Janna were using and had commented to them that we would be on the search for one. Mike and Janna thank you very much!

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While in Oak Bay we have been feasting on our hand picked wild blueberries. Jeff cooked some wonderful blueberry pancakes for breakfast one morning. We also enjoyed a delicious homemade blueberry pie while here.

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We were hoping to catch some fresh fish to go along with the pie but were not successful. After enjoying this anchorage for thee days, we are ready to move on and explore some new sites.

Total Miles Traveled South Benjamin to Oak Bay: 18
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2731

Little Current to the Benjamin Islands:

This morning at 9:00 AM we head back up to the Anchor Inn for the 9:00 AM live broadcast of The Cruisers Net with Roy. Jeff is once again drafted to handle the recording of boats as they call in. Each morning Roy has two volunteers record each boat’s name and location as they radio in their position over the VHF. It is really confusing as all these boats call in. Roy has two people record this information so that between the two no names are missed.

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Roy then enters all of this information into the computer. This morning 86 boats call in. The record day was in July this year with 160 boats. Just a few days ago, the 5000th caller of the year was reached. That is a record for the Cruisers Net. Considering the Cruisers Net is only operational during the months of July and August, 5000 boats is quite amazing.

Our next stop is the local farmer’s market held each Saturday morning here in Little Current. Here we find some great looking fresh picked wild blueberries and some really good butter tarts. Butter tarts have become our favorite desert. We need to find a recipe so we can enjoy these tasty pastries after we leave Canada. The U.S. doesn’t know about butter tarts.

Just as we are leaving the docks, Second Star pulls in.

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They are the loopers who helped us clean our anchor while in the Pool. We ask them how they did in getting the weeds off their anchor. We learn that they also helped several other boats clean their anchors after we left. Then as Second Star was trying to clean their anchor, the Evinrude family came over to help. They had seen Second Star help all the other boats so they wanted to extend the same courtesy to Second Star. I guess this just shows how good karma gets around.

Leaving Little Current, we enjoy a beautiful cruise up the Waubuno Channel as we parallel the La Cloche Mountain Range.

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Our destination for the next few days is a group of islands called the Benjamins. There are several anchorages along this group of islands. Since the winds are forecast to blow pretty hard from the north, we choose the South Benjamin Island anchorage. This should offer more protection from the winds. Just off this island group is a cluster of rocks known as “The Sow and Pigs”.

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We carefully work our way around these boulders before entering the horseshoe harbor. Four other boats are already anchored so we take a spot just behind them and settle in for the evening.

The Benjamin Islands are carved of beautiful pink granite rock and are one of the most popular anchorages in the North Channel. These pink granite rocks are unique in this part of the North Channel, as opposed to the white quartz of the mountains to the north.

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Years ago attempts were made to blast the island apart and take away hunks of granite by barge. Luckily, enough opposition was created and South Benjamin was declared a National Beauty Spot and may not be quarried. We are anchored in a beautifully spot with a large pink boulder just one hundred feet from IT’s stern. The lapping of the water against the granite is very relaxing.

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This evening as we are studying our charts for the next leg of our trip, we hear a knock on our door. It is Chris from the sailboat Voyager III, who is also anchored in the harbor. She is inviting us to join her group for dinner. Wow, what a nice offer. We enjoy a great Sicilian dinner with this group of five Michiganders. They didn’t know us from Adam other than a brief hello as we passed by in the dinghy earlier. And here they are inviting us to dinner. We learn that they are all members of the American Sailing Institute and are taking their club boat back home to Detroit for the winter. We have an enjoyable dinner with the group and hope to see them again sometime. You Michiganders are great!!

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Thank you very much. As we are heading back to IT, “Gentle Presence”, another sailboat anchored in the harbor, is flagging us down. They want to give us a guide book for some of the anchorages in this area. Wow again!! We met these folks this morning at the Cruisers Net and here they want to give us some very useful information. It certainly is amazing how friendly boaters are to each other. This kindness is repeated again the next morning as we hear another knock on our door. This time it is from “Ingomar” another trawler anchored here also. They had just been ashore picking blueberries and Jim has brought us a bowl full. Wow for a third time!! This inspires us to go out in search of more blueberries to pick. While hiking the island we find a large patch of low bush blueberries.

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The bushes are wonderfully loaded with these delightfully ripe blue morsels.

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As we are picking the berries, Sebastian is eagerly scarves up any dropped blueberries. It takes him just a few moments to discover that he can eat the berries right off the bush just as a bear would do. While we gather ours for later consumption, Sebastian cruises from bush to bush happily sampling the blueberries. Daisy shows absolutely no interest since it is not a squirrel. We now have enough blueberries to last quite a while.

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There is no telling how many Sebastian ate.

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Our time in the Benjamins will always be remembered fondly.

Total Miles Traveled Little Current to South Benjamin: 21
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2713

Bay Fine to Little Current:

Well, our plan was to spend another day here at the Pool. On a boat plans seem to constantly change. Last night as we were hosing down the deck, our anchor wash down pump bit the dust. Jeff has spent the morning trying to revive it with no success. It looks like we need a new one. There is no internet or phone here in the pool. Otherwise we would simply call and see if one could be ordered. There is a marina in Little Current so we decide to head there in hopes of finding one before the weekend. We need our anchor wash down pump to wash off all the mud each time we leave an anchorage. For now we can hook up the hose to our house water tank.

As we raise our anchor, another green monster appears.

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This time we reverse our departure routine. Usually I am out on the bow washing down the anchor while Jeff handles the boat. Today Jeff handles the anchor chores. We know it is going to be really difficult to get all the weeds off the anchor. As he is out on the bowsprit pulling off weeds, Mike from Second Star comes over in his dinghy to help out. We are very grateful for this act of kindness. What would have taken us thirty minutes, we accomplish in five. We owe Second Star a big Thank You. Looks like our good deed from the other day was returned to us.

We enjoy another great trip down Bay Fine. The low clouds add to the mystic beauty of this area.

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After 12 miles we enter the channel to Little Current. Luckily we arrive to the swing bridge just as it is opening. It only opens once each hour.

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Little Current is located on Manitoulin Island which is the largest fresh water island in the world. The Indian name for Little Current was “Waiebijiwang which means “Where the waters flow back and forth”. The current through this channel runs up to six knots. Unlike the ocean, this current is wind driven not tidal. It flows in both directions based on the winds. Luckily today the current is only 1-2 knots and we have an easy dockage along the town wall.

Jeff quickly dissembles our wash down pump and hustles over to Boyle Marine. Luckily their supplier has one in stock and it is overnighted and should arrive tomorrow.

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This afternoon another looper, Sea Ya, docks just in front of us. It turns out that the owners purchased this boat in Chattanooga and began their loop from there. What a small world.

This evening we enjoy a walk through the town. We find a local ice cream stand near the marina. Farquars Ice Cream is made here in Manitoulin Island. It is very good. The dogs once again patiently wait for us to finish so that they can lick the cup.

Little Current is home to the “Cruisers Net”. Each morning at 9:00 AM during July and August, Roy Eaton broadcast a live radio broadcast over the VHF radio from here in Little Current at the Anchor Inn.

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Roy has been doing this for six years and is a retired local school principal. The “Cruisers Net” has grown beyond his wildest dreams. Roy begins the broadcast each morning with the weather and a brief summary of local and international news. Afterwards, boaters call in and give their boat’s name and location. Roy logs each caller and this year has received over 5000 calls. Because of the lack of internet and cell service in this area, the “Cruisers Net” provides a vital link for boaters. At times Roy is able to relay emergency information to cruisers. We have listened to this net each morning since arriving in the area. At 9:00 AM this morning, we head up to the Anchor Inn and are treated to a live broadcast.

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We enjoy finally meeting Roy and present him with a Chattanooga Yacht Club burgee to add to his collection hanging on the wall at the Anchor Inn.

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About 15 other boaters sit in for the broadcast also. Since we arrived early, Roy enlists Jeff’s help to record the boaters as they call in. This morning 86 boaters call in with their locations. It was exciting to finally view this amazing broadcast service in person.

Our wash down pump arrives on schedule and Jeff soon has it installed. At 3:00 PM on Friday’s, Anchor Inn hosts a get together in conjunction with the “Cruisers Net” for boaters in Little Current. We enjoy meeting some of our fellow boaters at this event. Afterwards we enjoy a quiet evening at the docks.

Total Miles Traveled Bay Fine to Little Current: 26
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2692

Killarney to Bay Fine:

We are in no rush to leave the docks this morning. Our planned anchorage for the evening on Haywood Island is only 15 miles away. Here we hope to meet up with a sister boat to IT, Allizann. We met her owners, Suzanne and Marty, two years ago at Trawlerfest in Solomon’s, Maryland. At that time they had just ordered Allizann from Krogen. Suzanne and Marty live in Charlevoix and are spending their week’s vacation cruising the North Channel aboard their new boat in hopes of meeting up with us.

Just after leaving Killarney, we turn into the Lansdowne Channel. We are now cruising in an area called the North Channel. The mountain backed vista of Frazier Bay is just to our north.

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The North Channel is a remote, wilder version of Georgian Bay. It runs east to west and is 100 miles long and almost 20 miles across at its widest point. The North Channel is hewn from granite. Precise plotting will be required as the bottom is very unforgiving. This area is very rugged and there are fewer cottages than in Georgian Bay. The area will become more remote with very few towns the farther west we go.

We soon spot the anchorage area for Haywood Island. Inside this bay we find plenty of room to anchor. There are only two other sailboats here and the bay is large. Just as we are getting settled in, we see Allizann pulling into the harbor. Boy is she a good looking boat!

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It is great to see Suzanne and Marty.

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They give us the grand tour of Allizann. This is the first time that we have seen their new boat. Suzanne and Marty have certainly done a great job of outfitting her. We are jealous of all the upgrades that Krogen has made since we purchased IT. We enjoy a nice afternoon visiting with Suzanne and Marty. Krogen owners are such a great group of people.

Total Miles Traveled Killarney to Haywood Island: 15
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2648

Haywood Island to Bay Fine:

Allizann is our guide this morning as we work our way to our next anchorage in Bay Fine, pronounced “Bay Fin”. Suzanne and Marty have cruised these waters for many years and are familiar with the area. Bay Fine is one of the few fjords in North America. As we travel up this eight mile passage, we are awed by the scenery. The stunning quartz mountains surround us on both sides.

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As we are proceeding up Bay Fine, we hear another boater hailing us on the radio. Chocolate Monkey, a chartered boat, sees that we are from Chattanooga. We soon learn that there are two couples aboard Chocolate Monkey who are also from Chattanooga. What a small world. It turns out that fellow Chattanooga Yacht Club members, Jim Hudson and Jim Reilly are aboard Chocolate Monkey. We enjoy a good chat with them over the VHF.

At the end of Bay Fine, we enter a two mile section called “The Narrows” which leads us into the Pool which is our anchorage for the evening.

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We are in luck as only two other boats are here in the Pool. It is a beautiful spot to anchor with the mountains circling around us on all sides.

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There is one cottage perched on the rocks just at the entrance to the Pool. This cottage was at one time owned by Ralph Evinrude of Evinrude Motors and his wife Frances Langford, former USO singer and Hollywood star. They would bring their 110- foot yacht Chanticleer here in the summer. The cottage is still owned by the Evinrude family.

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We secure both boats and the four of us decide to hike up the mountain to Topaz Lake. After a rugged uphill climb to the top of the mountain, the beautiful Topaz Lake comes into view through the trees.

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The water is aqua blue just like a blue topaz. We all enjoy a brisk swim in the clear waters. This lake is known as a “Dead Lake”. Nothing grows here. No fish, no weeds, no bacteria, nothing but water and rocks. This has to be one of the prettiest spots we have been. From the top of the mountain we are also rewarded with a fantastic view of the pool with our two boats proudly swinging at anchor next to each other.

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Suzanne and Marty invite us over to Allizann for dinner that evening. We savor a great meal with new friends while enjoying the wonderful scenery surrounding us. Suzanne graciously spends some time with me going over our charts for the next part of our trip. She gives us some very helpful information on anchorages along the North Channel. Suzanne, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!

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As Suzanne and Marty are raising their anchor the next morning, a green monster appears.

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We had been warned not to anchor in the Pool due to the high weed content. Jeff quickly dinghies over to Allizann to help with the weed control. As Marty is hosing off the anchor chain with his wash down hose, Jeff pulls off the big globs of weed by hand.

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What a mess. They soon have the chain clear of weeds and are good to go. We are sorry to see Allizann leave but they need to get back to Charlevoix. We had a great two days with Suzanne and Marty.

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While eating lunch the next afternoon, we suddenly have some more excitement. As we look out the window, we see the sailboat, Ibis, which was anchored next to us is now about 600 feet across the bay and about five feet from crashing into the rock wall. It doesn’t look like anyone is aboard. Jeff drops everything and races over in the dinghy. After a few minutes of struggle, he manages to pull up their anchor and tow the sailboat back over to a cove out of the wind. He clears their anchor chain of weed and tries to set the anchor the best he can without going aboard. The owners are off in their dinghy somewhere with no clue that their boat was almost smashed into the rocks. We have watched several boats try to anchor in this bay with much difficulty. The thick weeds make it hard for an anchor to set. In addition, the sailboat only had 20 feet of anchor line out. He should have used a scope of at least 5 to 1 which would be 60 feet of rode for this depth of 12 feet. We keep a constant watch on the boat for the next two hours until the owners return. They are very appreciative that Jeff rescued their boat. That was our good deed for the day.

This afternoon we hike with the dogs to another lake, Three Narrows. After following a streambed up and over the mountain we come to another gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains.

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It is amazing how the glaciers have carved out these lakes nestled between the mountains. Here Jeff introduces Sebastian to frogs. At first he doesn’t have a clue about these little green things. Jeff catches one to show him.

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As it hops into the water, Sebastian is hot on the frog’s tail. He manages to catch several frogs but much to his dismay, we make him let them go. Sebastian has a blast chasing these little guys. Daisy doesn’t understand his fascination with the frogs. She says “Give me a bird to chase and I will be happy”.

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Arriving back at the Pool, we discover that looper “Second Star” has arrived. We last saw them in Waterford on the Erie Canal. Two other looper boats are in the anchorage also. After leaving us in Waterford, Second Star traveled up Lake Champlain and down the Rideau Canal before continuing on the Trent Severn. We enjoyed hearing about their trip. Afterwards we enjoy another wonderful evening in the Pool. Bay Fine is a fine place to be.

Total Miles Traveled Haywood to Bay Fine: 18
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 2666

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Sebastian’s Story Part 8:

Boy, was I wrong about Canada! When Admiral Mom and Captain Dad said we would be up here all summer, I thought “great” more cold weather. But that’s not been so. As the cruise director (CD) aboard Idyll Time (IT), I would have chosen a different voyage (The Bahamas) but it’s been all good. I’ve had a blast. Let me tell you about it.

First, I know it’s been a while since I have written. Those of you that have sent emails, thanks. Captain Dad gave us a warning yesterday that we all had been slackers and had better get caught up. But I’ve been having soo much fun that some things got put off. As I said above, the summer so far has been good. We’ve had some rain and cool temps but that means I can get some extra sleep on those days. Summer has finally arrived and August has warmed up quite nicely so that means more outdoor activities. So far fishing, frogging and hiking have been my favorites.

The fishing has been really fun. Since leaving the Trent Severn Waterway, we’ve been anchoring out almost every day in Georgian Bay. That means Capt. Dad puts down my boat, Time Out, and takes us fishing. When he catches a pickerel or bass, I have to closely inspect each catch and lick it all over. Admiral Mom thinks this is nasty and I’ll get sick doing this but I’ve got a strong stomach. Sometimes they catch these little sunfish and keep them alive in a bucket of water. I have tried to catch them but they move really fast in that bucket. So far no luck but I’ll keep trying.

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Whenever we go ashore, we usually go for a hike to see the great countryside. There are lots of bears and moose up here in Ontario. Admiral Mom is always worried about bears so she makes me stay on the leash. I’ve never seen a bear so I can’t say how I’d react, but I know that squirrels and chipmunks are fun to chase (just ask Daisy), so I think a bear would be also. I hear they can run fast so that would be great! I’ll report back on my bear search later.

Captain Dad has been trying to get me into the water to swim more this summer. I’m not much on the water sports but I do like riding in my dinghy. All along the shoreline I’ve been seeing these little green things. They jump into the water when I get close. Captain Dad taught me all about these. He calls them frogs and even showed me how to catch them.

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It has been very cool to chase them when we go ashore. They are really fast!! Just like those lizards down in Florida. I get really excited when they jump up in front of me and I chase them into the water. They are soo quick and like to hide underwater. Sometimes I will follow them up to my knees but it’s hard to find them without a dive mask. Do they make one for dogs? I need to check on that.

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Speaking of diving, I did fall into the water one day while out on the dive platform. There was some fishy smells in the dinghy that had to be investigated and while getting in, I slipped and I went in head first. Admiral Mom was nearby and was very anxious for me to swim to her. Things got very confusing and finally Capt. Dad yanked me out and set me down back on the dive platform. The bay was warm, so after I got dried off, I thought this swimming thing wasn’t so bad. I was right back out there looking for fishy smells again.

Well, that is about all for now. As a good CD, I need to go take a nap and rest up for this afternoons hike. Bears or frogs, which will it be? I’ll let you know.

Later,

Sebastian

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