The North Channel 2010

Mackinac Island to Gore Bay:

We were awake much of the night as Idyll Time rocked back in forth in our slip due to a low pressure system moving over us. The high winds created large swells inside the marina. All of the boats were tugging and pulling on the lines in their slips like bucking broncos. The marina here on Mackinac Island is not very protected from easterly winds. It was a rough night. The winds continue to blow all morning with a light drizzle rain. We can see white caps just past the breakwater entrance to the harbor. Another boater has reservations for our slip today so we must be out by 1:00PM. The weather should start improving but if not we can move to another slip and stay longer.

By 1:00PM we are starting to see clearing skies. The winds seem to be calming down also but it is still white capping out in Lake Huron. After a weather discussion with “Freedoms Turn”, both boats decide that the seas should be manageable for us to leave. We pull away from the docks precisely at 1:00 PM. As we are leaving the harbor, we hear the boater who has reservations for our slip tonight entering the harbor. Looks like we left our slip just in time.

Out in Lake Huron, we find the seas much worse than we had anticipated. We are quickly in four foot rollers with high winds. After a brief discussion about turning around and heading back to the safety of the marina, we decide to continue on in hopes that the seas will lay down as the day progresses. We also have a bail out option about 10 miles away as “Freedoms Turn” told us about a nice anchorage in the Les Cheneaux Islands. It is a cold, windy, and grey day. Just as anticipated, the seas continue to calm down during the day and the trip is not too bad.


As we start to enter the Detour Passage, two freighters are coming out of the passage into Lake Huron from Lake Superior. It seems we always have the worst timing when meeting these huge vessels. We stay well out of their way, and are soon working our way into Harbor Island which is our anchorage for the night.


This will be our last stop before entering Canada. Our 46 mile trip from Mackinac Island was relatively uneventful and we look forward to spending a quite night at anchor in this secluded bay.

While anchored in Harbor Island, we discovered that our port side cleat had been loosened up during all the tugging and pulling on it while in Mackinac Island from the storm. This caused the varnish on our cap rail to crack and separate from the teak below. We just had all of our varnish redone while in Grand Haven earlier this spring. Although it is a relatively easy fix, we are still disappointed to see this damage. Jeff will have to apply several coats of varnish to this area to seal it back up. We usually tie to docks on our starboard side which has a much larger cleat (haws pipe) to handle the stress. In hindsight we should have asked the marina for a different slip when we arrived to Mackinac Island. This is a lesson learned for us and we will certainly try to tie up on the starboard side in the future (especially in rough conditions).

After a quiet evening at anchor, we are underway again by 7:00 AM. The weather has improved greatly with blue skies and little wind. We are soon entering the Canadian Waters of the North Channel. Today’s destination is Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island to clear customs. There is a Canadian Customs Officer in Gore Bay. We called her yesterday and she is expecting us. The birds make our life a little more complicated. Without them we could simply call the 1-800 number on our CANPASS when we entered Canadian waters. Because Nate and Homer are considered endangered species, they must have their CITES passports stamped by a Canadian Customs Officer. As we near Gore Bay, Jeff calls the Canadian Customs hotline and gives them our arrival time of 4:00 PM. He takes our information and says someone will meet us at the docks.

We have a gorgeous trip along Manitoulin Island and into Gore Bay. The bay is wide and deep with high bluffs on each side. The nice new floating docks soon appear and we see they are all empty. It is an easy docking. Jeff puts up our yellow quarantine flag.


We must stay on the boat until the Customs Officer arrives. Daisy and Sebastian look at us quizzically and don’t understand why we are not taking them to shore. After about 30 minutes, two lady Customs Officers arrive. They are very friendly and helpful. The process is quick and easy with no questions asked. We replace our quarantine flag with the Canada Flag and now are officially cleared to cruise these waters.


Just next to the marina is a restaurant called the Rocky Raccoon. The dock manager told us that it was really good.


We couldn’t believe our ears when he said the restaurant serves Nepali food. Having just returned from Nepal last month, we couldn’t resist and soon found ourselves inside talking with the owner/chef, Robin, who is from Nepal. When he found out that we had just returned from there, he asked if he could prepare us a special dish of chicken curry. It appears that the owner is a one man show. He quickly went into the kitchen and soon came out with a fabulous dinner for us. What a special treat to be eating Nepali food amongst the Buddhist Eyes and prayer flags here in the remote little town of Gore Bay.


The chef showed us a picture he had taken a few miles away in the Benjamin Islands. The rocks there look exactly like a reclining Buddha with its feet in the water. He explained this Buddha is the reason he chose to open a restaurant here in Gore Bay. He believes that this is a good luck sign for him. We can’t wait to find this place for ourselves. We learned that the chef has marked these rocks by placing some prayer flags at the sight. In addition to our prayer flags which we have strung from our boat, we have an extra set aboard. Now, we also need to locate these special rocks and place another set of prayer flags there. The chef said that we would be blessed by doing so.

Our time in Gore Bay was very productive. Our first stop was the local bank to exchange our US money into Canadian. There was a local Farmer’s Market here on Friday morning. We were able to purchase a loaf of homemade bread, several types of those great Canadian butter tarts, and some fresh whitefish. The whitefish was being sold out of the back of a refrigerated truck that had just come from the docks and a local fishing boat.


It doesn’t get any fresher than this. Our next stop was the local grocery to resupply on fresh produce. We then went to the Canadian Services Office for fishing license. Our big purchase was a new kayak for IT.


At the marina we found a really nice inflatable kayak. We had wanted a 3rd kayak that would be easier for guests to get into and out of but were concerned about how to store another boat onboard. This inflatable kayak will stow into a small bag when deflated and it seems really rugged.


We next visited the Canadian LBCO to resupply with wine. Coming into Canada we are not allowed to bring any wine or beer so our ship stores are empty. When the lady at the LBCO found out we were walking the couple of blocks back to the marina with our purchases, she said we must take her car and then bring it back. This is another example of Canadian hospitality.

The big news in Gore Bay today was the crash and recovery of a locally owned sea plane. This afternoon we saw it being towed into the harbor upside down with just the bottom of its floats showing above the water. Seeing many people along the docks, we went over to find out what had happened. The next hour was spent trying to pull the plane up out of the water using the marina’s boat travel lift.


It appears that the plane’s engine quite yesterday while returning to Gore Bay. After landing in the North Channel, the plane flipped over due an error by the pilot in not retracting his wheels before landing in the water. He was lucky in that his cell phone did not get wet and he was able to call for help. Another pilot with a float plane came and rescued him two hours later. They then took a boat out to the plane and towed it back into the harbor here at Gore Bay. After many different ideas from all the onlookers, they were able to get the plane out of the water and onto the docks. This was a very exciting afternoon for the little town of Gore Bay.

Total Miles Traveled Mackinac Island to Gore Bay: 121
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 535

Gore Bay to Beardrop Harbor:

From Gore Bay we head north through the North Channel and are soon entering the Scott Passage which navigates us safely around many rocks and brings us into the Whalesback Channel.


For our first anchorage we head into Beardrop Harbor. We had visited this anchorage last year and really liked it.


Here we spent the next three days exploring and kayaking the many rocky islets. While here, Suzanne and Marty aboard the Krogen 48 “Alizann” anchored nearby along with another boat, their friends from Charlevoix. It is great to see them again.


During our stay in Beardrop, we had a really close call with Daisy. Jeff and the two dogs were hiking along the rocky shore in search of wild blueberries. Daisy took a wrong turn while on top a high rock and ended up on a narrow ledge fifteen feet above the ground. Jeff was almost to her when she lost her footing and fell to the ground. The bushes below helped break her fall. By the time Jeff reached her she was heading back to the boat on her own. Back on the boat, we checked her for any broken bones or internal injuries but could find none. Never the less, she was all shook up and would barely move. We were really worried about her and almost headed back to Gore Bay. We made phone contact with the local vet in Gore Bay. They advised us to keep her quiet and see how she was in the morning. Luckily, she was much better the next day. She moved stiffly for several days and needed our help going up and down stairs. We are happy to report she is now back to normal. There will be no more rock climbing for her.


The fishing in Beardrop is excellent. During our stay we caught four Smallmouth Bass and several large Pike.


Once a fish is in our boat, Sebastian stays busy monitoring the catch to make sure it doesn’t escape. He especially enjoys licking all the slime off the tails. We now have lots of fisht in the freezer.


Total Miles Traveled Gore Bay to Beardrop Harbor: 23
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 558

Beardrop Harbor to Turnbull Islands:

We normally like to leave an anchorage early in the morning. Today we are traveling only seven miles to our next anchorage and decide to leave at 6:00 PM after the winds have died down and the seas are calm. The sun doesn’t set here until almost 10:00 PM so we still have plenty of daylight left. We are headed for Turnbull Island Anchorage which is one we have not been in before. We cautiously enter the anchorage basin careful to follow the cruising guides recommended track in order to avoid the two foot rock sitting in the middle of the entrance. Only one other sailboat is in the anchorage. We spend three days in this harbor. Alizann arrives the second day we are here. We enjoy several days with them kayaking and sharing several wonderful dinners together.


The kayaking here is especially nice. There are many rocky islets between the north and south anchorage. One could almost get lost among them. We enjoy several hours of paddling and exploring the area. We also managed to catch two Bass while here. Turnbull is a really nice anchorage and we hope to return again.


Total Miles Traveled Beardrop to Turnbull: 7
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 565

Turnbull to Moiles Harbour:

Alizann departed Turnbull at 5:30 AM this morning. They have a long 10 hour run to Mackinac Island today. Jeff went on deck to wave goodbye to them. We take a more leisurely departure this morning as we only have a short distance to travel. Our anchorage for this evening is Moiles Harbour which is a new spot for us. The entrance is really narrow but we have plenty of depth going in and it soon opens up to a well protected bay for anchoring.


We are again the only boat in the harbor. A YMCA camp operates nearby and we see several of their sturdy aluminum boats going in and out of the harbor. This harbor at one time housed a large lumber mill. There are many remains of the docks and huge piles of discarded wood planks both above and below the water. Our guide book warned of poor holding here because of all the sawdust on the bottom but we had no problem setting our anchor. We managed to catch one very large bass while trolling. Jeff also had his favorite fishing lure stolen by another large bass. This afternoon we hiked up one of the rocky hills in search of wild blueberries. Daisy was really hesitant to hike up with us. She has not forgotten her fall from several days ago. Although it is still early in the season, we manage to find several good patches of blueberries and collect a small bag of these delicious treats. It is tempting to eat these right away but we put them into the freezer for later use. Maybe a pie?

Total Miles Traveled Turnbull to Moiles Harbour: 13
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 578

Moiles Harbour to Coursol Bay:

Today is another short run to a new anchorage just across the Whalesback Channel. Coursol Bay looks like a well protected spot. The entrance is very dramatic with a 50 foot high cliff on each side of the narrow but deep entrance into the bay.


We again find a nice large bay with no other boats and good holding for our anchorage. We quickly deploy the dinghy to explore/fish the area. There is an inner harbor here that looks nice. Unfortunately we find it to be only a few feet deep and choked with weeds. This is not for us and we quickly exit back out into the deeper outer bay. We had heard that the fishing was good around southern entrance of the harbor. Here Jeff soon catches another nice smallmouth bass. We have fresh fish for dinner tonight. This evening we watch as five small fishing boats appear and fish this area for several hours. We decide to head back out and try our luck again. We come back to the boat empty handed.

Total Miles Traveled Moiles Harbour to Coursol Bay: 6
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date 584

Coursol Bay to Oak Bay:

Dawn comes slowly this morning as there is thick fog all around. We wait several hours for it to lift before heading to our next destination of Oak Bay. The wind is forecast to blow hard for the next several days so we have decided that Oak Bay would offer us good protection from the blow. We had anchored here last year and found it good. Our route today takes us through a narrow passage know as “Little Detroit”. This passage is only 100 feet wide and does a dogleg half way through so that you can not see any traffic coming from the other side. It is standard procedure to call on the VHF a “Securite” announcing your transit of this passage two minutes prior to entering the channel. We go very slowly and fortunately have no other boat traffic. We find no other boats at our anchorage in Oak Bay.

This evening we were studding our charts of this area for other possible anchorages. In fine print on one of the charts, I noticed a notation of a submerged pilling in our anchorage near our current location. The notation said that it was last seen in 1982. There was no mention of this in any of the cruising guides. We took note of this but felt we were far enough away from any possible danger. Well, one hour later the wind shifted and we soon noticed that we were not swinging properly. Jeff hopped in the kayak and found our keel resting against this piling which is about four feet below the surface. We were fortunate not to have hit this with our prop when anchoring earlier. Jeff pulls up some of the anchor and eases us off the piling. We are soon free of the obstruction. Jeff records the coordinates of the piling with our hand held GPS. The wind now has us swinging in the opposite direction of the piling. We turn in for the night feeling good about this incident. At 2:00 AM we hear a loud thump on the hull. We are quickly up and discover that the wind has shifted and we are again not swinging correctly. We must be against the piling once more. We spend the next hour trying to decide what to do. We think we know where the piling is but it is dark and we can not be 100% sure. We consider pulling the boat forward again using the anchor windlass but without seeing where the piling is along the hull we are afraid of snagging it worse and doing damage to the boat. The wind is increasing and we don’t want to wait until daylight. Jeff takes our kayak paddle and from the dive platform spends several minutes furiously paddling the boat hoping to move us away from the piling. Within minutes we are free and swinging rapidly away from this submerged monster. What a relief! Now we can get some sleep. The next morning, Jeff dons his snorkeling gear and quickly locates our nemesis. He ties a white plastic bottle with a string to the submerged log so that other boaters won’t have the misfortune that we did.

Just as forecast, the winds blow hard from the west and northwest for several days. We stay hunkered down enjoying our protected little cove. Luckily the winds are keeping us 180 degrees away from the submerged piling and we have several days of piece and quiet. Two other boats join us while here.

Total Miles Traveled Coursol Bay to Oak Bay: 12
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 596

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