The North Channel Part Two: 2010

Oak Bay to Little Current:

After spending several days in our protected cove at Oak Bay, we are ready to continue our trip east. The winds have calmed down and we have a beautiful passage through the Whalesback Channel.

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From there we connect to the Wabuno Channel and are soon safely secure at the town docks of Little Current, located at the northeast corner of Manitoulin Island. The town docks consist of a 1000 foot long bulkhead which runs parallel to the main street of town. The port offers free docking during the day for boaters wishing to make a quick stop for provisioning. Boats are constantly coming and going as this is the largest port for many miles. Here boaters can find everything they need including a grocery store, LCBO, bank, Post Office, hardware store, and several restaurants, all within walking distance. Today the docks are almost empty. There seems to be very few boaters in the area this year. We wonder if this doesn’t have something to do with the economy. Little Current is also home to the Cruisers Net. Each morning at 9:00 AM Roy Eaton broadcast the Cruisers Net from the Anchor Inn on VHF Channel 71. This is a valuable service for summer boaters as phone and internet are sometimes unavailable in this area. Each morning Roy gives a brief broadcast of news and weather followed by a radio check in of all the boaters in the area. At the peak of the season, over 100 boaters call in each morning. This has become our daily contact with the outside world.

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Downtown Little Current is full of activity the day we arrive. It is July 1st, Canada Day, which is equivalent to the United States 4th of July. The main street is closed off with many vendor and food stalls lining the streets.

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There is a cake cutting at noon followed by live music throughout the afternoon and evening. There are free Canadian flags and lapel pins for anyone who asks. The Canadians are very patriotic about their country. We spend two days in Little Current cleaning and provisioning IT in preparation of guest for the next week. Jack and Barbara, our next door neighbors in Tennessee, join us here in Little Current and spend the next five days cruising with us. After a long days drive, they arrive road weary but happy to be aboard. We enjoy a good dinner at the Anchor Inn soaking up the local atmosphere. Here we introduce them to a Canadian dish called Poutine which consists of French fries smothered in brown gravy and topped with cheese curds.

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Total Miles Traveled Oak Bay to Little Current: 28
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 624

Little Current to Mill Lake:

We are up early and time our departure for the 7:00 AM bridge opening. Just past the docks in Little Current is a swing bridge that connects Manitoulin Island to the Canadian mainland.

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This bridge opens at the top of each hour for boats to pass through. We have a four hour cruise to Mill Lake which is our anchorage destination for tonight. We enjoy a cool clear and calm day on the water. It is a beautiful trip with the LaCloche Mountains rising in the distance.

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We pass though the little town of Killarney on our way to Collins Inlet. We will stop back here on our return. Just outside of Killarney, we enter Collins Inlet which is a majestic rocky and narrow passage of about six miles long which leads us to Mill Lake, our anchorage for the evening. We have now left the North Channel and are in the northern most part of Georgian Bay which is in the northern part of Lake Huron.

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Just as we enter Collins Inlet, the alarm sounds for our stabilizers. This is the same alarm that occurred two months ago. We spend several minutes trying to reset the unit. After several tries, the stabilizers finally reactivate and continue to work perfectly for the remainder of our trip. Being the second time this has happened, we are concerned as to what is going on. Jeff will investigate this more once we get to our anchorage but for now things seem to be O.K.

Once inside Mill Lake, we anchor behind one of the many islands. We quickly have the dinghy and kayaks off the top deck to begin our explorations of the area. While here, Jack enjoys some good fishing. We manage to hook four Northern Pike along with several Bass.

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The fresh fish provides us with two great dinners. Jack and Barbara spend several hours kayaking around the rocky shoreline. Having spent a week here last year, this has become one of our favorite secluded anchorages.

Total Miles Traveled Little Current to Mill Lake: 36
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 660

Mill Lake to Covered Portage Cove:

After another morning of fishing, we have a late departure to our next destination of Covered Portage Cove. We retrace our steps and again enjoy the beautiful scenery of Collins Inlet. Today we make a lunch stop in Killarney. The LCBO liquor store has a courtesy dock for boaters to use for 30 minutes while purchasing spirits. Fortunately the dock is empty today and is conveniently located next to Mr. Perch, the local fish and chips stand.

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Even though we are well stocked, we make a small purchase at the LCBO since we are using their dock. We then quickly head to the red school buss next door which houses Mr. Perch. No stop to Killarney is complete without visiting this regional landmark. The menu consists of one item: Fish and Chips. Thankfully, the wait line is relatively short today and we are soon feasting on fish and chips back aboard IT. With our bellies full, we slowly motor the additional three miles to Covered Portage Cove, just outside of Killarney.

Covered Portage is one of the most scenic and popular anchorages in the North Channel. There is both an inner cove and an outside area for anchoring. The inner cove is crowed with many boats so we opt to stay in the deeper outer anchorage. Even here there are about 10 other boats. On the vertical cliff just opposite our anchorage the rocks form a profile of an Indian face similar to that found on an American five cent coin.

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We have a great view of this famous rock formation from where we are located. There is also a nice hike here which took us to the top of the high bluffs overlooking our anchorage.

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Everyone including the dogs enjoyed getting some much needed exercise. We were extra cautious with Daisy around the cliffs. The memory of her fall is still fresh in both our minds and hers. She does not leave our sight and stays well away from any edges. We tried some fishing here but had no luck. We did however enjoy several nice kayaks around the area. The spectacular scenery is what makes this such a popular anchorage.

Total Miles Traveled Mill Lake to Covered Portage Cove: 20
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 680

Covered Portage Cove to Baie Fine:

Today is another wonderful day of cruising as we cruise to the popular Baie Fine. Traveling through the Lansdowne Channel, the mountain-backed vistas of Frazer Bay quickly appear. We have another calm day with seas less than one foot. Heading north across Frazer Bay, we soon find the entrance to Baie Fine which is hidden from view because of the steep mountains on either side. Baie Fine is one of the few fjords in North America and we enjoy the amazing scenery as we travel the eight mile passage between the high white quartz mountains.

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The green pine trees dotting the landscape provide a vivid contrast to the white rock underneath and it almost appears to have snowed from a distance. We cautiously maneuver through several shallow rocky areas. Our depth alarm goes off in one section with a depth of only six feet. After six miles up this fjord, our passage takes us into an even more restricted waterway aptly called the Narrows. As we reach the end of the Narrows our waterway terminates into a popular anchorage called the Pool. As we enter the Pool, we quickly discover it to be choked full of weeds. We had anchored here last year and it was very weedy, but nowhere near as bad as this year. We rapidly turn around and exit as we don’t want these weeds to clog our intakes, stabilizers, or propeller. We find a wonderful spot to anchor in the Narrows just outside the Pool. From our anchorage we have great views down the Narrows with the tall mountains rising from either side.

We spend two nights enjoying this splendid location. Just inside the Pool, there is a popular hike which takes us one mile up the mountain to a secluded lake called Topez Lake. This has to be one of the most beautiful places anywhere to be found.

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The water in this pristine lake is a brilliant blue due to a high concentration of naturally occurring minerals. The water here is crystal clear with 50-60 foot visibility. Because of the high mineral content, it is know as a dead lake as there are no fish and nothing else grows along the lake bottom. We enjoy a refreshing swim in this remote location.

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After our swim, we continue hiking to an overlook from which we have great 360 degree views of the Pool.

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Along the way, we find a fabulous patch of wild blueberries. With many hands busy, we soon have enough collected for a blueberry pie.

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We also find the fishing good in Baie Fine. While trolling through the Narrows, Jack lands several bass and a very large Northern Pike. We have a great dinner of fresh fish and homemade blueberry pie. Our meal couldn’t get much fresher than this.

Total Miles Traveled Covered Portage Cove to Baie Fine: 29
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 709

Baie Fine to Heywood Island:

As much as we hate to leave our remote anchorage here in Baie Fine, Jack and Barbara’s vacation time is coming to an end and we must start heading back towards Little Current. We once again soak up the magnificent views of Baie Fine on our way to our final anchorage of Haywood Island.

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Being only nine miles from Little Current, we can catch the 8:00 AM bridge opening tomorrow morning for an early arrival back into the town docks. Although not as scenic as our previous anchorages, Haywood has crystal clear water and reportedly good Bass fishing. We are surprised to find six other boats here in the cove, but there is still plenty of room for us. We anchor in 15 feet of water and soon have both the dinghy and kayaks down for one last evening of exploration. Susie, Barbara, and Jack go for a quick paddle around the harbor. This evening we try our luck at fishing. Barbara has never caught a bass before, and soon has her first one landed. Way to Go Barbara! We decide to let it grown some more and release him back into the clear water. Afterwards, we enjoy a final meal aboard IT with Jack and Barbara consisting of Fish Curry and Blueberry Pie.

Total Miles Traveled Baie Fine to Heywood Island: 18
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 727

Heywood Island to Little Current:

We crank the engine this morning at 6:45 AM and are underway by 7:00 AM in order to catch the 8:00 AM bridge opening into Little Current. At this hour we have fog and turn on our fog horn while underway. We reach the swing bridge five minutes early and are soon once again tied alongside the town docks. Before Jack and Barbara leave, we take a few minutes to sit in on the 9:00 AM broadcast of the daily Cruisers Net which is delivered from the second floor of the Anchor Inn. After listening to the broadcast every morning for the last week on the VHF , Jack and Barbara enjoyed seeing this live broadcast.

We have had a great week with our friends from Tennessee and are sad to see them go. Sebastian will especially miss them as they have been his constant companions. Jeff rides with them through the Canadian Border crossing back to Mackinac City where we had left our car. He then makes the five hour trip back to Little Current and we now have our car here and hope to tour the interior of Manitoulin Island over the next few weeks.

While in Little Current, Jeff also made some nice modifications to our outdoor grill. We can now attach the grill to our back swim platform and grill off the back deck. We have always attached our grill to our side deck near the pilothouse. This was always problematic trying to grill when it was windy. By having the grill on the back deck, all the winds are blocked. He can now also mount a fish cleaning station here to clean any fish we catch. This new modification turned out well and we are very pleased.

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Total Miles Traveled Heywood to Little Current: 9
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 736

Little Current to Manitowaning:

As we prepare IT for our departure from Little Current, the stabilizer alarm sounds off once again. This is the third time. We quickly decide that it is time to investigate our problem further and abort our departure. After a call to the manufacturer, they determine that our problem is the power supply to the stabilizer computer. We must send this unit back to the factory for repair. Being in a remote part of Canada, our shipping options to California are limited. The closest FEDEX shipping point is Sudbury, ON which is 1 ½ hours away. Plus today is Friday and it would not ship until Monday PM. UPS does not deliver into this area. After some more research, we learn that the local hardware store is a Purolator shipping depot and can have the unit sent to California in two days. Jeff takes the unit to them and they help package it for shipment. The manufacturer promises a quick turn around and we hope to have the unit back in about a week. We can continue to run IT but will not have stabilizers. This should not be a problem as the lake is very calm right now.

Due to our stabilizer problem, we depart Little Current late in the day after a quick pump out of our holding take at Walley’s Marine Service which is next to the town docks. We decide to stop for the evening at the Haywood Island anchorage, nine miles away. The next morning we continue south down the Manitowaning Bay to the little village of Manitowaning. We have a pleasant and uneventful cruise to the end of the bay where we find a nice spot to anchor just off the town docks. The retired steamship, Norisle, is berthed on the north shore.

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Our guide books say this ship has been converted into a museum. These plans must have been scraped as she appears all closed up and looks like little maintenance has been done on her in a long time.

Manitowaning is off the beaten track and very few cruisers visit this area. We are the only boat here. A short walk into town, and we see that there is not much to Manitowaning. There is a grocery store, bank, post office, and local tavern but that is about it. We do have a nice lunch at the Tavern and they even allow the dogs to sit with us on the outside deck. We spend the remainder of the afternoon aboard IT.

Total Miles Traveled Little Current to Manitowaning: 26
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 762

Manitowaning to Collins Inlet:

It is extremely foggy as we prepare our departure from Manitowaning. We delay getting underway for about an hour giving the fog time to lift. It finally does and we have another outstanding day of cruising in route to Collins Inlet. With no stabilizers, we are relieved to be on flat calm water once again. Today we bypass the inside passage and Killarney for a run outside the islands to Collins Inlet. The only waves we experience are from two inconsiderate power boats that pass near us at a high rate of speed. Just inside the inlet entrance, we pass a cute little blue hulled canal boat from Pennsylvania, heading west.

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As she passes, we notice a looper flag flying on her stern. Both boats are a long way from home. We hope to see the canal boat again somewhere down stream.

Today we are stopping half way through Collins Inlet at a new anchorage for us known as Keyhole. We arrive happy to find no other boats in the anchorage. We cautiously enter between the rocks and find a great spot to anchor between two high bluffs.

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This is one of the most scenic anchorages that we have visited. We spend the afternoon investigating the area by kayak. With many small rocky islands, this is a great place to kayak. We enjoy watching a beaver as he ferries some branches back to his lodge.

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We have seen many beavers in the last few days. They are all very busy building their lodges for next winter. This area seems to be a great fishing locale but looks can be deceiving. We spend several hours trolling in the dinghy but come home empty handed. Jeff did have one large Bass on the hook but it managed to shake loose at the last minute. The next morning, we dinghy over to one of the islands in search of blueberries. We come back to the boat with two bags full, enough for two pies.

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Total Miles Traveled Manitowaning to Collins Inlet: 31
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 793

Collins Inlet to Boyle Cove:

Although we would prefer to spend another night at Keyhole in Collins Inlet, the weather forecast for tomorrow is not good with high winds and thunderstorms. In order to return to Little Current, we have an open stretch of Lake Huron to cross and feel it wise to do so before these high winds arrive. We have a two hour run to a new anchorage known as Boyle Cove. We find this anchorage also empty and have plenty of room to swing. It should provide us excellent protection from the forecasted high winds and thunderstorms.

We spend the next two days securely anchored while the weather passes. We do manage to get in a long Kayak along Frazier Bay to a place called “Hole in the Wall”.

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This narrow passage is frequently used by fisherman to connect Frazier Bay with the Lansdown Channel and saves one several miles in travel. It is for small boats only and we would not dare take Idyll Time though this passage but it is fun to do in the kayaks. Two sailboats arrive in our anchorage late in the evening.

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We will return to Little Current tomorrow for reprovisioning.

Total Miles Traveled Collins Inlet to Boyle Cove: 22
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 815

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