The North Channel Part Three: 2010

Boyle Cove to Little Current:

From Boyle Cove, we have an easy hour run to Little Current. We have made this trip now several times and are very familiar with the waterway.

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We timed our departure to arrive at the Little Current swing bridge on the hour for its scheduled opening. We make a quick stop at Wallys fuel dock for a pump out of our holding take before heading into our slip. Little Current will be our home for the next week.

When we arrived in Little Current last month there was hardly a boat around. We kept asking ourselves, “Where are all the boaters?” Now we are asking “Where did all the boats come from?” We have never seen so many boats coming and going. The docks are completely full. We enjoy meeting many other loopers as they pass through Little Current. The little canal boat “Dragonfly” that we had passed several weeks ago is one the loopers that show up on the docks.

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Their boat is truly unique for doing the loop and we enjoy talking with them and hope to see them again this fall. On Tuesday, the dock master clears out the 1500 foot town dock wall. He has this space reserved for another boat. Luckily we are in one of the finger slips and don’t have to move. By nights end, the long wall is completely empty. It is a strange sight to see this huge wall completely void of other boats.

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The next morning, we understand why this was necessary. We hear a loud noise and look up to see a big blue cruise ship heading into the docks. It is quite a site to see this monster ship here in this small harbor. During the summer months this cruise ship makes a stop here each week.

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A constant danger of staying here in Little Current is the local take-away stand just feet from our slip. It is way too convenient to make the quick trip to the order window and return to the boat with fresh fried white fish and hot home cut fries.

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It is some of the best fish we have had and the french fries are to die for. Daisy and Sebastian especially appreciated our evening trips for ice cream. The local brand here in Canada is Farquhars and it is really really good. The dogs eagerly await their daily routine of licking the ice cream bowls clean once we are done.

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I think all four of us have gained several pounds while here. We do get some much needed exercise with a hike up the Cup and Saucer Trail. Just a few miles outside Little Current, is this seven mile trail that leads to the highest point on Manitoulin Island. From the top we are rewarded with outstanding views of the North Channel.

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Daisy and Sebastian were also very happy to be romping around the woods. The seven miles were a little long for Daisy and she barely moved for the next two days. For a 13 year old she still does pretty well to be able to hike with us.

Each morning Jeff makes a trip up to the Anchor Inn for the daily Cruisers Net broadcast. He has enjoyed being a scribe for Roy and helping record the boats and their locations as they call in each morning.

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The weekend brings many cruisers to Little Current for the multitude of activities going on. The 7th annual MacMan Sailboat Race from Mackinac Island is this weekend. All of the racers finish here in Little Current on Saturday. Roy, from the Cruisers Net, asked us to give a presentation of our Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp hikes to the cruisers. We were not prepared for this but with Roy’s help we managed to pull off a multimedia presentation of both adventures. The hour long talk was held at the new Little Current Yacht Club facilities and was attended by about 30 boaters. Afterwards, Roy hosted a tour of his wife’s flower gardens. Her flowers are truly spectacular. The evening was highlighted by a fish fry complements of Roy along with a pot luck dinner for all the cruisers. As a fitting end to the evening, the Commodore of the Great Lakes Cruising Club presented Roy with a very special award, a lifetime membership to the GLCC, in recognition of his service to the boating community.

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We are now awaiting our stabilizer servo unit to be returned from TRAC via FEDEX. It should have arrived two days ago but for some reason it is still stuck in Sudbury which is 1 ½ hours away. After many phone calls, we were promised that it will arrive on Monday.

Total Miles Traveled Boyle Cove to Little Current: 14
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 829

Little Current to Bell Cove:

After waiting all morning, our stabilizer servo unit finally arrives via FEDEX. Jeff spends the next hour reinstalling the unit.

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We cross our fingers as we turn the unit on for a test. Everything seems to be working fine. We make one last trip to the ice cream stand before leaving Little Current. Although it is a little late in the day for leaving, we are anxious to be away from the docks and decide to head to a nearby anchorage. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Little Current but are ready to be on the move once again.

I guess on a boat you should never expect things to go as planed. As we pull away from the docks, Jeff engages the stabilizers. We are in a nice calm harbor and our boat immediately starts rocking madly from side to side. We look like a giant Mexican jumping bean. He quickly turns the stabilizers off and the rocking stops. Yikes, something is not right here!! This is another first for us. We immediately head back to our slip. After a lengthy phone call with the service manager for TRAC stabilizers, we determine that the correct parameters were not reprogrammed into our Servo from the factory when it was repaired. He guides Jeff though the long process of reprogramming our computer. Once done, we head back out into the harbor for another test. The rocking is not nearly as bad, but things are still not correct. Another phone call and some more settings are changed in the computer. Things now seem to be working properly and we are good to go.

It is now much later than we would normally leave, but with only twelve miles to go we are able to make our new anchorage well before dark. We are always hesitant when entering a new anchorage but luckily we find Bell Cove easy to enter with deep water and plenty of room. It is nice to be back on the hook instead of tied to a dock. We enjoy the peace and quite anchorage with great views of the LaCloche Mountains in the distance.

Total Miles Traveled Little Current to Bell Cove: 12
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 841

Bell Cove to Eagle Island:

The winds are forecast to blow really hard out of the south so we have decided to move on to a more protected anchorage. Before leaving, we take the dinghy next door to another anchorage called Sturgeon Cove. It is only ½ mile from our anchorage and is more protected but is very tricky to enter. We did not feel comfortable taking Idyll Time in there until we have scoped it out. There are three different ranges which one must us to avoid the rocks all around. We manage to find the way in with Time Out. There is deep water as long as you follow all three ranges exactly. One wrong turn and you would be on the rocks. I think we could now enter here with Idyll Time but we will save it for another year.

We have another short run to Eagle Island. This anchorage should keep us well protected from the strong south winds which are forecast for later today. During the day many other boats arrive. They are all thinking the same as us and seeking a good storm anchorage. By evening there are 12 boats tucked in the harbor. Just as forecast, the winds pick up this evening. By the next morning the winds are gusting to over 30 knots. Several boats had to reset their anchors during the night. Our anchor has a good hold and we haven’t moved an inch. These situations are always a little tense as you not only have to worry about your anchor dragging but you also have to watch for other boats dragging into you. Thanks to a great suggestion from our cruising friends, The Tucks aboard Alizann, Jeff recently purchased a new navigational gadget for the boat. We now have a laser range finder to help us check our positions while at anchor. By taking several sightings on land, we can accurately verify that our anchor is not dragging. The strong gusting winds continue throughout the day. Everyone stays hunkered down on their boats staring at their anchors. By nightfall, the winds have calmed down and we are able to get good nights sleep.

We decided to take advantage of our down time and do some computer maintenance. It had been suggested to us that we should back up all of our navigational routes that we have created just in case something ever happened to our shipboard computer. In the last five years with over 12,000 miles under our keel, we have accumulated many different routes around the US and Canada. What should have been a simple and quick procedure turned into a nightmare. When we downloaded our backup routes to the laptop, only several of the routes from two years ago copied. We then checked the shipboard computer, and ALL of our routes for the past three years had disappeared. After many phone calls to Nobeltec, the computer software company, we still have no answers as to what happened. Nobeltec feels that we have a bug in our navigational program. They suggested that we need to load a newer version of the software to our computer. Many hours were spent doing so and then recreating all of our old routes. It was not a good day!

Total Miles Traveled Bell Cove to Eagle Island: 20
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 861

Eagle Island to Beardrop Harbor:

After strong blows for the last two days, the winds are finally calm and the sun is shining. We decide to continue our voyage west to one of our favorite anchorages, Beardrop Harbor. We call it “Daisy Drop”, as this where Daisy had her big fall from a rocky bluff earlier this spring.

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It is a beautiful day and we have an easy cruise through Little Detroit passage. After traveling through this rock cut several times now, it is not nearly as intimidating.

As we are enjoying the rugged scenery though the Whalesback Channel, we happen to notice that our autopilot compass is not reading correctly. What is going on? It was working fine on our last travel day. After many phone calls to our electronics technician, we determine that it must be something to do with the new computer software that we loaded. We manually adjust the compass with a correction but still don’t fully understand why this happened.

We soon reach our anchorage. The entrance channel into Beardrop Harbor is studded with rocks. The narrow passage to the anchorage can be tricky if you have never been there before. One wrong turn will place you on the rocks. Having entered this anchorage three times now, we give it little thought. With everything that has happened the last few days, we should have known to expect something to happen. Just as we are rounding the rocks into the anchorage basin, our Nauticomp computer screen goes blank. With quick thinking, Jeff is able to switch our charts over to our second screen. We are soon safely anchored in the harbor. What is going on with our boat?

After many more phone calls, we have been promised that a new computer screen will arrive to us in Sault Saint Marie on Friday. Our plans are to enter Lake Superior on Monday and we really don’t feel comfortable going without this monitor. We do have a second screen but will feel much better traveling in the “Big Lake” with everything working properly. The factory has to build this screen and it will not ship until Thursday. They have promised that it will ship overnight and be to us on Friday. We are crossing our fingers that it arrives in time.

We spend the next two days enjoying Beardrop Harbor.

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There are 18 other boats here in the anchorage. This is the most crowded that we have seen Beardrop but there is still plenty of f room for everyone. We have always had good luck fishing in this area and give it a try once again. On this trip we catch two large pike and a good smallmouth bass and enjoy fresh fish for dinner.

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Jeff is pleased to get another chance to use his new fish cleaning table that he has mounted on the stern.

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We had planed on staying here several more days but have decided to head on to Sault Saint Marie early. Jeff is anxious to uninstall our defective monitor so he will be ready for the new one when it arrives. He doesn’t like it when the boat is not 100 %.

Total Miles Traveled Eagle Island to Beardrop: 24
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 885

Beardrop to Sault Saint Marie:

We leave Beardrop early this morning in a light mist and fog. We have a long open water passage today. Luckily the seas are calm. With only one navigation screen working, we cross our fingers that it does not go out on us. We would still have several other backup systems with both our laptop computer and hand held GPS if it were to fail. Everything goes smoothly and we have a pleasant trip. We are soon entering the St. Joseph Channel.

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The high rock bluffs now come into view. There are many small rocky islands to avoid but the channel is well marked. We stop for the evening at an anchorage area called Anderson Bay. We had stayed here last year on our trip to Sault Ste. Marie so are very familiar with it. This anchorage is not especially scenic but it is a nice safe spot to spend the night.

We are up early the next morning for our trip up to the Soo. We soon enter the freighter channel and keep a sharp lookout for any of the Lakers. We are now traveling in the up bound channel so have to only worry about Lakers approaching from our stern. Our AIS gives us detailed info on the locations of the Lakers. We have one Laker about four miles behind us. We monitor his location throughout the morning. He is rapidly gaining on us. At our current speed, he would pass us just before reaching Sault Ste. Marie. We push IT a little faster so as to stay just ahead of the Laker.

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This part of the river is very narrow and we would prefer to reach the harbor before he has to pass. The up bound and down bound channel merge into one and things get very busy as we near the Soo. There is another Laker who has just exited the locks and is down bound. We now have one in front of us and one behind. These guys are BIG!! Just past the channel bend, we pull over to starboard and let the down bound Laker pass.

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The two Lakers then pass each other just behind us. We soon have Bondar Marina in sight and are happy to leave the busy St. Mary’s River.

We will spend the next few days in Sault Saint Marie preparing Idyll Time for our big adventure into Lake Superior. We have been promised that our new monitor will arrive on Friday. If everything goes as planned, Jeff will have it installed in time for our Sunday departure. Our friends, Suzanne and Marty aboard Alizann, should arrive here on Saturday. The two Krogens will travel together for our exploration of Superior. We are hoping for a good weather window to enter the lake.

Total Miles Traveled Beardrop to Sault Saint Marie: 94
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 979

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