Second Entry – August 26
Lots More Stories
Week 1 – Rediscovering our Sea Legs and Cruising Tempo – Bell Cove, Oak Bay West, Lorrier, Bear’s Bottom
Tuesday, August 2 – Wednesday, August 3 – Bell Cove.
Tuesday – high heat & humidity, winds light, fair skies, water level 0.9 meters above chart datum throughout Lake Huron. As previously reported, we launched early Tuesday morning with Rick’s and his new sidekick James’ able assistance. Once we were floating, Craig did a quick check that everything was in order and pronounced us ready to go. But, Andy found a leak in our wash down hose and nozzle, flooded the anchor locker, which leaked into the head room floor somehow we could not determine, and so in terrible heat and humidity on our first planned day of sailing, it was off to Rona’s hardware store for a new nozzle. Andy figures it had water in it that froze up over the winter – i.e., new procedure for decommissioning – get it off the boat. Fixed that, cut off 3 inches of hose, reattached it and it worked. But, now, hmmm, was the drain hose from the anchor locker to the outside of the boat also fouled requiring replacement so water wouldn’t leak into the head again, so off he went to Rona for a new hose, clamps and fittings which we threw into the lazarette to save for a possible future repair once under way. Now Andy was ready, the kitties were onboard, and Barbie started doing stupid OCD stuff driving him crazy – he mentioned we might make the opening of the swing bridge schedule for – ugh! by now 2 pm – and Barbie realized she was totally overheated and not thinking straight so she ran up to the Harbor Vue rest room and drenched her head and shirt with cold water and ran back in time for us to launch and make the 2 pm bridge. Whew! We were off. Time to “get outa Dodge,” which is what we call Little Current, and marinas in general. We finally understand what the old salts mean by “we like to anchor out.”
Way hot, way late, no wind, what to do now? So we settled on motoring just outside the Little Current westerly channel markers and a bit northwest to Bell Cove – so named because it remotely resemble the shape of a bell. We had been there before, got there and the anchoring area was deep water so we motored about for a bit till we found a ridge on the west side that was shallow enough to quick drop an anchor in about 18 feet of water, requiring 126 feet of rode (chain and “rope” for you land-lubbers), set the anchor nicely, jumped in the water to cool off and then we collapsed. We had made it.
Wednesday – temperature moderated, winds nw 10, fair. Told Roy on the Cruisers Net that we were going from Bell to Sturgeon Cove (which happens to be just around the point, but for which we had complicated instructions about how to get in without hitting a rock and sinking your boat, which someone did last year) and he laughed as he repeated the call for confirmation and rebroadcast to a more distance listening audience that “NorthStar is making the lo-o-o-ng trip from Bell to Sturgeon. So we decided to explore the entrance with our instructions, which we had found by now, and our depth gauge and binoculars from the safety of Little Dipper and her 18-inch draft counting the outboard (just slightly more draft than Pepper’s old Dane). Went nuts over this for a while because the instructions make a Z-type path based on three different sets of site line consisting of white painted circles on rocks, diamonds on trees, and a rock right at the starting point that you need to get around. Well, at first it seemed that the first set of site line lined up on top of the rock we needed to avoid. And there was a big pile of rocks painted white in the shape of a triangle with a tall white line near a tree, and low & behold there was a fourth set of site lines that did not correspond to our very detailed instructions date 1999. As we were doing all this, first a dinghy fisherman came by asking if we were looking for rocks and then one or two sailing boats headed straight into the bay without any concern for our detailed chart. We finally resolved that the fourth pile of triangle rocks and the big line behind it were a new and perhaps improved single site line. Puttered around for a while, decided there were way too many boats already in the anchorage and that we were nicely hooked on our ridge in Bell, so we decided to stay put and went back to NorthStar for lunch.
After lunch we decided to dinghy around the island at the northwest entrance to Bell and explore the area on the other side and the little fishing camp deep in the bay. There, Andy pointed out the rock ledge we had hit 11 years ago with Pepper’s 14-inch draft Beachcomer – The Dane. (Barbie doesn’t remember ever hitting a rock.) Once back to the bay we dinghied along the shoreline looking for any small bit of shade. Didn’t find much shade but found some beautiful rock formations and then we stopped to watch a porcupine rummage around on the shore for a while until he (or she) ambled up the hill behind the trees and out of sight. Ended the evening nicely and plotted a course for Oak Bay.
Thursday, August 4 – Friday, August 5 – Oak Bay (formed between Hotham Island and the mainland)
Thursday – very hot, winds predicted s 10, actual nw light, fair. Based on the predicted wind we anticipated a beautiful sail back to one of our favorite anchorages at Oak Bay (we called it Hotham last year but learned that those in the know call it Oak). Unfortunately, the wind in fact was very light and from the exact direction we were headed so we motored all the way to Oak Bay and had to stop several times to jump in the water and cool off. Why did we bring all those fleeces & flannel shirts? What ever happened to that “great North Channel air”? Roy, the man who runs the daily Cruisers’ Net broadcast at 9 am characterized it as the Earth’s fever. The poor kitties! Especially Jennifer, who insisted on being up in the hot V-berth! We were afraid she wouldn’t make it. Once in port we got her out of there and dampened her fur with a cold washcloth several times and she finally recovered. Mindy wisely stayed below in her cubby Andy made for her under a seat on the cool hull. But Jennifer just wouldn’t stay in, even when Barbie put her there.
Anchored nicely in our previous spot from last year, spying Sae Bridd our friends from last year, who had lent us the little old-fashioned hand drill for Barbie’s little hanging hook, anchored among several other boats as we entered. Took another swim to cool off from the heat of the day and settled in for the night. Barbie heard one or two “gungs” from a green frog who could eak it out in the heat, but that was about it. Nothing liked the wonderful chorus that had fascinated the kitties last summer. Andy couldn’t hear a thing because his ears go plugged up in one of his dunks in the water, which remained a problem throughout the voyage. The only benefit was his inability to hear Barbie’s endless chatter after her morning coffee, which didn’t matter to her, it was just a form of humming to herself. The night never cooled off and so our sleep wasn’t so hot, just our bodies.
Friday – a blissful break in the heat after a very brief rain, which also brought a little bit of breeze. Took off in Little Dipper in the morning to visit a little bit and to get a little cool breeze and check out anchorages across the channel formed between Hotham Island and the mainland. Started with a nice conversation with Barefoot Shoes (dinghy named Flip Flops) Steve and Rae. We stopped there because Barefoot Shoes is a trawler of the same type as our good friend Panda Bear from the previous two years and photos Andy took in the full moons. We talked about their boat, our boat, their previous sailing experiences, and learned a new term from Steve. He said they love to do “the verb” to sail, but decided to switch to the trawler a few years ago. This is a reference to the fact that sailor often just motor from place to place, and it’s a misnomer that they come here to actually sail. But doing the verb, to sail, is one of our objectives this year, by gum. Said hi to Grant and Darla on Sae Bridd, and headed into the channel where the wind was making the dinghy travel a bit choppy. Saw the tip of a floating log and with great effort due to how slippery it was, we pulled up an 8-foot slab from the main channel and dumped it off at a little island in the channel. Found out where the term water-logged came from. Checked out the anchorage across the way and decided it was too small and too many rocks on entry, so we went back to NorthStar and had a nice day after the rain system cooled it off.
Saturday, August 6 – Lorrier – warm, winds light -> 20 nw, waves 1 meter -> 0.5 m, fair.
OK, the six blocks of ice usually hold for about a week, but in this heat we were already melting down, couldn’t cook the chicken and pork chops because it was too hot to use the stove, so we needed to get ice pronto. Luckily Grant told us about a nice little anchorage just south of Spanish Marina so we headed off to Spanish under motor in the light morning wind, through the straight at Little Detroit with proper announcement of our entry “securite, securite, sailboat entering Little Detroit in two minute from east to west” for a quick pit stop and then went to Lorrier to anchor for the night. It was lovely and not a marina. Had quiet evening watching a couple of fishing boats pull in and then pull out, and headed out the next morning for John Harbor, determined to sail the Whales Back Channel route to get there.
Sunday, August 7 – Monday, August 8 – Bear’s Bottom
Sunday – nw 10 -> increasing -> light, waves 1m – 0.5 m, fair. Well, we had a very nice wind from the northwest, allowing us to sail a close hauled sail with full main and genoa up the Whales Back. As we approached the western tip of John Island. Andy looked out at the now building seas. A boat ahead of us about a mile was bouncing to and fro and turned around to head back to Moiles on the north side of the island. We definitely weren’t going there, where we dragged anchor in a 30 mph thunder storm after dark three years ago, but Andy spotted masts to the north. An anchorage! “Barbie plot us a course to that spot!” which isn’t that easy because it’s “off-piste” as they say in the skiing world, i.e., not on the well-beaten track. But we got in there just fine and found our we were in Bear’s Bottom (or, to use the vernacular, Bare Bottom), just east of Bear Drop, a well-documented anchorage. With our 3-foot 2 draft, we could tuck in nicely in front of two sailboats and a fancy power boat, and we were nicely out of the wind (predicted for the next day, I might add).
We liked it! So we stayed an extra day. We saw that everyone was having happy hour over on the fancy boat, so we cut up some grand Wisconsin 4-year aged cheddar, our, our signature contribution, and headed over to crash the party at Shoal Survivor. Our hosts were gracious and we enjoyed our time in their second-story parlor below the bridge.
Monday – sw 20 -> light, fair. Glad to be in our little hideaway in the breeze, we took Little Dipper for a spin through a small cut that links Bear’s Bottom to Bear Drop to check it out. Lots of boats! Beautiful anchorage! Headed to the west end of Bear Drop for a picnic on a big rock overlooking the western entry and casually watch a beautiful sailboat come in and anchor at the exact spot Andy had identified as ideal. A couple came by to invite us for happy hour at their boat. We said we’d try and would bring some good Wisconsin cheese but that we were anchored over yonder. He told stories about selling Michigan cheese to Kraft and we had a good camaraderie going, but after the long ride back to NorthStar, in the end we decided it was too long a trip by dinghy in the evening (3 miles round trip as it turns out) so we just stayed put for the night and finally took off to one of our favorite places, John Harbor, in the morning.
Week 2 – Our Return to Heaven John Harbor, Benjamins, Oak Bay East
Tuesday, August 9 – Saturday, August 13 – John Harbor.
Tuesday – sw 10-15, fair.
Wednesday – sw 15 -> sw10, fair, warm.
Woke up to a beautiful morning on Tuesday with a beautiful wind, and decided it was time for a sail. So we did the verb. We got out of the Whales Back Channel at the west end of John Island and plotted a course for Turnbull, 7 miles to the west. We started out under full main and jib on a port tack with Andy at the helm. After a while Barbie took the tiller and then the wind started to build so we reefed the main and then the genoa, and continued on our way toward Turnbull. We had heard on the Cruisers Net that our friends on Tango, Bob, Helen and Cocoa were anchored there with others, but as we continued we decided that John Harbor would be preferable in this wind, so we sailed most of the way there and then jibed the sails to make the return voyage on a starboard tack, letting the genoa out because we were now on a broad reach for the return. We pulled into John Harbor, anchoring off the smaller Gowan Island, where there had been a lovely little beach three years ago. The beach was mostly under water this time, but still very accessible to Little Dipper and a ride Barbie gave to Jennifer the next morning.
Thursday – s 10-15 -> sw 15, sunny, very warm & humid, heavy rain overnight.
Took it easy today in our anchorage. Spent the morning reading on the boat and then went to shore at a little sandy beach area near where we anchored to sit under the trees in the shade and enjoy the onshore breeze. This is the same beach we anchored near three years ago, but the water level is so high that only a bit of beach remains. But this is a well-loved spot with a little stone walkway someone built up to a clearing under the pine and oak trees. Got soundly scolded by a little black squirrel who ran from the ground near us all the way up the biggest oak tree and then looked down and chattered loudly that all those acorns belong to him. Before evening we took Little Dipper for a spin to check out access to a little enclosed bay called Cleary Cove and think we found a safe route in from the north side (left). Then tooled around the rest of the area and found that the boat we had watched sail in through the east entrance to the main bay, which is a tight squeeze with rocks to avoid, and then watched as it anchored under sail, was none other than Glen and Janice on Last Resort. We knew it would be someone familiar with the area. Had a nice chat with them and then headed back, by way of all the rocks we needed to note in case we were to depart out the east side. Glen gave us a good tip and the phone number for North Channel Yacht Club though, and we ultimately decided Friday morning to head back out the west entrance to get pumped out and get ice since we were full on the one hand and empty on the other. On our return, we found that about 8 kayakers had made camp at the little beach clearing and Barbie had a nice chat with one of them the next morning. They belong to the Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Club, and were exploring the Whales Back Channel. Bob should definitely check out their web site for future excursions.
Friday – e-ne 15, cloudy/scattered showers, cool.
Saturday – e15 -> ne -> ne15 -> w10 -> nw 15 -> w10
We spent five lovely days here relaxing and really feeling we were at home in the North Channel. Mary Poppins blew in on our last day because the wind kept shifting. Andy enjoyed watching and photographing the boats that came in and went to different spots in this long harbor. We both particularly enjoyed the tri-maran that came in tacking back and forth in this small but long harbor. They eventually anchored in Cleary Cove.
Sunday, August 14 – Benjamins – predicted e15 ->ne10 -> n10 -> nw15, actual se 15 all day.
Now that we were settled in to our cruising life, we wanted to go find our dear friends on Suffolk Punch, John and Angela. Barbie had originally thought we might want to sail across the main open water of the North Channel to Gore Bay to explore the possibility of taking a larger charter boat out for a day. We tossed this idea around a fair bit, but there didn’t seem to be a good second stop back toward the east and we thought that’s where Suffolk Punch would be. We were out of range of the Cruisers Net report at John Harbor so we really didn’t know where they were. So based on the predicted wind, we purposed to head for the south Benjamin anchorage, with an easy shot back to Little Current on the second day and points eastward in search of our friends after the necessary reprovisioning. We were getting pretty smug about staying “outa Dodge” and thought we could do the reprovisioning very quickly.
So we plotted a course for South Benjamin, but the wind was southeast, which didn’t bode well for sailing there, as the general direction to get there was southeast. We stayed north for a while under sail and eventually decided to replot the course to the main Benjamin anchorage through the “back door” cut (of Alfred letting us lead the way in 11 years ago fame-haha!). But this time we had full charts and chart plotter and local knowledge and experimentation exiting that way past Barbie’s “flounder rock” last year. So we headed that way with nearly reckless abandon and made our way in just fine. We had a nice sail along the way there. When we got there we had total communication meltdown in spite of our head phones and our knowledge of the area. There were boats everywhere. A big power boat was blaring his brand of country music for the benefit of all in the anchorage, and Andy couldn’t tell which rock Barbie wanted to go to and Barbie didn’t want to go where he was indicating, but she had the tiller. Hah! After quite a bit of discussion they settle on a spot between the county music dude and the local cabin on the rock, dropped anchor and sat down for a minute. They very quickly decided this was just not right. NorthStar was backing up to the dock at the cabin with a great view of the cabin (and not of the beautiful pink rocks all around) and a real good bead on the fine points of the country music. So we hopped in Little Dipper with the blessed range finder and the depth gauge and made a tour of the open anchoring spaces. A little ways out it was 50 feet deep – no one has sufficient rode or gall to anchor that deep. So we inched our way in between a beautiful Bayfield and another boat and found about 22 feet with acceptable distance from both boats, as determined by the range finder – not our poorly calibrated eye. Picked up NorthStar, moved her over, responded to a friendly question about whether we had found a good spot on the way, and settled in to Carson City. Aahhgg! A few days later we heard over the Cruisers Net that some wonderfully inspired folks had brought in a 12 by 16 foot screen to broadcast a great music video they had download from the web one night. What a shame we had to miss that! We determined to get outa Carson City the next morning. (Too bad on of the most beautiful locations, nicely photographed by Andy and blown up to display on our living room wall at home.) Went to sleep to the sound of competing music preferences from the 20-something boats in the harbor.
Monday, August 15 –Tuesday, August 16 – Oak Bay – winds light.
Monday morning, now back in Cruisers Net range, we heard that Suffolk Punch was in Oak Bay, just to the north of us! Hooray! So right after the Cruisers Net broadcast we called up John & Angela on channel 71 to make sure they weren’t planning to move, confirmed same and that they were in an eastern spot of Oak Bay, pulled up anchor, and got outa’ Carson City before the parties got going again. Glen on Last Resort was anchored right next to Suffolk Punch and helped us in the confirmation of their location. Had a quick motor up to the west entrance to Oak and checked in with John as we headed east in the channel. John gave us specifics on a couple of laundry detergent jugs marking a couple of rocks and indicated they were at the very east end of Hotham Island. As we approach the jugs, out came John and Glen with his dog in their respective dinghies to show us the way in. It was a great reception and a great spot to anchor!
We spent two lovely days with our good friends John and Angela. The nomads, Glen and Janice took off for parts unknown to us at the time. Angela had us over for coffee, which lasted three hours as they talked of their great adventures sailing up and down the intercoastal waterways on the east coast and back and forth to England across the Atlantic in their younger days. (They’re now in their eighties.)
On Tuesday Persistence (Bill), who had lent us an anchor at John Harbor three years ago, anchored right next to us. So as we were exploring the dicier of the exits east as was he, we invited him to join us and the Suffolk Punch folks for happy hour, and happy it was with more good stories abounding.
Week 3 – Heading East
Wednesday, August 17 – Mosquito Bay – nw10, chance of rain, risk of a thunderstorm. So, the next day, the story is that you trust yourself and don’t give out too much advice, no matter how wise you or the other party of the first part might be. John was ready to leave. He looked at the weather system and said that based on his previous flying experience, systems in the northern hemisphere clock to the northeast. Refering to a small, little cell to the west of the main system, Barbie said it looked like we might get hit. John and Angela pulled up anchor early in the morning and waved good-bye and said they were headed for Sturgeon Cove. Barbie and Andy sat and had breakfast and two hours later looked at the radar and hemmed and hawed for a while. It looked like we might get wet – but nothing serious, we were getting low on ice again and needed to get to Little Current in a day or so, so we decided to get our foul weather gear handy and go for it.
We started out under motor with the morning wind so light, eventually pulled out the genoa as the wind picked up a bit, and Barbie started first taking pictures of the distant storm and then battening down the hatches as the itty bitty little cell got bigger and bigger on the radar and closer and closer and merged with the big nasty system that really oughta clock northwest, but now the entire west was black. Andy told Barbie to cut it out she was making him nervous and she said she was simply executing best practices as they had clearly documented them on the wall. So Andy put on his foulies and then Barbie put on her foulies and Andy checked the radar to make sure there were no severe cells developing, which would advise us to find a quick safe harbor. Finding none, they continued on. Barbie hauled up the life vests and practiced tethering and untethering to Andy’s consternation.
To make a long story longer, the rain broke, they donned their life vests, and it poured down buckets of rain. Then we heard the thunder in the distance. Then we saw the lightning and heard the thunder getting closer. Barbie prepared the stay sail to Andy’s renewed consternation as we had no wind to speak of. Then, while Barbie had the tiller, all of a sudden it blew like crazy with lightning and thunder all around. Barbie reminded Andy not to touch the metal and wondered what we would do if our instruments blew out. So Andy did a quick reading of our compass. The wind blew by in almost an instant. Then the thunder passed. At some point Andy said look at the beautiful water – all black and smooth with diamonds where the raindrops pelted from above. Then the rain cleared and Barbie went below for a minute. Andy said hey, come up and look at this. There a couple of miles ahead he saw a thin line coming down from the sky and suddenly the waves seemed to leap upward in a certain spot until the sky and water merged in a swirling mass. Yes, it was a magnificent, blessfully distant waterspout. As they watched, the cloud line retreated back into the mother cloud in the sky.
As we pulled around the bend into Mosquito Bay, there was Angela standing on deck with a sweet smile waving us home to safety. So we got situated, dried off, etc., etc. and then Angela had us over for a delightful dinner, at which we shamed John ruthlessly and he told us how much character we had just built. The next morning we parted for the season and said “see you along the way.”
Thursday, August 18 – Friday, August 19 – Little Current Town Dock, who knows what the weather was and who cares. We were stuck in Dodge. Took Andy to the local clinic to see if they could clear his plugged ears while Barbie got a cab to Harbor Vue to pick up the truck and do all the provisioning chores. This took the whole day and we resolved to take yet another day to finish our provisioning and get ready to head out. The doctor couldn’t clear the ears but a concoction from the local pharmacy got one of them cleared up. The other one is still kind of plugged at this writing. Had a nice interaction with Glass Slipper/Jim & Marti, the folks on a boat in the slip across from us and ended up going over charts together with coffee in the morning. (Don’t even ask us about how little the little current is under a full moon. At one point Barbie step nimbly from the dock to the boat, went in to put some stuff in the ice box, and by the time she got out Little Dipper had been forced in between the dock and the boat by the little current and the only way she could get back off was to get into Little Dipper, untie and retie everything and hope she hadn’t screwed up Andy’s brilliant spring line setup, which had failed in this situation. All this while he was still at the clinic. That produced the meltdown on Barbie’s part that turned into an extra day in Dodge, but at least allowed for several hours posting photos to our website over at the Anchor Inn.) The next morning we got outa Dodge again, setting sail for Covered Portage Cove.
Saturday, August 20 – Sunday, August 21 – Covered Portage Cove, se15 and fair – We got up early and got to Wally’s for 8:30 pump out, diesel for NorthStar, gas for Little Dipper, fresh water and ice and “easily” made the 9 am bridge. Headed past Harbor Vue, turned to port at the red buoy, and headed for Strawberry Light House under full main and genoa in the light morning breeze. Once past Strawberry we plotted a course for the Lansdown Channel and had a beautiful sail approaching the channel. Once past Partridge Island at the west end of the channel, we furled in the genoa and motor sailed the rest of the way with the main up. We found a breeze as we exited the Lansdown at the east end of Badgeley and had some clear Georgian Bay wind between Badgeley and George Island, which forms the southern side of Killarney. We took it easy and nicely entered Covered Portage Cove to the north and anchored between a Gozzard (the original designer of Bayfield and a large catamaran with a little Border Collie on guard. We felt we had anchored nicely in between these two boat, but the Gozzard just didn’t track with everyone else and seemed awfully close so we reset the main anchor to get us ahead. Then the wind shifted to the east and the cat swung towards us more than we had calculated and we were looking in their back door as though looking at a B52 bomber headed our way, so Andy threw in another anchor to starboard to take us closer to shore and give everyone more privacy, i.e. any at all. The cove was densely populated with boats tucked into the “covered portage” to hunker down for the approaching 30-40 mph winds predicted for the next day.
We all held pretty well in the first weather we’ve ever heard as a gale warning over the Sarnia Coast Guard continue weather broadcast. But, at first the wind came in from due west. What? That’s where the entry to the cove is. The wind channeled in and either took a spin around the north side or the south side of the cove, spinning boats on their swing anchors first in one direction and then in another. Later it shifted east and came over the saddle to the east side of the cove. At one point some of those trawlers looked awfully close to each other. One blared a horn just one blast. Then two skippers had a discussion. Then one of them pulled up anchor and reset a ways away. That incident ended copacetically. Andy slept well with two anchors set and by morning we were the last boat to leave the glassy morning water and we looked back to see nary a boat in the harbor. An absolute first.
Monday, August 22 – Tuesday, August 23 – Thomas Bay, nw15 -> w15 ->sw20, fair skies.
Monday – We motored through Killarney for a pit stop on our way to Thomas Bay and with a strong tail wind we both forgot to give the dock hand the stern line first. The boat pierouetted off the bow, we hollered to the dock hand to release the midship’s line, did a 360 and came back more gracefully like it was meant to be done, apologizing profusely to the young dock hand that it was our fault, not his. Having survived this, we made haste out of Killarney to the east and had a beautiful sail to Thomas Bay. When we got there, it was empty of boats except for one powerboat quietly tied to shore. So we anchored, relaxed, let Jennifer try to recompose herself from surviving the gale, and settled in for the night.
Tuesday – Barbie woke up first and enjoyed watching three otters playing in the bay while she sipped her morning coffee. Later, she decided we should have a picnic lunch and then happy hour on the southern island that separates Thomas Bay from Georgian Bay. First we watched a pretty good sized sailboat come in and drop anchor right between two rock shelves in an area we had carefully explored with soundings to determine if we might anchor there next time. It’s pretty shallow and not much swing room. We were impressed with how agilely he swung in and dropped anchor. So, as we left to dinghy over towards Killarney Park for our picnic we stopped by and invited them to join us for happy hour later. Found out then that they had never been in this bay before and later that evening that in Lake Superior they had hit rocks four times in as many days. Our initial impression changed.
We dingied out to a very nice spot and had a glorious picnic lunch in a quiet cove with the surf crashing outside on the shallow rock at the northern reach of Georgian Bay under a good southwest wind. As we finished and were walking around exploring the environment of our personal picnic rock, Andy spied a smallish Bayfield tossing and turning in the waves at the entry to Thomas Bay. A woman was acrobatically hanging on between the two forestays, obviously looking for rocks to avoid. We couldn’t tell from our perspective whether they were on the correct side of the Pinch Island approach or not. Barbie got nervous for them, so they quickly packed up Little Dipper and headed back to see if aid was needed. As we got to the wavy part, we saw that they were safely getting into the bay. Now we just had to get through the waves on Little Dipper, which we eventually did. Long story short, we ended up with four or five sailboats, a trawler, the original power boat and lots of new, transient friends at a great happy hour on the island. Exchanged lots of stories, got a few tidbits of tips like a good boat toaster and where to stay in Killarney, and said good night to all. The next morning we headed for Key Hole at the entrance of Collins Inlet to get out of the predicted new 25 mph wind that day.
Wednesday, August 24 – Key Hole, s15 ->s20 evening, some showers. We sailed under jib alone as a stay sail to Key Hole and nicely found the spot John and Angela had told us about behind the island that separated it from the main passageway and the wash from many fishing boats speeding in through the inlet to Mill Lake, popular for fishing. It was a beautiful spot with cute, beautifully cared-for, unoccupied private cabins at the entrance. We anchored on past these and had a pleasant evening. Because of the rainy day, we worked on writing our blog stories. Because of the cloudy night with no boats around, it was very, very dark outside.
Thursday, August 25 – Collins Inlet to Beaverstone Bay – predicted sw10 ->nw15, actual 5 under fair skies – The next morning, we dinghied around the island to explore a bit and to look at the main Key Hole anchorage. We expected to stay there for another day, but the predicted heavy winds did not develop, so off we went expecting to sail through Collins Inlet with a nice breeze. Instead, we motored all the way to Mill Lake, where we got a bit of breeze so we put up the main and genoa. Barbie took the helm and sailed across Mill Lake till we got to the eastern side and the final piece of Collins Inlet. We put the sails away and motored through the last bit to our favorite anchorage in Beaverstone Bay. We had a very pleasant evening and decided, based on the moderate wind predictions and low waves, that we would sail outside the inner channels in “the bay”, i.e., Georgian Bay to return to Killarney.
Friday, August 26 – Killarney via Georgian Bay big water – predicted w10 -> light in afternoon, waves less than ½ meter, fair skies – actual sw15, waves at least ½ meter. – We got up early and motored through beautiful Beaverstone Bay, adopted a couple fishermen escorts to the first set of buoys, past Toad Island, and headed for Green Island close hauled on a starboard tack with a reefed main and jib. Well, the waves were regular but a bit much for our small, shallow keeled NorthStar. We just couldn’t carry enough sail to power through the waves. Towing Little Dipper did not help the situation. So we motor sailed it. We tacked several times to keep to our heading and to keep in practice. We really felt like we were sailing now. THE VERB. But we got tossed about an awful lot. We really needed the motor to power through the waves. This was disappointing. It was really what we came here to do and it just isn’t working with NorthStar. We had previously discussed when to bring her home to Lake Mendota and to charter a bigger boat up here some day. Today we decided that the time is now. So when we get back to Harbor Vue next Wednesday, we will take down the mast and bring her home. We gave it a good go this year and had a few nice sails, particularly the run out to Turnbull and back to John Harbor. But the amount of sailing we are able to do because of NorthStar’s restrictions is no where near the amount of sailing we want to do. We’ll enjoy her at home on Lake Mendota, and begin a new journey of chartering in the future.
First Entry – August 18
We’ve been having such a wonderful trip that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to get to a marina with wifi until now. So we have a lot of stories to tell and photos to share. We’re organizing our blog a little differently this year because we’d prefer more photos and fewer words. So here are some photos giving an overview of our experiences so far.
Images of NorthStar – Our Tartan 27-II “Resto-Mod”
Images of Little Dipper – Our Dinghy
First Mate Barbie
The Kitty Crew
We got ready at our Harbor Vue Marina and set out on August 2 as planned. We skipped the usual stop at Little Current Town Dock and according to plan we “got outa Dodge” and into the wild with a first stop just northwest of Little Current at Bell Cove. Stayed there two nights and then headed further west to Oak Bay where we stayed a couple of nights until our ice melted down in the heat. So we headed to Spanish Marina for ice and a pump out and then spent a night just south of there at Lorrier, thanks to a tip from Sae Brid (Grant and Darla – Sea Bird in Gaelic), whom we met again at Oak.
The next day we were headed for John’s Harbor further west through the Whale’s Back Channel with a very nice little sail. But the wind picked up as we neared the end of the channel and the waves were frothing so, luckily, Andy spied some boats in Bear’s Bottom on the north side of the channel and we slipped in there for a couple of great days and a dinghy ride to Bear Drop a little to the west of BB. We ended up needing more ice and at Last Resort’s (Glen & Janice) suggestion we called North Channel Yacht Club to arrange another pump out. Barbie had planned to post the first update to our travel log then but we were so enjoying being “anchored out” that she just couldn’t sit in the clubhouse and focus on computer stuff. So we headed back to John’s for another day.
During most of this time we were out of reception area for the Cruisers’ Net, so we couldn’t hear where Suffolk Punch (John & Angela) had gone. We assumed east so we determined to take the predicted northwest wind east to South Benjamin and then through Little Current to more easterly directions. But the wind turned southwest making that an apparent bad decision so we went to the main Benjamins, which were mobbed with over 20 boats. Very noisy night but had a nice happy hour with a nearby boat. When we turned on Cruisers’ Net in the morning we found out John & Angela were back in Oak, so we did a quick motor north to find them. There were Glen & Janice too and then Bill showed up on Persistence. (Last Resort and Persistence were the ones we met in John Harbor three years ago.) So it was a quiet anchorage with good friends to visit with.
Here are a few photos of the anchorages. We’ll post more at our next wifi stop because the photo loading is very slow and it’s getting late. We came through and stopped at Mosquito Bay close to Little Current and to the Town Docks last night. We plan to head east through the Turnstile Bridge in the morning.
A Few Stories of Getting Started
Month/Week 0.5 – Preparing for New Adventures
Tuesday, July 5 – Wednesday, July 6 – Little Current – Harbor Vue
Made a quick trip up north to check on NorthStar and found her free of mold! Andy installed decorative bolts where he had mistakenly drilled through the cockpit seatback last year while installing the decorative teak board above the VHF radio to improve the internal cabin appearance. Now the external cockpit appearance is also good (a big improvement over the ends of wood screws sticking out – grrr!). He also installed the new valve to control water flow to our new water faucet, which runs from our power washer and which was made possible by Craig’s work in the spring. This now allows us to have running water directly out of the lake into the sink to supplement our drinking water, which we carry aboard. We are so modern! No more hauling buckets of water out of the lake to wash dishes, faces, etc. Andy also mocked up a model wooden hook to make some big stainless steel hooks back at home that would be used to carry our spare tiller, long handled brush, spare bilge pump (i.e., long things) in the starboard lazarette. This helps keep them handy and out of the way of our other supplies. Barbie thinks she was pretty busy during this time but can’t remember doing what. Mostly moving things around inside a tightly packed cabin to make sure there was no mold anywhere. Our solution of open windows under the boat cover, Harbor Vue’s recommended water extraction stuff, and perhaps a less rainy spring really paid off.
Spent the night at Anchor Inn and grabbed a nice dinner there. As we strolled out to go down to the dock to see the boats in the evening sunset we bumped into Tango’s Bob & Helen and their wonderful dog Cocoa. They had just started their summer cruise and we hope we meet them again when we get on the water in a month or so.
Thursday, July 28 – Blind River
Finally ready to go, we packed up Wednesday, loaded kitties and people into Big Dipper (our Yukon) early Thursday morning, and drove to Blind River in record time. Wanted to watch the last night of the Democratic Convention so we ordered carry out from our favorite Monique’s Bistro and ate an elegant meal out of Styrofoam boxes at our motel. Must have been a ghost there because the kitties meowed all night long and we didn’t sleep well as a result. Oh well, got up reasonably early, grabbed a carryout breakfast at Tim Horton’s, and hit the road for the short trip to Little Current.
Friday, July 29 – Monday, August 1 – Harbor Vue at Little Current with lodging at Silver Birches nearby for kitties
Spent four full days getting NorthStar ready to go. The weather was hot and sunny, which was wearing on us but made it possible to do all our preparations without interruption. Andy installed his now-completed stainless steel hooks, a new brace for the swim platform steps, etc. and applied two fresh coats of oil to all the external teak. It looks beautiful! Barbie cleaned and organized everything inside, shopped for additional provisions beyond those we brought, and loaded everything into the ice box and galley cabinets. We had four dinners at Anchor Inn, four lunches at Elliott’s under new ownership from the former Garry’s with some nice new menu selections including a wonderful California Salad. Kitties did just fine at their private lodging at Silver Birches but were very ready to board NorthStar and get under sail! They love cruising (once we’re anchored).
Friday through Sunday we just sort of kept at our work with breaks for lunch to cool off. We were thankful we chose the Ontario provincial holiday weekend to do most of our prep because the boat yard crew had the time off so we could work enjoying the peaceful sounds from the harbor without the interruption of their noisy tractors and lifts. Andy, of course, had his typical runs over to Rona hardware for various items. As we got pretty well organized we decided to take a nice break on Monday afternoon to go swimming at the beach park west of Spider Bay Marina, the west-most marina in Little Current. We had a fun recollection of our first year venture over to the beach in Little Dipper (our dinghy) to escape the week-long wait at The Wall in Little Current while we were awaiting a fix for our flexible coupler. At that time Barbie was worried that we ought to take our hand-held VHF radio because we were headed out to sea! Haha! It was just a quick run around the corner – what a different perspective she has now. After our swim we drove back to the main docks and got delicious ice cream cones before returning to work.
Once everything was ready, which by now was quite late, we headed for Anchor Inn for dinner and then strolled down to the docks one more time to watch evening descend. For some unexplained reason we headed toward the east end of the dock to look at the boats in the finger slips and as we headed down the last one, who comes up but our old friends Windrush/Robert and Lorie from last year’s adventures at McGregor Bay. They insisted that we board Brian and Kathy’s boat Fiddler and hide in their cabin until they returned a few minutes later. Then surprise! Hahaha! How’s everyone doing? No, you have to have a beer! And we had a great half hour before heading back to the kitties at Silver Birches. Found out they were headed west for their final two days of their trip, which was the deciding factor on which direction we would head first. West it was to be!
Week 1 – Rediscovering our Sea Legs and Cruising Tempo – Bell Cove, Oak Bay, Lorrier, Bear’s Bottom, John Harbor
Tuesday, August 2 – Wednesday, August 3 – Bell Cove
Tuesday – high heat & humidity, winds light, fair skies, water level 0.9 meters above chart datum throughout Lake Huron. We launched early Tuesday morning with Rick’s and his new sidekick James’ able assistance. Once we were floating, Craig did a quick check that everything was in order and pronounced us ready to go – so off we went.
Much More to Come . . . And more pictures too!
Images of Full Moon Rising in the North Channel