Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Making The Run To Chicago - Leland and Frankfort

It is desirable that we get to Chicago as soon possible to continue our trek south down the Illinois River, as there are signs everywhere that cool autumn weather was going to settle in early.
·         In the Great Lakes region summer had its big run early in 2012. While the rest of the mid-US had that extreme heat wave that made headlines in July and August, places like Ontario and the mitten of Michigan the hot weather came in and moved out by early July.  

·         According to long range forecasts including the Old Farmer’s Almanac (a source we have personally found to be pretty darn reliable for big overviews of weather conditions) fall weather was going to settle in early.
·         Marina operators in northern climes were saying that boater traffic was down and that they were anticipating closing the marinas down for the season in mid September rather than early October.  

It is approximately 330 miles from Mackinaw City to Chicago going along the eastern shore of the lake stopping at any number of very nice towns to get there. I have already written about our pleasant stays in Mackinaw City and Charlevoix. From Charlevoix we are going to have to get a move on, hopping from town to town to get to Chicago. It is unfortunate that we cannot stay several days at each one of these ports because they all seem to be wonderful places deserving of a day or two of exploration. But that can’t be. So this is our cruise plan after Charlevoix: (Michigan) Leland, Frankfort, Luddington, White Lake, Holland (probably for a few days for provisioning and minor repairs), Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, and New Buffalo or Michigan City, IN. From there we are planning to go to one of the big marinas near the heart of downtown Chicago for a couple of days. From Chicago there are several routes through the metro area to get to the Illinois River. The most scenic, the Chicago River which goes right through downtown is not an option for us because of a low fixed bridge along the way that we cannot fit under. The only option for us is the Chicago Sanitary River to the south of Chicago through Calumet, Illinois.
Anyway, back to Lake Michigan.

8/25/2012 Leland – a pleasant day to be on the water.
Our cruise to from Charlevoix to Leland wasn’t bad at all. The winds were fine and the waves were for the most part not any worse than a hard chop. The worst of it was when we motored past where the mouth to Grand Traverse Bay flows into the lake. The winds were southerly so this is a natural location where wind-pushed waves from both bodies of water collide. The marina in Leland has newish docks with excellent shore side amenities.

The town of Leland is very pleasant. It used to be a very active commercial fishing port. There is a small river call the Carp River that flows through the town from the lake to a larger local lake called Lake Leelanau. But this lake and Lake Michigan are not on the same level so this little river has a big drop about two-hundred yards in from Lake Michigan. In this small river there is a village of sorts of old fishing shacks that used to be the shore side headquarters for commercial fishermen. The area is called appropriately, Fishtown. But the commercial fishermen are all gone and the shacks have been converted to quaint shops and attractions. Pretty cool. The town of Leland is very nice with nice shops and stores that have a warm feel to them and are not tour-isty at all.

8/26/2012 Frankfort – Should have stayed in Leland another day.
Nature is fickle. You can have the greatest weather forecasts ever and she’ll (nature, that is) turn around and decide that you have had it too easy and decide that you need to get a can of whoop-ass opened up in your face. That is what happened on our cruise from Leland to Frankfort. The forecasts were for good conditions with a front moving in later in the day giving us a good cruising window. We launched out into the lake from Leland and had mostly good conditions for most of the cruise. There were some two the three foot waves (not in the forecast) but were easily manageable. We weren’t running late or anything like that but as we cruised towards Frankfort the waves were getting bigger but they had somewhat long durations making them more like swells rather than waves. It was a thirty-five mile cruise and things were ok for the first thirty miles. But once we approached Point Betsie and made the turn to the inlet at Frankfort for the last five miles, oh my, did we get rocked! Waves easily four to six feet were coming at us…fast! Making matters worse was that there was a lot of traffic. There was a local fishing tournament and all of the participants were coming back into the harbor for the weigh-in and they all had to be inside by 1:30 pm. On top of that there were other boats all ducking into the harbor to get out of the heavy seas including two large fast sport fishers that passed us, on plane, on both sides of us. So we had the heavy seas and the opposing heavy wakes of two boats. There was one moment when the second boat passed us on our port side that we were rocked so hard and violently that there were things getting tossed about in the boat that had never been tossed about before. We are both convinced that this was the single most violent and frightening bit of tossing and turning that we have yet experienced. But Why Knot can take it, even when her crew can’t and she got us through to the jetty and into the well protected harbor of Frankfort. When we tied into our slip we were telling the dock hands about our ordeal and they said that they were told that the waves were maybe two, maybe three feet high. “My ass!”, was my comment.
We are going to stay in Frankfort one extra day to give the lake time to settle down before we head south yet again to Ludington.

8/28/2012 – Discretion is the better part of valor

We spent the 27th in Frankfort so that I could, quite frankly, recuperate from the pounding we took the day before as we entered Frankfort. Too bad, too, because the conditions were ideal to make our next leg to Ludington. But as it is said, it is what it is. We spent the day on the boat taking care of business or just blowing off time hanging around. I took two, count'em, TWO naps. I guess in reflection our rough entry into Frankfort did shake me up a bit. It was nice to relax.
Frankfort is a nice enough town with a pleasant little downtown area with several marinas, a time share resort and just enough stores to keep a window shopper busy. The weather was nice (Damn!) if not a bit warm so chillaxing was a good thing.

 As Tuesday the 28th opened up everything pointed to it being a good cruising day. I was able to get online and see that the forecast was for northerly breezes with seas at two feet or less. Not so bad. We pulled out right at 7:00 am and headed out onto the lake. As we made our turn to the south I instantly began to see that the calmer winds that were predicted were blowing over a long fetch and the seas were already at the two to three foot levels and running up our stern. Why Knot does not like following waves very much as she tends to pitch and yawl to a great degree making her a bit hard to keep on course. Plus it makes the ride uncomfortable. I turned on the radio to catch the weather service forecasts and learned that the favorable forecast from earlier was now replaced with one that were not so good. It was now calling for winds of ten to fifteen knots straight from the north with two to three foot waves and as we were already in three foot seas my instincts told me that it was going to get worse before it got any better. Lisa and I first discussed trying to keep going to make it to Manistee about twenty statute miles to the south. But I did not like the way the boat was handling, so I turned her around and we headed back to Frankfort. Tomorrow is another day. The forecasts are for southerly winds of anywhere from calm to fifteen knots back to calm, depending where on the route we would be. There is a saying about single engine boats – If there is trouble keep your bow into it.

 It is so hard to reconcile all of these weather forecast sources! You have the National Weather Service outlets: online graphic forecasts, zone forcasts, radio, & “point & click”. Then there is Weather Underground and other sites. But then any captain has to use personal observation.
So as of the 28th we are back in Frankfort waiting out a day that many captains would have gone for. Bottom line is I got out there and I didn’t like it. So back in we went.

Charlevoix, MI - We liked Charlevoix a lot!


The cruise down from Mackinaw City to the busy port of Charlevoix, MI on August 19 took about five hours. The inlet into Charlevoix is kind of narrow and about a fifth of a mile long. At the east end of the inlet is a drawbridge that only opens on the top and bottom of each hour so we had to loiter out in the lake for a short while. After making our pass under the bridge we pulled into Round Lake, the central harbor of Charlevoix. There is the much larger Lake Charlevoix a short distance further east but our destination was the Charlevoix City Marina right in the center of the city of Charlevoix. Charlevoix was scheduled to be a five night stop. We needed to have a few repairs done and contracted with a local marine mechanic to do them. He would not be able to come to us until Wednesday. We also were using this stop as a mail delivery point and a place to have some online orders shipped to us which included a new set of binoculars, a digital chart chip for our chart plotter and a special wrench for our windlass.

One of the things that I have experienced during this trip is that I will dream up an expectation of a place only to have that expectation be totally blown away for better or worse. The upper Hudson River valley was one such case. I expected a semi-urban, sort-of-industrial river scene only to be charmed by its natural beauty and splendor. I have tried to seize this expectation game in my mind to at least not be overtly leaning too much one way or the other. So as we approached Charlevoix I was pretty neutral as to what it would be like. Well, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Charlevoix is charming beyond my greatest expectations. The harbor, Round Lake, is as the name says, round. Downtown Charlevoix runs along the western shore along Bridge Street with mostly homes and condos spreading along the northern and southern shores towards the narrow straight that passes on to Lake Charlevoix. The marina is very new and first class all the way. And to make it all even better there again was Ross and Laura of The Zone. We pulled into our slip and got all tied in and settled. After conferring with Ross and Laura we set up a time to go to dinner together at a local restaurant called Whitney’s right across the street from the marina on Bridge Street.

Our dinner with Ross and Laura was very pleasant and we enjoy their company very much. There was of course the typical dock talk but we also got to know them a bit more personally and found that we had a lot in common with them. They’re terrific people.

The next morning, Monday the 20th, the weather was wonderful. It warmed up and the sun was shining very brightly. Lisa and I were down in the galley doing mostly online stuff when Lisa walked up into the salon. She then exclaimed that I needed to come up and take a look at a very unusual sight. There right next to us on the tee-head was a very large cruise ship pulling up to dock. Now this was not like an ocean going cruise ship like a Carnival Cruise liner but a smaller Great Lakes size cruise ship named the Yorktown from New York City. There used to be quite a few of these cruise ships on the Great Lakes but their popularity, necessity and thus their numbers have diminished during the years.

Docking the Yorktown didn’t go so well. The boat itself was a tad short of twice the length of the dock and it pulled up to the dock with its stern flush to one end with the bow sticking out maybe fifty or sixty feet. The dock didn’t have any large cleats that could be tied onto with the size of the lines on the boat. There are vertical posts on the dock that are only screwed onto the dock, not sunk into the bottom like a typical piling. The wind was blowing somewhere between ten and fifteen knots straight from the west hitting the Yorktown at its port bow effectively pushing the nose away from the dock. The dock hands were making what I thought were bad decisions as to how and where they were tying up. All these factors made for a very nervous time. One midship line that really couldn’t be described as a spring line was tied around one of these posts way too high on the post so that when a slight pressure from the wind was put on the bow and thusly the line the post snapped off like a toothpick. All this hassling about was causing turbulence in the water and Why Knot was starting to get knocked around a lot. The dock was physically being moved so much so that the harbor master cleared the dock of spectators and Lisa and I grabbed our wallets and passports and headed up on shore. It’s a bit startling to see the dock being moved around like it was. Finally the harbor master had seen enough and waved the ship off of the dock. The ship then backed up to another marina that had steel docks that were actually permanently built into the bottom of the lake. (Like, why didn’t it go there first?)

With all that excitement done more boaters came into the marina which included some more loopers. We all decided to have a nice barbecue up on shore and had a very good time. There was one guy in particular named Kermit that kept us in stitches. There was lots of laughter, good food and good conversation.

Since we had a few days of down time we caught up on some of the big tasks on our to-do list. The biggest of which was to do something about the brown mustache that the boat picked up initially way back in Myrtle Beach and that has been added to along the way. It was getting pretty gross and I should have done something about it sooner. But this was the time apparently, and with the right chemicals, our dinghy and a handy suction cup we got the job done in just a few hours. Why Knot’s smile is bright and white now and she looks much better.

Charlevoix is a great town. The main street of town, Bridge Street runs right along the edge of the marina and a very nice little shore side park. I am not sure when all of this civic renewal took place but it must have been only a few years ago. Everything is new and unblemished. The boater’s shore side amenities are first rate with a large comfortable lounge, laundry and restrooms. The marina staff is very friendly and helpful. And as I have said before we have generally found that most municipal marinas are very good. There is a grocery store along Bridge Street within minutes of the marina along with a variety of shops and services. One of the nice things about Bridge Street is that there are actually some stores there where you can buy clothing other than souvenir tee-shirts. And as we both needed some cool weather gear for our continuing cruise into early fall this was very helpful.

The weather was for the most part good. The days were mostly sunny and warm and the evenings were cool with a nice breeze. We originally were planning to get underway on Friday the 24th but I determined that the winds were still a bit too high for our tastes. We got conflicting reports on wave heights from incoming boaters throughout the day but I think I made the right decision to stay one more night and depart on Saturday the 25th. (As I am writing this early on Saturday the forecast is for pretty much close to calm conditions particularly during the second half of our cruise.)

So how did I rate Charlevoix? I am a pretty prodigious contributor to ActiveCaptain.com, one of boating’s most used portals. They have a one-to-five-star rating system that captains can use to critique locations and cruising particulars. I have given ratings everywhere from a few one and two star marinas, a couple of four star marinas and mostly three star marinas. I have given only one or two five star appraisals. Whitaker Pointe Marina in Oriental, NC comes to mind as does St. Augustine Municipal. The marina and experience in Charlevoix, Michigan got a five star review from us. It is a terrific place, very picturesque, friendly and inviting. The physical features of the marina are absolutely tremendous and the town of Charlevoix is singularly awesome. I can safely say that we will be back here someday.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mackinaw, MI

We left Drummond on a cloudy but otherwise lovely day. The seas were almost calm with only a hint of a breeze. It was a forty-three mile leg to our next destination Mackinaw City, Michigan.

Now, let’s get something out into the open. Michiganders need to get their pronunciation straight. There are two Mackinaws. The first, Mackinaw City, is where we stayed, at the Mackinaw City Marina to be exact. No problem there. The other is the resort island of Mackinac Island. That’s “MACK N NACK” according to the rules of pronunciation that I grew up with. But according to the locals on the island and other Michiganders its “MACK N NAW” also, like the city where we were. Whatever, it’s their state. That’s silly, folks. And this coming from someone from the state of Missouri, pronounced “MIZ UR EE” or “MIZ UR UH”, depending on what part of the state you’re from. (Fyi, I’m from St. Louis so it’s with the EE, though occasionally the hillbilly in me slips out and I will use the UH version.)

Mackinaw City was a great stop. The city marina was a great facility with very up to date shore side amenities. As I have said before municipal marinas are generally above average marinas and this one was, too. The washrooms were very modern and quite huge, the slips were very spacious and the marina itself was adjacent to downtown Mackinaw City where everything was within a short pleasant walking distance. It is a tourist town with a wide main street with seemingly countless tee-shirt and fudge stores. Very pleasant. There was also a chandlery and dock yard on site which came in handy as we stayed there for five days and four nights and took the opportunity to get our ship’s horn replaced as the old pneumatic horn was completely defunct. We did go exploring around Mackinaw City on several occasions and though we did not buy any souvenirs it was fun mingling with all the vacationers.
The Mackinaw Bridge

Mackinac Island

A Mackinaw to Mackinac Island Ferry

The weather during this time was good for being in a marina and for not being out on the water. It did rain a couple of times but the main downer was the wind. It was pretty windy during the entire time we were there and this caused us to extend our stay there one day. But that was ok with us because it gave us a chance to head over to Mackinac Island (That’s with an “AW”.) for a day. Ross and Laura of The Zone were there and we were looking forward to seeing them.

To get to the island from the mainland we boarded one of the many ferry boats that cross the waters at the location. The Shepler Ferry line was located at our marina. We boarded the boat about 10:00 am on Saturday the 18th and we flew to the island in just 16 minutes. The same distance took us almost an hour to cover in our boat when we were coming into the area. (Our incoming course went right by the island’s harbor.) That boat flew! It carried 200 people of so and it was packed but it managed to get up on plane and scooted across to the water like a bullet. What was even more impressive was that though it was a sunny day the waves were in the five to eight foot range due to the high winds. It was quite a ride.

Mackinac Island is a pretty cool place. The best word to describe it would be “charming”. There are no cars on the island save for a police SUV, an ambulance and a fire engine. Otherwise everything moves on horse drawn wagons or bicycles. The wagons are everywhere hauling people and freight to and from all of the tourist attractions and hotels. For instance when we got off of the boat we walked past a pier that a vehicle ferry would pull into where trucks would drive off of, the freight would be off loaded onto the wagons and off they would go. There was even a UPS horse drawn wagon delivering packages.

We first walked over to the marina and found Laura and Ross on The Zone. We walked to a lovely hotel and had lunch on a patio overlooking the water. It was all very posh. Then Lisa and I set off to explore the island. We visited the official island museum and learned about its history. Apparently Mackinac Island changed hands several times during its early days from the French, to the British, to America, back to the British again, then finally back into American hands at the conclusion of the War of 1812.
Grand Hotel

An Old Timey Baseball Game

Grand Hotel

The biggest landmark is the Grand Hotel. It is a very historic and, well, grand hotel on the west side of the island. And it is very exclusive. They even charge you 10 bucks just to be able to walk into the place. And as we weren’t in the mood to shell out that kind of money to go in and say, “Hmm. This looks like a grand hotel,” we settled on walking to it then splitting off onto a path that took us down to the waterfront. It was there that we received positive affirmation that we did not set off in our boat. The waters were very turbulent. We later learned that the Coast Guard was reporting waves were surpassing eight feet. We then went back to the marina for a glass of wine and great conversation with Ross and Laura.

Ferry boat captains are a breed apart from other boat captains. Each run means money for the company so anything short of an attacking Russian submarine, a water spout or a great white whale standing in their way is nothing more than a nuisance to them. As soon as our ferry pulled away from its pier on the island and cleared the harbor jetties he opened it up and we once again were hurtling across the high seas on our way back to Mackinaw City. My gosh it was a wild ride, but boy was it fun.

Sunday morning came and we were rewarded for our caution. The conditions were perfect for our fifty mile cruise to our next destination, Charlevoix, Michigan. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

More on Gore Bay, To Meldrum, Then Drummond Island, USA

Remember I said that the forecast was variable while we were in Gore Bay? Well, that was a very accurate forecast. We ended up staying there for eight nights because there just didn’t seem to be a good day to scoot out. So we paid the weekly rate and got used to our surroundings.

We did venture into Gore Bay and it turns out it is a very suitable boater’s town. There are several restaurants with the typical Canadian cuisine of tasteless food. There is a full service grocery store, a hardware store, a LCBO (government run liquor store), gas station, and a couple of sundries stores. All in all it was a good destination to hang out at. The marina itself has a very friendly vibe to it. It was pretty well filled to capacity with boats of all shapes and sizes, from fishing dinghies to yachts, both power and sail. The reason it was so packed was because towards the end of the week the weather took a turn for the worse.

Starting on Thursday, all through Friday day and night and into Saturday the winds picked up tremendously. During the height of it on Friday afternoon I measured sustained winds of 15 to 20 knots with gusts up to over 30 knots. Very windy indeed. We had a starboard side tie up in our slip with the bow pointing due west and with the heavy winds from the north the boat was pretty much separated from the dock for the entire time. It rocked and rolled continuously during this time but we got used to it. Why Knot is a good boat out on the water but she does not have the best manners when docked. It seemed she was rolling and dancing in the wind much more than any of the other boats.

So what does one do when they are stranded in a marina? Fortunately for us the wifi signal in the marina was excellent so we did a lot of stuff on line. I spent a lot of the time keeping track of the Olympics or we watched a bunch of stuff on Netflix. Let’s see…we watched five different Star Trek movies, a video production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, various episodes of different TV shoes, some old educational movies that I watched when I was a kid at summer camp, more recent science shows, and just about anything else that caught our fancy. All we had was time so we spent it burning up the bandwidth of the wifi.

The first day with a break in the weather was Sunday, August 12, 2012. It wasn’t a stellar day but not too bad. I do have to say something about Environment Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the National Weather Service. (I think I have made this rant before.) I have on several occasions been very vocal with praise for the NWS. I think they do a great job and provide an incredible amount of data about every weather situation that could exist. Not so much with Environment Canada. Their marine forecasts are, I think, kind of lacking in meaningful detail. You only get a snapshot of the situation and not a concise detailed picture of how things could be. This was the situation on their forecast for Sunday. It’s not that they were entirely wrong, they didn’t fill in with some pertinent details. For instance with the NWS if you want detailed info of a particular piece of a body of water, even down to a few square yards, you can click on that point on one of their maps and presto you have the forecast for that little niche. Environment Canada only gives you the big picture for a whole body of water, like the North Channel as a whole. This is not adequate because similar details such as wind speed and direction can have different affects at different places, such as along shore lines. And what is happening on the north shore isn’t the same as what is happening on the south shore. Anyway, their forecast for the North Channel was for 10 knot winds from the northwest slowly diminishing the further out in time you go. Their wave predictions were for less than one meter. That’s less than 3.5 feet. Well that may have been true somewhere in the channel but not along the south side. The winds weren’t so bad but the waves were easily more than a meter, probably in the five foot range. Fortunately then were not aggressive waves meaning that they were not pounding waves with whitecaps and all that. They were spaced apart ok and we were going through them at a good angle (read: they weren’t broad siding us) so we were able to make our way through them all right. But it made for a busy day.

Right about 2:00 pm we made our way into Meldrum Bay on down to the small marina that operates there. They have recently installed several very new, nice long finger docks and we were able to get docked in very comfortably. It did not appear that there is much in the village of Meldrum Bay. There are just a few homes and a small restaurant that is only open from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm each day during the boating season.

Meldrum Bay was our last stop in Canada. Monday we would cruise to Drummond Island, Michigan. We have been here a bit over five weeks and it has been a wonderful experience. The waters are wonderful, the people are terrific and this is truly a beautiful country. We are already talking about our return next year wanting to stay here longer and see more of this great place.

Now, if they just didn’t talk so funny and they got rid of this metric thing. Eh?

Drummond Island, Michigan, USA

Our cruise on Monday the 13th of August to Drummond Island was terrific. The winds were calm for the most part and quite a bit of the way the water was calm, almost glassy in places. The course from Meldrum Bay was pretty much a straight shot. We ran north a bit out of the bay and turned to west / northwest for about 26 statute miles. Then turning more towards the west and to the south, we navigated through a slightly bendy channel to Drummond Island Yacht Haven. As we approached the entrance to the marina I caught a little pixie jumping up and down on a deck of a boat. It was Laura of The Zone! Excellent! Her and Ross have been good cruising buddies along the way and we have stayed in touch with each other by email as to each other’s whereabouts. They had arrived about an hour before us from a place called Blind River. We were sure we were a day ahead of them but there they were. It was a wonderful surprise.

Drummond Island Yacht Haven is an official US Customs port of entry. After just a few minutes a uniformed customs officer came to our boat and cleared us in. It only took a few minutes. I took down our Canadian courtesy flag and we were back home again.

A short time later Ross and Laura and us took one of the marina’s courtesy cars and went to a local restaurant on the island called Sune’s. Remember my complaints about how tasteless Canadian restaurant food was? That was all forgotten at Sune’s. There menu was very full and I had the best hamburger that I have had in months. And I got free soft drink refills which are not available in Canada. (Bryan and Kevin – Remember rule number 1 of restaurant selection? Canada flunked.) We all talked about all of our adventures and filled in all the details that we didn’t mention in emails.

Unfortunately they had already made plans to leave on Tuesday morning. We had planned to stay until Wednesday. When Tuesday morning came around and I was on the internet I saw that weather conditions were going to be good so when Lisa woke up we started the process of getting under way. But that didn’t work out. I could not make a same day reservation at the marina at our next destination, Mackinac Island. Most of the marinas in Michigan are tied in to a reservation system operated by the State of Michigan and they have a pretty firm “no same day reservations” policy. I quickly checked where else we could go but nothing seemed to add up. And that was too bad, too. The conditions would have been great. Wednesday will be even better but Thursday and Friday might be iffy. So instead of going to Mackinac Island we will go to Machinaw City, MI and plan to stay there until Saturday when a new good cruising window appears. From there we will go to Charlevoix. We were already planning to stay there a week as we want to have some maintenance done to the boat.

So there we were in Drummond Island on a beautiful day instead of being out on the water. We made the best of it by using one of the marina’s rental cars to explore the island a bit and to go to the grocery and dry goods store. Those were pretty much the extent of our exerting ourselves. The rest of the day was all about chillaxing. We’re glad we had the down day.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Few Extra Days In Killarney, Then On To Gore Bay

Killarney is not so much a town but a village lying on a one mile straight that connects Georgian Bay and the North Passage. The north shore is dotted end to end with small marinas and short stop docks, such as to a general store and a government run alcohol store. The south shore has quite a few private docks and some slips that are part of a marina on the north side connected by water taxi. The only real landmarks are the aforementioned LCBO (the government run alcohol store, “Liquor Control Board Ontario”, I think) and a regionally famous fish and chips outdoor stand. We are located at Roques Marina which is at the far west end just a short distance to the entrance to the North Passage. The whole town can be traversed on foot in a whole whooping seven minutes at a casual pace.
Killarney straight, looking east

Looking west

Rogues shore side

Busy little marina

Our view at breakfast at Sportman's Inn

Square mast sailing ship


Take Off!

We have now been here two nights and really have seen everything that there is to see. We have been to the village government center which has a post office. We needed to buy a stamp. The general store is small but fairly well stocked, but has a penchant for rutabagas. The fish and chips stand sold fresh and tasty fish and chips. The bakery has the most bland blueberry muffins either of us has ever tasted. There are actually quite a few people here as this apparently is a popular summertime destination. There are quite a few camping trailers around and smaller boats that are, for all intents and purposes, used as marine camping trailers, so to speak. The water is deep and crystal clear. I went for a swim yesterday and I could easily see the bottoms of boats that were gently cruising around. Why Knot is very likely the largest boat here.

Rogues is an ok place. In looper-speak we would say it is rustic, which translated means it is on the old side and it’s a bit beat up, but not a dump. We have a great slip that faces out directly into the channel and we’re surrounded mostly by those marine camping trailers I spoke about. The marina “office” is basically a barn and its inside looks like the setting of one of those cable TV shows where antiques experts go in and find hidden treasures amongst piles of junk. But it’s ok with us.

The most noteworthy feature of the area is the “boat-in theater”…sorry, that would be “theatre” up here in Canada.  They have an outdoor 12’ by 24’ movie screen set up high on the south shore made out of whitewashed 4’ by 8’ plywood sheets. Every night at 10:00 pm some poor schlub climbs a tall ladder to a small platform in front of the screen and sets up a dvd projector and plays a movie. The sound is broadcast on radios at a frequency of 101.1 fm. Each movie starts way too late for us. Heck, we’ve already been asleep an hour by then. (Sundown is much later here than down in more southern latitudes.)

Our basic game plan was to stay only two nights and depart on Thursday, August 2nd. But we knew that this was a plan open to adjustment as the weather forecasts weren’t looking too good for that departure date. Our next destination, Gore Bay, is about 57 statute miles away in fairly sheltered waters but the forecast as of early Thursday morning was for a squall line crossing the channel during the day with winds up to 40 knots, rain, thunderstorms and even some hail thrown in for fun. Friday is very iffy. Saturday looks better but it would be an early quick dash to our next safe harbor. (As I write this at 8:00 am on Thursday, August 02, 2012 it’s sort of calm, the skies are filled with heavy grey clouds and it has already been raining. The next weather update via radio by Environment Canada is at 10:30 am.) We’ll need about five hours of reasonable conditions to make the next destination. It’s a matter of when we’ll find that window. Unfortunately this marina does not have internet access. For that we have to walk down to Sportsman’s Inn, the next marina east of us, to get that. So, we’ll see.

Friday, August 03, 2012

As it turns out the weather forecast greatly improved during Thursday afternoon. Any hint of bad weather either dissipated, ducked to the south or stalled to the west over Lake Superior. Friday turned out to be a great cruising day. The forecast was for partly sunny skies with diminishing winds towards midday. As I woke up this morning around 5:30 am I first ducked my head out the door and saw that it was almost dead calm in Killarney. I walked down to Sportsman’s Inn where they have free wifi and found that it would be a good day to get underway to Gore Bay. We pulled out of our slip a few minutes before 8:00 am and went to Sportsman’s Inn Marina for a quick pump out. Then off to the west we went.

Upon leaving Killarney we were officially in the North Channel with mostly deep water and islands all around. The first half of our journey was mostly navigating around these islands in meanders that kind of took us in a west-northwest direction. The first landmark was the town of Little Current which is a very popular destination as it is really the only straight to get from where we were to where we wanted to be. Besides the several marinas there is also a swing bridge that only opens on the top of each hour. As we approached Little Current we were worried that we were not going to make it for the opening at 11:00 am. But as there was a lot of boat traffic waiting we were able to get into the queue and made it through. After Little Current the waters opened up and we had more straight line reaches between waypoints in deeper and wider waterways. It seemed more like traversing large lakes than channels. The scenery was terrific! 

At about 4:00 pm and after 58 miles we finally pulled into a very wide and comfortable slip at Gore Bay Marina. This looks like a great marina and the small town of Gore Bay is suppose to be very boater friendly. There seems to be quite a few boats from Michigan here. I am pretty sure that a bunch of them travel up to Canada for the summer. We met Mike and Marge, the crew of the boat next to us and they just arrived here yesterday after leaving Michigan on the June 26th

We will be staying here at least through Sunday night. The weather over the weekend is variable with some moderately high winds and thunderstorms possible. The early forecast for Monday through Wednesday doesn’t look all that good either. The forecasts are for ten to twenty knot winds but they are mostly from the south and south west and as we are going to be skirting the Manitoulin Islands on their north side that might not be too bad. We’ll see. But for now we are very happy to be in Gore Bay.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Saturday in Gore Bay was very pleasant for the most part. It was sunny but very windy and as the day progressed the marina began to fill up with boats that had started out for some destination but due to high winds and water decided to duck into the bay instead of taking a bit of a beating out in the water. Most of them came in by noon or one o’clock.

Gore Bay Marina is an excellent facility. The docks were put in new in 2007. The slips are very wide, perhaps wider than they need to be (they could increase dockage by, I don’t know, maybe 25% if they would have cut down on the shared slip space) and the fairways are even wider than normal. The shore side facilities are typical for a municipal marina, which is a good thing. It is my experience municipal facilities are rather industrial looking but almost always clean and very serviceable, better than most privately run marinas. The docks are incredibly ample. The central walking dock from the slips to shore has to be 16 feet wide. The finger docks between the boats are four feet wide, both dimensions are big by the standards we have seen. The marina’s ship’s store is very well stocked. Its comfortable here. I think that this is the best marina we have been to in Canada.

The town of Gore Bay isn’t much to write about. There ain’t much here. There is however a hardware store which may be handy as I am going to spend today, Sunday, on a few small items on my maintenance check list.

The weather for the next several days is variable. Today it is suppose to be rainy and thunderstorms are possible. Monday is suppose to be clear but very windy. Tuesday’s forecast is the same as today, and Wednesday the same is tomorrow. I have modified our float plan to cut the next leg in half stopping at Meldrum Bay. I had planned the next leg directly to Drummond Island in Michigan, a long leg of about 60 nm, but that is too long. So Meldrum sits right there in the middle making it a two day excursion back to the US instead of one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bying Inlet, And Our Difficult Passage to Killarney

We left Parry Sound with the promise of a great cruising day. The weather forecast was very favorable with sunny skies and mild winds. The temperature was warm enough to make you feel comfortable but cool enough to not make you sweat. And the promise was fulfilled wonderfully. After negotiating the marked channel of Parry Sound we headed for open water northwest for 26 miles to a marker out about 3 miles from the mouth of the entrance of Bying (pro. bing, not by-ing) Inlet. Soon we found ourselves in a beautiful channel surrounded by round rocks on all sides but very deep. We found our marina and were in for the night.
Entering Bying Inlet
Behind us as we exited Bying Inlet

Exiting Bying Inlet

Our next port of call as a goal was Killarney, ON, at the end of Georgian Bay.

My usual practice is to always check the weather on the computer first thing in the morning. The forecast from Environment Canada for Monday didn’t seem all that bad. It called for winds of ten knots, more or less, and waves of around two feet or less…more or less. I was even able to get some favorable information on wind and wave predictions from the National Weather Service in the States. They have several marine forecast resources reaching up into Canadian waters. Our course to Killarney was to go south into Georgian Bay only about three miles, then turn almost ninety degrees to the northwest and make a straight line to Killarney only 26 miles up the reach. So it came as a big surprise that as we exited Bying Inlet heading out into the bay we were met with a very strong south wind with three to five foot waves. They were so strong we decided to turn back in towards Bying Inlet. But instead of going back to the marina and stay there for a couple of days (The weather predictions for Tuesday was for rain.) we decided to head up the Small Vessel Route and seek sheltered passages on up to Killarney. It would add about ten miles and two to three hours to our float plan.

Do you remember me saying that I had great apprehension about navigating in the Small Vessel Route? Well, the realization of my apprehension was a mixed bag. It was very narrow with lots of rocks and traps along the way which made for some slow going. But on the upside it was strangely beautiful with clear water. The waters were protected from the wind and waves. There were however several sections, at least up this north, that left the shore and ventured back out into the bay, the place we were trying to get away from, at least for today. The first of these reaches wasn’t too bad as the angle was favorable to a slight degree. After that reach it the course ducked back towards shore then around an island on its north side, again offering protection. Then the charted course went out into the bay again: this time for about fifteen miles northwest. And once again we were forced to turn back.

By this time we were too far along to go back to Bying Inlet. Our only option was to look for a marina or someplace to sit out the rest of the day and night. We tried going up a river called the French River which had a couple of marinas noted on the paper charts. But that was no good as the main channel of the river had a section that was unsuitable to pass. We had to double back. Not knowing what else to do we turned into the Small Vessel Route heading back southeast from French River looking for an anchorage. After only about a half of mile of some very twisty, narrow and treacherous waterways we did find a beautiful anchorage in a big pool just on the north side passage of an island with a terrible name – Obstacle Island. So we dropped anchor and relaxed in a very beautiful location ready to sit out the rest of the day (and probably the next day, too). We have plenty of water and fuel as well as an almost empty holding tank so this was not a problem.

Picture this…here we were in an isolated anchorage surrounded by huge smooth rock formations and beautiful water. There were no towns or cities anywhere near us…no cell phone signals, no internet, no television, no nothing! It was wonderful.

Update – 1:30 am Tuesday July 31, 2012

Our restful and peaceful night did not last. At 1:30 am we were awakened by the soft thud sound of our port side stern corner coming to rest against one of the sheer rock cliff faces of our anchorage. Apparently our anchor’s hold was not as good as we thought. When we anchored we could see weeds at the bottom of the water which could be detrimental to getting a good set anchor. Our initial opinion was that we had a good hold because of some moderate winds that were blowing to no effect on the boat other than to gently swing it back and forth. Apparently a strong storm swept through around midnight and pushed up towards the shore. The anchor did not hold. Lisa was woken up by the storm earlier and did do a quick look around and at the time she surmised things as being ok. I slept through it.
The little sub-inlet adjacent to our anchorage at Obstacle Island where Why Knot almost got sucked into when we were blown off our anchor by a squall line blow in the middle of the night.

We grabbed our flashlights and got out onto the deck to see that we had been blown all the way back from our original anchorage location just as we had set up. The rock wall was in a little sub-inlet to some kind of creek with a sheer facing cliff of which we were resting broadside against it. However we were be dragged by a current into the little creek which was certainly someplace we did not want to go. By poking our extra long seventeen foot long boat hook straight down into the water at the stern I determined that our rudder and prop were not in any kind of restriction. We were at first going to settle to let the boat stay where it was until sun-up but as we looked at things more closely we could see the current was working against that idea.

The depth sounder was showing seventeen feet of water under us so I took the extra long boat hook and pushed  the stern away from the wall to an angle enough that I could then fire up the engine and back us up back into the pool near where we originally had dropped the hook. There was one snafu with this idea in that the anchor was too heavy from all of the weeds hanging on it from scraping along the bottom. I was able to get it out of the water a bit before the windlass clutch started to let go. So again with the aid of the boat hook I was able to get most of the weeds off of the anchor. With this weight removed I got the anchor up.

So as it stands right now at about 4:00 am I am sitting in the salon keeping watch. Lisa is back asleep in the cabin. Every now and then I take out the big flashlight and check things out. It is very cloudy and the moon is obscured which makes it very, very dark. Fortunately when all this was happening the moon was still out. What our plans for today are is unclear. What weather reports we can hear on the radio suggest that it could either be a stormy day or clearer and calmer in the morning getting worse in the afternoon. If the former is the case we are going to have to ride it out at this location all the while occasionally hauling up the anchor and moving the boat. If it is the latter and the worse is past us until sometime this afternoon we might make a run for Killarney starting at sunrise. We’ll have to wait and see.

Update – Safe in Killarney

As it was dead calm about 4:30 am I went back to bed and fell fast asleep. Lisa got up to take her turn watching things. She would wake me up if anything happened. I woke up by myself about 7:00 am and found Lisa out on the deck talking to a man in an inflatable dinghy. He was the skipper of a sail boat that had anchored in a pool just a few hundred yards or so back out the direction we came in the small vessel channel. They were talking about the weather. It was still dead calm. As I said the forecast details that we had been getting were sketchy due to VHF radio interference on our end. He had more clear information. It was still the former/latter situation I spoke of earlier, but with a slight difference. It was calm right at that minute and the outlook was for it to remain that way for a short while. And for us the most difficult part of the route for today would be the first fifteen miles as we had to go out into the bay a short distance, then turn northwest and run parallel to the shore for a while, then cut back into the shore to pick up the small vessel channel where we had some guarantee of sheltered conditions. As mentioned several times in this blog our experience is that it is generally calmer early with winds increasing in the afternoon. We knew that it was a risk but we decided to pull up anchor about 8:15 am and head out.

Our risk taking paid off. The first, outside part of the day’s route was a bit windy but not yet enough to broil the seas from their calm condition earlier in the morning. After traversing that part we headed back into the small vessel route. And, boy, are we glad we did. It was absolutely beautiful. The first main body of water we entered was Beaverstone Bay, a fairly large lake with numerous rocky islands and outcroppings. Earlier in the day it was cloudy but by now, at least for this portion, it was sunny and bright and we were dazzled by the clear, clean water and natural formations. (The sky’s condition would alternate between very grey and cloudy to sunny and bright frequently during the day.) The route through the bay ended with the narrowest little channel we had yet encountered. The red and green buoys were barely wider than our boat’s width. 

At the end of that we entered Collins Inlet which is really a long mostly straight river with rocky cliffs and trees lining the way. This too was a delight. The depths were generous and there was plenty of room to navigate. This eventually emptied back in to Georgian Bay for a short four nautical mile leg straight to the entrance of a straight connecting Georgian Bay the and he North Channel, and the village of Killarney. Rogue’s Marina (pro. Rock’s) is our home for the next several days. From here we will move on to Gore Bay, still in Ontario, then to Drummond Island in Michigan.
Getting ready to exit Collins Inlet

Beautiful white cliff hills north or our last leg into Killarney.

Killarney straight lighthouse

By the way, it did finally rain a bit late in the day.