Midland, Ontario to Mackinaw City, Mich – The Georgian Bay and North Channel

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday morning Amanda at Bay Port Marina gave us a ride in one of the marina cars over to Queen’s Cove Marina so we could retrieve the new credit cards to replace the one that was compromised. That was a huge relief to get those.  Jane took care of getting all the auto payments switched over to the new account.  It was a major pain in her backside.  We got the bikes out and went into town along the Rotary trail.  It is a gorgeous ride passing by the waterway lined with cattails and wild flowers and we explored downtown Midland.  We got back just as the rain came.  I wanted to buy charts of the Georgian Bay so we stopped in the marina store.  I ran into Captain Terry from Magic and he had just bought a set of charts and let me know to come over to his boat at 1700 for a chart mark-up session with Ken, the marina owner.  That was most informative and Ken was able to give us details about anchorages, marinas, and useful knowledge that we would not have otherwise gained.  On Wednesday, we returned to town and I stopped in at Little Ed’s Ski & Bike Shop to get the back brake adjusted.  Turns out that I’ve got a couple of broken spokes as well, but that will have to wait until we are somewhere else.  They were very accommodating at Little Ed’s and I was at least safe to ride again.  Later, we met the crews from Magic and Wine Speed at Lily’s Italian Eatery for a great dinner.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018:

I refilled our fresh water tanks and at 1000 we backed out of the slip and eased over to the fuel dock to get the holding tank pumped and buy ice. Magic and Wine Speed were there as well for the same process.  Our plan was to run together over to anchorage at Frying Pan Bay on Beausoleil Island.  We saw some other Loopers coming into the marina as we were getting ready to leave.  By 1025 we were all finished and ready to get under way.  We were not even a half mile out of the marina when Captain Terry of Magic called on the radio that he needed to return to Bay Port Marina with some issues as his bilge pump was cycling like crazy.  We continued onward with Wine Speed and we later learned that Captain Terry had a big hole in his exhaust hose plus a fuel tank leak in a cracked weld and a small fresh water system leak.  It just wasn’t his day.  As he was waiting to get the repairs completed, his GPS system went out and that had to be replaced.  I was knocking on teak thankful that we have had so little trouble.  We did have an issue that started the night before with our electrical circuits.  Some of the outlets were not working.  I tried to see if I could figure it out and was coming up empty.  Finally, I contacted Tim, the previous owner, and he quickly directed me to the GFI outlet that is mounted in the forward cabin closet.  I had forgotten about that one.  It is where we keep the dust buster plugged in.  One push of the reset button and problem solved.

By 1208 we were anchored in Frying Pan Bay. A storm passed through, but after that it was a pretty day and we explored with the dinghy and met some folks flying a State of Florida flag at their cottage.  They are from Miami and their cottage on Tomahawk Island has been in their family for generations.  Back on Sabbatical we grilled veggies for dinner and then Mike and Cindy came over from Wine Speed for after dinner drinks.

Friday, July27, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 1000 and by 1045 we were out in the bay getting rocked about some by 2 to 3 foot seas. We followed Wine Speed the whole way and loved getting back in the protected narrow channel even though it’s tight quarters.  By 1250 we anchored in Wani Bay.  There are several ways to get in there, but we took the safest route coming in along Twelve Mile Bay.  It’s a great little spot and there were only a couple of other boats there already anchored on the far bank with their sterns pulled back to the granite.  Mark and Lezlie in Antonia showed up after some time since we had let them know where we were headed.  We explored again in the dinghy putting around the little islands and rocks.  Then we had the others join us for docktails on our boat.

Saturday, July 28, 2018:

It was rainy early, but the forecast showed it to clear up and we pulled anchor at 1030 and cruised on to Henry’s Fish Restaurant along with Wine Speed and Antonia.  We encountered 3 to 4 foot waves in the bay where it opens at McCurry Rocks, but it’s only a short opening where we were exposed to the big water.  Henry’s is on Frying Pan Island (sounds appropriate) and that island is surrounded by lots and lots of islands.  This is prime cottage territory and the seasonal homes come in all shapes and sizes.  Some seem larger than the rocks on which they rest.  We arrived at Henry’s at 1135.  It was before opening time, but we didn’t have to wait long before we were allowed in to grab a table.  Right after that a float plane landed out front in the waterway and taxied over to the dock.  Some folks started climbing out and we were surprised that the small plane would hold such a large party.  They took the long table next to ours and I saw that they brought along two bottles of Dom Perignon.  We couldn’t decide if they had something to celebrate, or just lived like that every day.  We enjoyed the stop even though our food was less than exemplary.

At 1300 we dropped lines at Henry’s dock and resumed underway to an anchorage in Echo Bay.  When we arrived at Echo Bay we found no less than 21 other boats already anchored there so we decided to move on up to Spider Bay.  At 1405 we found the beautiful undisturbed spot we sought and we were the only three boats to anchor there for the night.  It was a little breezy, but not wavy.  Jane and I got the dinghy down and we picked up Mark and Lezlie to tool around checking out the surroundings.  There are so many little nooks and crannies amongst the rocks and islands, but it was too chilly for swimming. Wine Speed hosted the small flotilla on board for happy hour so we dinghied over to join them.  That night the moon seemed full and it was still in the sky in the morning.

Sunday, July 29th, 2018:

We were looking at a perfect day with SSW winds of 10 mph partly cloudy with no chance of rain and a high of 74 degrees. We pulled anchor at 1017 and followed Wine Speed through the maze of narrow channels, rocks and islands with Antonia bringing up the rear.

By 1150 we were waiting on the Rose Point Swing Bridge for the noon opening.  We docked at Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound on the first tee head at 1230.  The float planes take off and land in the sound on a regular basis and they are fun to watch.  Not fun was the effects of wakes from the passing vessels.  This was the rockiest marina we have been in yet.  I’ve no idea why they don’t enforce a no-wake zone at Parry Sound. We got rocked so bad that our breast line pulled the dock board up, cleat and all.  We washed down the boat and then made a long hike to the grocery store and caught a ride back on the taxi.  We dined out at Bistro by the Bay with the crews from Wine Speed, Antonia, and Magic.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018:

We refilled the fresh water tanks and then got Sabbatical over to the pump-out station. It is not in a convenient spot but is located right behind the Island Princess cruise boat and in front of the float plane dock, so I got her spun around and Andy got us pumped out for $30.  I’m not a fan of Big Sound Marina due to the rocking at the dock (Island Princess is a big time wake zone violator), the push button showers with no temp control, and the expensive pump out.  We were glad to be going and it was a beautiful day for it.  By 1000 hours we dropped lines from the pump-out station and by 1055 we rounded Killbear Point.  At 1420 we passed Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse.

Twenty minutes later we wound our way through the skinny Hang Dog Channel.

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We set the anchor in Alexander Passage in 10 feet of water on 70 feet of rode.  After launching the dinghy, we explored a number of hidden coves.  Jane practiced rowing, so she will know how just in case the motor fails sometime.

Antonia joined us at the anchorage and we joined them for docktails.  After dinner on our boat we stayed up on the fly bridge to take in the pink and lavender sunset.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018:

It was a drizzly and lazy morning. We were happy for any rain at all since it has been so dry and Canada is having a tough time with all the forest fires.  Mark and Lezlie left before us and we weren’t sure we were even going to go.  They reported back after a while that they encountered thick smoke from the forest fire.  Within minutes, we saw the smoke eerily advancing up the river.

We decided that it was time to get out of there, but did not have any particular destination in mind.  We just knew we wanted to escape the smoke.  At 1350 we were off the anchor and headed out down river into the haze.  The smoke was thick in places, but the cruising was otherwise enjoyable.  It cleared some after we entered the Byng Inlet and by 1548 we were docked at Wright’s Marina in Britt.  The air was clear in Britt, even though we were closer to the fire.   Magic and Antonia were also in the Marina and we docked next to Stout.  It is a 42 foot Krogan so it’s pretty distinctive.  I had seen their boat in Montreal and a couple of other times, but we had not met them yet.  Dave and Lisa are from Vermont.  We met up with Mark, Lezlie, Captain Crusty, and Dorothy in the boaters lounge after dinner for a drink and to discuss where to go next based on the fire news.  We decided to stay at least another night.  The next day we jogged down to the next marina where they have a convenience store hoping to buy some bagels.  After walking back, we whipped up a batch of blueberry-strawberry pancakes.  It became a pretty lazy day after that, but we did launch the dinghy and cruise up the river to explore.  I had a dickens of a time starting the outboard and finally figured out that the gas line connection was not fully engaged.  I pulled the cord until I had a blister.  I had to let it sit for a while and then returned and started over.  It cranked on the third pull.  We cruised past the islands and then turned north off the inlet into Still River (just a creek, really) and putted along.  We saw a helicopter transporting a huge water bag to the fire.  The firefighters were working hard, but failing to get it under control. We had made dinner plans to go to the only restaurant with Mark and Lezlie and Rick and Deedy from Rejoice so we headed back to get ready.  We walked with Mark and Lezlie and Rick and Deedy came down in their dinghy.  It was a surprisingly good dinner and the young girl waiting on us was the hostess, bartender, busser and waitress.  I asked if she was the chef as well.

Friday, August 3, 2018:

We didn’t rise early, but got the chores all done to shove off. I called around and finally got the Sudberry District of the Fire Service and confirmed that the Bustard Islands, French River Park, and Henvey Inlet were all closed due to the fires, but Beaverstone Bay and Collins Inlet were still open.  After engine checks and refilling the water tanks, we eased over to the pump-out dock and got that taken care of.  We said good-byes to the other boaters.  Antonia was having an electrical issue and was looking at having to drive two hours in the marina owner’s truck to buy a new $2500 inverter.  At 1035 we were underway.  Once out of the inlet at 1100 we found the Georgian Bay offering less than one foot waves and light wind.  We anchored beside a granite cliff in Beaverstone Bay near Pisa Rock.  I went for a swim, but the water was pretty chilly.  Jane wouldn’t join me but set up her stationary bike apparatus and got some good exercise and sun.  We realized that we were in a remote area and there was no cell service.  This makes Mama upset because the kids might need to call.  So we launched the dinghy and went riding in all directions to see if we could get a signal.  I even climbed up on the rocks to see if elevation would help.  It wasn’t happening, so I built a cairn.  It was pretty open but a very private anchorage since we were the only boat around.  Late in the afternoon we heard Mark calling over the VHF and we guided them into our location. Antonia got anchored well before the late sunset and came over in their dinghy for a long visit.

Saturday, August 4, 2018:

At 1100 Antonia and Sabbatical hoisted anchors under partly clouded skies.  We cruised together through the narrow passages and in between granite cliffs of this special place.  We passed through Mill Lake and into Collins Inlet.  This was some of the most beautiful scenery we have encountered.  We saw a few other boaters and fishermen along with some kayakers and campers in canoes.

We passed a beaver’s house with a satellite dish.  I wondered if they watch hockey or Animal Planet.

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Antonia was headed to a slip at Mountain Lodge in Killarney, but we turned off after exiting Collins Inlet and ducked away from the rollers of the Georgian Bay into Thomas Bay to anchor. It was very tricky getting into there as it is not a marked channel so we were creeping along at dead slow thankful that we can see the bottom and avoid the shallows whch are all made of rock.  The little bay is protected by a group of small islands to the south.  There are no houses around and the anchorage is about 500 feet across and maybe twice that long.  Once we got in, I realized that there are two entrances to Thomas Bay and I chose the more difficult route.  One sailboat was anchored already and we set the hook at 1320 glad that it was not smoky.  The granite hill to the west elevates probably a couple of hundred feet and is somewhat wooded with exposed rock in between the evergreens.

We set out in our trusty dink to explore several of these areas both on the mainland and the islands.  We went ashore in several spots and I noted the native blueberries were too dry to produce any suitable fruit.  We stayed on the lookout for bears and spotted various animal poops and had quite the discussion about what animal left which pile.  I found a good spot to wade and swim, but it was too cold for Lady Jane.  Jane took a turn at cranking and driving the dinghy so she could get familiar with that.  It warmed up as the day progressed and another Looper boat (Elixir) came into anchor.  They came by after we returned to Sabbatical and we chatted for a while.  They have a place on the St. Johns River in Welaka, but live aboard just about full time.

Sunday, August 5, 2018:

We retrieved the anchor at 1000 and eased out through the wider deeper channel where we should have entered the previous day. Dodging through the small islands and rocks (both exposed and submerged) we returned to the small craft channel to take us into Killarney.  At 1015 we were just cruising along with me at the helm and Jane standing next to me on the fly bridge.  All of a sudden she screams bloody murder!  It really took me off guard and just as I glanced in her direction, I saw a bat flying away out through the open curtain.  The furry guy had lit on her shoulder without her noticing it at first, but she felt something and looked down.  I’m sure the scream scared the bat crap out of him.  It sure woke me up.  We had no idea where it came from but surmised that it could have been sleeping somewhere on the fly bridge and the bouncing from the three foot waves disturbed it.  We entered Killarney Harbor at 1034.

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The town of Killarney lies on both sides of the narrow Killarney Channel that separates George Island from the mainland.  I heard that the guy who started Car Fax Canada and sold out is from here, has returned and is buying up the town and refurbishing everything.  It looked very cute from the water, but we were not stopping and just idled right on through.  We went off to the north into Killarney Bay and entered Covered Portage Cove at 1115 but there were way too many boats there.  There is a 400 foot cliff that you can hike up and get a picture of your boat from above, but we elected to let this wait for another visit and headed out to anchor in Browning Cove on the north side of Heywood Island.  The forested island is apparently uninhabited and the anchorage is much protected from wind and waves.  There is ample room in the three separate coves here to accommodate a good number of boats, but we found only eight or nine total.  The weather was kicking up so I expected some more would arrive and a few did.  We chose to set anchor in the center area and had it hooked at 1350. True to our custom we launched the dinghy and set out to explore the entire area.  As we putt-putted around the perimeter of the western leg we spotted a beaver’s house and then the beaver and then a second.  I tied our dink to a rock in about 4 feet of water and got out to swim and watch them zipping about and making loud splashes with their tails.  The beavers didn’t want to get too close to me and I didn’t want to get too close to them, but it was great fun hanging out there watching them.

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We finished exploring the areas of Browning Cove and got the dink put away before the weather rolled in. I let out addition rode for the anchor and reset the anchor alarm and slept like a babe.

A few days after we left there we heard accounts of four different boats that had been boarded by a bear and ransacked the cabin in search of food. That would not have been fun.  The bear was difficult to scare off, but I heard of no casualties.

Monday, August 6, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 0942 and headed out for Baie Fine and a visit to Topaz Lake. There was a slight ripple on the water and a little haze in the air.  By 1045 we entered into Baie Fine and passed Okeechobee Lodge.  Baie Fine is fiord that runs northeast from its opening on Frazer Bay about 8 or 10 miles back to a great anchorage known as “The Pool”.  It is a beautiful run between the granite cliffs and hills.

From there boaters will get on the mainland and hike up to Topaz Lake.  We anchored in The Pool with a lot of other boats and got our dinghy down so we could make the hike.  After tying off at the dinghy dock we set out on foot.  We kept following the trail, but it wasn’t well marked.  We just assumed we were heading in the right direction.  After about 20 minutes we came on some college kids who had canoes and they let us know that we had missed the turn off to the lake.  I guess if we hadn’t bumped into them, we’d still be out there wandering around in the woods or become bear food.  We finally came over the quartzite and granite ridge and discovered the clear blue water of Lake Topaz.  We met some other folks that were hanging out there.  I jumped in the water, but it was pretty chilly.

There are some areas we people can dive from the cliffs, but that’s not for me.  It is a beautiful and remote lake within the Killarney Provincial Park.  I understand that somewhere very nearby are the ruins of Al Capone’s summer house, but had no idea where to look for that.  Hiking back down was much easier since we didn’t get lost and we hoisted the anchor at 1430 and set out for the municipal marina at Little Current.  We backtracked along the Baie Fine and Frazer Bay.  I was hoping the weather would hold and that we could make it to the swing bridge for the opening at 1700.  It will only open on the hour.  The channel veers off to the south after the Camp Cove Point to go around a group of rocks and shallows.

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I felt I could cheat through the hazards and pick up some time to make the bridge opening.  Once within range I called the bridge tender and explained that I’d be just a couple of minutes late.  He advised that he could not hold the bridge open and I’d have to wait for the next opening at 1800.  That was disappointing, but on we trudged and I kicked up the throttle hoping to gain some more time.  Now, running at top speed, in unfamiliar waters, outside of the marked channel with granite boulders lurking just below the surface is not recommended.  However, I have come to trust our GPS and enjoy the redundancy of having Navionics on the IPad right there to confirm.  It is not only dangerous, but stressful as well to operate this way.  Adding to the stress is the weather was continuing to degrade and the wind was picking up.  Still, though, I realized that we wouldn’t make it to the swing bridge in time.  Another thought occurred once I got safely back into the marked channel.  I hailed the bridge tender again on the VHF and asked for the current clearance.  He reported that he currently had sixteen feet between the water and the bottom of the span.  I let him know that I could slip under that with a foot to spare and so we did not require an opening.  Jane let down the antenna and I backed off to idle speed for the approach.  She was nervous and stood on the deck box to see if we really could get under.   We slipped right on through.  That was a great win, but the rain hit just before we got to the marina and we docked in a downpour at 1730 after some confusion from the youthful dock hands about where our slip was.  We got cleaned up and reunited with Mark and Lezlie from Antonia for dinner at The Anchor Inn.  Later I whipped the Lady Jane in a double or nothing rematch at Gin.

The next day was a work day cleaning the boat. I fully scrubbed the upper helm still trying to get rid of midge stains etc.  Later we bought charts of the North Channel from Turners General Store.  Turners touts being the oldest chart dealer in Canada.  We had some delicious soup from a small café and took home some wraps for later.  After which I succumbed to Jane at Gin.  To clarify, this is a card game, not a drinking game.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018:

We went up to the conference room on the second floor of the Anchor Inn for Roy Eaton’s broadcast of the Little Current Cruiser’s Net. Throughout the summer, Roy broadcasts daily at 0900 on VHF channel 71, providing news, weather, and assisting cruisers by relaying messages and letting them check in from all over the North Channel.  Roy is a retired high school principal and just a great guy.  Jane assisted him by taking notes during the broadcast.

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He winters in Punta Gorda, Florida, so we will look forward to meeting up with him down there as we finish our Loop.  Once we were done with that, we shoved off at 1100 and stopped by Spider Bay Marina for a pump-out, dinghy gas, and ice.  After a bouncy ride in 3 to 4 foot seas we anchored in the lee of South Benjamin Island.  I think that Jane counted 37 other boats anchored here.  I didn’t like the first placed I picked out on the north side of the anchorage and we moved over to the south side near a small dock and cabin.  It was difficult finding a spot that felt like we’d have enough room.  I set the hook in 22 feet with only 100 feet of rode.  We of course had to get the dinghy down and explore all around the anchorage.  Most of the boats here were “trailer sailors”.  They pull their cruisers up from Michigan and then cruise the North Channel in a big group.  Just about all of them prefer to anchor and then back up to the rocks tying off to trees, rocks, or pins in the rocks.

We spent a good bit of time planning for a flight home to Florida for a week after we get back in the US.  Later up on the fly bridge, I became concerned about how close we were swinging to a submerged rock as the wind had changed.  Finally I went down and took a few wraps on the Samson post and even though it further reduced our rode, I felt better about it and we made it through the night without incident.

Thursday, August 9, 2018:

0738: Mark from Antonia called and explained that he needs a part from another Monk owner who is nearby our anchorage.  The other Monk owner is Mike Middleton of the Emma Jean and they were over on the east side of Croker Island.  Mark gave me Mike’s contact info and we made contact.  Good thing cell phones are working out here.  Mike brought the part over in his dinghy at 0830.  At 0940 we had pulled anchor and were headed out to Vidal Bay.  Soon, after discussing with Mark, we changed the rendezvous spot to the anchorage in Meldrum Bay.  We were cruising on smooth water, under clear skies with a light westerly wind.  At 1323 we rounded the point at Cape Robert and Antonia anchored in Meldrum Bay at 1525.  Jane spent the rest of the afternoon trying to make reservations for where we would leave the boat, get a rental car, and get flights out to Florida.  The Meldrum Bay Inn has a nice restaurant and that is quite surprising because this place is really isolated out on the west end of Manitoulin Island.  Manitoulin Island is, however, the largest freshwater island in the world.  The dinner was awesome and we were able to use the rest of our Canadian currency since this would be our last night before re-entering the USA.

Friday, August 10, 2018:

We had a long day ahead, so I pulled anchor and got us underway at 0720. Jane was still in bed.  At 0900 we submitted by the cell phone app ROAM to get clearance from Customs & Border Patrol for reentry.  At 1004 we crossed the border between Cockburn and Drummond Islands.  1009: Approved for reentry to USA.  At 1030 we were in Lake Huron on perfectly glassy smooth water under sunny skies.

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I was glad for the smooth water since we had 52 miles of open water to cross before reaching Mackinac Island.  We got there by 1645, but continued on to the Mackinaw City Municipal Marina.  The winds and waves picked up between the island and Mackinaw City, and there were the wakes from the ferries to contend with as well.  At 1745 I squeezed Sabbatical into a 15 foot wide slip well down the narrow fairway.  Jane keeps giving me high marks on docking.  We got dinner ashore at a restaurant called The Hook that opened 2 hours before we arrived. We enjoyed the Friday night Mackinaw City fireworks from the fly bridge around 10 pm.  It was a good day.  We loved Canada and we love being back in the good ole USA.

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