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North Channel Cruises 1991

  Vessel........Voyager III
  Crew..........Jim, Chris, Jay, C.C.
  Duration......7 days
  Dates.........July 20-27, 1991
  Destinations..Croker Island, Long Point Cove, Gore Bay,
                Croker Island, N. Benjamin Island, Little Current

(Contemporaneous Log entries reproduced verbatim in typewriter font)

July 20, 1991 Saturday

Little Current to Croker Island South Harbour

Left Little Current at 1335

1400 Abeam Narrow Island, making 5.6 knots under motor.
Weather overcast. Cooling off. Looks like rain ahead

1452  100 yard South of JP2 at Strawbeenzee Reef LORAN
indicates  46-00-17 N  082-05-38 W

We sail by Strawbeenzee Reef, on the SW tip of Bedford Island. We have avoided this area for years, but finally we've come this way to see what the reef looks like. It really is nasty, a half-mile long finger of shoal water extending out from the point. We've heard some stories about boats that have grounded on this hazard, including one tale of a large powerboat that was put aground here and had to be salvaged with a crane from a barge after she tore her bottom out.

Coming this way saves quite a bit to time on the westward trip to Croker Island. We used to take a day and half to get to Croker; now we make it here in the first few hours of our trip.

In the south harbor there are several boats, including Jupiter, a yellow hulled sloop with plenty of yellow trim. She is nestled into the little islet in the center of the harbor.

July 21, 1991 Sunday

Croker Island to Long Point Cove

After a rainy night at Croker Island South Harbour we are
glad to awake to no rain and clearing skies.

Cat and I row the dingy while Chris has coffee and Jay
reads. Then a minor disaster averted: Cat slips off the
stern deck as she is about to go for a swim and takes a
plunge down the swim ladder feet-first, banging her chest
against the steps. But, she seems able to shake it off! What
a miracle. At 1030 we start to leave.

The anchor comes up cleanly. I replace the  30 lb. with the
11 lb. as the main anchor. The other is too heavy!

1105 South of the Sow and Pigs; steering for tip of Darch
Island @ north point.

1210 Approaching Darch Island
1303 LORAN  L/L   46-06.26N  082-30.00W
1403 LORAN  L/L   46-06.87N  082-37.54W

We arrive at Long Point Cove.  This is site of the famous
jumping rock! Is this our first visit? I cannot remember...

No, it's our second visit; we were first here in 1989, when we discovered the famous "Jumping Rock", a natural diving spot on the shoreline. I must be getting more cautious in my old age, because this year we all decline to jump in from the "Jumping Rock", as it looks to high and dangerous!

July 22, 1991 Monday

Long Point Cove

There is something about this place that makes you lazy. We just sit around the boat, swim, or row around the harbor all day. At sunset, Chris insists we all go for a hike just to get some exercise. We row over to the western side of the peninsula and climb ashore, where we scale a modest hill and watch a beautiful sunset.

July 23, 1991 Tuesday

Long Point Cove to Gore Bay

We probably should have left here yesterday. We really don't want to spend another night here--it would make us feel too much like cottagers instead of sailors--but the weather today is not very good for us. It is rather windy.

We can see that there is some wind and waves in the unprotected waters just outside the harbor, but they look like something we can handle, so we decide to go! We are sailors, after all!

0835 Getting ready to go... Long Point to Gore Bay  Winds W20-25

From UJ4    TC  139     To Scott Passage    TC  171
             V  009W                        Var 009W
            MC  148                         MC  180
            Dev 005E                        Dev 002E
            CC  143                         CC  178
LORAN L/L @ Mills Island   46-07.84N  082-42.03W

We work our way southward toward the main portion of the North Channel. Out there the WSW winds are really building some big waves, but we are still protected from them by the islands. As we poke our nose out into the real weather, I take a glance back at Mills Island. Should we turn right around now and head back? It already looks a little too nasty out here for pleasure sailing. Well, I decide in a moment that we have already been blown so far downwind that getting back to Mills Island would be as much of a battle as continuing. We'll go on to Gore Bay!

Here are the log notes verbatim:

---A WILD RIDE!  Big waves. Big wind. Jay sick. Dingy with
water--lost cushion. Other boat lost dingy with motor

Here's what that really means:
We sail downwind on some big waves, making plenty of speed, and needing plenty of power from the sails to maintain our stability as these big waves roll through us. You can't be too underpowered or you will be turned sideways in the troughs of the waves.

When Voyager III catches the front of a wave, she surges down the face of the wave into the trough and buries her bow into the next wave's back. With all that hull in the water forward, the center of resistance shifts forward as well, with the result that the center of effort of the rig is now way behind it. This makes the rear of the boat want to slew around to leeward, pivoting the boat up to windward in the trough, and turning the boat sideways. In that attitude, the next wave comes blasting over the side, and, combined with the wind, knocks the boat down in a dangerous broach.

Actually, we never get quite that far, but we come close enough to see what the winds and waves would do if the helmsman is not careful. The solution is to maintain plenty of sail power forward, so, even though we are blasting along at 6-7 knots, we have to maintain nearly a full genoa. We do carry a reef in the main. This puts most of our sail effort well forward, and it allows us to power the bow through those deep buries in the troughs. The strain on the helmsman is considerable, because you have to keep the boat headed downwind while the boat trim changes from second to second. It really requires 100% concentration at the wheel and plenty of quick and forceful corrections to the rudder.

Every once in a while, a truly larger than average wave rolls up behind us. You can hear them coming, as they make more noise from breaking than the normal waves. When one of these rolls under us, the entire boat is lifted five feet higher than the surrounding seas, and, as you perch for a moment balanced on the top of the wave, you get an excellent view of your situation.

Our course line takes us diagonally across the waves, as we attempt to cross the North Channel from northwest to southeast, heading for Manitoulin Island. This crossing is only possible because we are going downwind, where our forward speed of 6-7 knots reduces the apparent wind on the boat to 18-20 knots.

After about an hour, we are halfway across, and the coastline of Manitoulin begins to reveal more details. We can see that there are several headlands coming up, but which one of them is Janet Head, the promontory that marks Gore Bay? Looking behind us at the hundreds of square miles of angry North Channel, it is impossible to imagine making any upwind progress against these waves. If we miss Gore Bay, we'll have a hell of a ride trying to go back for it.

It becomes evident that it will be rather crucial to hit Gore Bay right on the money. If we sail more to the south, toward Manitoulin, and come up too soon, we'll have to turn more downwind to sail down to Gore Bay. That is not good because sailing dead downwind is very dangerous in the event of an accidental jibe. In these conditions is would be very likely to rip the sails or tear out some rigging in an uncontrolled jibe. That would be a major problem.

If we we cheat a little downwind now, when we do see Gore Bay we'll have to sail too much across the waves to reach it, putting ourselves at risk for a broach or getting swamped by a big wave.

The really best outcome is to sail as we have been, diagonally downwind. This minimizes the chances of both an accidental jibe or a broach.

Before departing Mills Island, we had plotted a courseline to Gore Bay. We have been sailing the course, but cheating a little to windward to allow for the set of the big waves to leeward. Exactly how far we have been blown to leeward by the wind and waves is a guess, however. And, since when viewed from seaward the island's headlands all look alike, we don't exactly have any landmarks to tell us which one is Gore Bay. We need some help from our electronics, the LORAN.

I have to go below to check our position with the LORAN. This is no picnic. First, I have to determine the lattitide and longitude of Gore Bay from the chart. This requires manipulating some dividers and reading from the chart edge graduations. Next, I have to keyboard the numbers into the LORAN unit. Then I can punch a button and get a distance and course to Gore Bay. It sounds simple enough, and back in the calm water of this morning's anchorage it would have been a piece of cake. But now, banging around in the middle of the North Channel, it is a stuggle. Every time I focus on the chart and dividers, I start to get seasick. I have to take little breaks from the chartwork and come up topsides for fresh air and orientation. It takes several minutes to get this done.

FInally, I have the waypoint for Gore Bay entered in the LORAN. With a few more strokes of its controls and a second or two of high speed mathematics, the unit calculates the course and distance to that waypoint. I hope I got it right. It looks like Gore Bay is the last of the three headlands, so, if my numbers have been wrong, we'll have an uphill battle to get back to the real Gore Bay.

I have been at the wheel for almost all of the crossing so far, except for the few minutes spent in the cabin with the LORAN. It's been a total of about 90 minutes, and I have some fatigue setting in. Being at the wheel is really an advantage for me for a couple of reasons.

First, I like being in control of the situation. It reduces my anxiety when I am at the wheel. I don't have to worry or wonder about someone else's ability to maintain the boat in a safe attitude to these big waves. I know I can do it, as long as I have the strength and stamina to keep up.

Secondly, I know that being at the helm reduces my chances of seasickness. The pressure of the water on the rudder is transmitted to the wheel, and it foreshadows to the helmsman the boat's next move. This makes the wild motions of the boat much easier to anticipate and therefore less disorienting.

I like to be at the wheel in these situations. This works out well, because Chris, my wife, is quite happy to let me. I guess she is confident in my abilities as a sailor, and she is also practically immune to seasickness and therefore doesn't need the boost from being at the wheel.

One thing we have going in our favor is that it is a beautful day. It is very sunny and bright, and the strong winds have blown all the mist and dust out of the area, so the visibility is unlimited. There are a few other problems onboard to be dealt with.

For starters, we have been pulling our inflatable dingy along with us, and it has taken on some water. It looks like it is holding its own, but it is a concern should it become swamped. We would have to attempt to recover it, but that would be a difficult undertaking in these waves. We hear a call on the radio from another boat who has lost her dingy with an ouboard motor attached! They ask others to keep an eye out for it. Ouch! That is an expensive mishap for that crew.

A big gust of wind and a big wave sweep a cushion overboard. Normally we would come around immediately and attempt to recover it, but today we just wave goodbye at it. It will wash up on someone's beach in a day or two, and they'll have use of it!

We've been out in the Channel for about 90 minutes now, and it looks like we have survived the worst of it. As we close down toward Manitoulin, we gain a little shelter from the island itself, and the waves seem to abate some. My daughter Cat (age 11) announces that she is getting seasick! We counsel her to keep her gaze focused on a far-off point (so she can see the boat's motion against the remote and stationary object). She keeps looking down into the cockpit. "NO!", we yell at her, "look at something far away."

Everyone's attention is focused on Cat and her possible nausea. Her older brother Jay (age 14) offers support and encouragement. He forgets to take some of his own advice. Suddenly, he leans over the side of the cockpit and starts to vomit! He's seasick, too, but hasn't been letting on.

Attention shifts to Jay. Fortunately, Chris--still immune to motion sickness-- can offer some help. I stay on the wheel.

We are closing in on Gore Bay. Janet Head is recognizeable. We are just a little upwind, so we have to fall off a bit and ease down. There are a few tense moments as we make our way dead downwind, carefully avoiding sailing-by-the-lee and an accidental jibe.

Finally, about two hours after our departure, we can turn into Gore Bay and the relative calm of its shelter. Everyone's spirits soar! We have made it across without an incident. The dingy is full of water, but--save for the missing cushion and the lost breakfast over the side-- there is no damage to the boat or crew.

The dock looks completely full, and our (frugal) cruising instincts tell us to anchor instead of paying for a marina berth. We are extremely glad to be out of the waves, for Gore Bay's water is hardly rippled, but the south end of the bay is not exactly calm. It is still blowing quite hard. We carry on to the extreme south end until the water shoals to 12-14 feet, and drop anchor. We are very preoccupied with taking a break from all this heavy sailing, and as a result I have dropped the hook a little too close to another boater. He gives us a glaring look, and we get the message. Up comes the anchor--always an exertion and especially so after all that we've just been through--and we try it again a little farther away.

Finally we are at anchor, but it is not relaxing. The wind is very strong, still, and it makes the cockpit too cold to enjoy. The boat is sailing on the anchor-- a favorite pastime of a masthead sloop with a roller furling jib that acts like a sail even when rolled up--and the total effect is not one of relaxation. An additional factor is the extreme winds: we may not even be able to reach shore by rowing upwind in the dingy.

We hold a caucus. Everyone votes for going to the marina. I accede to their collective wisdom, even if it will cost us $25 for the night's berthing. Now, we just need a slip to open up. No one is leaving--they all have more sense than we did. In fact, we notice, no one is coming in--no one has been nuts enough to go out in this blow it seems other than us!

I get on the radio and call the harbormaster. He confirms he does have a slip left for us. Hooray! We pick up the anchor--again--and head for the dock. It was a great decision. We get the boat snug in a slip. It is calm. The wind is much less at the shore so the day is warm again. We can get off the boat and explore. We can take hot showers. We have a blast. The best twentyfive dollars I ever spent, I conclude.

Once at dockside, the day becomes very pleasant. There is less wind --just a nice cooling breeze--and the temperatures are in the 80's. It is much more enjoyable to sit on the boat or stroll around town than it would have been sailing around our anchor in the bay. We have a quick lunch and a beer. We're celebrities for a day, it seems, as we are the only boat that has arrived all afternoon in Gore Bay. A couple of boat left this morning, but they came quickly back to the marina when they saw the conditions outside. Jay brags to his fellow teenagers around the docks about the passage through the big waves, neglecting to mention his seasickness, of course. Finally, our notoriety is broken by the arrival of another boat. A huge C & C Custom 61 pulls in. It's crewed by half a dozen young college guys, and they've had a great afternoon surfing eastward in the North Channel from Meldrum Bay at ten knots or more. There's no room for them at the marina, so they drop anchor out in the bay's south end.

July 24, 1991 Wednesday

Gore Bay to Croker Island

Nice Sail.  A TOUGH motor around Secretary Island.

EVENT HORIZON II entertains us on 12-string guitar and

(Apprehension about leaving: harbor bound)

JUPITER- a yellow CS33

Today the weather is fair, but the wind is still strong from the west. I'd like to leave Gore Bay, but the crew--principally the kids--are a little hesitant. We hike over to the new 2-storey building on the point, and from its second floor balcony we check the waves in the North Channel with binnoculars. They look manageable, we conclude, especially compared with yesterday's monsters!

We depart Gore Bay bound for the north side of Clapperton and then on to Croker Island. The sailing is fine, since we are again going downwind and diagonally across the waves.

Applying some of the good sense we've learned over the years in cruising, we take our sails down well east of Secretary Island, while we are in deep and clear water. We had some friends who struck a rock and grounded just west of Secretary, while they were busy handling their sails and not watching their course among the many shoals there. We've learned from their mistake.

Our course is still downwind, until we are just south of Secretary Is. Here we turn left 135-degrees, and go back upwind to the northwest. The waves are strong on the port side, and off to starboard a few hundred feet is the rocky coast of Secretary Island. The diesel engine strains to punch the boat forward, and it takes a lot of helm to weather to prevent Voyager III from slipping eastward on the rocks.

Thoughts of what do to in case of engine failure pop into my head. It would really be a bad spot to loose forward motion. The engine runs just fine, however, and soon it takes us north of Secretary and its many islets and rocks and into the southern part of Croker Island Harbour.

As we enter Croker, we find the anchorage rather full, as the strong weather has discouraged most people from leaving again today. There are no really open spots for us. We feel a sense of 'right' to a calm anchorage. "We didn't sail all afternoon in those winds to sit out in the open here," I comment to Chris. We decide to just pick the biggest gap between two boats and slide in.

As we often do ourselves, when a new boat arrives in an anchorage the boaters already there observe them carefully as they anchor. It provides a quick index to the experience of the new boat's crew. If the new boat's captain and crew yell and scream at each other while they drop their anchor, the impression that everyone forms is less than flattering. On the other hand, if you see a cruising boat enter a crowded harbor, pick an appropriate spot, and settle in with minimal fuss and shouting, you consider them to be good sailors and good neighbors as well. We do our best to anchor with as little shouting as possible. When it's over, we are about midway between two fellow sailboaters, each about 50 feet or less away.

Just to the north of us on portside is Event Horizons II, a big sloop of 40 feet or so. There are just two aboard, a young fellow and his wife; she entertains us--and the rest of harbor--with an after-dinner concert of singing and 12-string guitar.

Across the little anchorage we see Jupiter, a CS33, is still anchored to the little islet in the harbor's center. They were there earlier this summer when we stopped here in July! I row over for a chat with the skipper, kidding him that he'd better not stay much longer or he'll have to start paying real estate taxes. His preferred mode of cruising is to find a nice spot like the one he is in now, and stay there for a week. He and his wife just relax and read, as if they were in a shoreside cabin. They run their engine once a day to keep their batteries charged, and once every week or so they drop into a marina for a pump out. Then it's back to a serene anchorage for another week. They do this all summer. Sounds like a nice life!

It is good to be in this safe and protected harbor. The winds are still strong from the west. Evening comes on, and with it the winds diminish. It is a warm and serene night out in the beauty of the North Channel and its islands.

July 25, 1991 Thursday

Croker Island to N. Benjamin Harbour

In early morning, we recover our anchor and motor four or five miles west, over to North Benjamin Harbour. We inherit a nice spot when another boat departs. With our bow secure to our Danforth anchor in about 8 feet of water, we take a line ashore to tie off the stern. In the rocks we find a stainless steel mooring ring, driven into a crack and cemented in place by a previous cruiser. It makes a nice tie-to for the stern line.

A large sloop, ARIA, joins the fleet anchored there later in the day. We have seen her before. She has a unique rig, with a boomless main that roller furls, and twin roller-furling headsails. We guess her size to be about 75 feet.

At the northern end of the anchorage, there is a narrow passage of excape to the west. We have seen people using it before, so we row over to investigate. Another boat glides by, just a few feet off the rocks but in deep water, and demonstrates the proper course. We are still a little leary of trying it ourselves, but at least we have surveyed it for future use.

We take the inflatible ashore, where we are greeted by a pair of dogs from another boat. We always leave our English Springer Spaniel, Chloe, home in the kennel. Seeing these two romping in the water causes us to yearn for our own pet.

The bottom here is clear sand with little vegetation. As we snorkel around, Chris spots something bright red in the sand. We dive down and retreive a very nice screwdriver, an expensive German import with a variety of bits hidden in its handle. It has just a little rust on it, which I'll remove later with a long soak in vegetable oil. It probably sells for $30 or more! It's a nice find.

July 26, 1991 Friday

N. Benjamin Harbour to Little Current

The end of the week brings a reluctant sail back to Little Current. Although there has been rain this week, Friday, as usual, is warm and sunny. We spend the day at the docks at Spider Bay Marina, working on the boat. It takes all afternoon to get her shipshape. When it's done, everyone is worn out, the exertions of the whole week finally catching up with us.

July 27, 1991 Saturday

Little Current, Ontario to
Birmingham, MI via car via Michigan side

0945 Depart LC
1135 Pass through Blind River
1315 Sault Ste. Marie and Lunch at McDonalds on BR75
1445 Mackinac Bridge and the lower peninsula ahead

To get all the junk we need for cruising into a mid-sized car is impossible. We have added a car-top carrier. This makes our vehicle height over 8.5 feet, putting us into the more expensive fare for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry. In addition to paying twice the rate, space for this height vehicle is limited. We decide to forego the shorter, more enjoyable, trip via the ferry, and, instead, we take the long route back home via the Soo. It's the same total time, more mileage, and less money. We'll be back again, soon, for our second week of cruising, this time without the kids aboard.

Second Week 1991

  Vessel........Voyager III
  Crew..........Jim, Chris
  Duration......7 days
  Dates.........August 10-18, 1991
  Destinations..Croker Island, Oak Bay,
                Little Detroit, Bear Drop Harbour,
                N. Fox Island, Neptune Island, Little Current

August 10, 1991 Saturday

Little Current, Ontario to Croker Island

We are spending a lot of time in Croker these days; for
years we never entered this fine harbor, but once we
discovered it, we really like it!

August 11, 1991 Sunday

Croker Island to Oak Bay

After seeing the passage out of the Northern harbor at N.
Benjamin Island first hand, and carefully checking the
course and notes, we decide to attempt this ourselves. This
will be an East-to-West transit, and the weather is perfect
for it. The wind is light and the sun comes over our
shoulder and we motor through. The channel is narrow but
well defined, and Chris takes the helm as I pilot us through
from the bow. We glide through without a problem, and then
turn north towards Oak Bay.

This is our third visit to Oak Bay, but I cannot recall exactly where we anchored. There are no notes left from this trip, so this portion of the log is being reconstructed from memory.

August 12, 1991 Monday

Oak Bay to Little Detroit and on to
Bear Drop Harbour

The morning provides us with a dead calm. As we motor towards Little Detroit, I make some comparisons between the knotlog and the Loran indicated speed. The two are in good agreement until we get over 5.5 knots, where the knotlog seems to be more generous. The engine speed is also noted, so that in the case of failure of all other indicators, one could deduce speed from tachometer readings.

The Little Detroit transit is interesting, but we've been this way before, haven't we? Then more motoring west through the Whalesback Channel and on to Beardrop Harbour.

Once inside of Beardrop the source of the name become obvious. The shores are covered with the dark patches of vegetation that, from a distance, look like bear droppings. We secure a nice achorage in the lee of the entrance island.

This trip we've brought the 7.5 hp outboard along. There is plenty of room in the harbour for running the little inflatable around. With one person aboard it will plane nicely with the engine wide open. The motor noise is deafening, however, so the ride is not that enjoyable.

August 13, 1991 Tuesday

Bear Drop Harbour second day

We can't collectively recall going anywhere else, so I guess we just spent a lazy day in the harbour. In the afternoon we climbed ashore and found ourselves a nice view off to the Southeast that overlooked the Whalesback Channel.

August 14, 1991 Tuesday

Bear Drop Harbour to South Benjamin

This is our best guess about where we headed today. I think we must have gone a little to the west and then returned along the southern shore of John and Aird Islands. Nothing sticks in our minds about this day, and I am not certain where we ended up spending the night. Could we have stayed a third day at Beardrop?

August 15, 1991 Wednesday

South Benjamin to Fox Island

We would like to return to Fox, but for some reason we are hesitant to enter the Southern harbour, and instead we find a delightful new anchorage along the north shore. The fishing here is good, too. One one side of the boat we can catch Perch and on the other side Smallmouth Bass.

August 16, 1991 Thursday

North Fox to Neptune

We were going to head for Stugeon Cove, but changed our minds when we got there and ended up at our old favorite spot behind Neptune. From here we explore Sturgeon Cove via motorized dingy. The entrance, with its three ranges, is quite apparent once you get there. We'll put it back on the list of places to see in the future. The ride back is a little wet as we are now going to windward and even in the lee of Neptune Island there are some small waves.

August 17, 1991 Friday

Neptune to Little Current

This second cruise this year has been a strange one. Both Chris and I have decided we much prefer a two-week cruise compared to two one-week cruises. We also seem to have been a little at odds with ourselves. We don't seem to have gone anywhere new, except for Beardrop Harbour, nor have we ranged very far.

August 18, 1991 Saturday

Little Current

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Page Last modified: June 19, 1996