The line of demarcation between Georgian Bay and the North Channel isn’t totally clear to me, but I believe the town of Killarney designates the transition from one body of water to the other. It’s located on a very narrow channel between two larger bodies of water. We anchored in a bay about 5 miles from Killarney and then dinghied back to town to eat fish and chips at the famous Mr. Perch’s. We were in town about an hour when we noticed dark clouds in the distance and the wind began picking up and then we heard thunder. We cut our site-seeing short and jumped back in the dinghy so that we could get back to Bee Weems before the storm hit. We had left the hatches open and Pete was concerned about the anchor dragging during the high wind. There were several other boats anchored near us and we wanted to be there to fend off any boats that might go awry in the storm. We were half way across the bay when the wind and rain made it impossible to go any further. We had to pull into a dock on a private island to wait out the storm. A man was covering his boat as we pulled in and invited us to his cottage. He and his wife offered us tea while we watched the storm blow through, but Pete was so worried about Bee Weems that he paced the floors and could barely concentrate on making small talk with these lovely folks. The worst of the storm passed over in 20 minutes and before the rain stopped we headed back to the boat. Bee Weems was fine although there was a lot of rainwater inside due to the open hatches, but one of the boats in the harbor did drag anchor and was precariously close to the nearby rock cliff. He was towed to safety by a small fishing boat. That was enough drama for the day!!
Killarney BEFORE the storm!
We enjoyed one nice day while in the North Channel in what is known as the Pool in the Baie Fine. The Pool is at the end of a long finger of water between granite cliffs. We had heard that it was a very popular spot but there were only two other boats anchored there. We dinghied to shore to hike to Topaz lake, and picked wild blueberries for pancakes the next morning. Then when we returned to the boat we were welcomed by a visitor – what appeared to be a very large old turtle. Our new friend swam around the boat with his entourage of small fish for over an hour. He was covered in green slime and had very sharp claws.
Old Man Turtle
If you get out a magnifying glass you'll see a white spec in the water. That's Bee Weems in the Pool!
We noticed that there were more sailboats in the North Channel then anywhere else we’d been. Many of the boats were American now, and were “loopers” (boats looping up from Florida or somewhere on the Eastcoast into the Great Lakes then down the river system into the Gulf of Mexico) or cruisers out for a season rather than weekend boaters. The town of Little Current which is the largest town in the North Channel area hosts a daily radio program (VHF) at 9am for cruisers which we listened to while were in range. The content of the hour long program included weather forecasts, a short world newscast, a listing of local activities of interest to boaters and then an open invitation for boaters to call in their boat name and location. I understand this is done so that cruisers can identify who’s in the vicinity and can contact other cruisers that they may know. Cruisers are an interesting community of people that travel independently but continue to cross paths with each other as they cruise from port to port.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with us the next few days so we didn’t gunkhole in the North Channel as much as we intended. Even the most picturesque spots are not attractive in torrential rainfalls and high wind. We decided to keep moving west. We arrived in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in time to listen to a two hour free Summer Jazz concert in the park adjacent to the marina. We spent a day on the Canadian side of Sault Ste Marie visiting the Bush Plane Museum, the local art museum and the nearby shopping mall. The city is split in half by the St. Marie River. One half is in Canada, the other half is in Michigan. At the end of the second day we left the Canadian marina and crossed the river to an American marina to clear customs back into the States. We had been in Canada for almost 3 weeks. Pete phoned the customs office from the boat and gave them all the necessary identification numbers, etc. Then two customs agents came down to the boat, checked our passports and wished us a pleasant journey. It was very easy.
Approaching Sault Ste. Marie
The next morning we transitted our last lock of the season. Sault Ste Marie is the gateway from the North Channel to Lake Superior. The lake is 25 feet above the North Channel. The Soo locks offer two options – the American locks which are the commercial locks and can handle large vessels that carry ore from Lake Superior to the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Canadian locks which are for recreational vessels (like us). I thought it would be a fun challenge to go through a huge lock with a commercial ship to prove to ourselves we were expert lockers, but Pete thought it best to play it safe, so we went through the Canadian lock which was much like the majority of locks we passed through earlier in the trip. It was not a memorable experience.
Cruising Lake Superior is another story. The name SUPERior is perfect for a lake that is Super-sized. It took us 2 hours at 15 knots just to pass through White Fish Bay at the entrance of the lake!! This lake has several of its own weather systems. We’ve experienced the roughest waters of our journey on this body of water. Its very much like the ocean minus the tides. Its over 400 miles long and 800 feet deep in places. Most of the time we cruise parallel to the shore line – maybe a mile or two out, but today we crossed to Isle Royale and were out of site of land for 3 hours! We rarely see other boats on this lake. Most of the shoreline is covered with evergreen trees right down to the beach. And speaking of beaches, there are miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches and NO people.
We passed by one section of shoreline that is designated as the National Lakeshore Park. Three miles of the shoreline are the Grand Sable sand dunes. These dunes are hundreds of feet high. Another several miles of the Park are called Picture Rocks because the coastline cliffs are striped horizontally in vivid red, green, gold and orange.
Yesterday we visited a town that I’d never heard of before called Houghton (pronounced with a long O sound.) This town is known for several things. It receives over 300 inches of snow annually!! Most winters it snows every day for a month. It is the town where professional ice hockey began in the early 1900’s. Its origins go back to the discovery of copper in the hills nearby, so its main history revolves around mining. One of the biggest gemology collections in the country is at the Michigan Technology University which is in town. And what we got the biggest kick out of was that we tied our boat up at the city dock and took a picture of it with a ski lift in the background. Not very many places we’ll have an opportunity to do that again!
See the Chairlift in the background?
Published December, 31, 1899; truely a voyage of discovery. You must have been the only internal combustion engine on the river..How very exceptional to take the Zimmerman to the ski slopes not to mention apres ski with the fireplace and cosy cabin. My wife and I shall remember you and Pete and a sense of "Deja vu" when we pass through this area ourselves in a few years. I hope you have more fair weather as you continue West.
Comment by KeyportTrawler | Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 1:17:56 AM
I see you corrected the "Published Date", I shouldn't make such trivial comments as it now appears "off the wall".