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Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?

By kismet - Published October 01, 2010 - Viewed 960 times

The thrill of the adventure is what drew Lisa and me to undertake the challenge of embarking on the 6,000-mile Great Loop boat trip. Going places we’d never been, making new acquaintances, learning first hand the history of our great country and taking in the beauty of our vast North American continent from the vantage point of the rivers, lakes, canals, bayous and bays from the Mississippi River east to the Atlantic Ocean and from Florida to Canada’s stunning North Channel. We experienced countless first time events like the school of dolphins playfully swimming in the crystal clear waters near Destin, Florida seemingly guiding us into port or the feeling of pride as we anchored in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty. So it’s almost impossible to answer the question we get asked on a regular basis: “what’s been your favorite place on the Great Loop?”

Killarney’s Sportsman’s Inn and Marina uses this water taxi, called Tinker Bell, to shuttle boaters across the channel..

Two hundred and fifty miles is the farthest we had ever boated from our homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan before heading out on the Great Loop so it’s no wonder everything was unknown to us. Five thousand seven hundred and fifty miles of brand new uncharted waters for Lisa and me to explore, 96% of the Loop! It’s the last 4% or 250 miles of the North Channel and Lake Michigan that are the waters practically in our backyard and this is where we eventually found ourselves – finally returning to familiar territory. We were slowly closing our Great Loop adventure and now that we’ve had a taste of big water adventure, our thoughts were busy formulating what the next adventure might be and what were some of our favorite places that we might want to revisit.

 

 

Here you see the channel in Killarney, looking west, as we head out to Baie Fine. The town of Killarney is to our starboard.

 

 

So, the question of where was, or is, our favorite place on the Great Loop still begs for an answer? Well I promise to tell you later after I’ve told you a little about Canada’s pristine and very rocky North Channel.

We’ll start at the imaginary line of where Georgian Bay and the North Channel start, a place called Killarney and by this name alone you’d think we were in Ireland but alas we’re in Northern Ontario. Killarney is a small village protected by an island on its south side, it has a channel that runs east to west so boaters are very well protected from the elements when they visit Killarney. Lisa and I had reserved a slip at the Killarney Mountain Lodge on the east side of the channel, a wonderful resort complete with swimming pool, shuffle board courts, bar and restaurant and we took advantage of each and every one of the amenities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This, at the entrance to Covered Portage Cove, is typical of the rock walls that line many of the anchorages. It was here we saw kids jumping into the water from the highest ledge.

This shot was taken from the western end of Covered Portage Cove looking back towards the entrance.

Once we were hooked up to the hydro (electricity) and had our lines secured we headed to the famous Herbert’s Fish and Chips Restaurant. This is not your typical epicurean treat, Herbert’s is a converted school bus painted red – it sits just off the channel and serves the white fish that the Northern waters are known for. It does not matter how many times you visit Killarney this was and still is one of our favorite treats – it’s not to be missed.

Later that same afternoon we took a dinghy ride west, out of the channel and over to Covered Portage Cove, just a few miles away. With a “dogleg” type entrance and extremely high, shear rock walls boaters are well protected in just about any weather condition once inside. As we entered the turn into the cove we were entertained by a venturesome group of kids diving from the rock cliffs, high off of the water into a deep-water pool that only months before had been frozen solid.

 

 

Notice the very large boulders at the narrow entrance to Covered Portage Cove they get left to your starboard as you thread yourself into the Cove.

Covered Portage Cove is a favorite spot for North Channel Cruisers and today was no exception as there were easily 20 boats anchored with room for many more. We landed the dinghy so we could scale the rocky cliffs; get some exercise with the ancillary benefit of the exceptional view from shore. We made it to the top with no problem other than the rock ledge Lisa tried to move with a head butt… that hurt! We could see down onto the quietly moored boats, hear the echoes of the kids screams as they dove from the cliffs off in the distance as well as view the horizon of this special place, one we’re sure to return to.

After our two-day stay in Killarney we headed to Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin), a short 12-mile run to the entrance before you make a 10-mile cruise up to the “Pool.” The day was exhilarating for us because the sky was clear blue, just the slightest breeze, no humidity and the boat slipped through the water as softly as a hot knife cutting through butter. The stretch from the entrance of Baie Fine to the Pool is a meandering fjord, lined by quartz wall cliffs that reach high to the sky as you make your way, unnervingly close to shore, in the ever-narrowing water canyon. Following the marked channel was tricky, as it appeared we could almost reach out of the pilothouse and touch the rock walls of the fjord. Having never cruised into Baie Fine back to Pool before we were amazed by the natural beauty and felt fortunate that we were able to cruise all the way back there for an experience like none other we’ve had to date.

 

It does not get much better then this as we look out at all the boats anchored at the Pool, which is located at the end of Baie Fine.

One of the highlights of our anchorage at the Pool happened when we landed our dinghy on the shore nearby for a planned hike up the rocky path to Topaz Lake. Topaz Lake sits a few hundred feet ABOVE the Pool and this popular watering hole was naturally carved out of the massive rock during the Ice Age. We later learned that the lake has no known living organisms so the crystal clear water is great for a refreshing dip especially after the long, buggy hike uphill to the lake – neither of us could resist this tempting treat.

 

This photo of Topaz Lake is one of our favorites of the North Channel.It’s 140 miles from Killarney, Ontario on the east side of the North Channel, to Detour, Michigan on the furthest point west on the North Channel. One could easily cruise this distance in one to three days, depending on your vessel’s speed but why would you want to? There are too many unique towns and wilderness to explore. Many boaters seek the tranquil coves for a remote anchorage and some will spend 4-6 weeks soaking up the raw and natural beauty. So it was not unusual when we left the Pool at Baie Fine for an overnight anchorage at Heywood Island, only a short 14-mile cruise southwest

 

Heywood Island doesn’t have the natural rock beauty of Baie Fine or some of the more popular anchorages in the North Channel but Lisa and I have two fond memories from a one-night stop in 2002, before our Great Loop trip. As we approached the Island for the very first time we began scouting for the perfect spot to drop the hook. Being somewhat new to anchoring with a larger boat we were not as proficient at the proper techniques as we are today.

It must have looked like a comedy act from the decks of the other moored boats as we dropped our anchor, could not get a good set, lifted the anchor to retry in a different spot…. several times. Two sailors, who had been watching us with amusement, came over by dinghy after a while to offer some friendly advice and assistance. This is when we learned about the proper technique of dropping the anchor and backing down to secure a proper set, we’ve used this technique ever since with great success. Today, it’s more often us who watch others and offer assistance… after all we wouldn’t want a badly anchored boat to drift into us in the middle of the night.

 

 

 

Lisa likes to say I’m her favorite subject when taking photos; here I’m getting ready for dip in Topaz Lake.

We woke the next morning to our second memorable experience at Heywood Island. As the sun was starting to rise the birds started to sing like we had never heard before. The melodic sound was if a group of birds were performing in an orchestra or carrying out a colorful conversation with each other. We lay in bed mesmerized by the bird’s rendition for the better part of 30 minutes before we rose for the day to head out for the town of Little Current. We’ve never heard birds sing like this since our time at Heywood Island and the songs we do hear are always compared with and always fall short of that memorable morning.

 

 

 

 

Notice how clear the water is at this photo taken at Heywood Island.

The trip to Little Current was a leisurely 10-mile cruise from Heywood Island, past the Light House to the channel that separates Manitoulin Island from Goat Island. Little Current sits on the north shore of Manitoulin Island just past the railroad swing bridge that connects the two islands. It’s called Little Current because of the current that’s created between the two Islands from the larger bodies of water to the east and west. When waiting for the swing bridge to open, idling in neutral we could feel the pull of the water drawing us closer to the bridge, making it important to pay attention to the task at hand. By visiting Manitoulin Island we were able to enjoy the colorful Canadian Island lifestyle which is found along this waterfront, we had a beer or two, fresh ice cream but more importantly we realized that we had set foot on the largest fresh water Island in the world and this was not even on our bucket list.

So, we’ve been in the North Channel eight days and we’ve only traveled 46 miles, with a little more than a hundred to go. There’s so much to see we’ll have to conclude our North Channel exploits in the next log when we’ll try to answer the question, “What’s your favorite place on the Great Loop?”

 

 





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