Our Turn to Relax & Smile

11/1/2010

 

By Lisa Targal Favors

After reading our last couple of Logs and seeing a few of the photos we’ve shared I’m sure you’d agree that it wouldn’t be hard for a boater to fall in love with the pristine, natural beauty of Canada’s North Channel. Since this cruising ground is so near our homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan, we understand why many of the serious boaters we’ve met over the years feel a compelling need to return to this cruising area every summer for a week or two, a month or maybe all summer. Before we experienced the North Channel ourselves, we couldn’t help but notice and wonder about the peaceful smiles and relaxed look on the faces of sailors and power boaters who’d recently returned from the channel. Once you’ve experienced this spectacular haven for wildlife and watercraft alike you’ll most certainly be spoiled in so far as what you will desire in terms of future boating adventure.

This is an example of the typical granite rock formation you’ll find in the North Channel.

Many of the rock formations that jut out from land have a way of making you think more about what lies underneath the water, in terms of damage that could potentially happen to your hull.

 

The North Channel stretches roughly 160 miles from Sault Saint Marie to Killarney and includes, not only a natural fjord, many uninhabited islands and sheltered anchorages or “gunkholes,” but it also boasts of having the world’s largest freshwater island – Manitoulin Island. The islands, made of pink granite and covered with windswept pines, are scattered throughout the channel making this a “Boating Paradise” especially if you like to anchor out.

 

This is a typical scene when anchoring in the North Channel. Here Jim is putting a float device on the anchor chain to help make the anchor location known to other boaters.

Our first time in the North Channel actually paved the way for us to talk about being more adventuresome in our boating endeavors. Since most of the harbors and anchorages along our route were quiet and remote, we’d spend a lot of time dreaming or in conversation discussing thoughts such as, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to…” for example, “…the Bahamas on our own boat.” We felt far from home while ensconced in this part of Canada’s wilderness, although only 140 to 300 miles away – the mental distance separated us from the busyness of our then workday lives and made us aware of the many possibilities available to an adventurous boater. While in the channel we seemed to take deeper breaths and were conscious of our heightened interest in being on the lookout for natural surprises. The bear Jim talked about in a previous log was certainly a highlight, the time we saw two moose swimming from one island to another in front of our boat was definitely another and the many bald eagle sightings are always a thrill. While the rocky shores that line the channel can be a boater’s worst nightmare they can more often than not be a subject of wonder and many photographs when trying to capture the early morning or evening light on the sometimes smooth, massive shapes that have been sculpted over time by Mother Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the cottages that dotted the shoreline at our anchorage in Oak Bay.

We had a spectacular view for relaxing on the back deck. My herbs were soaking up the sun, as were we just shortly after dropping the hook.

Our next stop after leaving Croker Island and the Benjamin’s, as we continued our travels, was an anchorage at Oak Bay, in the Whaleback Channel area. We were slowly making our way northeast along the northern coastline towards Thessalon and were midway through our time in the channel. Since we were traveling in June, there were not many other boats either traveling in our direction or in any of the anchorages we peeked into that day so we dropped anchor, all by ourselves, at a spot where a few cottages sparsely dotted the shoreline. Again, since it was early in the season there was little noise or activity from any of the cottages on shore so we settled in for a quiet, peaceful night of reading, playing cards and dining outside on the back deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spanish Marina was a fun stop. Friendly Canadians kept us company during this stop.

The next day we headed to Spanish. This is a port that we’d heard a lot about from cruising friends over the years so we were curious as to what the attraction was at this location. We arrived on the cusp of a holiday weekend – Canada Day, so we were observers while many Canadian boaters carried supplies to their boats from their cars and gathered their family and friends on the dock. They were either headed towards a favorite anchorage or a cottage on one of the nearby islands to celebrate the holiday. Spanish Marina is very boater friendly with a warm and inviting boater’s lounge which Jim enjoyed while I took advantage of the laundry facilities. We walked to the little store in town and met some locals en route. Picking up supplies, whether needed or not is always a good chance to get off the boat to socialize, always a welcome activity after being alone together for several days on the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not many marinas have a boater’s lounge as nice as the one at Spanish Marina. Jim watched TV while I did the laundry nearby.

After waiting an extra day due to high winds in the area we left Spanish to head towards Long Point and Bear Drop. We threw out the hook again in a small, well-protected cove with two other sailboats and shortly after launched the dinghy so we could explore the area surrounding the anchorage, which has many smooth granite boulders nearby. As we got further away from the boat, we found a few little ponds around and between rusty, spotted boulders. With the smaller dinghy as our means of transportation, we could get closer to the plant and wildlife and not worry so much about the hard boulders hidden beneath the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While out on our dinghy ride we encountered little pools of water trapped inside rock formations just off the main channel.

When you anchor out a lot, you must have a dinghy so that you can get off the boat to explore the more shallow water surrounding your anchorage.

While cruising in territory where it’s obvious Mother Nature took extra special care when creating and humanity has not yet destroyed – we seemed to be taking, slower, deeper breaths. Yes, after our first trip to the channel and the many times after, we are now the relaxed, smiling boaters other people meet on the docks in Charlevoix after we’ve newly returned from basking in the heart stopping beauty of Canada’s spectacular North Channel. When planning your itinerary for your Great Loop trip – try to pencil in a good amount of time to become familiar with and enjoy this pristine cruising ground.