New Neighbors


By Jim Favors

Meeting new neighbors can sometimes be a little touch and go, but as Lisa and I have often stated, it’s simpler when arriving in a “neighborhood” by boat than moving into a house or apartment for the first time; at least that has been our experience. As we neared the approach to our planned anchorage, Marianne Cove, off Baie Fine in Canada’s North Channel, at first glance it looked like all potential anchorage spots had been taken. However, the closer we got, we were relieved to find there were still a few spots for us to drop our hook. I always feel like the new kid on the block when trying out a new anchorage because in this situation, we usually don’t have much prior knowledge as to where and how to get the job done and have to figure out the particulars on the spot. So, just as we were experiencing a little anxiety of being in a new situation, we were also wondering if the already settled boaters would warm up to the newbies in the “hood.”

Having the stern tied to shore keeps a boat from swinging around therefore making room for more neighbors.

We waved to the boaters that caught our eye, as we slowly worked our way towards a potential anchorage. I leaned out of the pilothouse window to ask one captain how much depth there was close to shore. It was good to know the answer, but I was really just trying to warm up to our new neighbors.

Marianne Cove is large enough you can either anchor in the center of the cove and swing freely, or you can set your anchor and back in towards shore in order to tie a stern line around a tree. When we arrived everyone was stern to shore so we followed suit, not too close though! Anchoring too close to another boat is similar to standing too close to someone you’re talking with, it can be a little uncomfortable. With that in mind we maneuvered a safe distance in between the settled boats so as to not encroach on their space. I’ve found this to be the unwritten word of common courtesy in the boating and anchoring community.

Emily is heading off to visit other boats after stopping to say hello to us.

We arrived at Marianne Cove mid-afternoon and decided to take a dinghy tour through the cove to meet our new neighbors as soon as we were settled in. However even before we could board our dinghy, we had a visitor of our own.

A young girl had rowed over to our boat from a nearby sailboat; Emily proceeded to introduce herself to us and promptly asked us if we were members of the Grand Traverse Yacht Club. It dawned on us that, of course, we had our yacht club burgee hoisted, and she had recognized it. It turns out; Emily was cruising with her grandparents, Fred and Lisa, whom we’ve met previously at GTYC, on their sailboat, Ritual. We learned that young Emily, who we think is about 13 years old, has been coming to the North Channel every summer (from Colorado) to cruise with her grandparents and has been doing this for the last six summers. After a nice visit with Emily, Lisa and I commented to ourselves that, at 13 years old she has been fortunate to have seen and experienced more of the North Channel than most adults – as boaters, we could all possibly learn a thing or two from her about this area.

Another neighbor stopping over to chat, exchange boating stories and information.

By the time we shoved off on our dinghy tour a few more boats had arrived, but the cove never seemed crowded; plenty of room for everyone. Our dinghy tours usually include a four-step process. One, stop to say hello; two, find out where folks were from; three, find out how long they’ve been cruising in the North Channel; and four, learn anything we can about interesting areas to see or explore around the anchorage. I’m not sure who told us that day, it could have been Fred and Lisa (Emily’s grandparents) when we stopped to visit with them, about the hiking trail that went up to the top of Frazier Bay Hill and then someone else said there had been a black bear sighting at The Pool at the end of Baie Fine. After our hour-long tour, we felt a little more like part of the neighborhood with the added bonus of acquiring some local knowledge about a bear to find and a hill to hike… its nice meeting new neighbors.

Over dinner on the cockpit of Kismet that evening, we laid out our plans for the next day’s activities. We decided to cruise the final 10 miles up to The Pool, at the end of Baie Fine, in hopes of seeing the bear and to enjoy the fjord like cruise. Since we were lifting the hook and essentially giving up our anchorage spot to take this morning cruise, we hoped there would still be a spot open somewhere when we returned.

Fred and Lisa (Emily’s grandparents) relaxing on their sailboat, Ritual, as we stopped to visit on our, “get to know your neighbor tour.”

As we pulled out of the cove we were greeted by a clear, calm and sunny morning, making the half-day scenic cruise that much more appealing. The first part of Baie Fine is wider than the last few miles but granite, tree lined, bluffs surround all of it, at times they are as sheer as the side of a tall building.

When coming to “the narrows” part of Baie Fine and the entrance to the last few miles of the fjord, we slowed down to a crawl so we could transit the pass, which is only wide enough for one boat to negotiate at a time. Once we cruised through the narrows the fjord setting really takes shape, as this is the narrowest stretch, and in our opinion, the most beautiful part of Baie Fine.

This view is of the narrow part of Baie Fine as we were heading towards The Pool, just before our bear sighting.

We idled towards The Pool, gliding in gelatin, glass-like water, enjoying the remoteness of our cruise, ever mindful of a real opportunity for a bear sighting ahead of us, but never actually thinking it would happen. About a quarter mile from the bend that leads into The Pool, I spotted something dark moving erratically on shore. As I pulled the binoculars to my eyes I could hardly believe what I was seeing, a black bear on a nearby beach. We continued to slowly inch our way to where the bear was until we were about 50 feet from shore. At this point the bear decided to entertain us further by climbing around in a tree in search of an afternoon snack. We continued to quietly loiter close to shore, taking in the black bears antics for a good 20 minutes until we both decided it was time to move on; at the same time the bear headed up into a grassy slope. The bear never seemed to care or notice that we were spectators to his afternoon antics.

Being able to watch this black bear in his natural surroundings was sight we’re glad to have experienced from the safety of our boat.

We picked up the speed a little on the way back to Marianne Cove where we quickly found an even better, more protected, spot to anchor, getting settled just in time for cocktails and a few new introductions and encounters with the current mix of neighbors in the cove.

Next day, midmorning, we ventured off the boat, in the dinghy, looking for a little excitement and some exercise by taking a hike up Frazier Bay Hill. This hike was recommended by several other boaters in the cove, so it landed on our “must do list.”

After beaching our dinghy on the sandy shore, we made our way to a beaten down patch of reeds, which in turn led us to the actual path that would take us all the way to the summit of Frazier Hill. The path started out fairly innocently as we made our way up the easy length of rock strewn, tree shaded, and canopied, trail. The further we hiked into the woods the steeper the rocks became as we snaked and climbed our way up towards the top; up, over, and around rocks of an ever-narrowing path we went. Every once in a while we saw the blue sky above us, giving us hope that the top may be just around the next corner. However, beyond one corner it seemed another, even narrower, rocky gap appeared and we had to work through and climb up each one as we followed the faded red ribbons, tied around tree trunks as guides, we knew they would eventually bring us to the summit.

Finding our way up and down Frazier Bay Hill would have been a challenge without the red ribbon aids marking the trail.

Our neighbors had assured us that the hike to the summit of Frazier Bay Hill would be well worth our efforts. Once we made it to the top we had to admit the unencumbered views of Baie Fine, Frazier Bay and McGregor Bay, all from one vantage point, had been worth the few scrapes, blisters and cuts we endured to see it. The highest point is called Casson Peak and is approximately 550 feet high and where we found Stuart Fraser Cork’s monument, his ashes being buried there in 1950.

Stuart Fraser Cork first climbed Frazier Bay Hill in 1947 with a group of seven artists. To learn more about Marianne Cove, Frazier Bay Hill, and the efforts keep the area a natural preserve for all future generations you can visit:

We could only see a smidgen of Marianne Cove from our perch atop Casson Peak but that didn’t take anything away from the photo opportunities that greeted us. Making the journey and experiencing the resulting views gave us a whole new prospective of the waters we’ve covered, or will cover one day in the future. I’m sure things have not changed much geographically since Stuart Fraser Cork’s hike in 1947 and that’s just fine with us, there is not much that can compare with the pristine beauty that is the North Channel.

From Casson Peak we had a clear view of McGregor Bay, Baie Fine and Marianne Cove, which is barely visible behind the pine trees on the left.

By the time we had returned to Kismet a few more boats had arrived, some also left, therefore the makeup of the neighborhood changed yet again – we are all transient neighbors while cruising in our boats, always eager to meet and greet new arrivals and wave goodbye and good cheer to those moving on.