Boating on Lake HuronBy Marty Richardson
Published: April/May 2013
Come and explore Lake Huron's top cruising ground, with a couple who go there every year, for good reason. Here is their "must visit" boating itinerary.
Just west of Killarney is a beautiful anchorage called Covered Portage, almost completely enclosed, and partly bounded by 100-foot rock cliffs. Though the entrance may look daunting, we and lots of other boaters have enjoyed this protected natural harbor. Depths can change quickly, and rocks lurk below the surface, so avoid navigating it at night, and most people use a detailed cruising guide (the Great Lakes Cruising Club, for example, has detailed notes for members). A bit further up the channel, the fiord-like passage Baie Fine leads to an oval-shaped gunkhole known as The Pool. Many years ago, we saw a huge yacht moored here, owned by the founder of Evinrude Outboards and his movie-star wife; the ship served as the power source for their small log cabin on shore.
Continuing westward, you’ll pass picturesque Strawberry Island Lighthouse, a 40-foot white clapboard pyramid trimmed in red, jutting from the keeper's house, and then the Little Current swing bridge. This one-lane road bridge is Manitoulin Island's only connection to the mainland, and opens for boat traffic every 15 minutes on the hour. Just past the swing bridge is the town of Little Current, population 1,500. Dockage and marine services can be had at Spider Bay, Boyle, Wally's (at the recently redone town docks), or Harbor View Marinas.
We always stop in Little Current to visit interesting shops like Stedman's, enjoy many of the local restaurants, and pick up fresh produce at the farmer's market every Saturday in season. In August, we visited Little Current during the Haweaters’ Festival, where the locals celebrate the hawberry fruit of the hawthorn tree. While the berries are inedible, when boiled they make a tangy jelly. Don't miss hawberry ice cream from Farquhar’s Dairy, and alfresco live country music played dockside all weekend long. Little Current features the only VHF Cruiser's Net in the Great Lakes; tune in at 0900 hours on channel 71 during July and August to catch up on which boats are in the area and hear news, local announcements, and weather.
West of Little Current, follow the north shore of mainland Ontario, or the south shore along Manitoulin Island. The island side features good marinas in the towns of Kagawong, Gore Bay, and Meldrum Bay, where you can provision or dine out at local restaurants. However, there are few secure anchorages on this shore, as it's exposed to the north wind.
On the north side of the channel await anchorages too numerous to mention. The Benjamin Islands feature several fine anchorages. An interesting pink granite formation aptly named Sow and Pigs prominently marks the approach to South Benjamin Island harbor, one of the channel's most popular anchorages. Here, we've seen "party barges" tied to shore, complete with barbeque grills, blenders, and brave (or fortified) souls diving into the cold waters.
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