The North Channel--Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Now that we had a bigger boat, we were ready for another attempt at the North Channel. This time we made it, but we still had some unwanted adventures along the way.

By July 2007, Caroline was married and John had a summer job, so neither of them was available to go with us. But Roland, Donald, and I made the trip. Or, more accurately, Roland made the entire trip and Donald and I joined him for the best part of it.

The timing was good. Our home marina had kicked boaters out for the year because of construction at the nearby casino. As a result, we had moved Freizeit to Holland, Michigan—a location that cut several days off the trip. Even so, we needed approximately four weeks, and that was two more than I wanted to take off work. So Roland sailed up the east cost of Lake Michigan by himself.

Donald and I planned to drive to DeTour Village, on the eastern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and meet Roland there. But between bad weather and mechanical problems, Freizeit was still a day away when we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. So I joined Roland at St. Ignace and we sailed the final leg to DeTour together. Donald drove the car to DeTour and met us there.

The first night out together we anchored at Harbor Island, which was where we were heading when disaster struck on our first trip. This time we made it without incident and had a peaceful night at anchor. It was a good thing we were well rested, however, because our first mishap had simply waited until morning.

When we tried to raise the anchor, we discovered that the rode (anchor line) was wrapped around the keel. Roland and Donald got into the dingy and rowed around and around the boat until the rode was unwound. Although it was a hassle, we chose to view it as a learning experience. The next time we dropped anchor, we didn’t let out as much rode.

Once we got underway again, we began out eastbound trip, marina hopping along Manitoulin Island on the Canadian side of the border. The first stop was Meldrum Bay. There wasn’t much to do there, but I remember it as the place where we (or rather I) had our second mishap. The marina was somewhat rustic, and we had to walk to the nearby campground to take showers. As I was coming back in the dark, I missed a step down onto the gangplank leading to the dock and twisted my ankle. We iced it and bound it up with an elastic bandage, and I rested it as much as possible.

Actually, although I classify it as a mishap, it wasn’t anything unusual. For klutzy me, spraining my ankle on vacation is almost the norm. I don’t let those sprained ankles keep me down long, either.

From Meldrum Bay we went to Gore Bay, which had a nice marina. My ankle was getting better, and it didn’t take much walking to see the few sights there, anyway. First, we visited a building that housed an art display, a restaurant, and an observation tower. Then we walked by All Saints Anglican Church, established in 1880.

Our next stop was at Kagawong, which was my favorite spot on the entire trip. The picture at the head of this post shows Freizeit at the small marina there.

That afternoon we took a picturesque walk to Bridal Veil Falls. Donald climbed over the stones and walked behind the falls. I wanted to join him but wasn’t sure my ankle was up to it.

We also saw two churches. St. Paul’s on the Hill United Church was built in 1881 and is the oldest building in the hamlet. St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church had a mariner’s motif, as you can see from the stained glass window in the picture below. The unique pulpit was made from the bow of a boat wrecked in a storm in 1965.

The other picture is Bridal Veil Falls. You can see how it got its name.

The next morning we went to the Kagawong public library to check our e-mail. It was very small, with two computers for library patrons and about the same number of books that we had on our bookshelves at home. But considering the size of the town, we were surprised it even had a library.

Our final stop on Manitoulin Island was at Little Current. It is a very popular stop for boaters, and we had to circle a while before we could reach Spider Bay Marina by radio to get a slip assignment. We didn’t write it down, but Donald and I both heard it as “Pier 1, Slip 3.” Unfortunately, we were already a ways down Pier 1 when I saw that Slip 3 was occupied. Before I had time to say anything, we struck bottom. After several attempts and a lot of help from other boaters, someone finally towed us free. Amid the cheers of the onlookers, we left that Pier and came to Pier 3, Slip 1, which was where we were supposed to go in the first place. I still don’t know if they said it wrong or if we heard it wrong, but at least there was no permanent damage. Not like the grounding on our first attempt to sail the North Channel . . . .

We stayed in Little Current for two nights so we could do laundry and spend time shopping. Although the Canadian town looked like small town America, it wasn’t particularly picturesque. I wasn’t impressed with the shopping, either. But we did see a nice sunset.

Now it was time to turn around and take a different route back. I’ll talk about that next week.

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