The North Channel was another section on our trip with unsurpassed beauty. Although smaller and narrower than Georgian Bay, the scenery was similar with its many islands, rocky cliffs, and clear sparkling water.
We departed Little Current on Friday the 18th of July after going to the Town Docks to re-fuel, pump out, and get ice for the cooler. It was a rather short cruise to our destination of the Benjamin Islands, with sunshine and light winds making it an easy and pleasant trip.
We found a spot to anchor in one of the coves between North and South Benjamin, dropping the hook, then securing lines from the stern to shore (med style) in order to prevent swinging, as the area was packed with boats.
We explored our beautiful surroundings via dinghy, talking to many other boaters along the way. I hiked up to the summit of South Benjamin, an easy climb on a fairly smooth rock outcrop. The sight from the top was spectacular, with all the boats anchored around the islands. In fact the picture on the cover of the Lake Huron Chart Book is from that same vantage point. Blueberry patches were prolific, but many others had beaten me to the punch, and I was able to find only a few ripe ones to enjoy along the way.
After my hike, we continued our tour via dinghy, and stopped to chat with the Burger family on 3 different boats rafted together whom we had met in Little Current. We climbed aboard, and Patty made us cocktails. One of them was a fill-in for Roy on the Cruiser’s Net Radio, a great service with weather, news, and a chance for boater’s to call in and give their location from all over the North Channel.
Saturday we spent another very fun day in the Benjamin’s. Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time” pulled in and dropped anchor nearby, then rowed their dinghy over. The guys took our dinghy over to visit neighboring boaters while the gals hung out in the cockpit, talked, whined and wined. The weather was perfect, and many swam in the chilly water. I opted out, but it was definitely another swimsuit day!
We pooled our food resources for dinner – the gals eating salmon cakes and the guys burgers, along with mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh strawberries, and a tossed salad. We grilled and ate aboard our boat. Later we had a fire on the rock off our stern, along with a really nice Canadian family aboard an old Grand Banks who had come to the exact spot 13 years earlier with their then much younger boys in the same kind and size of trawler.
The neighbors pulled our stern lines from the rocks for us the following morning so that we could have the dinghy up. Jim pulled the anchor, and I steered us carefully around the many boats dotting the bay. We had decided to go all the way around the Benjamin’s instead of chancing the much shorter way out through a narrow cut between the submerged rocks and those on shore.
We cruised about 20 miles through the McBean and Whalesback Channels and up into Beardrop Harbour. Pulling in we spotted “Northern Spirit”, its mast decorated for our arrival with state and Bahamian flags purchased as they did their Great Loop trip back in 2012-13. They had them hung in the order they were visited.
We dropped the hook behind a little rock island near them, and took the dinghy over to their Benateau. It was so great to catch up with Ron and Lynne Taylor and meet their new dog Buddy! The last time we saw them was in December 2012 in Ft Myers Beach. They broke out beers and wine, and we did a lot of catch-up on happenings in our lives.
They are currently spending the summer in the North Channel, and being familiar with the area helped us plot our course to Drummond Island, and gave us a Lake Michigan harbor book.
Later we grilled pork tenderloins aboard ARiverDerci, ate dinner and they checked out our boat, as we were in the Bayliner the last time we saw them. It was so great to see them again – they looked the same as ever. They are undecided what to do next winter, but we’re hoping we can meet up with them somewhere in Florida.
Monday morning the 21st we pulled up anchor, and waving goodbye to Ron and Lynne, set out from Bear Drop Harbour. We had a long cruise that day through the open part of the North Channel west and south to Drummond Island. Again the weather was cooperative with sunshine and light winds. We high-fived while crossing the Canada/US Border. We made it back to the States!
We pulled into the fuel dock at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven around 3:30, and were not allowed to leave the boat until the US Customs officials gave us clearance. They boarded our boat, looked over our passports and boat registration, then inspected the fridge, confiscating our green peppers and tomatoes.
After fueling up, pumping out, and filling our water tanks, we got secured in our slip. We decided to go the grocery store, but it was a very long walk, so we took the marina’s rental car – an old Mercedes. I had to get a few things including green peppers and tomatoes (which were grown in Canada). That made me chuckle!
We followed a local, who told us upon arrival to just leave the keys in the ignition. Nobody on the island locks their car, because if anyone was stupid enough to steal it you could easily find it at the ferry dock – the only way to get it off the island!
I watched the sun go down, a big coral orb slowly sinking below the horizon. Many stopped what they were doing to see the unusual appearance of the sun as it disappeared from view.
We tried to catch up on emails and download more navigation chart sections on my iPad, but the internet access was very poor. We were back in the States, but still in very remote waters. Hopefully coverage will improve as we get closer to more populated areas.
On Tuesday the 22nd, we had difficulty deciding whether to continue through the open waters of Lake Huron. The forecast included 15 mph south winds and the threat of thunderstorms. After going over the charts with a local, he suggested we duck into the Les Cheneaux Islands. So we got a late start, casting off around 11:15.
Once through the DeTour Passage, following a ship and waiting for a ferry, the seas of Lake Huron got rough. Heading west the waves rocked us from the port side, making steering difficult. About 1/2 way across, the skies started looking threatening. Soon flashes of lightning could be seen, claps of thunder heard, and we saw a line of heavy rain coming toward us.
We zipped up the covers on the fly bridge, and tried to keep our course in the limited visibility. A ship in one of the main shipping lanes passed us on our port. Soon the rain was behind us, and we spotted the opening between Boot and Government Islands. After what seemed an eternity, we got between them, and finally the wind was no longer a concern.
The skies cleared somewhat, and we zigzagged our way through the bays between the islands, following narrow well-marked channels. Along the way we passed cottages with boat houses, many containing old wooden boats. Passing the town of Cedarville we came upon a golf course that had docks. Many dinghies were tied up – how fun to dinghy in for a round of golf!
We made our way to the Hessel Marina, a beautiful spot on Hessel Bay. We docked, then toured the tiny town. Everyone goes all out with their flowers in pots and window boxes. Their is an old-time grocery store, but more of a general store where we stopped in to share a peanut butter cup ice cream cone. Then we walked to ‘The Islander’ bar for a cocktail, and enjoyed the walls covered in local memorabilia.
The town of Hessel is considered the wooden boat capital of the world. Each year they have a big convention, and people from all around bring their vintage restored boats. The marina grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed talking with the locals docked here. Jerry aboard a Sea Ray named “Under Contract” helped us with the northern Lake Michigan charts, and highlights to hit along the way.
I did 3 loads of laundry, Jim did his routine fuel and engine maintenance, and walked to the nearby Boat Works store and fuel dock to have the pedestal for the upper helm seat lowered by a couple inches. We grilled steaks and enjoyed another beautiful day overlooking Hessel Bay.
Tomorrow the seas are supposed to be flat, and our plan is to head to Mackinac Island, about an 18 mile cruise. We still need to chart our course through our remaining portion of Lake Huron. Then we will go through the Straits of Mackinac and under the famous bridge into the waters of Lake Michigan. The journey continues…