Finishing Canada and Back to the USA!
168 Days Looping
2,357.2 Nautical Miles Total (2,712.6 Statute Miles)
219.9 Nautical Miles This Week
17.3 Hours Underway This Week
12.2 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 129 Total Locks
Monday – Sep 23rd – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Nobel, Ontario, Canada
On Monday it rained almost all day and the wind was blowing pretty strong. Because we had a lot of open water for our next leg, we decided to stay at Killbear for another day. The other two looper boats, Thirsty and Return Again also decided to stay. I checked the weather buoy a couple of times and the waves were listed at 1.5 to 2 meters most of the day. I did a few boat maintenance things, but we basically just hung out on the boat all day.
Tuesday – Sep 24th – 72.8 NM – 0 Locks – To: Killarney, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday dawned a bit cloudy but there was almost no wind. A perfect day for boating. We left Killbear at 7:25 am and headed out the channel into Georgian Bay. Because it was calm, we decided to head straight across the bay rather than pick our way through the islands and rocks, which while more protected from waves had their own inherent risks as we had learned!
We passed a few lighthouses marking the entrance to the channel into Killbear and pushed the throttles up to 2800 rpm so that we were cruising along at 20 knots. After about an hour, we outran the clouds and it got sunny. We were about 8 miles from shore so there was not much to see except the occasional island or boat in the distance.
At noon, we reached “Gull Island” with its lighthouse. Gull Island was our turning point to head into the Killarney Channel and Killarney. Killarney also marks the end of Georgian Bay and the start of the North Channel. The area is surrounded by rocky topped mountains. With the sun behind us, the rock almost looked like snow! As we approached the channel, we saw an interesting-looking fishing boat. Wide, Low, with a fully enclosed bow. We later learned that this is a whitefish boat, and they run nets. The bow design is to protect the crew due to the high waves that are frequent in the area.
We entered Killarney Channel and went past the Killarney Mountain Lodge. They have an impressive new log conference center, and the lodge and rooms are all log design. As we cruised down the channel we passed the general store, a few fishing shacks, and then reached the Killarney Inn and Marina where we were going to spend the night. No one was on the radio, so we just tied up to the fuel dock, and went into the Inn to check-in at the front desk. They told us to take any slip we wanted and at 1:15, we were all tied up for the day.
After checking in, we walked down the main (pretty much the ONLY) street in Killarney. We did a Geocache at the town park then walked down the street to the Mountain Lodge which has been refurbished and updated. Killarney is an old fishing and tourist town that was pretty much dying. An investor from Toronto purchased the old lodge and inn and dumped millions into them to update them and make Killarney a destination for boaters, vacationers, and snowmobilers. Last year they built the conference center to attract even more people. Killarney used to be a backwater that people only stopped at because they had to, now, in season, it’s hard to get space!
After walking around the new Conference Center building, we saw a sign for “The Lighthouse Trail”. As we came into Killarney, we had seen the lighthouse and decided to take a walk. The trailhead goes through a parking lot, and in the parking lot was a man carving two HUGE 50 ft long wooden beams. Given that all the buildings at the Mountain Lodge were log construction, we just figured that he was working on some new addition, said hello to him and his dog, he pointed us to the trail entrance around the end of one of the beams, and we headed into the woods.
We walked about a mile and a half on a woods trail, stopping to take some photos of some interesting mushrooms, and then up onto some ledges. We got a fantastic overlook of the lighthouse and the western end of Georgian Bay. It was 3:00 so we decided not to go the extra mile to the lighthouse, but turned around and walked back toward the lodge. When we got back to the parking lot, the log carver was not using power tools anymore, so we stopped to talk with him. Mike Ranta and Spitzii (his dog) are quite the characters! Mike and his dog have canoed and hiked major portions of Canada raising money for various veterans charities.
The carving he was doing was another charity project. He’s carving a giant 100-foot long canoe paddle! The project is for next year’s 200th Anniversary of the town of Killarney. The inside of the paddle is hollow and will be filled with objects from visitors and sealed like a time capsule. Quite the project!
After chatting with Mike, we went back to the boat. As we got back, the two Looper boats, Thirsty and Return Again that we’d been in Killbear Marina with pulled in. They left just after us, but are both 8-knot boats, so it took them most of the day to make the crossing. We chatted with them for a bit and then changed for dinner. We had made a reservation at the dining room at the Mountain Lodge, which has an excellent reputation. We walked the 1/2 mile back to the Lodge and arrived just in time for our 6:00 reservation. The inside of the lodge harkens back to a different time when the large old hotels were all the rage. We had a nice dinner then walked back to the boat just as it was starting to get dark. We stopped to look at the “Playfair II” the odd-shaped boat we had seen out fishing when we came into Killarney. It’s a whitefish netting boat, designed to deflect the up to 12 ft waves that are not uncommon on the Great Lakes and North Channel. We got back to the boat just as the sunset.
Wednesday – Sep 25th – 18.6 NM – 0 Locks – To: Little Current, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday we had a beautiful sunrise, what do they say “Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies at morn, sailors take warn!”, we should have listened before we left Killarney to go to Little Current.
We’d been told about a shipwreck behind an island along the way that was visible through the super clear water so we planned on a stop there. When we pulled out of Killarney, the water was very calm. As we entered the Killarney Channel, we started to feel some effects, but the south wind was being blocked by islands so we were not getting the full effect. When we came out from behind one of the islands and got the full effect of the wind and waves on the side of the boat, it got really rocky. When the boat is heading into the wind, the nose of the boat rises on the waves then, if they are large enough, bounces down when it crests them, while annoying, the action is tolerable. When the waves come sideways to the boat, the boat rocks back and forth, this action is less tolerable. If the waves are large enough, it’s sort of being on a tilt-a-whirl! We made it across the opening into the protection of another island. As we neared Little Current, we had an 8-mile stretch that was exposed to the full southern winds. We decided to skip the side trip to see the shipwreck as the wind was so strong that we probably wouldn’t be able to see it, and we wanted to get into protected waters again so that we didn’t join it!
The crossing was rough. Brenda who is fairly susceptible to motion sickness ended up sitting on the floor close to the center where the movement was less pronounced. A few times the boat rolled past 30 degrees. We were well within the limits of the boat, and we were safe, just uncomfortable. We found that by speeding up, and trimming to half trim, the effect of the rolling was diminished, also by speeding up, we made it across the open water quicker! Given this kind of “rocky crossing” versus the last kind of “rocky crossing” we had, I’ll take this kind any day!
We made it into the Little Current channel, and arrived at the Swing Bridge just at 9:55, just in time of the 10:00 opening. Little Current is a bit of a misnomer, as there is quite a BIG current that comes through the straight right under the bridge. I had to keep the engines in gear at idle to maintain our position while waiting for the bridge to open. Right on time, the bridge swung open, we went under, and then about 1/4 mile to “Harry’s Gas Dock”. We had called Harry in the morning to make sure that he was open, and he said that he’d meet us at 10:00. We pulled up to the dock and he was waiting for us, helped tie us up, and we emptied our waste tanks and took on about 200 gallons of fuel. After settling in, we moved a couple of hundred feet over to a slip on the town docks and tied up. We’d had a chance to settle down from our crossing while we were filling up and emptying out at Harry’s, so we headed right into town for lunch.
Little Current is on Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world (1,068 square miles). Little Current is the gateway to the island. Before the railway swing bridge was built in 1912, all access to the island was by boat (or dogsled in winter). In 1946 the bridge was modified to allow single-lane road traffic as well as railroad traffic, then in 1980 when the railroad line on the island was abandoned, the bridge became exclusively a one-lane road bridge and is still the only land access to the island.
We had lunch at the Anchor Inn, then walked around town and stopped into a few shops. When we had looped back to the marina, we went back to the boat, and relaxed. There was a carpenter working on a sailboat behind us, and I chatted with him a bit. I asked if he had any recommendations for dinner, and he suggested Elliots, which was a short walk up the hill from the marina. He did admit that his cousin owns it, but said that he would recommend it anyway! At dinner time we walked up to the restaurant and had their fried chicken special which was excellent! After dinner, we walked across the street to the grocery store then back to the boat stopping to take a few pictures of the swing bridge and the boat from the top of the hill.
Thursday – Sep 26th – 25.5 NM – 0 Locks – To: Gore Bay, Ontario, Canada
The forecast for the day was for 10 mph winds from the west, increasing in the afternoon. I checked the wave buoy in the North Channel right at the entrance to Gore Bay and it was reporting .5 meters (1.6 feet). Since we were only going 25 miles and the wind would be coming directly toward us, we (I) decided to go. The first hour was not too bad, but the winds were steadily increasing as were the waves. With 10 miles to go, we were back to Brenda sitting on the floor, and the boat bouncing along, with waves breaking over the bow from time to time. I’m figuring we had 4-foot waves with the occasional 6-footers. We pushed our way through it, slowing down or speeding up to try to time the waves as best we could.
When we reached Gore Bay we turned down the bay and changed from having the waves on our bow to the waves on our stern. Things smoothed out almost instantly! It did feel like we were surfing as the back of the boat kept being hit by the swells and fishtailing a little. We pulled into Gore Bay Municipal Marina at 10:15. We had tried to call by phone to see if they were open, but there was no answer at the marina or the town hall. The marina had lots of empty slips, so we found one not completely covered in goose poop, and tied up.
After settling in, we walked over to the marina office and there was a sign to call a number for the harbormaster, so we rang him up, and he said he’d be down in 10 minutes. Next to the marina office, is a store for Canadian Yacht Charters and we looked around there while we waited. Roger, who works for the town and was covering for the dockmaster arrived and checked us in. While we were there, several other boats came into the harbor, two small sailboats that anchored out, and one other trawler, that started to anchor, then came over to the marina. Seems everyone was getting out of the weather!
Next to the marina is an Artist Co-op, a Museum, Buoys Eatery, and The Split Rail Brewery. We started by walking through the Artist Co-op and chatting with some of the artists. There were some very beautiful quilts and artwork. We then went and toured the museum which has a history of Gore Bay and shipping in the North Channel. Gore Bay was settled by the Purvis family who ran the local fishery and steamboat company. The Purvis fishery is still in operation and “The Purvis” one of their Whitefish netting boats, is based here. Also in the museum are some of the remains of a ship that is thought to be the Le Griffon, one of LaSalle’s ships that went missing in 1670.
After the museum, we walked across the street to The Split Rail Brewing company and I tried a flight of their beers. An Amber Haw Berry Ale made from Hawthorne Berries, a little sweet, but not fruity tasting at all, a nice IPA, and a smoked hop stout. From there we walked next door to the “Buoys” restaurant and had lunch. I had tried some whitefish fish and chips when we were in Penetang but being battered and fried, it tasted just like any other fish. Buoys offered a Grilled Whitefish Sandwich, so I gave that a try. Whitefish is part of the trout family, and it tasted very similar to trout. Excellent!
After lunch, we stopped back at the brewery, and I picked up a few bottles to re-stock my beer fridge, then we walked to the other end of the street and up a block to Meredith Street, the town’s main street. Gore Bay is not your one-street town, they have TWO streets in the business district, both of which are almost 1/4 mile long! (And they are very proud of them).
We wandered through a giant garage sale/antique store, some gift shops, a general store, found a geocache near the town community center, looked at their scarecrow exhibition, and then, having seen all there was to see in town, went back to the boat. After two rough ride days in a row, we were both pretty beat, so we ate some leftovers and went to bed early.
Friday – Sep 27th – 0 NM – 0 Locks – In: Gore Bay, Ontario, Canada
We stayed in Gore Bay as the weather was predicted to be marginal, and after two rough days in a row, I didn’t want to push my luck with the Commodore! The forecast was for strong winds all day and rain in the afternoon. The winds had shifted overnight and were coming from the south, and were at 15 mph when we got up. While we were eating breakfast on the boat, Brenda noticed a deer grazing on the road behind the boat.
Before the rain came, we decided to walk the two miles along the bay to see the Janet Head lighthouse. As we left the boat, we noticed that there was a Farmers Market in the park next to the marina, so we walked over and got some fresh veggies and a package of butter tarts. After dropping our shopping off at the boat, we headed to the lighthouse.
The road to the lighthouse follows the shoreline of the bay and is very flat. The shore and the bottom of the bay as far as we could see out (which was 50 feet in places as the water here is very clear), is all small flat stones. All two miles of shore that we walked were just piles of small stones. The wind was quite strong until we rounded a corner away from the harbor area, then it was just breezy and gusty. We walked past many nice cottages built on the hillside that slopes down to the water. Along the waterside, there is a narrow line of trees and many of these are apple trees, so we were able to grab a snack from time to time. It was a nice walk, the trees are just starting to change color, so it was very pretty. Across the bay, the land rises very steeply so there are cliffs and ledges all along it. Very beautiful. Just before we reached the lighthouse, I was looking up at a tree, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a snake right next to my foot. I “exclaimed”, and jumped back, which caused Brenda to also “exclaim” and jump back. Turns out it was only a stick! Brenda got a good chuckle.
We arrived at the lighthouse and rested for a bit. While we were there, a couple of motorcycles pulled up. One of them had a sidecar and “Sidecar Harvey” a cute labradoodle complete with aviator goggles and a safety harness. He looked like he was having a ball! We only stayed there for about 15 minutes then turned and headed back so that we could get back to the boat before the rain started. A couple of hundred feet from the lighthouse, I again looked down at the side of the road, and this time there WAS a snake, a real one! It was just a brown snake and I’d noticed it before I got too close, so no “exclamations” this time.
It was just getting to noon when we got back to the boat, and as we were walking down the dock, we felt the first few raindrops. Just made it! The wind really picked up as the rain came in. We had gusts up to 25 mph and it rained off and on for the rest of the afternoon.
The other three boats that came in after us yesterday all stayed in the bay all day as well.
In the evening we went to the “Rocky Raccoon Cafe” right beside the marina. We had planned to go to a resort about a mile walk away, but it was raining, and looking at the radar, there were downpours coming. When we first arrived at the marina we stopped in at Rocky Raccoon’s looking for the marina office and an Asian guy (Indian) greeted us and had incense burning, I’d had my fill of that when working in India so I had written it off. With the rain, I checked TripAdvisor for options, and Rocky Raccoon came up as the 2nd best place in town. We decided to give it a go since it was very close. The restaurant is run by Chef Robin Pradhan who is from Nepal. The food was an upscale mix of Nepalize and Canadian cuisine. The food was excellent, he was our host, waiter, and chef. We were one of three customers that evening but spent a couple of hours there. We enjoyed our dinners and chatted with Robin throughout the evening. When dessert time came, he had several fresh-baked options available. We mentioned that we had visited the Farmers Market in the morning. As part of the market, the local church groups take turns having a “cafe” on the first floor of Rocky’s. He donates the space to them. When the market is over, he buys all of the leftover baked goods and offers them to his customers for free with dinner. If you like it, you can donate, and he passes that on to the church groups. A very community-conscious restaurateur. As we left Rocky’s, there was a small herd of deer munching on the grass just at the bottom of the stairs, it was too dark for pictures, and they pretty much ignored us. We made the short walk back to the boat and turned in.
Saturday – Sep 28th – 61.5 NM – 0 Locks – To: Drummond Island, Michigan
Saturday the weather was looking a little better, and given that we need to take advantage of every weather opportunity, we headed out of Gore Bay at 8:00 bound for Drummond Island, Michigan, and our USA re-entry!
The seas were pretty calm as we cleared the end of the bay, but by an hour into our 4-hour trip, they started to build. The wind was out of the North West, so given our direction of travel, they were quartering on the bow of the boat. This gave for a bit of a bumpy ride, but by running fast, we were able to reduce most of the rolling action. Our route was right up the middle of the north channel.
For the next 3 hours, we pretty much just bounced along with Islands in the distance on the port side, and the Canadian mainland in the distance on the left side. We adjusted our speed a few times as the winds shifted to try to limit the bouncing as much as possible. Finally at exactly 11:00 AM we crossed back into the USA!
We waited until we turned down the channel to Drummond Island before we used the Customs and Border Protection ROAM App on the phone to check-in. The process was very easy, we’d downloaded the app before we left and filled in our passport, trusted traveler, and boat registration information. When we were ready, we just launched the app, answered a few questions about where we were reentering the US, and if we had anything to declare. Once we submitted it, we got a “Processing” message, and about a minute later a CBP officer did a video chat with us right through the app. He confirmed a few details, asked if we had anything to declare, thanked us for pre-registering the boat and purchasing the CBP sticker, then said that we were cleared into the US and to make a note of our clearance number in case we were stopped by Border Protection.
Once we hung up, we could see the marina in the distance, with about 50 small fishing boats between us and it. It seems that it’s the annual fall Perch run, and half of the area is out fishing. We picked our way through them, and after another turn or two, were at the marina. We docked and after a bit of struggle as we were fighting a 10-knot wind pushing us off the dock, got the boat tied up at 12:00.
We checked into the marina, one of the best values we’ve had at just $1.00 per foot. There is nothing around the marina, so they loan cars for $12 a day and we took one to go into town for dinner. The vehicle we were assigned was an older 2000 era Cadillac Escalade SUV. The odometer had just over 225,000 miles on it. Drummond is an Island with no bridges to it, so everything has to come in by boat, cars included and they make things last. Overall the car was not bad except for the steering. Turn the steering wheel, and it travels a good quarter turn before the wheels start to respond. Also, while driving down the road, the car tends to drift side to side in the lane and to correct it takes a pretty large turn on the steering wheel. The town was only 2.5 miles away, so we just took it slow. No sightseeing here! We ate at the most popular restaurant in town, Northwoods right at the corner of Main Street. Main Street consists of an IGA Supermarket, a restaurant, a real estate office, a hardware store, and an ice cream stand. We were told to just drive until we saw the flashing red light, it’s the only one on the island, and we would know we’d arrived!
Being the most popular, and one of only three restaurants on the island open at this time of year, the place was busy, but a nice local couple who were at a 6 top, invited us to take two of the other seats. We had a great meal and chatted with them about the island and our trip.
After dinner, we “slowly” drove back to the boat, parked the car, and closed up for the night. The forecast was for the temperature to be in the 40’s overnight, so we set the heaters to turn on if it got too cold.
Sunday – Sep 29th – 41.5 NM – 0 Locks – To: Mackinac Island, MI
It didn’t get quite as cold as predicted overnight, when I got up at 5:00 it was 55 degrees. Balmy! We are happy that we are starting to head South and toward warmer weather. There was also another spectacular Sunrise.
The predictions were for east winds at 10-15 which would make them a following sea. There were predictions for heavy rain in the afternoon so at 8:30 we cast off and headed out under partly cloudy skies. The first 10 miles were quite calm while we went through the St. Mary’s river, past De Tour Village and the ferry that runs from Drummond Island to the mainland. We cruised past the Frying Pan Shoal lighthouse into Lake Huron then turned west toward Mackinac Island.
Overall the ride was not too bad with the following seas, we rode up on plane averaging 16 knots. The waves built over the next 30 miles and by the time we were halfway to Mackinac, and approaching the Martin Reef Lighthouse, they were 3-4 feet again. The boat would occasionally climb up the back of a wave, then fall off, breaking left or right which made the ride somewhat squirrely, but at least there was very little bouncing. A few times the timing of the waves caused us to drop down off the top of one wave and catch up with the next when the bow was down. This caused a huge wave of water to break over the bow. I thought it was spectacular! (Brenda not so much.)
We made good time with the following wind and were able to run fast. At 11:30 we saw the Mackinac Straits bridge in the distance and made our turn into Mackinac Island harbor.
The harbor is very busy with ferry boats going in and out every 10 or 15 minutes. There are large breakwaters on two sides, but these do little to calm the waves in the harbor. We tied up to the dock and had to spend the next hour deploying fenders and re-tying lines because the boat was bouncing so much. Once we had the boat as secure as we could, we walked into town to see the sights before the rain started.
Mackinac Island is a historic island that is mostly a state park. It started out as an Indian settlement, then a missionary settlement, then a British Fort and settlement, until after the Revolutionary War when it was abandoned and then taken over by the US.
In the 1930s some entrepreneurs from the Railroad and Steamship companies decided to develop it with hotels and stores to make it a destination vacation location and increase ticket sales. They built several hotels including the “Grand Hotel” notable as having the longest front porch in the word. Today the island is unique in that they do not allow motorized vehicles (except a very few State Park maintenance vehicles). All traffic on the island is either by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. This includes all deliveries, taxi service (radio-dispatched horse-drawn carriages), and even the street sweepers are horse-drawn!
The marina is just off the main street, and we walked up and had some lunch at the Pink Pony, then walked up and down the main street which has a large number of tourist trap gift shops, and probably the highest density of Fudge shops in the world!
I had texted my buddy Dave Harmon-Vaught that we were in Mackinac and that the water in the marina was rough. He asked if we were going to check in to the Grand Hotel, I said probably not. But then, I thought, it’s going to be a rough night sleeping on the boat with the constant rocking. We’re talking 1-2 ft waves in the marina! After thinking about it, I checked to see about finding a hotel for us to stay in instead of the boat. I checked the Grand Hotel, at $658 per night, that was not going to happen! So, I checked Hotels.com and found a nice Bed & Breakfast within sight of the marina for $109 per night. I asked Brenda and I don’t think I’d even got the question out of my mouth and she was packing! Thanks for the suggestion, Dave!
We walked up the hill to the Pine Cottage Bed & Breakfast and checked in. Our room was very nice. It’s the first hotel outside of the UK where there were shared bathrooms, but given that it was off-season, we only saw one other person on our floor the whole time. After checking in, we walked back to the main street and had dinner at one of the restaurants on the main street. After dinner, we made a quick stop back at the boat, and sent some info to our fellow Loopers on Thirsty who had just arrived at Drummond Island, then turned in on a non-rocking bed.
NEXT WEEK: Heading to Chicago!
Tom & Brenda