Sunday, June 28, 2009

Little Current

Saturday, June 27

We awoke this morning to another beautiful morning. I finished writing yesterday’s blog entry and walked up the hill (why is that when we leave the boat it is always uphill?) to the Meldrum Bay Inn. I sat on their porch to use their Wi-Fi. I checked the weather and e-mails and did a blog entry. The nice owner of the inn came out and brought the banana bread I had order last night.

As I was headed up the hill a large 55’ cruiser came in and I helped them dock, they were just coming in to clear customs and then continue their journey. They had run all night from Detroit.

The plan for the day was to go to Little Current at the east end of the North Channel, about 60 miles. The very helpful manager of the marina came out to see use off. She indicated that now that they have a new breakwater in, they hope to rebuild the entire marina. They have lots of smaller floating docks but the facilities for larger boats could use an update.

We pulled out of Meldrum and headed east, our course for 30 miles was due east right on the 46 parallel. The North Channel is a beautiful body of water approximately 100 miles long by 20 at its widest. There are many islands and island groups with lots of good anchorages. Many boaters spent weeks moving from anchorage to anchorage with the occasional trip to town for supplies. Our plan is to spend our time in old canals so we motored on.

We had some of the banana bread for lunch, it was excellent. I just wish the calorie police had not vetoed buying one of the homemade pies the Meldrum Bay Inn offered. All of their baked goods must be ordered the day before; they are custom baked to order.

We continued to enjoy the scenery of the nearby islands and the mountains on the mainland in the background. For most of the day we had the water to ourselves, there was the occasional other boat but generally a mile or two off. As we got close to Little Current the traffic got a little busier as it is the heart of the North Channel, which narrows to 800 feet wide. We were unable to raise anybody at the town dock on the radio but there were many empty slips so we just pulled in. It seems that it is the still the start of the season and the whole staff was in an all day first aid course. They were around later in the evening.

For years the town has offered transient dockage simply along (a third of a mile) sea wall. In the last couple of years they have added five or six docks with slips at either end. The main street of town is right along the water front. We stopped at a bank ATM to get some Canadian cash then headed up the hill four blocks to the grocery store for a few perishables. It was a long walk and when we got the groceries put away, the fish and chips stand just 50 yards from the boat look too inviting so we went over there for ice cream before dinner.

Little Current has more than a little current that flows through here. It is a funnel that connects the North Channel to Georgian Bay, both of which are part of Lake Huron. As the wind and weather move water around the lake the water flows through Little Current like an unpredictable tidal current. When we came in it was flowing east at two mph by evening it was going west at about the same. They have a buoy across from the town dock shaped like a boat that swings to show the direction of flow.

The bridge at Little Current is the only one to the mainland for all of Manitoulin Island. It was originally build as a railroad bridge in 1915. When the auto became popular, they were allowed to cross when there was no train, train traffic ended. It is only one lane wide so there are traffic lights and traffic goes one way for a couple of minutes then the other. It opens for boat traffic once an hour.

It was another perfect day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

Friday, June 26

This morning was another beautiful morning, mostly clear, temperature of 56, but a strong northwest wind of 15 to 20. Although it was possible to go to Meldrum Bay it would not be comfortable so we choose to stay put. We did some things around the boat, Diana got some pictures for art reference and I finished writing yesterday’s blog entry.

The only internet access was at the Mainsail Restaurant a couple blocks from the harbor, so about 11:00 we walked up there. On the way there was an interesting wood carving, the inscription on the bottom says “passage keeper”. I got the blog entry uploaded, checked the market and weather, read all the e-mails and we had a lovely lunch of BBQed pork sandwiches.

Altough most of us use a stool to rest our feet on, deckhand Pikka thinks it is a great place to hunker down when the boat is moving.

All the weather forecasts called for less wind than we had been seeing and as we walked back to the boat it was definitely down. So hurried up and by 1:00 we were underway for a 48 mile trip to Meldrum Bay. As we headed out the there were some left over swells from the earlier wind but it was comfortable. By the time we were making our way thru the small islands between the larger St. Joseph Island and Drummond Island they were almost gone. It was now a gorgeous afternoon with a temperature in the low 70s on the water and variable winds less than five.

About 6:30 we were rounding the point into Meldrum Bay, we are now in the North Channel of Lake Huron. By 7:00 we pulled into the marina. Meldrum Bay is at the west end of Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin is a large island that separates the North Channel from the rest of Lake Huron. I believe that it is the largest Island in the world in a fresh water body of water.

We got the boat secured and I went in to a little office and called Canadian Customs. Actually all you have to do is lift the phone it is a direct line. They asked all the standard questions and I apparently had the right answers, she gave me a report number and we were officially in Canada. I understand some people are instructed to stay on their boats until a customs agent comes down to check them.

We then took a short walk up the hill to the lovely little Meldrum Bay Inn. They run an attractive restaurant and have rooms to rent. They also do baked goods to for takeout. We ordered a loaf of Banana nut bread for tomorrow morning. I promised to but a picture on the blog (I am hoping it gets me a discount on the bread) and Diana also got a picture looking down at the marina and Memories.

We went back to the boat for a bowl of popcorn and the end of another perfect day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

De Tour Village via Les Cheneaux Islands

Thursday, June 25

Last evening a charter ferry run came into the marina, a group from Mackinaw City had come to St. Ignace for a couple of hours. I got to chatting with the captain; he is a school principal and captains a Mackinac Island ferry in the summer. When he heard we were headed east he asked if we were going through the Les Cheneaux Islands. I said we would probably just go straight to De Tour Village. He indicated we would be missing some beautiful scenery and offered to come to the boat and go over the charts with me. As the sun set Diana got several photos.

This morning dawned as another beautiful day, yesterdays haze was gone, the temperature was in the mid 60s, and the winds were light. Since it was a short day we did not rush getting underway but were still out of the harbor by 8:00. From over five miles away Diana got a clear photo of the bridge behind us.

We head for Mackinac Island, went between the Island Light Tower and the Round Island Lighthouse across the channel. Diana shot lots of pictures of Mackinac Island; including the cottages, Grand Hotel the Old Fort, and the harbor. It would have been fun to spend a day on the island but there is too much to do this trip and we have been to Mackinac by ferry.

We continued on to the west entrance to the Les Cheneaux Island and head for Cedarville. The island are an extension of land on the south side of the Upper Peninsula, they are mostly summer homes for people from Lower Michigan and elsewhere. Many of them are accessible only by boat. I want to publicly thank the nice ferry captain for the recommendation, without him we would have missed a great couple of hours. If you use Google or MapQuest, (or an old fashion atlas) look for Cedarville, Mi. the islands are just to the south.

Finally after two hours of fabulous scenery we headed back out into Lake Huron and headed for De Tour Passage. The De Tour Light is a famous light. This is where the St Mary’s River enters Lake Huron, all shipping to and from Lake Superior passes thru this passage. There are large freighters going by constantly.

By 3:00 we were into our slip at another of Michigan’s public marinas. Diana did a load of laundry while the captain tried to get a couple of layers of dead bugs of the boat. Soon it was evening and we were both ready to turn in early. It had been a long but wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fuel report number 2

Today’s fueling in St Ignace took 175.6 gallons at $2.79; we have covered 510 miles since our last fueling. Allowing 3 gallons for generator usage (5 hours) it works out to 3.0 mpg. A little less than we had hoped for, but part of it was still against river current and one day we rain hard into rough weather and all the way up Lake Michigan I ran 50 to 100 rpm high trying to make just a little better time. If we can due 3 mpg for the entire trip I will not be unhappy.

St Ignace – Lake Huron.

Wednesday, June 24

We got up this morning and took our time getting started; it was after 7:30 before we pulled out. It had only dropped to 68 and there was heavy dew. It was hazy but the VHF weather channel was not reporting any fog. Diana got this picture of the old C.G. station which shows the haze.

About an hour and a half out we approached the Gray’s Reef passage. This is a famous (infamous) stretch of water in northern Lake Michigan. We were coming from outside the ship channel and made a hard turn to go thru the passage to the north. The tower, as big as it is, had not been visible until we were about three miles from it. Beyond the north end of Grey’s Reef passage is the White Shoal Light. It was not on our course as we were turning back to the east, but we cared on an extra ¾ of a mile north so Diana could get this picture though we were still far enough away that it was hazy.

The insect, about the size of a mosquito, but they don’t bit are back worse than ever.

From there it was twenty miles east to the Mackinaw Bridge. On a clear day we should have been able to see the tops of the support towers from that distance, we couldn’t see a thing. We continued on with many cruising boats going by in both directions and a lake freighter on the radio coming thru Gray’s Reef behind us.

For the last three days we have been seeing large quantities of “pollution” in the lake, it first looked like a yellowish alga of some type. As with anything floating on the surface of a large body of water the wind and waves tend to concentrate it into large windrows. Talking to a gentleman on the dock last night he said that it is pine pollen blown in from the forests of the U.P.

Finally about three miles from the bridge there were the towers high in the sky. The bridge is five miles long and from the center we could barely see the ends. If you look closely at the second bridge picture, that is an eighteen wheeler just right of center. It was slightly disappointing to not get a better view of such an impressive sight.

Mackinaw City is on the south end of the bridge and St Ignace is on the north, the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. We had been to Mackinaw City so we choose St Ignace. It was a little over an hour from the bridge to the harbor entrance. We were about ten minutes clear of the main channel when the freighter came under the bridge, too hazy for a picture.

We pulled into the harbor and headed for the fuel dock. We filled and pumped out (I will do a separate fuel report). Then we headed over to our assigned slip. St Ignace has a lovely large municipal marina. Because it has been a cold spring and it is mid week they are not real busy tonight, come weekends in July and August they get very busy.

Once we cleared the bridge we left Lake Michigan and entered Lake Huron. At least to me this is a small milestone in the voyage. We were a little concerned about getting the length of the lake in a less than ideal boat for the open water. We knew we had to pick good weather and we were fortunate to have lots of it. Tomorrow we go to De Tour Village at the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula and the entrance to the North Channel. The following day we will be into Canada.

I suspect that internet access will be less available in the next ten days. I will continue to write, but it maybe sometime between postings.

Beaver Island - two

Tuesday, June 23

We went for a walk last evening; Saint James Harbor on Beaver Island is an interesting little community, although it was a little warm walking. There were many small shops along the way, interspersed with nice homes and a couple of log cabins. Diana got a picture of a small totem pole in front of one shop. The King Strang hotel is now a private club. James Strang was the leader of the Mormons here back in the 1850s, he appointed himself king of the island, only to have his followers assassinate him a short time later.

Farther on we found the community center; I got internet access, checked e-mail, post the previous blogs and checked the weather for the next couple of days (it continues to look very variable). Diana got a tour of the nice center from a volunteer on duty. As we came out of the center to go to dinner the ferry from Charlevoix was just coming in. Everything on the island has to come in by boat, (or plane, there is a small airport).

The Shamrock Restaurant and Pub was across from the ferry dock, we went in and had a couple of very good sandwiches. The walk back to the boat was even more enjoyable than the walk into town because the temperature had started to go down.

It was another very good day. For the past two days we have been bothered by large swarms of some type of small insect. They get all over everything on the boat; it is almost hard to go out on deck. Without them the last couple days would have been perfect. Tonight they seem to be gone, except for the thousands lying in piles in all corners of the boat; I think the heat got them.