This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, December 9, 2016

North Channel - Meldrum Bay

At the west end of Manitoulin Island, and at the end of the road across the island, lies the small town of Meldrum Bay.  The natural bay is large and open to the north, so to create a protected harbor a large breakwater was constructed.  The red building along the shore was the net shed, where nets were kept and mended when fishing was the largest industry.  It has now been repurposed as the Museum of Meldrum Bay, filled with historic items from all the families in town.  Meldrum Bay is now home to only 37 people year round.  The museum docent was a high school boy, a multi-generation resident.  He is the only high school student in town and has a two-hour one-way bus ride to school.  A very isolated spot is Meldrum Bay.

The breakwater extended a small, natural peninsula that protruded into the bay, one much too small to provide protection from winds and waves.  The peninsula and breakwater have been made into a park for all, with a few RV spaces.

The newly constructed marina lies just inland from the breakwater.  The old, fixed commercial wharf remains with the new floating docks for recreational boats beyond.

A couple commercial fishing boats remain in Meldrum Bay, a far cry from the large industry that once existed here.  Andave H. is a great lakes fishing boat design with one variation from the norm.  The high enclosed bows are designed to penetrate large waves, allowing the boat to pass through rather than over the wave.  Andave H. has a lifting strake along the hull, which should allow the boat to ride over middle-sized waves.

Dolphin, a downeast Maine style trawler with whom we had anchored in Long Point Cove, had arrived a day earlier and Last Dance was docked just opposite. There are only so many "roads" upon the waterways and paths of cruisers continually cross, providing reacquaintances with old friends.

A view from the floating docks includes all of the commerce in Meldrum Bay.  The brown building is the marina and campground office, laundromat, and fueling station, operated by the town.  The first building up the road is the Meldrum Bay Inn, the second is the Country Store.

Being at the end of the road on a sparsely populated island makes for a very quiet place.  Walks with Bonnie could explore the town from the middle of the almost trafficless roads.  A peaceful place is Meldrum Bay.

The country store was the social and commercial center of Meldrum Bay, until two years prior.  It provided the only opportunity for grocery shopping, contained the most important LCBO, post office, and gift items for the tourists.  The young proprietor became pregnant and felt that the store was much too time-consuming.  It is difficult to understand how a store serving 37 residents could have a viable business plan.  However, it has recently been sold with plans to reopen as a store again.

The Meldrum Bay Inn is the most active business in town.  It has always been an inn, with a restaurant downstairs and rooms on the upper floors.  It is owned and operated by a couple who fled the corporate world in California for a more peaceful life.

The Inn still has its old charm.  A dinner here was planned to spend the remaining Canadian money.  It was an outstanding way to invest the money.  The fish is from the local fishermen, most fresh and prepared in interesting ways.  Dinner on the porch also provided a continual show of hummingbirds as they feasted on the flowers in the hanging pots.

After dinner, a concert was held on the porch, another reacquainting with cruising friends.  Jim Krause, on the mandolin, and wife, Anne Hurley, on the cello, were cruising North Channel on their sailboat.  We had met them at Little Current on a morning when the current was not little, but raging and dangerous, preventing our departure.  To pass the time awaiting for the current to subside, the crew took a walk down the docks, always an interesting view of boats and meeting of people.  We met Jim and Anne for only a brief discussion before deciding to cast off the lines, continuing west.  Jim helped with the lines.  Little did we know at the time of their talents.  Jim and Anne met in the School of Music at the University of Indiana in Bloomington.  They found they had more in common than music.  Jim is still at the University of Indiana, as a professor in the College of Media, and Anne operates a business in town.  They were accompanied by another professor, at a university in Illinois, who is a summer resident of Meldrum Bay.  Jim and Anne eschew the tradition of exchanging boat cards - they give new friends a copy of one of their CDs.   (Jim Krause Music link)  Enjoyment of their music has continued with the album "Madeline Bay," its cover decorated with beautiful photos from the waters of the Pacific Northwest.  It contains a quote from Edward Abbey,

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.  May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."

Meldrum Bay provided more enjoyment than could be imagined when it was planned as the last stop in Canada before returning to the United States - interesting town, interesting history, interesting people, and wonderful experiences over a great dinner.  A marvelous place is Meldrum Bay.

North Channel - Long Point Cove

A small cove was needed to hide from the accurately predicted high winds.  Long Point Cove filled that requirement well.

Long Point has been a favorite spot for many cruisers, for many decades, for many good reasons.  One cruiser who spent many a summer day at anchor here is memorialized with a carved wolf mounted on a shore-side rock.  Family and friends believe the wolf keeps his spirit in the cove.

There are many features offered by Long Point in addition to the wind/wave protection.  A series of coves along the mainland and strings of islands create interesting waters for exploration by kayak.  The most personal of personal watercraft carried aboard Last Dance got good exercise along with the person aboard.

Many of the islands have hiking opportunities, but the best hike is on the mainland side of the cove - an unmarked trail to a high bluff beginning at a point at the entrance to the cove.  The hike takes one on a circuitous path ever upward, through heavily wooded areas and over steep rock faces.

The summit rewards hikers with long-distant views.  Last Dance can be seen at anchor in the cove.

As the week progressed and the winds kept blowing, more boats came to Long Point for the protection this anchorage provides.  Seclusion is lost, but opportunities to meet other cruising boaters is expanded.

One of the boats, Dolphin, a 31 Duffy Downeast, brought back memories of cruising Maine where this boat was designed and built.  Dolphin's home port is on the St. Clair River, near Detroit, Michigan.

Varmints destroyed Dolphin's inflatable during winter storage.  Dave and Rita are avid paddleboarders, so the solution to shore access was to load the paddleboards on the rooftop of the Duffy.

With four furry friends aboard Dolphin, the trips to shore were a bit more interesting with the paddleboard conveyance.

Anchoring brings cruising boaters together, creating opportunities for fellowship and the making of new friends. Boat stories were shared at "Rocktails" on one of the rock islands bordering the cove.  Comraderie among boaters is always enjoyable and educational.

The dinghy can also fill in as a fishing platform.  One of the spoons purchased at Killarney, a dancing, deep-running, and colorful spoon, proved to be what attracted the Pike.  This large one grabbed the spoon attached to a very small rod and reel with light line.  The fish ran the line off the rod 6 times before succumbing to the fisherman.  Multiple fish dinners ensued.  Long Point Cove proved to be an enjoyable stop in many ways.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

North Channel - Whales Back Channel

To the west of the Benjamin Island/Hotham Island area is an interesting area of mainland coves and islands that is also known as a channel - Whales Back.

The entry to the Whales Back is a skinny, turning cut between a crooked mainland peninsula and Arid Island, Little Detroit.  Odd name it seems for spot in an area of rocky islands covered with trees.  Detroit is French for a strait connecting two lakes.  Detroit, Michigan, is located on such a strait.  After a securite (sea-cure-i-tei, French for what follows is important) call on the VHF radio to check for traffic in the opposing direction, a pass can be made through this tight cut, being careful of possible currents.  Little Detroit is a gateway to some interesting cruising waters.

First stop for many, if not most, cruisers is the town of Spanish.  The town government operates a nice marina behind a protecting rock breakwater.  Cruising the Benjamin Islands area, at anchor all of the time, depletes water tanks, fuel tanks, and fills the holding tanks.  This is a good stop for water, fuel, and a pump-out.  The actual town is a few miles away with a small grocery, made more convenient by a local that provides an unlicensed taxi service.  Last Dance took advantage of this opportunity before heading to anchorages in the Whales Back Channel.

The channel gets its name from an island lying in the middle of the channel, Whales Back Island.  To some early mariner, this island reminded him of a whale rolling on the surface of the ocean to catch a breath of air, exposing its back.  While the waters here are wide, the deep waters of the channel are skinny and winding.  Careful navigation is a must to keep the boat off the bottom.

As Last Dance approached the western end of the Whales Back Channel, a colorful spot appeared on the horizon.  It grew larger and was eventually identified as a spinnaker sail on a sailboat.  A spinnaker is a large sail, usually very colorful, used to sail downwind.  The winds from the west were building, forecast to increase and maintain for multiple days.

There was another small spot near the spinnaker flying sailboat.  As the distance grew smaller, the small spot became identifiable as a sailing canoe.  Quite a small boat to be traveling in the big waters of Lake Huron.

Cruising plans for the day were to stop and anchor at Beardrop Harbor, a protected harbor surrounded by high shorelines and islands, one with hiking opportunities and fishing possibilities.  While Beardrop offers great protection from wind and waves, it is open to the west, and the west winds that were coming were going to make Beardrop most uncomfortable.  Cruising plans must be very flexible.  A more protected small bay was selected, Long Point Cove.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

North Channel - Hotham Island

Hotham Island is one that does have inhabitants.  But, in this case, it is a plus.  Hotham has multiple coves perfect for anchoring and the surrounding area has even more protected coves.  Check the map in the post on Central North Channel.

The cove along the north midsection of Hotham has the only two houses on the island.  What makes this anchorage special is the people who have the house pictured above.  The main house is on the right and the small house is the "bunkie," a Canadian term for a guest house.

Norm and Elaine spent many summers cruising North Channel, most often anchoring near Hotham Island.  One summer someone had begun construction of this house. Norm decided to take a dinghy ride to offer his help. He was involved in construction, having many skills to offer. The property owner was puzzled at first, but accepted the offer.  Other cruising boaters at anchor, hearing Norm's stories of the construction, joined in.  Many afternoons, when the work was complete, a happy hour broke out.  Friendships were formed over shared work and relaxed conversation. 

Fast forward some years.  The owner past away.  His widow made a visit back to the Hotham home.   During a conversation with Norm and Elaine, she offered the home for sale, in part due to his efforts in building and their ensuing long years of friendship.  Norm and Elaine made the decision to have a land-based home at Hotham, purchasing the house.  

They decided to continue the tradition of friends gathering in the afternoon for a few drinks and conversation.  Everyone anchored in the cove is invited to join them at their home.  Dinghies begin arriving at the dock at 5:00 pm.  Note the Canadian flag.  Every cottage along the water in Canada has a flagpole.  When the residents arrive for the summer, the flag is hoisted.  When the season is over and they head home, the flag is then lowered.  An interesting tradition.

(Elaine Semrau photo)
A nice sized group formed from the boats at anchor on the evening Last Dance was at anchor in this cove.  Munchies were shared, beverages were imbibed, stories were told, and friendships made.                    This blog focuses on the geography of places visited, whether the natural or the constructed.  Friends made while cruising are one of the biggest positive factors making cruising by boat so rewarding.  However, a blog filled with photos of people, ones most readers of the blog will never meet, does not create as much interest as photos of beautiful and interesting places.  So, shots of nature and towns are selected to be shared. People are featured here for a couple reasons: to thank Norm and Elaine for their outstanding hospitality, and to illustrate an interesting story about people and friendships.

(Elaine Semrau photo)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

North Channel - Fox Island

Fox Island, just north of the Benjamins, has multiple anchorages, the best being a narrow bay on the southwest end of the island, known as Fox Harbor.  The rock cliffs along the shore create a secure anchorage, but the entrance from the outer bay has a few hidden rocks under water.  The harbor has room for multiple boats, and even more boats when they tie the stern to shore and raft together.  The time at Fox allowed the crew to connect with some other Loopers and another DeFever.  Of course, conversation, drinks, and snacks were shared in the afternoon, atop one of the rock cliffs.  One in the group explained the term for such an activity - Rocktails.  Our vocabulary has expanded along with our good times.

Fox is another of the uninhabited and public property islands.  It is smooth granite like the Benjamins to the south, with intricate waterways begging for exploration by kayak and open forests perfect for hiking.  In previous years Fox had the best and most prolific crop of wild blueberries.  In 2016, the spring drought had all but eliminated the berries.  A few images of Fox follow.

North Channel - Benjamin Islands

The Benjamin Islands are the best-known anchorage spot in the North Channel, for good reasons.  There are two islands, North Benjamin and South Benjamin.  They are beautiful, solid red and black granite, have hiking opportunities, and have numerous coves for anchoring.  The most used, and largest harbor is the area between the two islands. The image above is a view of a small part of that harbor, taken standing on the north end of South Benjamin, facing west, with Last Dance tucked into a small cove.

The smooth granite makes for good hiking and exercise.  One area, on a section of pink granite, is called the ski slope due to its steep incline and snow-smooth surface.

A few days were spent in the harbor at the south end of South Benjamin.  Depending on wind direction, there are always multiple coves offering protection.  The Benjamins are surrounded by many small islands, creating narrow cuts and small coves.  It is great kayaking country, or for taking a dinghy on longer explorations.  In this image, Bonnie is headed for a walk ashore by kayak.