Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Boat Trip to the North Channel in Ontario Canada

Some of you might ask.
Did June and John drop off the face of the Earth?
No.
Where are they now?
More on that later………

Making our way back to Michigan we checked into a campground, just outside of Lapeer. Lapeer is where we called home; before we sold our house, guess it still is.
Right away we made contact with our family and friends, very anxious to see everyone.
June kept busy gardening wherever she could find someone that would let her play in their garden. She even pulled weeds and drew and labeled diagrams for the existing flowerbeds at the house we sold. Go figure?

After a month, of being back in Michigan, I got bored, contacted my old boss, and asked if he any work for me.
Being the busy time of year, he was glad to put me to work, driving a truck with a lead trailer, stocking his two stores. As to what I was hauling, anything a landscape supplier would carry, topsoil, sand, gravel, and mulch, to name a few.

Now this summer job had to be finished by the end of July because we had things to do.

The near end came, a quick visit with our family and we were off. First to Harbor Springs, Michigan to meet my cousin, Tim and his wife Lynette. We parked our RV in Tim’s driveway and headed to their second home on Drummond Island (Drummond Island is on the east end of the upper peninsula of Michigan) for the weekend. There we helped with a little clean up as this house is being remodeled. The dry wall workers were finished and we needed to move the furniture back into the house from the garage.
This is a beautiful house right on Lake Huron. Tim and Lynette keep their 30 foot steel trawler boat in front of their house.
Of course we couldn’t work all the time and had to go for a boat ride to Lime Island, taking a lunch with us.
When we returned to Harbor Springs we moved our trailer to one of Tim’s friends, for storage.

7/31/07
Then it was off to Leland, Michigan. Located on Lake Michigan.
This is where we met my sister and brother in law, Marie and Vic. They were bringing their boat, Adagio north, from their homeport of Ludington, Michigan, traveling with Rick and Cee, (Cee is my mother’s sister).
Marie and Vic’s boat is a 31-foot Island Packet sailboat.
The bad news is that Vic, Rick, and Cee had to leave. Taking our truck back to Ludington.
June and I filled in to be Marie’s crew.

Just a little footnote: Marie and I were raised around sailboats and if I do say so, we know our way around a sailboat.

8/2/07
Leaving Leland behind, at 6:30AM, we headed north, for Harbor Springs. As I pulled up the main sail (That’s the big sail on the mast) one of the battens left its pocket on the mainsail and jumped in the water. (All you sailors will understand) The weather was a little questionable, wind 15-20 MPH, scattered thundershowers, but the sailing was great.
The skies were somewhat overcast and after a few hours we could hear thunder, but due to cloud conditions could not see the storm.
Tim to the rescue, knowing we were out sailing and the possibility of thunderstorms; he checked the weather radar and called us. The storm was a number of miles north of us, crossing the lake, ahead of us, currently over Beaver Island. Passing Charlevoix we pressed north, making the turn east, up Little Traverse Bay, toward Harbor Springs. Another call from Tim let us know that we might get a light shower. OK, sounds good to us, a little rain won’t hurt anything.
Within an hour we heard more thunder, RIGHT BEHIND US! This little storm popped up out of nowhere. The rain started, not very hard, at first. Next the wind came, then a call from Tim, letting us know a storm was close to us. Hmm, my response was, NO SHIT! But I thanked him for the call. Now the rain really started coming down. (How hard was it raining, you ask? LIKE A COW PISSING ON A FLAT ROCK!) The visibility was down to 200 yards; the wind was pushing us along at OVER 8 KNOTS. (I know, that doesn’t seem very fast if you are not familiar with sailboats. Under full engine power we only make 6 knots. This is kind of like driving your car at 100 MPH in the fog!) With thoughts of reducing sail the storm eased off just as fast as it came. Marie called to the State Dock, in Harbor Springs, looking for a slip. (That would be a dock for a boat. Kind of like a parking spot in a parking lot, only with electricity and water.) They were full so we called Irish Boat Shop, who had room for us, we found out why later. Tim met us at the dock; with more storms threatening we were glad to be tied up.
Settling in, getting ready to cook dinner, I ventured up to pay our dockage, while Marie got a new batten. You had to register in one office, and then be escorted to the cash office where they just took your wallet.

8/3/07
With 50 miles or so to get from Harbor Springs to St. Ignace, (Near Mackinaw) it was all hands on deck at 5:30AM. RIGHT! I got up, took my morning walk, to the bathroom, came back to the boat, looked in and saw June’s legs, still in bed, and Marie still in bed. Figuring I would let the two of them sleep, with the current conditions of no wind, I started the motor and let go of the dock lines. As I pull away from the dock, I hear this very familiar voice, calling, “JOHN”. When I look to sound of the voice, on the dock, what do I see, ITS JUNE. NOW HOW DID SHE DO THAT? I was figuring the smart thing to do was return to the dock and quietly pick her up.
Once we made our turn back to the north, the winds were up to 15-20MPH, out of the northwest. Time to put up the sails. As the wind increased the boat was heeling over far enough to put the rail in the water. Guess its time to reduce sail. The mainsail was reefed down to the first reefing point, standing the boat back up. We were on the move, upwind with 3-4 foot seas. We wanted to clear a reef and make Grey’s Reef Light House, but the winds were not cooperating. We had to tack to the west, toward Beaver Island for 7 miles. (For you non-sailors a sailboat cannot go directly into the wind. So when you want to go up wind you have to zig zag, or as its known, tacking) When we tacked back, we made the course we wanted, going between Grey’s Reef Lighthouse and the abandoned lighthouse. (The abandoned lighthouse was used for bombing practice in WW II and is located right off the west end of Wilderness State Park) Now we were headed east with the Mighty Mack in view. That would be the Mackinaw Bridge, with Mackinaw City on the south end and St. Ignace (our destination) on the north side of the bridge. I thought that Marie should be the one on the wheel when we went under the bridge. So, I told her that she should be in control when we went under the bridge. She said, “I am in control, you steer.” Hmmm? Marie did take the wheel, getting us under the bridge, under full sail. We made port at 5:30PM. Tim stopped by for beer and steaks on the grill on his way to Drummond Island.

8/4/07
Vic was able to come for a weekend visit. The winds were calm, so we did some boat maintenance. We fixed the tachometer, on the engine and fixed a leaking fresh water pump.

8/5/07
Work continued, cleaning out the old caulk under the starboard (right side of the boat) chain plates, as they were leaking water into the storage compartments inside the boat. (Chain plates are where the shrouds or cables that hold the mast up fasten to the boat) Marie was applying the new caulk from a squeeze tube when that tube jumped out of her had and into the water, damn. We watched it sink to the bottom in 12 feet of water and could see it lying on the bottom. Vic headed back to the hardware store for more caulk. Marie decided that she was going to put her swimming suit on and get it. She jumped in and YIKES, jumped back out, saying that water was too cold. Our neighbor, we’ll call him McGiver, duct taped two boat hooks together, with a cup on the end to reach the caulk. The only problem was the caulk would not stay in the cup. Marie feeling more determined, jumped in, swam down and got the caulk! Vic returned with the new caulk and we finished the job. Vic left for home at 3:30PM. Marie, June and I take a shuttle to the casino, as June has a coupon earned from a previous visit for $35 (free gambling money). We have dinner in the pub and June heads to the one-arm bandits. One and a half hours later and money still in her pocket she is happy and finds Marie and I reminiscing in the pub. Shuttle back to the marina and in for the night.

8/6/07
We pulled out of St. Ignace at 8:00AM, with light winds, heading for Hessel, Michigan. With just the genoa up we were only making 3 ½ knots Marie decided to put up the mainsail and kicked our speed up to 5 knots. Arriving at Hessel, we checked into slip number 23. Marie and June decided they needed to help out the local economy, and went shopping. We met our dock mates who were from Maine. They had taken their boat up the St. Lawrence Seaway and were heading for Chicago, where they would find the Mississippi River and head south. Their plan was to head home via the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida. The night was finished out with a little Scotch and a game of Dominoes. (Better know as DAMINOES)

8/7/07
Pulling out of Hessel at 8:00AM we made out way to Government Bay, which is south of Cedarville. We dropped the hook (that’s slang for anchor) in this well protected natural harbor. The 3 of us jumped in the dinghy for an island tour of Government Island. (For you non-boaters a dinghy is a small boat used to get around and to the shore) No, this dinghy tour was not a 3-hour tour, just a look around the island. Government Island was a meeting point for early mail boats to distribute mail to the various towns in the area. Remnants of the early docks and foundations of old buildings can still be seen. The island is now part of the Hiawatha National Forest, with primitive camping on it.
Settling in for the night, we had about 8 other boats anchored in the bay with us. I woke up in the night to use the john, or as its know on the boat, the head. (Yes, John was using the john at 3:00AM) I notice that the wind had changed and was blowing out of the opposite direction and the boat didn’t feel right. After checking I found out why, WE WERE AGROUND! When the wind changed direction the anchor had pulled out and did not reset in the bottom. I tried the engine but it would not move us, we were stuck! Now on to plan “B”. I got in the dinghy, put the 2 horsepower out board motor on and went around to the front of the boat. (No, I didn’t try to pull the boat with the dinghy) I loaded the anchor in the dingy and headed out to deep water while Marie fed out the anchor line. (Known as the anchor rode) Returning to the boat the anchor rode was fastened to the winch, no, not June, the one on the mast and we winched ourselves off the beach. The anchor was reset and we went back to bed, however slow to return to sleep, as our confidence was lost for this anchor.

8/8/07
Rising before the girls, I discovered the head was not flushing. (Oh CRAP, no crapping) After 2 hours of attempting repairs on it, I declared it, “Crapped Out”. I told the girls that they would have to use the bucket. This was not received well at all, go figure. So it was hurry up and get under way for the next port of crap, better known as DeTour Village. We called Vic with our tale of woes as he was coming up to Drummond Island, to meet us for the weekend. Arriving at DeTour Village State Dock we found our slip and tied up. The girls re-supplied our stores at the local grocery store. After our tuna steak dinner on the boat it was time for a after dinner drink on shore. Where else, but the Mainsail Bar and Restaurant.

8/9/07
After showers and a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee we were off for another visit to Lime Island. We arrived at Lime Island and tied up to the wall and had lunch. Lime Island is now a park and the small homes there can be rented out during the summer months. (Yes, there are out houses, too.) The Island used to be a lake freighter refueling station, supplying them with either coal or diesel fuel, depending on what they burned. The small community kept the refueling station functioning. There was a schoolhouse, for the children of the community, which has been recently renovated. The largest home, a Victorian style home with 2 floors, has been converted into a museum. After taking Marie into the museum. We went to the schoolhouse, inside we found things just as they would been back in the day, including a old upright piano. Of course, Marie couldn’t resist, she sat at the piano and gave us a private concert on the piano! Then it was on for a hike to the other end of the Island. The walk was through the well-shaded forest down a two-track road, about 2 miles to the beach. In the area of the beach we found 3 camping platforms for tents. After walking the beach, it was time to head back for happy hour at 4:00PM. What would you have on Lime Island, but gin and tonic with a lime. This was followed up with a shrimp dinner on the boat.

8/10/07
Back to DeTour Village for fuel and a pump out of our holding tank. Vic has secured a new toilet and will be bringing it up. Now it was on to Tim and Lynette’s house on Drummond Island. Finding our way around the north side of the island we found their dock. Knowing that the water was shallow at the dock we eased into the dock without touching bottom. Later I made a check of the water under the keel, using a diving mask and found that we had 6 inches of clearance under the keel. Now it was time to pull out that crapped out head. Wouldn’t you know it, the pump out, did not get all the stuff out and when the hoses were disconnected, guess where it went. OH, crap! Once the toilet was removed I pulled all the stainless screws and bolts out of it to use for spare parts. Next we gave the boat a bath, the girls scrubbed down while I pulled out buckets of water from the lake for the process. Our hero, Vic, arrived with a new toilet and a new claw style anchor. Vic and I put our heads together and installed the new head. The girls were very happy! Being a warm day Vic and I got into the water and washed the hull of the boat, walking around the boat on the bottom of the lake. A call from Tim and Lynette told us to meet them at a local restaurant for dinner, which we all enjoyed.

8/11/07
After some breakfast, laundry and restocking our stores, for you land lubbers that would be groceries. Tim and Lynette leave on their boat headed for Blind River, Ontario, Canada.

8/12/07
With a very questionable weather forecast for the afternoon we decide to leave early and meet Tim and Lynette in Blind River. The skies were cloudy with a following sea, some rain and lightening, but nothing bad. Once out in the open lake with sails and the motor on we were making good speed. We were motor sailing as we were trying to beat the high winds predicted for the afternoon. As we approached Blind River the wind died and we took the sails down. Wouldn’t you know it, as we approached the harbor the wind came up. When we approached the dock it was all hands on deck and dock. Seven people, including a dock attendant, helped secure us in our slip, holding the boat as it was secured to the dock. Happy hour was on Tim and Lynette’s boat, named for Lynette, the Linnie G. I’m trying to get Tim to name his dinghy the Timmy G, what do you think?

8/13/07
We all walked up to the Marina Café for a great breakfast. We needed to get some supplies from the grocery store and Tim needed a repair kit for his inflatable dingy, (His dinghy was tied on the back of his boat, in the process of pulling away from the gas dock, in high winds, he had a collision with a gas dock piling tearing a 12 inch hole in the dinghy) so we bummed a ride with the dock master. He dropped Lynette and June off at the grocery store and the rest of us went in search of a repair kit. Wouldn’t you know it; we found it at a Napa Store along with a pair of sandals for me. We returned to pick up the girls at the store then back to the marina. Discovering that our toilet paper supply was soaked (Most likely by the leaking chain plates) Marie and I walked up to the marine store. I picked up a mere 6 rolls, walked over to the counter to check out. The teller said that will be $18. BANG, my jaw hit the counter, but knowing the reaction to using the bucket instead of the toilet, I just paid for it, telling the girls you only get one sheet at a time.
With the winds dying down a bit we headed for John Island for an anchorage on the east end of the island. With some 4-foot waves rolling us around we were ready for a harbor. As we entered we discovered that the wind was blowing the length of the harbor and it was very crowded. After a look around we decided to head for the other end of the island, to Moiles Harbor, an old logging harbor. Once in the harbor Tim anchored their boat and we tied up to his boat, better known as rafting. I pulled out the grill and cooked chicken breasts for our crew. Tim cooked steaks for his crew. As the evening was winding down we untied from Tim’s boat and dropped our hook a short distance away. We parted due to more high winds predicted during the night and wouldn’t you know it, after midnight it blew hard, but that new anchor that Vic brought up held fast.

8/14/07
Tim and I attempted to repair his dinghy, on his top deck. Being very careful we got the special tape in place and tried to pump it back up. Success, sort of, the tape was not strong enough and was pulling apart. We let some of the air out and decided for the rest of this trip it would just be a life raft. We grabbed our dinghy and headed for shore for some exploring and climbing the high rocks for a good view. With more high winds predicted Tim and Lynette decide to return to Blind River early, as they had to get back to Drummond Island for weekend guests. With the high winds last night Tim’s anchor was firmly planted in the bottom and he struggled to get it up as I cheered him on.

8/15/07
At 3:00AM I decided to have a look around to make sure we were secure. Knowing that we were having meteor showers I was also looking for them. All of a sudden I took notice of a very bright star and had to wake June up, saying, “JUNE, YOU GOTTA SEE THIS!” She got up, looked, and said, It’s a mast head light, on the boat next to us, I saw it earlier.” Now I don’t want you to think that I am nuts (maybe a little) but this light was so bright you could not see the boat in the darkness. Anyway after that I crawled, quietly, back in bed. While coffee was brewing, in the morning, some references were made to, John’s star party. Hmm, what ever could they be talking about? We pulled anchor at 7:00AM, with Marie on the wheel and me pulling the anchor, or trying to pull it. (Tim would of loved to see this after I was cheering him on) As I inched the anchor to the surface of the water, there it was, a 15-foot log, jammed in the anchor. Now what? After some jerking the anchor and using a trip line I managed to get the anchor free and we were off. We were headed for the town of Little Current for a harbor to tie up as winds for 8/16 was suppose to be 40-50 KPH. (KPH is kilometers per hour, or Canadian for real fast) Little Current is on Manitoulin Island, which is the largest island in the world surrounded by fresh water. We make it into Spider Bay Marina and get tied up.

8/16/07
With winds gusting to 50KPH we are real happy to be in a commercial harbor. As for converting KPH to MPH, go out to your car and look at the speedometer. June and Marie decide to help out the local economy and go shopping. If you can believe it, they both return with nothing. With nothing to do but listen to the wind howl the 3 of us head off for a pub crawl. Visiting all TWO of them. For you beer lovers I discovered a new beer, Rickard’s Red on tap. And yes I bought some at the beer store, too.

8/17/07
Our supplier, Vic is on his way for a weekend visit and I hate to say it but he will be taking Marie home. The wind is really howling, now with gusts to 60KPH, take another look at the speedometer in your car, the waves are running 2-3 meters (6-9 feet), also Canadian for real big. Vic arrives about 5:00PM and we have a pot of chili (with BEANS) for dinner. Then it was off to the Anchor Bar for a beer. This time we had a pitcher of Alexander Keith Red, not as good as Rickards.

8/18/07
With the fresh water pump acting up again, leaking, a silicone sealant that takes 24 hours to cure was applied. It was time for the test. The pump is located in the engine room; well it’s not really a room, more like a shoebox with engine in it that a midget could struggle to get into. I had reinstalled the pump and was wedged in the engine shoebox, when I told Vic to turn on the pump. The pump came on and began to build pressure, so far so good, but not for long. After the pressure built up the water began to spray, all over me. Where can you run in a shoebox? I pulled the pump back out and Vic and I went on a mission to find parts. We found the only fresh water pump in Little Current for a boat and bought it. After installing the new pump it was time to head east to Heywood Island and anchor out for the night. With Little Current being so close to the mainland this is where the bridge for car traffic is located. When this bridge was built it was for trains only, as there were no roads to Little Current. Being narrow, traffic is limited to one way and is controlled with traffic lights. It is also a swing bridge, in other words to open this bridge and make room for us to get through; it swings 90 degrees. An operator opens the bridge every hour on the hour for 15 minutes for all boat traffic. We make the 12-mile sail to Heywood Island and anchor for the night. After dinner it was a euchre game with Vic and June challenging Marie and me. Lets just say Marie and I didn’t win.

8/19/07
With the alarm waking us up to a beautiful sunrise we head back to Little Current so Marie and Vic can get and early start on their drive back to Ludington. We cleared the swing bridge at 8:00AM; tying back up at Spider Bay we did a little laundry and got a shower. With Marie and Vic on their way June and I headed for Croker Island, the natural harbor on the island will protect us from more wind that is predicted. Safely secured in Croker we settle in for the night.

8/20/07
J&J took a dinghy tour of the harbor area, speaking with a few of the other boaters, who informed us that there was a bear on the island and to watch for him. Noticing an old restored tugboat, named Bonnyville we had to have a closer look. Folks aboard were very friendly, even offering a beer, but not a tour of the tug. We continued our harbor tour. Deciding we needed to climb the highest point on the island and look for a lunch spot. Pulling our dinghy ashore we zig zaged up the rock hill. Once on top we had a beautiful view of the surrounding islands. This whole area is for the most part, smooth pink granite (Reminds us of Enchanted Rock in Texas, but this goes on for miles and miles) Wherever there is a crack in the rock, plant life takes hold, including trees. Some recent high winds (stronger than the 60kph ones, we were told of 100MPH winds) came through and pushed over some trees. We could see the soil in the roots, only 4-6 inches thick, still in the roots, and a very clean rock surface where the tree once stood. Taking advantage of the high point we were also able to make a couple of calls on our phone too. That afternoon a rental boat, from Canadian Yacht Charters, motored in and tried to drop anchor between us and another boat. Not only was there not enough room, as these boats swing around on the hook, he couldn’t get his anchor to hold. Once he was anchored he drifted into us and we had to fend him off. He asked me what he should do. I suggested that he go to the other end of the harbor. Well, he didn’t like that and decided to move out and try to anchor again. Another trial and error attempt at anchoring. Once he got the anchor to hold the next boat over was suggesting that he move, too. Some people just don’t get the hint. The next thing I heard was a woman in another boat suggesting that they at least tie up to shore so they don’t swing into people. I decided to take a bath and was sitting on the dinghy, which was tied off the back of the boat, when up comes this same guy, rowing his dinghy. (The thing had a motor on it and he didn’t know how to operate it!!!) Now he is asking my advise on how to tie to shore? No I didn’t tell him to drill a hole in his boat to tie the line to. I suggested that he tie the bow to shore, using a tree, and run the anchor off the stern. Damn, he followed my advice and got out of the way. Later that afternoon we got a visit from Butch and Loucine (who were anchored on the other side of us) from Canada to join them on their boat for cocktails after dinner. Which we did, guess what one of the topics of discussion was?

8/21/07
Seems that a sandwich made of Mexican salami didn’t like me much. Lots of resting and running to the head.

8/22/07
Time for some new scenery so we pull anchor and head south to the town of Kagawong for some supplies, a few groceries, a little beer and some Scotch. We find our way into Mudge Bay, passing Gooseberry Island, and call the Harbor Master in Kagawong to see if they have room for us. Seems that they are a little busy and have to put us on the wall, outside of the harbor, at the gas dock. But that is OK, as winds are calm. Once on the dock and all tied up. I started visiting with the friendly people and everyone wants to know where everyone is from. A very nice lady says that she is from Bay City. I ask what marina and she says Bay City Yacht Club. I ask if she knows Barb and Chuck DeGolia, and she says, of course, and was even at Chuck’s 80th birthday party, as were June and I. Their names are Charley and Sue Curtiss. (Barb is my mother’s other sister. Chuck and Barb have a sailboat in Bay City Yacht Club, too.) I know, it’s a small world. Sue gave us a ride to the little store and hauled our supplies back for us. One of the reasons that we came to Kagawong was the Bridal Falls. Once our goodies were on board we were off to see the falls. Not much to them as the water was low, but still nice to see. Later that night we had Charley and Sue over for cocktails.

8/23/07
Charley and I have this plan to go to South Benjamin Island, but the fog is thick, so we wait and watch. The fog lifts and about 1:30PM. We head out following Charley and Sue in their sailboat, Heritage. We make our anchorage and have a little dinner. What a beautiful island, smooth pink granite rock slopping up. Then it is time for cocktails on Heritage. I bring a bottle of Canadian Scotch (Grant’s) and discover that Charley loves Scotch, too.

8/24/07
We ventured over to Heritage for a blueberry pancake breakfast, with syrup made by Charley’s brother. It was all very good! You have to watch Charley and Sue. Their sailboat is 37 feet long. They each have a kayak, stored on the foredeck, plus the dinghy. Now how many people do you know that have a fleet of boats? After breakfast we decide to take a tour around South Benjamin Island. Charley and Sue in their kayaks and us in our dinghy. We wind our way through a narrow channel, that divides North Benjamin Island from South Benjamin, and out into the open water, following the shore. Winding our way around the rocks and into another narrow channel in the rock we find 3 boats in an opening in the rocks and stop to visit a friend of Charley and Sue’s, Ann. Ann is a retired school principal and man’s (Or Woman’s) her 17-foot sailboat (Raggety Annie) by herself, wandering all around the North Channel. Another plan is made, Charley, Ann, and I are going exploring. We took Charley’s dinghy over to Hook Island to look for fossils that are reported to be there. Not many fossils were found but we had a great time. Returning, we took Ann back to her boat and decided it was time for happy hour. Dinner hour approached and for a change of pace we loaded all our stuff in our dinghies, including a grill and headed for shore to cook dinner. Finding a large flat area of rock we cooked steaks, potatoes, zucchini, and peach crisp, on the grill. (Hungry?)

8/25/07
6:30AM, rain.
10:30AM, rain..
12:00PM, rain….
3:30PM, light rain……
Have to do something, so Charley and Sue venture over for happy hour and a game of dice. More rain, so we just cooked burgers on the stove.

8/26/07
Charley and Sue head back to Kagawong for a final dinner with their dock mates before they head back to Bay City. June and I hiked the island finding another good place for lunch with a view. Lots of great pictures or so we thought, the camera setting was on black and white what a poor reflection of reality. We couldn’t resist taking another dinghy ride around the island. Not having a shower it was time for June to get cleaned up. We loaded up her stuff in the dinghy and found a place in the rocks for a wash up. I helped with the rinse cycle by pouring water over her head with a bucket. Hmm, first time I poured water on her and she liked it! I take my bath by jumping off the back of the boat, climbing out lathering up and jumping back in, much easier and faster.