Grand Traverse Bay and Northport 

Charlevoix to Traverse City and Northport

Charlevoix to Traverse City and Northport

Grand Traverse Bay is a 30-mile inlet on the north-west coast of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, enclosed on the west side by the Leelanau Peninsula, and containing several other small bays.

We had taken the opportunity offered by a short spell of fine weather to travel from Charlevoix to Northport, on the west side of Grand Traverse Bay, where we had arranged for Carina’s noise problem to be further investigated at Northport Boatyard, while we headed to Virginia for 10 days to visit the family.

IMG_0069Charlevoix Bridge

Charlevoix Bridge

IMG_0071Leaving Charlevoix

Leaving Charlevoix

We had a few days in hand, so after anchoring at Northport overnight, cruised up the bay to Traverse City.

IMG_0078Morning sun at Northport

Morning Sun at Northport

IMG_0080on the way to Traverse City

svManitou near Traverse City

Traverse City was bustling. On the park behind the marina, people were busy clearing up after the Pride Festival and the main street was full of shoppers at its upmarket shops. Unlike Britain, America’s towns don’t seem to have been taken over by ubiquitous chains and every high street has its own specialties to offer. We ventured into Cherry Republic, a large emporium devoted to everything that could be possibly made from cherries, which grow in abundance in this part of Michigan. There was a bar where you could taste the various cherry wines and we now have a bottle of  Cherry Republic Balaton in the cupboard, waiting for a suitable occasion to be consumed.

We had two nights in Traverse City, but didn’t really use our time well. We could have gone to a historic house, or the Botanic Gardens, or Jenny’s restaurant where Michigan’s version of Cornish pasties are sold. Michigan was one of the places where Cornish miners immigrated when tin mining ended in Cornwall, and they brought their recipes with them.

But we decided instead to go for a bike ride, following the TART trail eastward out of the town. Unfortunately, once again we misinterpreted the word ‘trail’ and failed to read the small print in the information , which was that the TART Trail is a ‘paved urban transportation and recreation corridor’ and not, as we had fondly imagined, a route through leafy glades into unspoiled countryside. Traverse City, like any large town, has its less scenic parts and after passing through some pleasant suburbs, we found ourselves sandwiched between a four-lane highway and a railroad. Then we passed through industrial estates and an empire of car dealerships and auto repair shops. There wasn’t a coffee shop in sight.
Eventually we reached the shore and got some lunch at RedMesa, so the mood improved. We decided to head back towards the city and take the Boardman Lake trail instead, at which point a suggestion was made  that we could cut a corner by taking the airport road instead of following the TART trail back to where it joined the Boardman Lake trail.  Unfortunately the cycle track along the highway petered out after a few hundred yards and we ended up pushing the bikes a couple of miles along a dusty, busy road before finally reaching Boardman Lake.

Peace at last – Boardman Lake

The next day was brilliantly sunny and before we left I was allowed out to take some pictures.

Warehouse quarter, Traverse City

Carina in the slips at Traverse City

Boats at Traverse City Marina

Preparing for the Cherry Festival

West Bay Traverse City

Ducklings by the water

West Bay Traverse City

 

As we left, I earned some crew’s points. I had put the lines away tidily, and turned my attention to the fenders, only to notice that one of the big ball fenders had detached itself from its rope and was floating away some yards behind us. Ian turned Carina around and I then retrieved the ball fender with the boat hook at the first attempt. For someone of my general boating ability, this was impressive.

This part of Lake Michigan is very shallow near the sandy shoreline, then drops suddenly in depth. This produces a sharp contrast between the pale turquoise water of the shallows and the dark azure of the deeper waters.

Grand Traverse Bay near Suttons Bay

We had an overnight mooring near Suttons Bay, and took the dinghy to the shopping dock at the marina there, to have a look round the shops and satisfy Ian’s curiosity as to whether the local Moomer’s ice-cream lived up to its reputation (it did).

Main Street, Suttons Bay

Where to buy garden stuff in Suttons Bay

The beach at Suttons Bay

From the mooring at Suttons Bay

Suttons Bay had a lovely shop called Enerdyne which sold educational and scientific toys for children, and camera stuff for grown-ups, so I took the opportunity to get a tripod for use on the boat. It’s vastly superior to the one I have at home so I’m hoping to have enough baggage allowance to do a swap.

We had a contact in Northport. We had met Jim’s daughter Jessie in Newcastle, and anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to cross the Atlantic via the northern route in a 32′ sailboat, getting up close and personal with whales and icebergs, might like to look at  Jessie’s blog which contains amazing writing and photographs.

We had a great time in Northport. After we docked at the marina, Ian rang Jim and he said he would come to the boat in 10 minutes to say hello and discuss where we would go for dinner. Dismissing my plan for the afternoon to do my laundry in the marina, he took us to his house to use Jessie’s washing machine, look at his projects in his workshop, and then we had a guided tour of the Leelanau peninsula, including a house perched precariously on top of the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan, and a drive round an exclusive gated community, where our bona fides were checked by a neatly dressed, severe-looking older lady with coiffured hair who emerged from her sentry box and clearly entertained some doubts about Jim and his fellow-travellers. In the evening, we met Jim’s girlfriend Laura, his brother John and sister-in-law Kim who very generously took us out for a very good meal at the Bluebird Restaurant in Leland.

Mill St Northport

In America, junk shops are called consignment stores, or, if they’re a little more upscale, consignment boutiques. Less euphemistically, Northport tells it like it is.

Consignment store, Northport

 

Waukazoo St, Northport

Carina at Northport Marina

The next day we took the boat half a mile across Northport Bay from the marina to the Boatyard, where we hoped to have Carina’s knocking noise definitively diagnosed. Carina was lifted out of the water at this point and supported in a cradle and for the next 3 nights, before we left for Virginia, getting on and off the boat involved a precarious ascent or descent of a 15′ ladder.

In the evening, we cycled back up to Northport village for the first of their summer concerts in the park area behind the marina. The artistes on this occasion were Igor and the Red Elvises. Igor was a large man with a commanding presence and a guttural accent, and the music a fusion of rock with Eastern European rhythms and cadences. Their lyrics too reflected the group’s dual heritage – ‘she worked for KGB, I worked at Taco Bell………’

Igor and the Red Elvises

 

On the Saturday we travelled back to Traverse City for the first day of the National Cherry Festival. Laura had kindly offered to take us in her car, but we went on the bus which runs twice a day up and down the peninsula. Laura and Jim obviously thought this a manifestation of British oddness, but we do actually like using public transport and in any case didn’t want to trouble her.

There was a big fair on the waterfront, live music, a large area selling food, and an air display.

IMG_0008Fairground

Fairground

IMG_0012Flying elephants

The flying elephants

IMG_0021Fairground

Bungee

IMG_0027Cherry stall

The cherry stall 

IMG_0029Dining area

Dining area

IMG_0030Lunch stall

Sausage stall

There was a wide variety of food on offer, but Cherry Brats appealed the most.

IMG_0032Parachutes

Parachutes

IMG_0037Waiting for the air show

Waiting for the Air Show

IMG_0038Cool dude

Orange man

IMG_0040Nike

Nike man

The Air Show was delayed because of the low cloud, but eventually the sky cleared.

IMG_0045planes

Planes

In the evening we took Laura and Jim out for dinner, and to round off the evening we drove a few miles south to a beach where Jim had an Etchells yacht which he had been working on, and which required launching. This appeared to be a complicated, manly operation involving multiple reversings of Jim’s truck, to which the Etchells was attached, but fortunately there were several other people around who assisted, while Laura and I merely photographed the proceedings. Eventually the boat was safely on the  water and tied up on the dock.

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Preparing to launch the Etchells

IMG_0051Evening at Omena

Evening near Omena

The following evening John and Kim invited us to their lakeside cottage for a barbecue dinner with the  younger members of their family who had all gathered for the July 4 celebrations.

Jim, Laura, John and Kim – if you’ve read this far  – thank you so much for your generous hospitality and making us feel so welcome. Meeting you all has been the highlight of this trip.

The next morning Laura took us to Traverse City to pick up our rental car to start our journey through Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to see our family in Virginia.

IMG_0004Morning at Northport Boatyard

Early morning from Northport Boatyard

Northern Michigan – Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City and Charlevoix

One has to accept that occasionally, someone might misinterpret the weather forecast, and decide on a course of action that in retrospect, might have been better left for another day.

The hop from Mackinac Island to Mackinaw City only took 90 minutes, but it was deeply unpleasant. The wind whipped up 2 ft waves and combined with the wake from the numerous ferries, caused Carina to pitch and roll very uncomfortably. Logic and reason told me that having survived Lake Ontario, we would probably survive the Straits of Mackinac too, but it was not much comfort and the Captain knew that he was seriously out of favour.

We did some grocery shopping and then, as an indication of true penitence, he suggested that I might like him to accompany me round the shopping mall, which contained the sort of shops that he normally regards with disdain.

In the evening, after a cold grey day, the sun came out and shone on the boats in the marina.

IMG_0001Evening sun on the boats, Mackinaw City

Evening sun on the boats at Mackinaw City

IMG_0003Evening sun on the boats, Mackinaw City

Evening sun on the boats at Mackinaw City

Several people had recommended Charlevoix, 40 miles away, and as the next day was much calmer we decided to press on.

Mackinac Island to Charlevoix

Mackinac Island to Charlevoix

The Mackinac Bridge , just outside Mackinaw City, links the Upper and Lower peninsulas of the State of Michigan, and is known locally as Big Mac. Built in 1957, the bridge is 5 miles long and separates Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

IMG_0011Mackinaw Bridge

Approaching Big Mac

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Mackinac Bridge

IMG_0014Mackinaw Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

The marina at Charlevoix, and the downtown, actually face Round Lake and to get there you have to pass from Lake Michigan through a narrow channel and a bascule bridge which opens every half-hour.

The community at Charlevoix have gone to a lot of trouble to make the downtown  and the area surrounding the marina very attractive, with landscaped parkland separating the marina and the main street.

IMG_0028Charlevoix City Marina

Charlevoix City Marina

The good weather didn’t last and we woke at 5am to a bright flash and a resounding clap of thunder, followed by torrential rain. In those circumstances, all you can do is get up and make a cup of tea. The rain continued for most of the day, so it was a good day to get the laundry done and catch up with other jobs.

Although we’ve had some beautiful days, overall the weather hasn’t been good this trip. Shorts and sleeveless tops haven’t yet ventured out of the wardrobe, and other things like thermal leggings and fleeces, brought along ‘just in case’ have been in almost constant use. The prize for this year’s Most Useful Garment goes to my Uniqlo Heattech trousers which are comfortable, warm, and cost less than £20.

The next day it was still cloudy, but there was a Farmers’ Market on the waterfront, and the stallholders who sold me things were kind enough to let me practise photography on them.

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Mike’s Mustard

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Michigan strawberries

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Vegetable stall

Charlevoix was lively and lit up at night.


On Saturday afternoon, the winds dropped enough for us to move on, but before that we walked through the town to the beach on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Charlevoix Beach

Charlevoix South Pier Light Tower

Charlevoix Beach

 

Northern Michigan: Drummond Island to Mackinac Island

Ian had become increasingly concerned that whenever we went above 5 knots, Carina would make an unwelcome knocking noise. He sought advice on the various online fora that he frequents and the consensus of advice was that there could be a serious problem with the propeller shaft, and the only way to avert disaster was to get it looked at as soon as possible.

The staff at the boatyard at Drummond Island Yacht Haven were clearly very busy getting boats ready for the start of the season, but they kindly made time for us, and after an investigative trip round the bay, they advised lifting Carina out of the water so that a proper diagnosis could be made.  To our relief, there were no serious deficiencies in the prop shaft and the probable cause of the noise a worn cutlass bearing, which could safely be left until we leave Carina for 2 weeks to go to Virginia.

For any fellow  pedants who may be wondering,  there is controversy about the spelling of  ‘propeller’, explained nicely here.

We had to wait for the weather to settle. Unfortunately we woke to dense fog on the day we planned to leave Drummond Island, and had to wait for it to lift.

D Island to Mackinac

Drummond Island to Mackinac Island

IMG_0258Leaving Drummond Island

Leaving Drummond Island

The sky  gradually brightened, but a layer of mist remained. This was a concern, because the Detour Channel forms part of the main shipping route between Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. We could hear the foghorns of the big ships without being able to see them, but eventually it cleared enough for us to proceed safely.

IMG_0268Big beast

SS James R. Barker near Detour Passage

We saw  SS James R. Barker several times going back and forth through the lake.

IMG_0270Detour Reef Lighthouse

Detour Reef Lighthouse in the haze

 

We decided to anchor out on the way to Mackinac Island and encountered another difficulty. My patience is sometimes tested when we are looking for somewhere to park the car, and we have to try out several spaces before a suitable one is found. A similar scenario occasionally manifests itself when we are trying to anchor. Apparently, we have the wrong sort of anchor for weedy bottoms, and  on this occasion had five attempts in different locations before the Captain was satisfied that we wouldn’t drift off in the middle of the night. Nice scenery, though.

IMG_0278Cedarville

Cedarville

IMG_0281Dollar Island

Dollar Island

IMG_0283Les Cheneaux Islands

Les Cheneaux Islands

IMG_0291Sunset at Hessell

Sunset at Hessell

We crossed to Mackinac Island the next day.  Steeped in history, it has a fort which overlooks the harbour area, and which was built by the British during the Revolutionary War. The  island is both a State Park and a National Historic Landmark.

In 1898 the town took the decision to ban the newly-emergent automobile. The only forms of transport around the island are horse-drawn coaches and bicycles. There’s a small airstrip, but most visitors arrive by boat, either their own, or one of the many ferries that ply the waters between Mackinac and Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. The main street was always busy with people and horses, and if most of the shops, apart from the impressive Doud’s Grocery Store, seemed to sell mainly t-shirts with Mackinac Island emblazoned on them, or several varieties of fudge, it still wasn’t difficult to imagine that the streets and the atmosphere wouldn’t have been very different 100 years ago.

IMG_0321Bicycle Street nd Fort Mackinac

Bicycle St with Fort Mackinac in the background

There hadn’t been much opportunity for gastronomic treats so far, but now we could restore the balance. The Grand Hotel, built in 1887 from Michigan white pine,  claims that its colonial porch is the longest in the world.  Its after-6pm dress code (jacket and tie for men, no ‘slacks’ for women) precluded going there for dinner, but they are more relaxed about their buffet lunch, served every day in the Grand Dining Room.

So we put on our Sunday best and walked the half-mile up the hill for lunch.

IMG_0293Trash collection, Mackinac Island

Trash collection, Mackinac Island

IMG_0294Marquette Park

Marquette Park, Mackinac Island

IMG_0295From Spring St

View from Spring St

 

The ticket price included a self-guided tour of the gardens and the hotel (including a small display of American paintings), and lemonade, iced tea and coffee. Alcohol was extra, but we were intoxicated with the grandeur of the surroundings and didn’t need any.  Besides,  we were in America, where it’s quite the thing to have iced tea with your lunch.

IMG_0300Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

IMG_0301Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

IMG_0302Grand Hotel

Gardens, Grand Hotel

IMG_0315gardens and croquet lawn

Gardens and Croquet Lawn

IMG_0304grand hotel

Grand Hotel

IMG_0308grand hotel from the garden

The Grand Hotel from the garden

DSCN1424

Ian had phoned to book a table, and was informed that the dining room seated 700 people, so they didn’t take reservations. When we got there the room looked full, but we were seated at a window table overlooking the gardens and the lake. Our server, Michael, told us he was from Jamaica, but had lived in London for several years. He gave us a short discourse on Alan Shearer and other scions of English football. And the food was excellent.

IMG_0311view from our table

View from our table

IMG_0314the Parlor, Grand Hotel

The Parlor, the Grand Hotel

Some views as we walked back after lunch.

IMG_0317grand hotel and wildflower bank

Grand Hotel and wildflower bank

IMG_0316guests arriving by horse and carriage

Guests arriving by carriage

IMG_0318transporting the hay

Transporting the hay

IMG_0319dual allegiance

Dual Allegiance

IMG_0320a secret garden

A secret garden

On the way back to the marina we caught the last half-hour of a charity concert being given by the Scottville Clown Community Band in Marquette Park, just below the fort and overlooking the harbour. Their repertoire included the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Basin St Blues and The Stripper, during which two of the band cavorted suggestively amongst the audience, but didn’t actually remove any of their attire.

IMG_0322Scottville clown Band

Scottville Clown Community Band

IMG_0325Scottville Clown Community Band

Scottville Clown Community Band

IMG_0326Burlesque

Burlesque

IMG_0328Basin St Blues

Basin St Blues

Since its formation in 1903, the band has raised over $300K to provide music scholarships for young people.

The main highway on Mackinac Island is 8 miles long and follows the shore all round the island. Half-way round, there is a small beach called British Landing. Our neighbour in the marina, Dean, was a very experienced boater , having crossed the Atlantic twice, and was a mine of information on both boating and American History. He told us that after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Americans had taken control of Fort Mackinac. But during the 1812-14 War, the British, Canadians and Native Americans had combined forces and devised a cunning plan to invade Mackinac Island by landing on the opposite side of the island to the fort, stealing up over the hill, and ambushing the Americans from behind.

As we cycled round the island, there were numerous information boards about the geology, wildlife and history, and we couldn’t help noticing that Dean’s version had been slightly reframed, to the effect that the Americans hadn’t been told the war had started, so just gave in gracefully to the invading forces to avoid bloodshed on both sides.

IMG_0005British Landing

British Landing

There was a small cafe at British Landing, so we stopped for morning coffee, but passed on their speciality of deep-fried pickles, which sounded only slightly less unappetising than deep-fried Mars bars.

After we left British Landing, the sky gradually cleared and Lake Huron became a deep sapphire blue.

IMG_0007pebbly beach

Lake Huron shoreline

IMG_0010phlox

phlox

IMG_0011flowers on the beach

flowers on the beach

IMG_0016Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0017Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0018pebbles under water

pebbles under water

IMG_0021Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0022Herb Robert

Herb Robert

IMG_0023Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0025Lake Huron

Lake Huron

IMG_0026Anenome

Anenome

IMG_0028Breccia Limestone arch

Breccia Limestone arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North Channel: into the wilderness: Killarney to Drummond Island

From Killarney the small craft route goes west through the North Channel, between the Manitoulin Islands and the mainland, through a wild, rocky, isolated  area with islands dotted in the water, and with only a very few small settlements. It offers a relatively protected passage along the northern shore of Lake Huron, between the Manitoulin Islands and the mainland.

It took us 8 nights to travel the North Channel, staying sometimes in marinas, and sometimes anchored out, depending on the weather and our need for provisions, before we landed back in the USA at Drummond Island. It is still the ‘off’ season, and we’ve seen very few other boats, either on the water or in the marinas.

UntitledKillarney to Drummond Island

Killarney to Drummond Island

After Killarney the land forms long,  finger-like projections into Lake Huron, and we travelled up one of these ‘fjords’ to Baie Fine for our next mooring.

IMG_0115 (3)Georgian Bay from Killarney

Georgian Bay from Killarney

IMG_0118La Cloche from Lansdowne Channel

La Cloche from Lansdowne Channel

IMG_0119Entrance to Baie Fine

Entrance to Baie Fine

We got there early enough to take the dinghy out and explore the narrow channel leading up to the Pool, an area of calm water enclosed by trees and white granite rocks. From there, a marked trail leads up the hill through the woods and over the ridge to Topaz Lake, reputed for its beauty.

IMG_0128The Pool

The Pool, Baie Fine

IMG_0129The Pool

The Pool, Baie Fine

IMG_0132The Pool

Ian in the dinghy at the Pool, Baie Fine

The trail wasn’t so difficult as the Chikanishing Trail had been, but it was still quite arduous and took rather longer than the guide had suggested. We got to the top of the ridge and decided that as it wasn’t warm enough to swim, we would content ourselves with just climbing to the top of the ridge and taking the view. Even so, it was 7o’clock before we got back to the boat.

IMG_0138Topaz Lake

Overlooking Topaz Lake

IMG_0139The Pool

The Pool

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Carina at Baie Fine

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Evening at Baie Fine

The next day was clear, bright, and calm. We travelled to Little Current to stock up at Valu-Mart, which turned out to be a rather nicer supermarket than it had sounded to the British ears of a habitual Waitrose shopper, with an ample selection of fresh, good quality meat and produce.

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Early morning at Baie Fine

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Early morning at Baie Fine

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Strawberry Island Lighthouse

Strawberry Island Lighthouse, near Little Current, is said to be the finest of the Georgian Bay lighthouses.

Our next stop was an anchorage at Croker Island, and then on to the small town of Spanish.

IMG_0164Evenin at Croker Island

Evening at Croker Island

IMG_0174Evening at Croker Island

Evening at Croker Island

In most parts of the route, the channel is marked by red and green markers, but sometimes there are markers on the shore which you have to line up to ensure that you don’t stray into dangerous areas. This one was at Detroit Channel.

IMG_0181Entrance to Detroit Channel

Entrance to Detroit Channel

A boat, even one as spacious and comfortable as Carina, isn’t really the place to be when you’ve strained your back. Ordinary tasks like putting clean clothes away or getting the breakfast cereals out, or putting things into the microwave, or re-organising the fridge because you’ve just bought several days’ supply of food and there isn’t room for it all, involve much more stooping and bending  than they do at home. And don’t get me started on the gymnastic feat that is putting clean sheets on a double bed when one side of it is permanently attached to the wall.

I’d done quite a lot of deep cleaning on the boat during our first week at Britt, and by the end of the week couldn’t stand up straight or walk properly. Going on the Chikanishing Trail and walking up to Topaz Lake probably wasn’t the cleverest idea, either.  A week later I wasn’t any better, had consumed Carina’s entire supplies of ibuprofen and had started on the paracetamol. I resorted to emailing Jane, our lovely Pilates teacher and physiotherapist, and her almost instant helpful advice (to do lots of back extensions) was very effective and within a couple of days I was back to normal.

But it did rather cramp our style in Spanish. Ian cycled off alone to replenish our food stocks at the supermarket. Rather than eat out, we decided to avail ourselves of the services of the local pizza restaurant, Pizza 17, which claimed never to use frozen dough and would deliver to the door of your boat. It was an unaccustomed luxury to sit drinking beer, waiting for dinner to arrive, but after about an hour we were beginning to wonder where dinner actually was. Ian rang the lady at PIzza 17 and politely enquired. We were glad he had been polite, because it turned out that they thought that the first pizza they had made for us had been overcooked, and they had made another one. And it was excellent.

Sunday began as another brilliant day, and we made an early start, to get to Blind River before the forecast strong winds and thunderstorms materialised.

IMG_0186Leaving Spanish, approaching Norquay Island

Leaving Spanish, approaching Norquay Island

IMG_0199Looking back towards Spanish

Looking back towards Spanish

IMG_0203Near Daly Islands

Near Daly Islands

IMG_0210Whalesback Island

Whalesback Island

It was still bright sunshine when we got there at 4pm, but by 5pm the sky was black and we had every single fender out, and every line secured, to protect Carina against the storm.

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Storm at Blind River

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Storm at Blind River

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Storm at Blind River

Blind River was our last stop in Canada, but before we crossed into US waters we finally saw a pair of loons, sitting in the water a few yards ahead of us.

IMG_0234Leaving Blind River

Leaving Blind River

IMG_0241En route to Harbor Island

En route to Harbor Island

Oddly, it wasn’t until we were almost there that it occurred to me that the US Customs and Immigration officers might be interested in the contents of our fridge. I had once tried to import some bacon for Ted, top-quality, vacuum-packed, Richard Woodall Waberthwaite bacon, and it had been seized and tossed unceremoniously into a bin with other proscribed articles. I wondered whether Canadian bacon would attract the same censure.

But we had a night at anchor at Harbor Island, a small horseshoe-shaped island containing a lovely natural harbour, before we had to face them. It was at last warm enough to shed a layer of clothing and roll our trousers up, though that didn’t last.

IMG_0247Afternoon tea at Harbor Island

Afternoon tea at Harbor Island

IMG_0253Harbor Island

Harbor Island

IMG_0254Harbor Island, looking towards Drummond Island

Harbor Island, looking towards Drummond Island

We arrived at Drummond Island Yacht Haven in the late morning, and Mackenzie, the dockhand, told us that as it was still the low season, the Customs and Immigration Officers were not actually in situ, but ensconced some distance away in Sault Ste-Marie. She very kindly rang them up for us, and returned with the news that they wanted photographs of our passports and visas, which she would supply with her smartphone. They then rang back and spoke to Ian, to say that we would have to go to Sault Ste Marie to be dealt with. Ian very politely pointed out that Carina only does 6 knots and it would take us a whole day to get there, so they said they would come to us, by car and ferry.

We had about an hour to eat anything incriminating, and decided on steak and salad for lunch.

The two officers were very nice. We were allowed to keep the bacon, and the Canadian Merlot. There was some puzzlement about the numerous stamps in our passports, especially when Ian seemed unable to remember for some minutes that we had visited Virginia last January.

Then they spied the fruit bowl. The oranges, lemon and limes had to go, but we could keep the apples and bananas. I opened the fridge.

‘Is that a tomato?’ Indeed it was, and the tomatoes, a green pepper, lettuce, and anything from the onion family which sprouted leaves went too.

After they had gone, we borrowed the marina’s ancient jeep and went to the grocery store to make good our supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgian Bay: Britt to Killarney, and hiking the Canada way

The Captain’s keenness to get going with the next part of the trip was counterbalanced by a reluctance to repeat the Lake Ontario Experience, and risk further mutiny from the crew. The route to Killarney included a 15 mile stretch of open water, so he thought it wise to wait for the perfect day to leave Britt.

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Evening at Britt

We were sad in a way to leave. Graham and the staff at Wright’s Marina had looked after Carina for us over the winter, kept us well-informed and been very helpful with all the things we needed to do when we came back.

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Ian and Pauline

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Ian and Graham hoisting the dinghy

But Saturday was that perfect day and we cruised from Britt down Byng Inlet and out into Georgian Bay  in the bright sunshine and sparkling water.

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Morning at Britt

IMG_0013Georgian Bay ahead

Georgian Bay ahead at the mouth of Byng Inlet

We followed the small craft route, hugging the coastline and following the clearly marked channel between the many small islands.

Britt to Killarney

Britt to Killarney

IMG_0024near Golden Sword Island

near Golden Sword Island

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Flying the flag of the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association near Golden Sword Island

IMG_0054Near vFrench River Provincial Park

Near French River Provincial Park

IMG_0058approaching Obstacle Island

Approaching the channel leading to Obstacle Island

The season hasn’t really started here. We saw only two other boats on the water all day, and had to wait while one of them exited this narrow channel before we could go on.

We anchored for the night in Mill Bay, 15 miles east of Killarney, and had the anchorage to ourselves except for a beaver who obligingly came out at dusk and entertained us by gliding around and occasionally diving down, resurfacing with something tasty for his supper. Too far away for any photos, but this is his lodge.

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Beaver’s lodge near our mooring

It was hard to believe that Sunday would bring relentless rain, as forecast, but it did. So we stayed put and delayed our departure till Monday morning.

We passed along the narrow gorge of Collins Inlet, between the mainland and Phillip Edward Island, and then another stretch of open water before reaching Killarney.

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Collins Inlet

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Killarney East Lighthouse

Until the mid-50s, the small town of Killarney was a centre for the lumber trade as well as a fishing village, and the surrounding area would been de-forested and have looked very different. Now, it’s a very popular venue for boaters, and the Killarney Provincial Park attracts hikers and campers. Until 1962 there was no road access, but it now has a road link with Sudbury.

We moored at the Sportsmans Inn Marina and had a warm welcome from Ryan and Dee, the dockhands. The next day Debbie, the receptionist, not only kindly gave us a lift to the start of the Chikanishing Trail, but insisted on lending us bug-hats, without which we would have been prey to the many biting insects. She also made sure we knew what to do, should we arouse a bear’s curiosity.

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Crocodile Dundee in his bug-hat at the start of the Chikanishing Trail

By this time we had realised that hiking in Canada is not quite like hiking in Britain. ‘Trail’ does not mean ‘path’. It simply means a straight line joining a series of waymarks, some of which are attached to trees and some painted onto slabs of rock.

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Trail marker on the pink granite. We decided to comply with the Park advice to tuck your trousers into your socks, to minimise the ingress of biting insects

The straight line might just mean traversing a slab of rock, or it might involve picking your way up a rock face, or sliding down one. The Chikanishing Trail was 3.6 km long, and the information board suggested it might take 2 hours or more to complete. It took us nearly 3, owing only in part to frequent photography stops. It was quite a challenge for someone in their 7th, or even 8th, decade.

But it was worth it, with stunning views out over Georgian Bay and towards the hills behind us.

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

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Killarney Provincial Park

We didn’t see any bears, but we did see some lovely wildflowers, including the rare Showy Lady’s Slipper orchid.

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Showy Lady’s Slipper

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Clintonia Borealis

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Starflower, Lysimachia borealis

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Bunchberry, cornus canadensis

We had no map. Debbie had assured us that the way was so well-marked that we couldn’t possibly get lost, or need one. But I realised after some time that the value of a map is not simply that it helps to identify where you are, but perhaps more importantly, gives an indication of how much further you have to go. We had been scrambling over the rocks, apparently getting further and further away from the starting point, for what seemed a worrying length of time, before the trail suddenly took a sharp left and led us for the last half-mile along a wooded path through the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood, Sweat and Tears

 

Tears may be an exaggeration, but the preparations for going away for 3 months at a time don’t seem to get any easier.

Practice should make one a bit better at it, and in some ways it does. By Tuesday night I had everything packed, and all essential tasks ticked off, ready for a Thursday morning departure from Newcastle. This was unprecedented, and my inner auto-pilot was out of range.

A nagging doubt was that I might have forgotten to put some essential task on the list in the first place. There are more jobs in the ‘must-be-done’ category when you’re away for 3 months than for a short break.  Coming home after a week to find old bread still in the pancheon is  mildly unpleasant, but after 3 months there would be significant growth of live organisms. Plants which can be safely left for a week or fortnight have to be regrouped, told to behave themselves and instructions given to one’s friends who very kindly  look after them in your absence.

With a whole day to go, jobs that were desirable, but non-essential, suddenly became imperative. The main one of these was making the second of two new cushions for Carina. But Summer had briefly appeared in north-east England, so the choice between suddenly-urgent gardening (outdoors, in the balmy sunshine) and sewing (indoors) was easy. The cushion could wait till after tea.

But an important boy-job which had been left undone for a while, that of making a bonfire of a large quantity of garden prunings which had accumulated over many months, had been abandoned by Ian, in favour of Wednesday evening sailing at Tynemouth. In short, cushion-making commenced at 10.30pm, after I had done the Girl Guide thing with the bonfire and made dinner.

On the penultimate seam, I contrived to sew through my left thumb, a contributory factor being the use of a zipper foot on my machine. In my rush to the bathroom to staunch the flow of blood, my foot caught in the flex and my 40-year-old Pfaff Tipmatic crashed dramatically to the floor, the removable parts detaching themselves, scattering spools, needles, sewing feet, bobbins and so on all over the carpet. Hearing my cries, Ian pointed out that there were splats of blood not only on the cushion fabric, but on the nearby wallpaper too, but my distress was focussed on the possibility that my trusty machine, which had made most of the curtains in the house, might be irreparably damaged, and that I wouldn’t get Carina’s cushion finished.

Miraculously, Ian reassembled the sewing machine and it still ‘went’. He got the blood off the wallpaper and a combination of Vanish and cold water sorted out the cushion cover.

Before the taxi came the next morning, I had time to refresh my mind by a stroll  amidst the flowers in the  back garden.

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Geums and forget-me-nots

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Cornflowers, Welsh poppies and hardy geraniums

 

We missed the Great British Airways Computer Fiasco by a day, and arrived in Toronto uneventfully. But rain and cloudy, cold skies, made a sad contrast to Newcastle.

For the first time, we were going straight to the boat rather than sight-seeing first, and this sharpened our anticipation. This time, we’ll be continuing through Georgian Bay on Lake Huron,  through the North Channel and down Lake Michigan to Chicago.

Britt to Chicago

We stayed the night in Toronto, and the next day  drove 150 miles north-west to Britt, on Byng Inlet, where Carina had been looked after over the winter by Graham and the staff at Wright’s Marina. She was already on the water, but the harsh Canadian winter had been less than kind to her. Several of the plastic windows on the bridge had split and really needed replacing, and a water pipe had fractured which meant that when Ian tried to fill the water tank, the water went straight into the bilges.  There was the usual collection of dead insects (only small ones, thankfully) and the covers on the upholstery, which we had inherited from the previous owners and which are an impractical shade of light blue, looked decidedly grubby and shabby.

Help with the water pipe was fortunately at hand from Dave the mechanic, but having the floor up in both the galley and the cabin rather delayed the unpacking process.

I decided instead to tackle the upholstery. My previous attempts to remove the covers to wash them hadn’t been very successful. The foam inside was unyielding and difficult to remove, and the covers had no washing instructions inside.  I had limited cleaning to spraying with Scotchgard foam and rubbing hard at the soiled areas, which had little effectiveness.

Now though, I no longer cared whether or not the covers survived the hot wash and the tumble drier. We would just sit on uncovered foam, or better still,  get new covers made. But they came out almost pristine, and after some vigorous wrestling we managed to get them back in place. This had an unusually cheering effect.

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The new cushions and the freshly laundered upholstery

The pipe couldn’t be fixed until the next day, so it was just as well that we had booked into the St Amants Hotel at Britt for the first night.

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Late evening view of Byng Inlet from our hotel room

The next day we had to return the hire car to Parry Sound, the nearest town 45 miles away.  Karrie, Graham’s wife, very kindly  gave us a lift back to Britt. She regaled us with a modern-day, role-reversed Goldilocks story. The owners of one of the cottages just down the road from the marina had come home to find a bear had pulled apart the side of the house, found the padlocked freezer, pulled open the lid, and was helping itself to the contents. It was curbed only by the arrival of a Park Ranger with a tranquilising dart.

The weather forecast wasn’t good. Strong winds in the wrong direction meant that if we ventured out of the inlet onto Lake Huron the journey to our next stop, Killarney, would be less than pleasant, and possibly even hazardous. So we decided to stay at the marina until Saturday, which meant there was time to get the new panels made for the windows upstairs and do a few other jobs on the boat too.

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Carina at Wright’s Marina, Britt

The marina has cars available for boaters to borrow, so on Tuesday we took ourselves off to Sudbury, 50 miles north-west of Britt on the Trans-Canada Highway, to Science North, an interactive science museum just outside the downtown area. It was interesting, but what impressed me  most was the story of  How Sudbury reclaimed the environment from the barren wasteland it had become after decades of mining and smelting had made the soil for miles around so acidic that nothing would grow, and changed it to the green landscape you see today.

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The spiral staircase provides access to the different levels at Science North

You can actually walk around inside the butterfly house with exotic butterflies everywhere.

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Succulents in the butterfly house

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Kash the beaver

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cyber section

The weather continues to alternate between sunshine, wind and rain. Last night we were eating dinner on Carina, with storm clouds gathering. The setting sun suddenly came out and illuminated the inlet, and I dashed out with my camera.

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The setting sun lights up the storm clouds – looking east from our dock at Wright’s Marina

Georgian Bay – Midland to Byng Inlet, and a few days in Toronto

Over the last ten days of the trip we travelled north-west towards Byng Inlet, hugging the shore of Georgian Bay, sometimes  passing through narrow rocky channels between the islands, and sometimes through stretches of the open waters of Lake Huron. The country was becoming wilder and more remote with very few towns or marinas, and  the weather could change quickly, so we had to be careful about planning the route and finding sheltered places to anchor.

Midland to Byng Inlet

Midland to Byng Inlet

Indian Harbour

Indian Harbour

Our first night after leaving Midland was a mooring in Indian Harbour.

McDonnell Channel

McDonnell Channel

McDonnell Channel, showing the lighthouse and the channel markers.

 

Starvation Bay

Starvation Bay

At Sans Souci is the famous Henry’s Restaurant on Fryingpan Island, open since 1925 and catering to transient boats and to the occupants of the many small summer homes known as cottages, which line the islands. It seemed to be one of those things that you couldn’t miss, but the anticipation and the ambience was perhaps a little better than the food itself. There were a few miles of open water which we had to cross just as the wind strength and wave height increased, but it wasn’t enough to spoil our appetites. We were welcomed by marina staff who helped us tie up. Everyone else had come by plane.

 

Henry's. Sans Souci

Henry’s. Sans Souci

At Henry's , Sans Souci

At Henry’s, Sans Souci

Our destination that night was another anchorage, at Echo Bay. When we got there, several boats had already established themselves and another was turning round, presumably having decided there was no space available. The Captain decided to try North Echo Bay instead, less popular because it involved negotiating an extremely narrow channel, with a rocky platform just under the water at either side. My job was to supplement the depth sounder by standing on the foredeck and alerting the Captain if we seemed to be getting too near the rocks, quite a worrying task as the refraction of light through the water made the rocks appear even closer to us than they really were. But we were rewarded with a night in a beautiful natural harbour, with no other boats or cottages in sight.

Daybreak at Echo Bay

Daybreak at North Echo Bay

North Echo Bay

North Echo Bay

We continued on to Big Sound Marina at Parry Sound, where we stayed for a couple of nights waiting for the weather to settle enough for us to cross the next big stretch of open water. After two days, the sun shone and it was worth waiting for the perfect day to make the trip.

Parry Sound

Parry Sound

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour Lighthouse

Snug Harbour Lighthouse

Snug Harbour

Snug Harbour

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

Shebeshekong Channel

The weather changed again after we anchored that night near Eureka Point. The next day the thunderstorms materialized just after breakfast and we sat in the cabin watching brilliant flashes of lightning and hearing thunder and heavy rain crashing round us. On a nearby island was the famous Ojibway Club and we had fancied taking the dinghy there for lunch. The storm seemed to have passed, but by the time we had got organised and lowered the dinghy from the back of the boat, the wind had swung round and threatening clouds were clearly heading our way. We decided to have lunch on the boat and perhaps venture out for afternoon tea instead. As the rain once again poured down, we congratulated ourselves on a sensible decision. The sky had cleared a little by 3 o’clock, so we set off in the dinghy for Ojibway Island. The route involved locating a very narrow channel between the rocks, and our second attempt was successful.

Entrance to the channel

Entrance to the channel

We did eventually find the Ojibway Club though – built as the Ojibway Hotel in 1906,  it catered for American and Canadian city dwellers who wanted to sample the outdoor life of their pioneer antecedents. It was taken over as a co-operative by cottage and boat owners in the Pointe au Baril area, and has a restaurant and grocery store which are open to visitors, organised activities for children and social events too. There was a definite end-of-season feel about the place – it was due to shut for the winter the following weekend – but the young man in the restaurant managed to find us some English Breakfast teabags, after we had declined  the decaffeinated Orange Pekoe, and various  herbal offerings. We also had some Canadian Butter Tarts, which have been described rather unkindly, but accurately, by a fellow blogger  as little pecan pies without the pecans.

Sunset at Eureka Point

Sunset at Eureka Point

Near the mooring at Eureka Point

Near the mooring at Eureka Point

Ian had settled on Wright’s Marina at Byng Inlet as a suitable place for Carina to stay over the winter. The course between there  and our mooring at Eureka Point involved a short foray  into open water, and then a longer one of about 8 miles, just before Byng Inlet. With the weather becoming increasingly changeable, it was a case of going when the opportunity presented itself. We ended up doing the whole stretch in one go, and arriving at Wright’s with a few days in hand.

Ojibway Club

Ojibway Club

Pointe au Baril Lighthouse

Pointe au Baril Lighthouse

Pointe au Baril refers to the early days of trade and exploration, when a barrel was placed placed on a rock with a light burning on it, as a navigation point. A barrel is still visible behind the lighthouse.

Near Hangdog Reef

Near Hangdog Reef

Near Big Burnt Island

Near Big Burnt Island

Alexander Passage

Alexander Passage

Gereaux Island lighthouse at the entrace to Byng Inlet

Gereaux Island lighthouse at the entrance to Byng Inlet

Carina at Wright's Marina, Byng Inlet

Carina at Wright’s Marina, Byng Inlet

Georgian Bay is unlike anywhere I have ever been. Its 30,000 islands along the north shore seem to go on for ever, set in the deep blue lake studded with pink granite and pine trees. Beyond Byng Inlet, it becomes largely wilderness and even more beautiful. But that will be for next year.

We spent two days at the marina, doing all the laundry and packing the boat up. At one point we went out for a bike ride and an ice-cream and came back to find we had missed some excitement. A bear had ambled through the marina in our absence.

Public transport in this part of Ontario is intermittent. Our only way of getting to Toronto, or anywhere else, was by bus. The bus ran once a day. It passed the Byng Inlet road end at 6pm, and arrived at Toronto 4 hours later.

Graham, the marina manager, very kindly took us to the road end, where we had to wait in the sun on the hard shoulder of the busy 4 -lane highway for the bus to stop. The bus arrived 15 minutes early, so it was just as well that in our anxiety not to miss it, we had insisted on arriving at the pick up point at 5.30.

We had four nights in Toronto and included a trip to Niagara Falls before flying back to Boston and on to Heathrow. Not least among the things that impressed us about Toronto was Billy Bishop Airport, where even economy class passengers can use the free wifi, sit in comfortable armchairs in clean, spacious surroundings, and enjoy complimentary coffee and snacks.

 

Ismaili Centre, Toronto

Ismaili Centre, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

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Wall hanging by Aisha Khalid, Aga Khan Museum.

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum and Gardens

Aga Khan Museum and Gardens

Royal York Hotel, Front St

Royal York Hotel, Front St

The L-Tower from Front St East

The L-Tower from Front St East

Front St East

Front St East

Flatiron Building from Front St East

Flatiron Building from Front St East

The Distillery District

The Distillery District

Dominion Hotel

Dominion Hotel

Potluck Dispensary

Potluck Dispensary

Cannabis can be legally purchased in Ontario at registered dispensaries.

8 Elm Street, Toronto

8 Elm Street, Toronto

In downtown Toronto, there aren’t many old buildings left. This lovely building on Elm Street is scheduled to be replaced with an 80-storey tower.

We took the tram out to High Park on the west side of Toronto. The land was bequeathed in 1873 to the city for the use of its citizens by John Howard, who was an architect, engineer and land surveyor to the City of Toronto.

High Park

High Park

High Park

High Park

On our last day in Canada we hired a car and drove to Niagara Falls. It was crowded with people, but the souvenir shops and fast food outlets were well contained, the parkland bordering the ravine beautifully maintained, and nothing could take away the breathtaking splendour of the Falls.

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canadian Horseshoe Falls

Canna Lilies with the Falls in the background

Canna Lilies with the Falls in the background

The American Falls

The American Falls

 Floral Showhouse, Niagara Parks

Floral Showhouse, Niagara Parks

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse

Floral Showhouse