Sault Ste Marie (almost)

This is another beautiful area that I am just discovering. Anchored here for the night. Great anchorage for the expected northerlies overnight.

I got underway at first light this morning, and had beautiful weather all day. Enjoyed the trip through Whaleback Channel then along the coast to St Joseph Island. The trip up river was more interesting and varied than I was expecting. I’m glad to have this detour.

I traveled all day at about 7 knots.

Tomorrow I’ll visit the Canadian side. Haven’t been around here before. I may leave the mother ship here and dinghy there. There’s wind forecast for the next day or two so I’m not in a panic to get into Lake Michigan. Looks good for early next week. I’ll enter the US and get a cruising permit here as well.

Dawn this morning

In the North Channel

These were taken in the St Mary’s River

The water was about 100 feet deep right next to the cliffs. Pretty country, largely empty.


Had a good run today. I should keep daily logs, but don’t. Anyway, ran about 100 nm.

Not much to say except weather is great. Had some chop late and early, but nothing too uncomfortable. I ran at about 10.5 knots all day.

I poked into a couple of anchorages in the Benjamins, but it was a bit early to stop so I pressed on. Am anchored here:

I took these pics earlier

I’m a bit exposed to the north but the weather is benign. It’s dead quiet, no lights, no clouds. Am going to go upstairs and look at the sky when I’m done this.
Weather looks good through tomorrow evening so it should be an easy run to St Joseph’s Island and then up to the Sault.

A couple of more pics from earlier

Let’s Get Going!

Have I mentioned this before? I hate waves. I was thinking about how to put this. But that’s it in a nutshell. If I kept a detailed log that would allow me to identify the 100 worst hours of my life I’d bet that the majority of those hours would be on a boat in waves. Before my jaw resection a few years ago it would have been the vast majority.

Some people get squeamish when out of sight of land. Not me. It’s the threat of seasickness that I go to great lengths to avoid. And generally it’s all about waves.

I’m about to jump off on a largely open water stretch, from here to Chicago. I’m in Pointe au Baril now. Plan to stop in Sault Ste. Marie to clear into the US but other than that don’t have any required or even desired stops. My preference is to go down the west side on Lake Michigan. Haven’t spent any time boating in the northwest segment.

The boat is ready. Did some organizing and packing today and checked motor and systems. I got back to the boat yesterday but chose to stay put because of weather. A cold front is just going through and the weather looks benign for the next two days. So it’s off for some open lake cruising.

Tomorrow’s route will take me through Killarney en route to Little Current. I may duck into Collins Inlet – love that passage – but if it’s flat on the lake I’ll likely not. May even bypass Killarney. May get to Little Current, or close. It all depends on the waves.

Pointe au Baril

Leaving the boat here for a few days. Astute readers of my last post will recall that my car is at Bayfield Inlet. I have a bike aboard, and will ride the 15 km there to retrieve my car then off to southern Ontario for a couple of days.

Dockage rates vary a lot. I just paid $64 for four nights here, with the fifth free. Many private marinas charge more than that for one night. No water or power here, but a safe secure place to stay for a few days at low cost. Lucky I had a cheque book as they don’t take plastic and I’m low on Canadian cash having paid cash in Bayfield Inlet for last weekend’s dockage.

I actually ended up coming in here late last night. Wind came up last night about midnight and I felt a little insecure where I was anchored very close to the lee shore so I came in here and tied up in the wee hours. Slept better as a result.

Local travel

Mallory met me without incident on Wednesday afternoon. I drove to Britt and met her their, we left her car there and drove down to Bayfield Inlet. Left there early evening and anchored out for the evening close to the Lake. Locals guided us into a little cove that was cute but small, so set bow and stern anchors.

Yesterday we took the inland route as much as possible up to the Bad River Channel. The day started out cool, grey and blustery. We were wearing fleecies and windbreakers. By the time we got there mid afternoon it was sunny, and the evening was gorgeous and clear.

I had been in that beautiful anchorage before and saw boats tied up directly to the rock face. Found the spot, complete with anchor bolts to moor to. Very cool.

I was keen to explore the river channels and rapids in the dinghy but the water levels were very low. Guess it has been a dry summer. Next time…

This morning we had a nice trip back down to Britt where I dropped Mallory off. Like yesterday it was grey and windy in the morning, but again the afternoon and evening was clear and warm. I continued back south to Pointe au Baril. Am anchored now maybe 30m from shore in a nice spot, no cottages around.

Tomorrow I leave the boat to head for Guelph for Samantha’s birthday celebrations, back early next week to continue on.

A few sights along the way

Bayfield Inlet

I’m back on the boat. Left here Friday night, had a nice visit home, in for a colonoscopy Monday morning – maybe TMI, but this was essentially the only non-negotiable commitment I had this month. I drove my car up here this evening.

It’s late Tuesday evening, weather warm and unsettled. Right now there’s a big thunder cell passing over with lots of rain and spectacular lightning but no wind.

As usual, my plans have been loose. But the next week or so is coming into focus. Mallory is coming to visit tomorrow, driving down from near Sault Ste. Marie where she’s been working this summer. I don’t get to see enough of her. Not making any ambitious travel plans, will hang with her in this general area for a couple of days. Then drive back to Guelph on the weekend, get dropped off on the boat next Monday or Tuesday and head out for Chicago.

I need to prep the boat for open water. Make sure everything is properly stowed, latches are secure, that sort of stuff. Cruising the canals the boat sort of turns into a house boat with stuff laying around everywhere.

I’m throwing in a picture of three Limestone 24s in Snug Harbour. That’s Sarah and Samantha too. We stopped there by car and had take out on the way home Friday.

Aground Part 3

On Friday morning Sarah dove under the boat from the side and said that everything looked intact. I had been concerned that the skeg might have broken off. She is a metallurgical engineer and is familiar with the boat, and we discussed the malleability of the skeg and rudder and agreed that makeshift repairs seemed feasible. We did a short cruise and everything seemed in good order apart from the binding in the rudder movement.

I’m planning a stop in Chicago at a yard that I used to work in and is owned and run by friends, but wasn’t keen on running the 500 miles or so to get there without a full understanding of the damage. So I started looking for a yard to haul the boat. There were several marinas in PaB but none that had equipment to handle my boat. Thought about returning to Parry Sound but didn’t want to backtrack. Then found a yard just north in Bayfield Inlet that had a travel lift. They were about a 20 minute drive away so I drove up. Found a small marina with a new travel lift. The guys there were a bit skeptical of their ability to do repairs, but I assured them that I just wanted to pull the boat for a brief inspection and that I wasn’t asking them to store or repair the boat.

I got the boat over there after a white-knuckle trip through Hangdog Channel. The wind had gone to the south and waves weren’t as bad as the previous couple of days but it was a bit unnerving imagining a steering failure while running through the rocky channel.

They were ready when I arrived at 12:00 and within 20 minutes the boat was in the air. I checked the hull first – a few areas where the gelcoat was gone, but some tapping and poking revealed that the damage was superficial.

The skeg was secure but bent about 3″ to port at the end where the rudder is secured in the shoe. The rudder was bent maybe 20 degrees off vertical. It was an easy fix. We removed the skeg, tried putting it in a vice and straightening it without success, then laid it on a concrete slab and with a sledgehammer got it straight. Then straightened the rudder with a jack and remounted the skeg. The boat was back in the water at 1:20. Total bill was $500 which I was happy to pay.

I left the boat there and returned home as I have a medical appointment on Monday but will return Tuesday to continue north. Am happy to have made it through the grounding with relatively minor damage. Lots of lessons learned that I’ll maybe outline later.

Here are some pictures of the area around Hangdog Channel. I really should have taken pics of the boat perched on the rock and the damage, but wasn’t really into documenting the event.

Parry Sound to Pointe au Baril

I took the most inside route I could, and took lots of pics.

This is the southern tip of Killbear park.

I then went up to the big beach at Killbear which is also a large popular anchorage. Think there were three boats there. Lots of room.

Taking the most inside route sometimes results in narrow passages

I stopped at Gillies Fish and Chips in Snug Harbour. Highly recommended. Took the mother ship into their dock. Bit of a tight fit but doable.

And a few other shots that I can’t remember the reason for taking

Aground Part 2

After trying half heartedly to back off whatever I hit I turned off the motor and looked more carefully at the plotters, which showed that I was atop the third island. My Navionics and paper charts also showed a green mark, which I found with my light about 20 feet on my port bow, just a painted stick almost impossible to spot at night. That stake was not shown on the Garmin plotter I had been using when I hit. If it had been I would have had a visual on the stake rather than what I mistakenly thought was the outer island.

I tried shining the light into the water but couldn’t see a lot of detail as there were small waves coming from astern and a lot of shimmering. I was in a sheltered area but there was still a 15 knot breeze.

I was really nervous about hitting the prop so after my initial strong shot of reverse I resolved not to use the motor again until daylight when I hoped to be able to do a proper assessment.

I launched my dinghy and ran my stern anchor out behind the boat (upwind), thinking that I might be able to somehow pull myself off. While the boat wouldn’t budge backwards when I tried hauling on the line I was able to pivot the boat around so that the bow was pretty much facing into the wind, and put tension on the line to hold the boat in that position. There were no sounds of grinding or bumping. Boat would be level with me standing on one side but when I shifted to the other side flopped over 10-15 degrees. And the stern seemed high, probably three inches above the normal waterline. It felt like maybe I was hung up on the rudder skeg, which is the lowest part of the boat. Checked the bilges and no sign of water entry or damage. It was now well after midnight, and I decided to settle in for the night. I climbed into my berth in a heeled boat and slept fitfully until dawn at about 5:45.

At first light I got back to work. Took a long boat hook to gauge depth and could see the bottom quite clearly. The middle of the boat was on a big weathered rock, with deeper water at the bow and stern. The list looked quite dramatic from the dinghy, with one chine completely out of the water. Deep water was close by on the port side, but it seemed that it got shallower for a few feet before dropping off. There were jagged loose stones on the starboard side that I didn’t want to get into.

A couple of boats came by early. One suggested calling 911 and the other was from a local cottage and offered support, including trying to tow me off and told me how to reach him.

I had been looking online at local facilities or authorities that could help. One concern I had was with further damaging or possibly holing the boat trying to get it off. I didn’t want to come off and start sinking. There were no yards close by that seemed equipped to help. There was a coast guard station not far away and I tried calling them on the phone but wasn’t getting an answer even after 8:00. Was considering phoning my insurance agent – I have lots of coverage including towing.

By 8:15 when a third cottager came by I felt I had a better picture of the situation and wanted to act. And these guys – a man and a woman – seemed very calm and competent. They had a very workmanlike boat, a solid aluminum work boat maybe 18 feet long with a 50 hp tiller steered Yamaha. He handled it very well.

After some discussion I asked them to try towing me off. Given their boat I wasn’t concerned with ripping the bottom out through brute force. I was pretty confident that my prop was clear and so had them hook to my stern. After a couple of attempts using my motor and with them pulling the boat slid off. Essentially I had gone on the rock from one side, pivoted almost 180 degrees, and came off the opposite side.

I did a quick check after I came off to make sure I wasn’t taking on water, then headed back inland to the town docks at Pointe au Baril. The boat seemed ok except the rudder seemed to start binding at about ten degrees one way and about 25 the other. I went slow. Got into PaB late morning, grabbed a fish and chips and had a two hour nap. Beautiful day in off the big lake.

When I woke up I looked at the inside rudder and steering gear carefully. All seemed undamaged and solid. The PO had a new stern tube put in and had beefed up the top support considerably and all seemed to be in good order. Sarah and Samantha arrived that evening, having accommodated my sudden change in plans. We slept at the town dock. I was pretty zonkered. Lots of adrenaline in the preceding 24 hours.

Here’s the area. The lighthouse and entrance to the lake are on the top left and the rock I got hung up on is shown as land on the lower right. Inside the mark that wasn’t on my Garmin map.