I’ve been too lazy to write for a long time, so will have to forego many details. However, there are three things I want to share that we’ve learned over the past couple of weeks:
1) Taking care of a boat is hard work. Did you know that decks should be mopped (swabbed?) daily? Did you know that the windows really should be washed every 3-5 days, depending on the weather and waves? Did you know that dust accumulates quickly inside of a boat? And that the ubiquitous spiders (that for some reason really seem to enjoy hitching a ride on vessels) actually leave webs and little black spots of spider poop EVERYWHERE? Not to mention the need to do laundry every week or two due to a paucity of clothing on board, figuring out fuel efficiency, writing the ship’s log on every travel day, planning the next days route and entering it into the chart plotter, etc etc etc. This is BESIDES taking an inordinate amount of time to try to figure out what is going wrong with various systems. Questions continually arise, such as “why is the generator not working?” (the valve allowing water in hadn’t been opened, so we burned up an impeller, a critical part which draws water into the generator’s cooling system). “Why is the air conditioner not working?” (the valve allowing water in to cool it hadn’t been opened). “Why isn’t the deck wash not working?” (the valve allowing water in to wash the deck with hadn’t been opened). Those of you who are smarter than we (as in, all of you) have probably detected a pattern here.
2) We’ve learned a lot about anchoring in the past week. The gist of anchoring is that one needs to find a spot that gives maximum protection from the forces on the boat (current or wind), drop the anchor and lay out enough “rode” (chain and rope) to allow the anchor to hold tightly to the bottom, yet allows you to swing 360 degrees without hitting something hard, like another boat, rock, or island. It can be stressful to figure out, and stress, oddly enough, does not seem to bring out the best in our relationship. Our worst experience was in the “Bustard Islands” in the North Channel of Georgian Bay. We arrived at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and headed for the back of a relatively shallow cove (shallow is better for us because we don’t need a lot of water under our keels, less water means we can safely put out less rode, and thus obtain a smaller swinging radius, for the same holding power). We started into the spot past a sailboat that was anchored nearby. Out of nowhere, a couple, presumably the owners of the sailboat, immediately buzzed over in their dinghy and asked accusingly, “Do you know where our anchor is?”, then proceeded to show us a spot that we’d already gone past and had no intention of dropping anchor anywhere near. When we told them that, they then told us they were planning to leave very early in the AM, and told us we might not want to wake up that early. We took the hint, and abandoned what we were certain would’ve been a perfectly adequate spot for two boats, but didn’t want to argue. We spent the next hour circling around the bay, trying to find a spot that would a) hold the anchor and b) would allow us to swing in the wind without smashing a hole in our boat. We must have lowered and raised that &(*& ing anchor six times, each time bringing up buckets of black muck onto our deck (because of course we hadn’t figured out how to turn on our deck wash hose yet), screaming at each other, arguing about the pros and cons of each new potential anchorage, and how much rode we should put out. I am certain that the couple who chased us away were patting themselves on the back and thanking their foresight for chasing off those rude loudmouths. Finally we gave up. I think my exact words were, “I want to go home!!!!” . We hightailed it about 20 miles away to a beautiful spot ominously called “Bad River”. We proceeded to motor around THAT entire bay as well, putting down and taking up anchor in various possible spots and then changing our mind. Mind you, by this time it was starting to get dark, we had not even had lunch that day, and we were completely frazzled at the prospect of either motoring in the dark or facing the prospect of dropping anchor just anywhere and then being awakened in the middle of the night to find our anchor had dragged and allowed us to crash. FINALLY a fellow Looper, having observed our predicament (and watching us parade back and forth in search of the elusive anchorage) called over and invited us to anchor near (but not too near!) their boat. We put down the anchor, gritted our teeth, let out 100 feet of rode, put Golden in reverse—and the anchor held!!! We were relieved and exhausted. Yet we HAVE learned from each experience. Two days from then, we motored into a small bay, put down the anchor once, found it held, and started dinner—within about 10 minutes, and no yelling involved. When we pulled it up the next day, we washed it with the deck wash hose, and motored away. Hallelujah.
3) Finally, we LOVED the North Channel. There is far less evidence of civilization, such as cottages or other boaters. The water is incredibly clean and clear, is a perfect swimming temperature, and is FRESH–no itchy, salty residue left on one’s skin. As a Pacific Northwesterner, I’m incredibly jealous. One of our best experiences was anchoring and exploring in the Baie Fine area. Baie Fine is a long inlet, much of it lined by grey rock that drops vertically deep into the water, similar to a fjord. We anchored in a cove about a mile short of “The Pool”, a pretty blind bay at the end of the Baie Fine channel, and spent the night alone listening to a loons lonely call.
The next morning, we dinghied a mile to a trailhead near the Pool, and hiked 20 minutes to “Topaz Lake”.
Yes, Tabie, pop hiked the entire way in loafers.
We arrived early enough that no one else had yet arrived at this understandably popular lake. The lake was surrounded by sheer rock walls, some of which extended horizontally underwater as shelves just wide enough to allow one to walk easily into the water. The water was actually topaz-colored, amazingly clear down to at least 10 feet due to the fact that there were no algae or weeds. And the temperature was PERFECT–cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to make entering it a pleasure instead of a shock. Truly one of the best lake swims I’ve ever enjoyed.
There were multiple anchorages similar to Baie Fine–had we not had plane reservations in September out of Chicago, we probably would’ve spent at least another week or two enjoying the area.
We arrived into the USA yesterday via Drummond Island using our “CBP Roam” app. Boy does that make re-entering the country easy. As soon as we crossed the international border as evidenced by our chart plotter, I reported to Customs via the app. They called back in a few minutes, we had a short video conference call in which we each held up our passports so the agent could confirm they matched the copies we’d already submitted months ago, and we were in! After a good nights sleep, we left the Drummond Island Yacht Haven at 6:30 am because it looked as if the wind would come up this afternoon.
Although we’d been warned one HAS to make early reservations at the only marina at Mackinac Island, and the Michigan department of Natural Resources website indicated the facility was full, we called as we approached to see if there happened to be any last minute openings. Luckily, there was space! We are now safely moored in the Mackinac Island state marina–only $45/night including power and water. It looks like we’ll be here over the weekend due to the weather, but I can think of worse places to ride out a storm, Here’s a few pics of Mackinac so far–a small island that doesn’t allow any motorized vehicles. LOTS of bicycles and horse drawn carriages. Mackinac is known for its fudge–the Main Street’s main odor is of horse poop and chocolate–yum!
From now on we will only travel when the weather looks PERFECT because we will be traveling the entire length of Lake Michigan, and it can be nasty out there. We are terrified–wish us luck.