Ahoy from the Bear Drop anchorage in the North Channel of Lake Huron!
Instead of my normal report where I tell you about where we've been (I'll get to that later), I think that I'll start out talking about what we've seen, heard and experienced other than physical locations.
One of the first things that I've noted in all of the Great Lakes is how clear the water is. From what I've been able to determine, a lot of this is due to Zebra Mussels, who are prolific filter feeders. I grew up on Lake Michigan, and I can assure you that it wasn't very clear, but according to what I've heard, it's quite clear. The same thing was true in Lake Erie and Lake Huron has been amazingly clear. When I dove in Killarney, I had 130+ feet of visibility, which is awesome.
The major concern regarding Zebra mussels is that they're extremely prolific, growing everywhere, clogging up water systems and choking out native species. One fear was that there wasn't any native predators, but according to what we heard in Lake Erie, they've been finding Zebra mussels in the stomachs of some local fish. I guess that it just goes to prove that if you provide a food source, someone will find a way to eat it!
Another thing that we noticed is how quiet it is here. In the evening when the birds have stopped calling, you hear silence. I'm talking about realizing that all that you can hear is the tintinitus (sp? ringing in your ears) and nothing else. There are no high flying jets or the sounds of cars or anything. Just silence! Sound travels far over water and it's wonderful to listens to Loons calling to one another at night across the bays.
Lastly I'd like to mention the crisp, dark skies. There are no major cities around here and at night you have dark skies from horizon to horizon. If you enjoy looking at the stars, as I do, you have a an amazing venue as the sky just glows with stars. The milky way cuts an incredibly bright swath across the sky and it's almost bright enough to read from the starlight. While the Caribbean skies are often this dark, you don't get the low humidity and deep crisp blue skies that you have up here.
Back to what we've been doing...When I last wrote we had just pulled into Little Current where we spent 2 nights. The name "Little Current" is clearly a joke as the current can absolutely whip through the channel on which the city sits and which separates the Georgian Bay from the North Channel. It appears that strong winds blowing from the E or W cause water to pile up on that end of the channel and flow rapidly to the other side. You need to carefully pick where you dock so you're out of the way of other boats which may not have as much control as they'd like. We almost got hit twice by boats who misjudged the current.
Little Current is a major hub for boaters who are in the area as it has 2 grocery stores, hardware stores and many other services that boaters want. The docks are free if you only stay the day and there is plenty of dock space. You'll see many boats pull into the docks day after day and depart at night for nearby anchorages. The Little Current Cruisers Net is also headquartered there and every day at 9 AM cruisers from several boats gather at the broadcast studio to help Roy Eaton, who's the voice of the net, collect information from boats that check in. While we've been in range, well over 100 boats check in each day, and they're about to pass 6,000 check ins so far this year. This is a great service to the cruising community. On Fridays, there's a cruisers get-together at the Anchor Inn, which is a great way to meet other cruisers.
After departing Little Current we headed to Kagawong in Mudge bay so that we could hike to the Bridal Veil falls. We were expecting to have to anchor and go ashore in the dinghy, but instead we found a delightful little town with a nice marina that let us pull up onto their wall while we explored. The falls are only about 15-20 minutes away on a nicely groomed trail. Lots of people were there enjoying the pool and the falls as it's also close to the road. What was really fun about the falls is that area behind the falls has been eroded allowing you to walk behind them and dive in to the pool.
From there we sailed to Logan Bay on Clapperton island where we took refuge from the winds which were building from the W. We also went ashore to look for fossils and we weren't disappointed as the entire island seems to sheets of sedimentary rock with imbedded fossils. After a quiet night we decided to head further W along the North Channel. The projected winds of 20-30 kts out of the W didn't appear to have appeared, so we headed out only to find that we had been very sheltered. We bashed our through 3-4' steep waves and 20-35 kts of winds which were on the nose for about half an hour until Sue convinced me to turn around and head back to Clapperton, which I grudgingly did. Well, we caught up with our boat chores and reading while the wind generator kept the batteries well charged.
The next morning we awoke to 7-10 kts out of the W and decided to get an early start and hopefully beat the winds. We left the anchorage and I put up the jib to assist the motor. I was thinking that we had a perfect sailing day until we came around the tip of the island and saw white caps everywhere. As we emerged from the lee of the island we suddenly had 25+ kts at a just barely sailable angle and 3'+ seas that were building from the open path to Lake Huron. Luckily we only had to hold that course for about 20 minutes before we fell off the wind and moved to the lee of an island. I looked at the charts and decided to shorten our destination by pulling into a well protected anchorage on Eagle Island.
The anchorage at Eagle Island provides great protection from everything other than NE winds. As we were pulling in I saw a woman from another boat waving and waving to us. I didn't recognize her or her boat, but as usual I waved back. There are 2 other BlueJackets in the area, so I thought that perhaps she had us confused with another boat. Later in the day they rowed over and as they approached they asked "Are you Geoff?" They've been reading these logs and just wanted to say hello. They came aboard and we had a nice chat about boats and cruising.
The following morning we headed out just after sunrise to take advantage of the light early morning winds. It's surprising how the winds drop and night and pick up quickly once the sun rises. We had to wind our way through tight rock lined passages including passing through the Little Detroit channel, where you have to make a "security" call on the VHF to let boats from the opposite direction know that you're going through as there probably wouldn't be enough space for 2 boats to pass. Our timing was off by just a few minutes as the boats behind us reported seeing a bear and beaver.
We then passed through what's known as the Whalesback Channel, which winds through a myriad of islands. It's hard to describe how beautiful it is, but just image being on a boat in the middle of a channel lined by islands, some with 50'+ mounds of granite and miles and miles of unspoiled beauty. Photos have a hard time depicting this. It's similar to the Grand Canyon, where it's hard to have a photo capture the grandeur, but when you're there you're just immersed in the beauty.
We pulled into an anchorage named "Bear Drop" which was probably one of my favorite anchorages of the North Passage. It's a deep, long anchorage which provides 360 degrees of protection due to the surrounding steep granite hills. You can take your dinghy and explore for miles and miles and there's are several passages which takes out of Bear Drop into the channel and another bay. It's absolutely stunning! A cold front came though and we're waiting for the winds to drop and switch so that we can make our way 25 miles across the N Channel so that we can begin to head towards Lake Michigan. The doldrums of summer have clearly passed and we can feel the winds of fall picking up, which will make our trek more difficult.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser: Dockage in Little Current is $1.75. You can find just about anything that you need for provisioning and there a good sized boat yard.
Logan Bay: We anchored in 12' of clay and were very well protected from anything other than E winds. Be sure to check out all of the fossils on shore.
Eagle Island: Once again, excellent protect from anything other than NE. Great holding in clay.
Bear Drop: Absolutely stunning. A must-stop anchorage in my book. Great holding once again in clay. Be sure to take a lengthy dinghy tour.
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