Sunday, September 14, 2008

North Channel

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We took a small family trip on the Capri 26 sailboat "Black Swan" that we keep up here in Northern Michigan. We had originally planned on doing this trip earlier in the summer, but it was September before we knew it! So we trailered the boat up to De Tour Village which is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as far East as you can go. The launch went smoothly and we stayed the night in the little marina there.

The next day we sailed over to Drummond Island and went to a beautiful little bay on the Eastern end. There was a small cove, which with better light we could probably have made it in to- its always nice to know about little hiding places in case of bad weather! Jeff and John went ashore while I cooked dinner- the boat is pretty small and John is pretty curious about, well, everything. After dinner we went for a nice walk on shore before tucking John into bed.

The next day we sailed into Meldrum Bay on Manatoulin Island, Canada. We had to check into Customs there, and we even got boarded and inspected- of course it was right as I was trying to get John down for a nap. We stayed the night there tied up to the little government dock because there isn't really anyplace protected to anchor there.
The next day we sailed to Gore Bay and found a nice spot to anchor near the town, just past the marina. It was fairly shallow and not an ideal place, but we decided to make a go of it. We spent the afternoon walking around the little town and playing on the playground that was right on the waterfront. That night the wind picked up and swung us a little too close to shore, Jeff and I were up at 3:30 pulling up the anchor, motoring with the outboard into 25kts of wind- fun! We went into the marina and docked there for the rest of the night- amazingly John slept through the whole ordeal, and then was ready to play at 7 the next morning! We had a few things to do in town that day, and then, with what was left of Tropical Storm Gustav following us, we sailed up to the Benjamin Islands.

The Benjamins are the real reason I wanted to get to the North Channel. We sailed here when I was a child and I have such fond memories of playing on the pink granite rocks with my brothers and Mom making us wild blueberry pancakes (she told me there were only 13 blueberries, but in my memory the pancakes were bursting with them!) We sailed in just as the rain was starting, found a good spot to anchor and tied to the shore in 2 places, we were 'spider webbed' in for the night! We stayed aboard that evening because it had rained so much, but we were visited by a bunch of ducks at dinnertime, and John was fascinated!

Here is the view we were greeted with as the sun was setting on the rocks- simply amazing.
The next day it was cool and drizzly, but dry enough to get John off the boat, so in the morning we went on a short hike up to the highest peak on the small island close to us. After John's nap we went out again, this time to the larger island where John was able to walk around a little more. For all of those concerned grandparents.... he wore his life jacket the whole time, and we tied a line to the strap so we could keep a good hold of him too!

The wind shifted some that afternoon so we picked up our anchor and moved over to the other bay where 2 other boats were anchored and had a good night sleep. The next morning we were greeted with a mother and 4 baby ducks. We've been reading a book called "Little Quack" that John's friend Sarah got for him, so I pointed out Mama Duck and the 4 little ducklings, he loved it!

We found another small island, Trumbull, just a day sail away from the Benjamins and tucked in there for the night. This was the first place we had a mosquito problem- but thankfully they were slow, maybe because it was so cold? But we escaped with only a few bites which didn't really seem to bother us- whew! We listened to the VHF weather report and the wind was supposed to shift and pick up the next day, so we got an early start and motored the 8 or so miles to Blind River which is on the North Coast of the channel, in Canada. We tied up to the marina dock expecting only to check the rates and then possibly anchor somewhere, the dock master met us on the pier and let us stay the night for FREE! He even gave us a shower key- how happy was I?! We packed John into the backpack and set off for town- we needed milk, eggs and bread. This is what John did....I think he likes his backpack!

Unfortunately he didn't sleep for long, and we didn't make it all the way to the grocery store. We took John home for lunch and a real nap (which he fought because of his catnap) while Jeff walked back up to the grocery store. That night we had a dinner out at the Marina Cafe which was right there, and hung out in the laundry room to use the WIFI!!
The next day was still fairly windy, but we were getting a little soggy so decided to make a go of it. We sailed off toward Drummond Island again, but it was pretty rough going. We left just after John had fallen asleep, and he managed to sleep for almost 3 hours of pounding! Jeff found a small island for us to drop the anchor at and just have a rest, but we didn't really get to rest because it was not very protected and it was very rolly. We pulled the anchor up again and kept at it. This time John was awake and at first I thought he was having a good time. He and I were sitting below, and he was in my lap cuddling, when suddenly he was barfing! Poor little John was seasick!! I'm surprised that I didn't get sick too, but I guess my mommy instinct took over and all I cared about was taking care of John. We sat on the top companionway step for almost the whole rest of the trip so we could both get some fresh air, and we did ok. We stopped at East Grant Island which is shaped almost like a horseshoe and offered us some protection. It was a comedy of errors getting us anchored and I won't get into the embarrassing details now. I'll just say that nearly a full hour, and 3 anchors later we were tied to the shore and secure. John was drinking cups of grape Pedialyte and back to his old self. We all slept well that night! The next day Jeff did some anchor work and took John for a long dingy ride (John's FAVORITE thing!) and on a walk on shore while I cleaned up from our days of rough sailing.

We untied and pulled up our anchors and we were off again. This time the wind had just about died so we motored much of the day. The wind had filled in and we were sailing along when we noticed a large freighter- we didn't know they had shipping up here! I hailed them on the radio when we realized we were on a collision course, and they made a minor adjustment for us, the poor little vessel under sail!

Again, John slept through the whole thing. We found a spot to anchor for the night that would be close enough to Yacht Haven, Drummond Island, USA which is where we had to check back in with US Customs. We were up early and made our way into the bay and I called the marina on the VHF to find out about Customs. This was 10 AM- we were told that Customs opened at 12Noon. and at 2PM we were still not checked in! Finally Customs showed up and after about 10 minutes they had us all checked in (John was sleeping on board, so they didn't inspect us or even come aboard- which was the whole reason we couldn't give passport numbers over the phone but had to meet with officials in person- welcome home Americans!!!) A very frustrating experience to say the least. We still had a 2 hour motor ahead of us back to De Tour Village, thankfully it was a nice day and we motored there fairly quickly and straight to the launch ramp. We got the boat pulled out without any problem and John was amazing while we got the mast down and the boat ready for the road. By the time we were done it was nearing 6PM and John was getting hungry and tired, but the sun was going to go down and there was some wind. We wanted to get across the Mackinac Bridge while it was still daylight so we loaded up the car and off we went. I had some cheese and water for poor John which he snacked on, and then fell asleep for a little while. We made it across the bridge without incident and found a diner at the first exit in Mackinaw City. John was the hit of the restaurant where the crowd was all over 65! He smiled and waved and was perfectly charming the whole time, and then got back into the car and was awake all the way back to Cross Village. I have to say, I know I am biased because I'm his mom- but John is the most amazingly flexible child I have ever known! We push him to the limits and he just keeps surprising us!
Thank you to those who actually read this whole account! We had a great week, although a little wet and cold. We'll just have to do it earlier in the season next time!


Janet said...

Such fun reading about your sail and I just loved the pictures. Each one brings a smile to my face! John's a real trooper, he needs to be, because the two of you are always on the go. You are teaching him well to just go with the flow. HURRAH!!!!!!!

David and Joelle Turner's Blog said...

Wow! What an amazing trip!! The pictures are wonderful and the Benjamins are breathtaking! They don't even look real.

I agree, John is a real trooper, you guys are so blessed!!