North Channel – The Jerry and Clare Tour

In a prior post I briefly mentioned our 2005 trip aboard Blue Loon. It was during that trip and at the Spider Bay Marina in Little Current that we first met Jerry and Clare. This was when and where an explosion on a boat resulted in it being burned to the water line and severely damaged two other boats in the process.

But back to meeting our friends; Jerry and Clare were on their boat Magic Carpet and like everyone in the Marina the morning when the explosion occurred, we were all evacuated. We were finally allowed back into the Marina at the end of the day and after having spent too much time at the Anchor Inn, we joined Jerry and Clare in having Chinese food delivered to the boat. With adult beverages in hand the conversation turned to destinations and we realized we were all going to the same anchorage on Croker Island. We spent a few memorable days with the two of them hiking and sharing stories of our sailing adventures.

Jerry and Clare have been sailing the North Channel for over 25 years and are a wealth of knowledge about where to go and how to safely get into various gunkholes. Between trips to Goderich and Toronto and sailing in the North Channel last summer, we’ve been able to make sure our paths cross periodically. It was during one of these road trips that Jerry gave us a collection of his hand-drawn charts that covered some of their favorite anchorages.

Jerry's chart for Perch Bay

Jerry’s chart for Perch Bay

We had planned on sailing with them this summer but unforeseen circumstances got in the way. With Jerry’s charts in hand we’ve been working our way across the North Channel hitting as many of their hidey-holes as possible.

Our first stop on the J&C tour was Beardrop Harbour where we BVI-sailed to from Turnbull Island on August 14. When we sail with only a headsail (no main), we refer to this as BVI sailing as it is quite popular in the islands where people on vacation don’t want to bother with hoisting a mainsail. With just one sail, we were still able to maintain 5 knots. As we’ve come to expect from anyplace that J&C recommend, it was gorgeous. So much so that Dan would’ve been happy had we spent a week there. But a large power boat came and anchored in front of us and the noise of their generator (required to keep the AC running) sent us packing.

The next stop was Eagle Island where we caught up with another Gozzard, the Minnehaha.

August 16 Sunrise in Eagle Harbour with Gozzard 44 Minnehaha

August 16 Sunrise in Eagle Harbour with Gozzard 44 Minnehaha

We  had a wonderful peach cobbler (with ICE CREAM) aboard the Minnehaha and had serious discussion with Jim and Frances on important details – the lack of blueberries this summer, favorite spots, and much discussion of our favorite sailboats.

From Eagle we returned to the J&C tour and moved to Hotham Island where we had the pleasure of spending two happy hours ashore with the boats in the anchorage. Jerry and Clare brought us here last year and introduced us to Norm and Elaine, the owners of the cottage on the point. If the weather is good, Elaine will come out in her kayak and invite the crews ashore for a 5:00pm Boat Rules Happy Hour.

August 16 Happy Hour at Norm and Elaine's in Ray's Bay

August 16 Happy Hour at Norm and Elaine’s in Ray’s Bay

If you’re not familiar with Boat Rules Happy Hours – you bring your own beverage, and appetizer to share and you depart with your own trash/empties. The munchies have been excellent although one over-achiever actually brought homemade pizza – that lasted about 30 seconds!

Our next stop was Perch Bay, on the mainland just across from Hotham Island. Before I forget, we were told that the proper pronunciation is Hot Ham, but most people pronounce it Hoth-am. Back to Perch – a tiny, tiny anchorage large enough for one boat or two if they know each other well enough to coordinate their anchoring. We were excited to see the anchorage was empty and immediately went in and staked out our territory.

For the next six hours, we had the place to ourselves and considered going swimming in our starkers. Then we noticed a window open in the cottage on the point. By early evening we were hearing four-wheelers, someone practicing the drums alongside a very loud music track, and general partying well after dark. At one point, they started shining spotlights onto our boat. So much for solitude.

August 19 Anchorage in Perch Bay

August 19 Anchorage in Perch Bay

Lesson learned – if you see windows open in the cabin at Perch Bay, don’t bother stopping!

We bugged out of Perch first thing the next morning and headed to Fox Harbour (the next stop on the J&C tour) where we were surprised to find that we were the only boat in this popular anchorage. We dropped our hook, tied a line to shore to keep us from swinging into nearby rocks and sat back with books to read and blogs to write. While deep in our solitude, we were surprised to hear someone calling our name – it was Norm and Elaine from Hotham out with friends on a little tour. They gave us an update on the weather forecast – which was not good, admired our herb garden and headed on.

August 20 Gaviidae tucked into Fox Harbour

August 20 Gaviidae tucked into Fox Harbour

Thirty minutes later, another boat joined us in the anchorage but they only stayed one night. After they departed the next morning a Cabo Rico named Tai Chi came in and dropped their hook right behind us. We expected more to arrive seeking shelter from the upcoming front that was targeted to bring 35-40 knot winds but it was just Tai Chi and us. And the winds? Yes, they arrived not long after a heavy rainstorm blew through and they continued to blow throughout the night with gusts inching past 40 knots and maintaining a steady 25-30 knots. Another successful test of our new Mantus anchor.

The winds continued throughout most of the next day and from the safety of our anchorage, we could see huge white-caps out on the main part of the lake. We spent the day hiking around the bay, fishing, napping, reading, napping – you get the picture. By this point we were having conversations with the Tai Chi folks who hailed from Toronto and were planning on sailing Lake Superior next season. We were invited over for after-dinner drinks (boat rules again) and spent a wonderful evening sharing stories about various locations that were on the must-see list.

August 20 Hiking along the edge of Fox Harbour

August 20 Hiking along the edge of Fox Harbour

August 20 Moss colors on the rocks in Fox Harbour

August 20 Moss colors on the rocks in Fox Harbour

We departed Fox Harbour on the 22nd and headed for Little Current – the name is a bit of a joke as the current is anything but little. Especially after the big winds that had come through a few days earlier. All the water that was blown through the channel was now working its way back. We declined assistance from the dock hands thinking that our dock assignment was a straight-shot in. And it was. But the neighbors who were next to our slip (and fellow Great Lakes Cruising Club members) recognized our boat and were lined up to grab lines as the current literally swept us into the slip.

Our arrival was timed with the North Channel Cruisers Net Potluck dinner. I was going to bake a cake but our oven decided it was time for a siesta. We snuck over with some measly chips and bad salsa and in return were treated with an amazing feast. And we got to meet the famous Roy Eaton

August 24 The famous Roy Eaton about to start his morning broadcast

August 24 The famous Roy Eaton about to start his morning broadcast

who hosts the 9am check-in that includes weather and news.

August 22 Cruiser's Net Potluck in Little Current, Ontario

August 22 Cruiser’s Net Potluck in Little Current, Ontario

Tuesday was a work day with oodles of laundry to do and provisions to fetch. We invited our neighbors on Midnight Sun over for happy hour which went on well past an hour and filled up with enough appetizers to put a nix on dinner. But Dan had gotten the oven going so I made the chocolate cake – my mother would be so proud of me – chocolate cake for dinner!

We finally left Little Current on Thursday and headed to another of the J&C anchorages. This time the East Bay on Heywood Island. Getting in required going down a narrow channel but once through, we found a large bay with good protection. One of the boats that we met at Hotham Island—s/v Swallow—stopped by and invited us over for Happy Hour. Within a short time the four boats in the anchorage were swapping tales in the cockpit of Swallow.

August 25 The swing bridge in Little Current opening for us

August 25 The swing bridge in Little Current opening for us

It is this camaraderie that exists between boaters that triggered our initial meeting with Jerry and Clare. Over this past summer this same informal network that starts with a casual wave or conversation coming into an anchorage that opens the door. Before you know it, you are meeting new people, sharing experiences, absorbing advice. Connections. All due to these things that float on the water called boats.

And with that, we moved on to our next J&C anchorage.

August 14 – 27, 2016 Heywood Island   45° 56.082’N  81° 45.140’W  872.7 Nautical Miles

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