Soul Sailing Page 2
Then there’s Killarney. No cruiser should permanently furl his sails without first visiting Killarney. The sparkling white quartzite of the La Cloche mountains dazzle the eye from well offshore, and nearby Covered Portage Cove is easily my all-time favorite anchorage anywhere on earth, including the Bahamas. Hiking up the mountainside is challenging, but the outstanding view from the top must not be missed.
The town of Killarney itself is charming, with visitors arriving by sail and powerboat, kayak and canoe, tour bus, car, even on foot from the nearby provincial park. Better yet, the liquor store has its own dock. Just a few miles away, Baie Fine, a fjord-like inlet, leads to the Pool. Many cruisers have been captivated by its serene beauty and tranquility, its perfect all-round protection, warm still waters, and surrounding mountains. Children are enchanted by the dozens of baitfish that mass behind every boat waiting to be fed, and countless are the memories of bonfires along its shores.
A half-mile hike into the hills brings you to Topaz Lake, with its Bahamian turquoise-colored water. Children, eyes shut and screaming, plunge 20 feet from its rocky sides into their father’s arms, just as their parents leapt into their own fathers’ arms years ago. It’s a rite of passage for North Channel families.
By now you’ve probably traveled only 55 miles. Still, it’s been some of the best sailing you’ve ever done.With daily northwest winds blowing 10-15 knots, waves rarely lift much above a foot. The entire eastern North Channel is so protected that even gentlemen will be tempted to sail to weather here. Yet on the rare blustery day, seas can easily reach 6–8 feet and more in the main channel—short, sharp, unpleasant waves reminding you this is big water, and should be respected.
In the evenings the wind dies down, making for comfortable nights and cozy bonfires—at least after the mosquitoes have gone to bed. The anchorages are spectacular, rarely crowded, and are always scenic and relaxing. North Channel cruising isn’t about distance, at least not as it’s measured on your knot log. You’re miles from anywhere, but close to what matters, and it’s the distance your soul travels that counts the most.
Getting there: Many cruisers arrive from Lake Michigan, coming to the channel from the west. Others travel north up Lake Huron, arriving at Heywood Island and Killarney to the east. Great Loopers (those doing the “great loop” – East Coast, Hudson River, Great Lakes, Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico, then back to the East Coast) typically arrive via Georgian Bay and the 30,000 Islands, which they have entered from the Trent Severn Canal. By car, it’s seven hours from Toronto, or nearly three from Sudbury should you fly in there. Access to Manitoulin Island is via Sudbury/Little Current or on the Chi Chemaun ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth. Charter flights into Gore Bay are available. American sailors need to clear into Canada, and back into the U.S. Passports are also necessary.
Facilities: Despite its remoteness, there are superb marinas in the North Channel with excellent provisioning within a day’s sail of any anchorage. Cellphone coverage is marginal to non-existent in many parts of the area. Internet access is random.
Weather: Daytime temperatures during July and August range from the mid-60s to high 70s. Evenings are cool. Early to mid-September is the best time to come, as there are few boats, the water is still warm, and most marinas are still open. Water temps before late July are quite cold. Prevailing winds are northwest, light in the morning and building to 15–20 knots, then going light in the late afternoon. Fog is uncommon, but there is often haze.
When to go: Most cruising begins after the Memorial Day holiday weekend, at which time the channel is still quite cold, but the days can be very pleasant. As noted, September is considered prime time by veteran North Channel cruisers.
Destinations: The North Channel is all about the anchorages, each of which is its own destination. Those who require docks, however, can choose from the following: Killarney: Several marinas to choose from. The largest is the Sportsman’s Inn, with new docks and facilities. Little Current: Municipal Marina, plus several private facilities. Excellent provisioning. Gore Bay: Gore Bay Municipal Marina. Large, well-stocked chandlery at Canadian Yacht Charter base here. Excellent provisioning. Spanish: Spanish Municipal Marina. Most items available here.
Stopovers: In Killarney, visit Hebert’s Fish and Chips, particularly fun if you are cruising with children. The fish are brought in by fishing boat to the Hebert dock, cleaned, and then served fresh at waterside. If your are visiting Little Current, the Anchor Inn, with good food and a great atmosphere, is a great spot to meet other cruisers.
Chartering: Canadian Yacht Charters is based in Gore Bay, and Discovery Yacht Charters is in Little Current. CYC offers over 20 sailboats up to 50' and several trawlers; Discovery offers sailboats up to 41 feet only. Canadian Yacht Charters, 800-565-0022, www.cycnorth.com. Discovery Yacht Charters, 800-268-8222, www.discoveryyachtcharters.com
Hints: Forecasts can be confusing, as both nautical and metric measurements are used. Buoyage is red right returning.
Wally Moran has cruised extensively around the Great Lakes. He’s now in warmer waters, cruising Cuba.