Itinerary and map of 2012 cruise

Waukegan, IL
Port Washington, WI
Pentwater, MI
Mackinaw City
Whitney Bay, Drummond Island, MI
Burnt Island Harbor, ON
Wingfield Basin
Snug Harbor
Parry Sound
Spider Bay
Ritchie Bay
Regatta Bay
Eureka Bay
Nares Inlet
Bing Inlet – Britt
Bustard Islands, NE anchorage
Bad River
Beaverstone Bay
Covered Portage Cove
Little Current
Beardrop Harbor
Thessalon, ON
Pike Bay, Drummond Island, MI
Harbor Springs
Manistee, MI
Manitowoc, WI
Milwaukee, WI
Waukegan, IL

1300 miles


Waukegan to Mackinaw City

This posting covers multiple legs:  Waukegan, IL to Port Washington, WI to Pentwater, MI to Frankfort, MI to Charlevoix, MI to Mackinaw City, MI. 

We try to get going as early as possible each day so that no matter what happens we never arrive at our next anchorage or harbor after dark.

Port Washington’s unique Art Deco lighthouse will not be confused with any other on the Great Lakes.

Port Washington is always our first port o’ call.  Makes for a long day, but upon arrival at this cute little town north of Milwaukee it feels like you’ve reached the “cruising grounds”.

All the pictures in this post are from Tim Place, who crewed with Owen up to Mackinaw City, where Happy (who does not really enjoy open-lake sailing) took his place.

“Tillie” the TillerMaster autopilot is the hardest working member of the crew.

Lighthouse on the north pier of the stilling basin, Frankfort, MI.

The moon rises over Lake Betsie in Frankfort.

It would be a big mistake to try and sail between those two vessels;  its a tow!

The little ferry from Leeland returning backpackers from camping on North Manitou Island.

A local Charlevoix architect, Earl Young, designed what are now called the Hobbit Houses, small, whimsical cottages.  But he also did some local mansions and even one of the hotels.

To get to the Charlevoix marinas you first have to negotiate this drawbridge.

This is the exit from Pentwater Lake.

Nope, we don’t use roller-furling.  Old-school hanked-on sails for us.

The “Mighty Mac” bridge as seen from the Municipal Marina in Mackinaw City.

Mackinaw City Lighthouse.

Mackinaw City to Whitney Bay, Drummond Island

Whitney Bay

This will be our last stop before passing into Canada.  Whitney bay is a very peaceful spot, an anchorage within an anchorage.  Last time we were here we watched Loons go fishing.  They seem to come out at 5-6 and then again at twilight.  Their legs are well back on their bodies and they have dense bones which permit them to dive to 200 feet and remain down for 10 minutes.  Generally only one pair is found on each lake or bay.

There used to be a Canadian fort located here;  now only the foundations remain.  The Brits blew it up when we got Drummond Island.  Obtained not by force, but by keeping the British treaty official on the American survey vessel drunk most of the time.  The Americans timed the passage so that he would be deep in his cups when Drummond Island was reached.  He was compliant at just the right time.  So Drummond Island is the one, when you look at a map of Lake Huron you say, “Shouldn’t that one really be in Canada?”  Well…….yeah.

Whitney Bay to Burnt Island

As we cross the international border we fly three flags:  Canadian “courtesy” flag. Yellow “Q” or “Pratique” flag warning other boats not to approach as we have not yet cleared customs. Great Lakes Cruising Club burgee, which, if you accidentally fly it upside down any other club member may board you and demand a cocktail!

We don’t fly the spinnaker all that often but this was a perfect day for it.

We are travelling the Lake Huron ‘North Shore’, along the southern coast of Mantoulin Island.  No towns, no marinas, a pretty empty place–supposedly even the Coast Guard will not come here!  

Look at that shoreline……….nothing there, for miles and miles.

Burnt Island to Tobermory

Traveling along the long southern shore of Manitoulin Island one feels very isolated.  No towns and very little boat or ship traffic.   You are on your own out here, as neither the Canadian nor the US Coast Guard patrols this border area.  Should be great for smuggling though!  There’s no place to stop for 40 miles (8 hours in our boat).  As we motor along (no wind) we read “no customs entry” for  our next port.  Oops!  So now we turn south for Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula, where we will find the special dark blue Canadian Customs phone booth. 

This is the high-speed car ferry that connects Tobermory, on the Bruce Peninsula, with Manitoulin Island.

This lighthouse marks the entrance to Georgian Bay.

As we round Chove island approaching Tobermory, we get some wind and put up the main.  And then the engine dies….no luck starting it either. Our fuel was running low and gunk on the bottom of the tank clogged the fuel line and killed the engine.  So we had to “short tack” up the narrow  channel to the dock in Big Tub Harbor.  One fellow, watching our predicament from shore, read our minds:  “Its deep right to the wall!”, he yelled to us.  So we were able to keep sails drawing right up to the last second on each tack, throwing the tiller over just before striking the sheer granite cliff.  We took a day off to remove the gas lines and blow them out with compressed air.  We also bought a few extra gas filters just in case.

Tobermory is charming, a busy harbor, a wreck diving and hiking center.  A harbor walk is always a way to meet interesting people.   Al and Fran have been sailing this area for 12 years in their cosy Grampian 26.  Purchased after sinking, she’s been brought back, and is a compact, homey cruiser.  We get out charts and get their tips for routes all through the 30,000 islands area.

Tobermory is at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.  Lots of great hiking around here with dramatic rock formations carved by the waves.

Tobermory to Wingfield Basin

Owen diagnoses and fixes the engine. We are headed for Parry Sound due E across Georgian Bay.  Tonight we hop to Wingfield Basin, an anchorage just 15 miles to the E which will shorten our crossing.  

We glide through crystal clear waters over the Niagara Escarpment, where the rocks under our hull drop sharply to 1000 feet.  This is the same rock formation that Niagara Falls flows over, only here its almost all covered with water.

We enter through a narrow cut into a perfectly protected anchorage and drop the hook next to the wrecked steam tug GARGANTUA, built in 1919 and lost in 1953.

Wingfield Basin to Snug Harbor


On a beam reach crossing Georgian Bay with all the white sails flying.  We anchor about 10 miles out from town in a cozy anchorage called Snug Harbor.  We are now in the “30, 000 islands” area, every one with at least one cottage on it!  Its very pretty here but the problem is that its just too convenient to Toronto.  There are rocks everywhere you look and we are keeping our eyes glued to paper and electronic charts the whole way in.

It takes a full day of sailing to cross Georgian Bay, the short way!  GB is so big it could rank as a Great Lake all by itself.

The little lighthouse marking the entrance to Snug Harbor.

Snug Harbor to Parry Sound

Parry Sound, site of the Great Lakes Cruising Club 2012 Rendezvous. Ninety boats in attendance, of which ours was the smallest. Before the GLCC would settle on Parry Sound the city had to agree to upgrade one whole dock to 90 Amp power (so that the bigger yachts could keep their A/C going).

Notice “THE FORMER….”, as today its just a bunch of old guys sitting around drinking beer and polishing their vintage engines.

A great way to see the “Thirty Thousand Islands”.

We are here to be in boat rally of the 75 year old Great Lakes Cruising Club. Long distance cruisers have come from all five of the great lakes, by boat, to be a part of it. Anywhere you want to explore (AKA “gunkhole”) these guys will know about it. There are 90 boats here and we are a big deal for the tiny town of Parry Sound. We have been feted with speeches from the mayor, the provincial governor and their MP.  It is a constant round of cocktail
parties, gadget swapping, boat viewing and sea stories. The dock crew seems to be disposing of an enormous number of liquor bottles each morning.  Here, the officers of the club, in their dress whites, “review the fleet”.

There is so much motorboat traffic in this area that the shoreline is scoured clean by the constant wakes.  It seems there’s at least one cottage on each of the “thirty thousand islands” and everyone of them has a runabout.


Parry Sound to Spider Bay

See the bridge-tender waving?  Nice.  Usually you never see the operators.  He asked for our name and hailing port.

Have to be constantly reminding yourself which side of these markers the channel is on, as it changes depending where in Georgian Bay you are.

OK, we are aground here, exactly equidistant between two channel markers.  Oh, my aching keel!  This spot is called Shoal Narrows.  Good name.  Chart says 10 feet deep, but our 6 foot keel begs to differ.  We slither over the rocks into a quiet bay which we share only with loons.

There’s an abandoned gold mine just onshore.  A twenty foot square vertical shaft with sheer sides.  Can’t even see the bottom, which must be filled with water.  We stay well back from the edge.  This is Missassigi Provincial park– no trails here, just water access.

Spider Bay to Ritchie Bay

This is the famous Henry’s, a fish restaurant on one of the “thirty-thousand islands”.  You can only get to it by boat or float-plane.  Still very very popular, a local institution, but we were underwhelmed.  Small portions, flies, and apparently these days the fish is not even local;  it comes from Lake Erie for god’s sake!

That little black boat on the other side of the dock is a local cruising couple that we met weeks before in Tobermory.  They gave us tons of advice on the best strategies for cruising Georgian Bay.

He purchased fish but not the gas.  We were not as knowledgeable and filled our tank, resulting in a WHOPPING bill, almost double what we are used to.  I asked a guy off a large trawler about it.  “Oh, NOBODY buys gas here!”, he said.  Well, now we know.

This whole area is navigated using the Small Craft Route, which is denoted on a series of long narrow strip charts.  The whole thing has been dredged and blasted to a minimum depth of six feet, supposedly, which would be enough.  But we have struck, more than once, in places the chart says are seven feet.  Its not a matter of deferred dredging, either;  its always, BANG! up onto a rock.

“I’m expected to take my boat through THERE?”, is the question we’re constantly asking ourselves.