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Five days on McGreagor Bay

You can visit the North Channel many times in your life. Each visit can bring new anchorages and new adventures without ever really leaving the “safety” of the main North Channel.

We have met many over the last four years who are content with going to Meldrum Bay, Gore Bay, Little Current and on to Killarney and then working their way back west via the marinas on the north side of the channel.

Cindy is not one of the many.

She spends her winters reviewing a host of maps, logging into chat rooms with other sailors who have done the North Channel, talking to members of the “Women who sail” internet community, working to find the most remote and most beautiful places for us to explore.

Places that aren’t readily accessible by a boat the size of Respite but still accessible enough.

We spent Friday June 21 in the marina at Little Current reprovisioning and of course finding ice cream. The walk from the marina to the grocery store is more than a mile with a 150-foot hill in between. The ice cream shop is another quarter mile east of the grocery.

Jeff made two trips to the store and a third to the ice cream shop. Needless to say, we are all (including Duncan who will walk forever to get ice cream) getting into summer shape.

What could have been another routine stop was highlighted by the meeting of Bob and Kathy Hall who had just pulled into the marina when we did and the four of us quickly struck up a conversation.

Well into their 80s, the two have sailed a CS 36 since they bought it new 37 years ago. Time, Bob said, had slowed them down some and they had considered selling the boat this winter but the family wouldn’t hear of it. The family still wants to sail with the couple for weeks at time this summer, so again, they are taking their time putting the sails on the boat, checking on the rigging and doing all that they need to have the boat ready for another summer here.

Watching them work on their boat for a day and a half was interesting in that it was easy to tell that the two, who have been married for 55 years, have developed a rhythm to their life together on land and on the boat. We hope to see them done the line somewhere.

We left Little Current and headed for McGregor Bay. Again, the bay is so large that one could spent an entire summer anchoring on the southern most coves and still leave with anchorages unexplored.

Cindy wanted to take Respite as far north in McGregor Bay as possible and anchor at the foot of the La Cloche Mountains. Five years ago, heading to the north side of McGregor Bay would have been impossible as the water would have been too thin but over the last four years, the Lake Huron is up more than four feet, making the intended trek possible – not easy but possible.

Two hours and more than a dozen miles many at speeds so slow it was hard to tell we were moving as we dodged rocks, we ended up in the “Eye of a Needle.” The needle is a half-mile-long very narrow channel with a small 200-foot diameter pond at the end.

We had to pass through “The Blasted Cut” as part of the journey. The top of McGregor Bay had been inaccessible until the Canadian government blasted a very narrow path between two of the formerly unconnected bays. The Cut is perhaps 25-feet-wide, 150-feet-long and 12-feet-deep. Even with a chart plotter, depth sounder and charts, I wasn’t sure the 12-foot-wide Respite would make it but slowly we did.

The breathtaking view of the pool and mountains in the background made the trip more than worth the effort.

We intended to spend at least one night in the “Eye of the Needle” but the rocky bottom made anchoring impossible so after swimming and eating dinner we left the very small channel and pool and headed just east to a perfect anchorage know as the “Donut Hole.” Seems the three hundred- foot diameter pond has a large rock island exactly in the middle of it making it from the sky look like a donut.

We spent a couples of days there as the weather turned stormy and then headed to another anchorage nearby on what the map refers to as the North Channel of McGregor Bay, Our intent was to spend a night there and then move down the North Channel of McGregor bay to a narrow called the Russian Cut. All we had heard was the area was one of the most beautiful in the entire region.

As we headed east on the North Channel of McGregor Bay it quickly became apparent that there was not enough water in one small area for us to get through.

Respite has a wing keel and unfortunately, we got high centered on a flat rock.

No real damage done to the boat but we were stuck miles and hours away from any help – or so we thought. Just after running aground, several fishermen in a high-powered boat happened to be coming up the same channel to fish.

With a little tug on a line attached to the bow, and the power of a 175-horse engine, they were able to free Respite and we returned to the anchorage we had just left.

As the fisherman headed off, I asked where they were from and expected to hear them say someplace local. Instead the man at the wheel yelled “Ohio and here we are bailing out our Michigan friends!”

We pulled up anchor the next morning and headed to Killarney where we can take on fuel, pump put the head, buy a few groceries and begin the next phase of the trip which is down the northern edge of the Georgian Bay.

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