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since our trip to the North Channel area in 2004, we had always thought
about getting back 'there'. It towards the
end of the 2005 boating season that our friend and Commodore of the MacRay
Yacht Club mentioned to us that he was trying to organize a small group of
boats to make the trip “up there” for 2006. So we jumped at the chance
to at least “think” about it.
And “think” about it we did. There were many details to consider. With the escalating fuel prices is it something that is cost effective? (Well, in reality, in boating if you start trying to rationalize the cost of fuel you’ll go crazy). Would we invite another couple to go along? (Sure helps to defray the costs.) Can I get the necessary time off? (for Gina, being a teacher, time off is no issue for her.).
The preliminary itinerary talked about was heading North up Lake Huron, then east into Georgian Bay. We wanted to get far west this time. Anyway, we were definitely interested in the trip! In 2004, time only permitted us to get as far west as Little Current, and the Benjamin Islands were now our top destination priority.
In December we had a cruise meeting / dinner with many of the interested parties, including Ed and Wendy of Mytigood, a 50ft SeaRay Sedan Bridge, and Jim and Jana from Lime Cutter, a brand new FourWinns 378. There were also a few other boaters present who were interested in going at least part way of the trip. After cocktails and dinner, the table was cleared and out came the Port Books, charts, and copies of a blank calendar.
a relatively short period of time, we filled out the calendar page, and
mapped out an itinerary for 18 days beginning the end of June. The loose
knit plan was to head up the Canadian side of Lake Huron, starting at
Sarnia, then going north with overnight stops at Port Elgin and
Tobermory. From there the group would head northeast to Bad River for a
couple of days, before cruising west through Beaverstone Bay, Mill Lake,
and Killarney. After that, the route would take us to Mary Ann Cove, The
Pool, and then further west through Little Current to the Benjamin
We weren’t sure about heading east to Bad River, as we wanted to make sure we got west to the Benjamin’s. So our thought was that we might meet up with the group around Mill Lake. From the Benjamin’s, the plan was to stop at Gore Bay, then west before going south back to Presque Isle in Michigan. After that, we would come down the Michigan side of Lake Huron with stops in East Tawas and Lexington before returning to home port. All in all a fairly ambitious float plan. And of course it is all weather permitting.
Later during the winter we talked with our friends Bill and Mary from Instead Of, who we made our 2004 North Channel trip with. Yes they were interested in doing a cruise for 2006. They were thinking either the North Channel, or a trip to the Erie Canal. We met for a preliminary planning meeting, and Bill brought over all his charts and research he had done on the Erie Canal. I had also done some looking on-line of this area, and quite frankly didn’t find it too interesting. So Bill shared all the information, and then told us his conclusion; that a very slow trip down the canal didn’t sound great to him either.
So, they decided that a trip up north and to the Benjamin’s sounded feasible to them. Mary’s sister Laurie and husband Jim would be joining them on board as well. We decided that we would go solo, and not invite anyone with us on Tick Tock Too. The upside to this was that we would have a lot more room with only the two of us, but the downside is that it would be a lot more expensive. So now the serious planning (and budgeting) began.
Actually, the planning can be more “mental” than physical. What I mean by that is, it gives one a “high” of having something so special to look forward to. It sure helps make the off season go better, that’s for sure! For the off season, we stored our boat in the water inside a heated building. This gave me a chance to make the most significant preparation for the trip; installation of 10” chart plotter.
The most satisfying planning of any trip for me is the navigation groundwork. Using my excellent Maptech software, I spent the winter months determining the waypoints and routes of all possible combinations of where we would go. I had the previous tracks from our 2004 trip, tons of research from on-line cruise logs, the GLCC software, as well as first hand information from my brother Tom who has regularly cruised the Benjamin Island area. The Maptech software allows me to upload all the waypoints and routes to the chart plotter. So after months of working on it, I was all set.
I had also been to some of these North Channel areas, by boat as a teenager back in 1972, as well as backpacked to Killarney and The Pool in the late 70’s. Definitely have an emotional attachment to the North Channel, and it will be great to get back here, especially in my own boat.
In the Spring we made a few short trips to start the season, including St. Clair, Windsor, and Lexington. We were getting a taste for our extended trip, and as the time neared, our “winter dock mates” Seth and Marc from Sport ‘n Life, a 400 Sundancer, told us they would be leaving for Mackinac Island about the same time our trip would begin, June 29th. Instead Of had plans to leave a few days after us and hoped to catch up to us in Mill Lake. They planned to spend some time with us through the Benjamin’s, before heading to Mackinac Island themselves.
So as we got close to departure, we were feeling good about the trip. It looked like we would get to cruise and spend time with a few different groups. Our main cruising group of Mytigood and Lime Cutter, a little time with Sport ‘n Life, and our good friends Bill and Mary from Instead Of. We also are very comfortable with just spending some time alone.
The North Channel and Georgian Bay area is renowned as some of the best fresh water boating areas in the world. It is considered the “holy grail" of cruising grounds by many a boater who has experienced it. Wow, this was going to be a great trip!