Covered Portage Cove just west of Killarney is a wonderfully picturesque safe haven for boaters. The entrance to the Cove is narrow and twisting, and once inside, the high, steep sides of the rocky hills surrounding it provide almost 360° protection from the winds.
The Cove has several trails around it. One of our favourites is a short, steep trail which snakes you up to the top of the hills to overlook the Cove on its north side. From atop these hills you can see Fraser Bay to the west and even farther to Manitoulin Island.
Other trails can lead you out to Frazer Bay or up to a platform high on the south side of the Cove with Muskoka chairs and a firepit. This was the trail we chose to explore on a layover day in the Cove. The day was hot but the ever-present mosquitos made stopping for a breather somewhat problematic! After a couple of wrong turns, we made it to the platform. In all of these years sailing this area, Jim and I have never taken this trail! Wow, was the view spectacular! I could see Casson Peak, a hill we had climbed last year at Baie Fine to the northwest of us.
The owners of the platform (and the only cottage nearby) have very graciously allowed boaters to rest there and enjoy the view. We are very grateful for their generosity.
Our layover day allowed our newly arrived friends to set their boat to rights and rest after the long drive up to Killarney. Then we sailed westward in a gentle breeze to Heywood Island, a nice stopping point between Killarney and the town of Little Current on Manitoulin Island.
Two years ago, due to poor natural food conditions, a young male bear at Heywood Island had taken to swimming out to anchored boats and and plundering their provisions!! You can imagine the damage that a hungry bear can do! Well, we’ve heard that the bear had been dealt with (?) last year and luckily none of the other bears in the area have learned his trick.
After a peaceful night at anchor with maybe three or four other boats in the anchorage, we sailed westward around the beautiful Strawberry Island Lighthouse to Little Current. Some other boater friends had heard that we were cruising there so we had a quick Hello on the dock with our friends on Twilight Zone before heading up the hill to the supermarkets. The store I went into was very organized with Covid-19 protocols but not having been around people much, I could feel my anxiety rising. Happily, all of the other customers seemed to be playing by the rules and we weren’t long in gathering our supplies.
After a quick stop in town for food, fuel, water etc., we bashed our way west out of the Little Current channel. Our friends on Twilight Zone had gone ahead and as we were all bound for the same anchorage, texted me that they’d read 20+ knots (40+km/hr) of west wind in the channel. The waves were stacking up as well into steep, short period waves around a metre and half high (short period means that they are close together and the period is usually measured in seconds). Thankfully we only had a mile or two to motor in that mess then we turned up the Wabuno Channel and sailed more comfortablely off the wind to our destination, Sturgeon Cove.
Sturgeon is a fairly large bay protected from most winds except from the northwest. We had some rollers still coming into the bay but these settled down overnight. It was great to catch up with our friends on Twilight Zone whom we had cruised with in this area years ago when they were members of our little sailing club, Fanshawe Yacht Club in London.
The next day dawned sunny and warm with the winds at at least half the strength of the previous day. We wished Twilight Zone “Fair winds” as they headed off elsewhere, and our group of four boats enjoyed a long and leisurely sail tacking upwind to the Benjamin Islands.
The Benjamin Islands are a group of pink granite islands in the jumble of islands that are spread out between Manitoulin Island and the mainland to the north. Many years ago, a US company began to mine the pink granite for monuments I believe. The Canadian government stopped this practice and the Benjamins have been protected ever since. They are one of the most beautiful places in the North Channel and a cruise here is not complete without a day or two in this place.
The islands are also one of the most popular places for boaters. We’ll sometimes see three or even four motor boats rafted together and tied to the rocks. Big boats anchor in the harbour between North and South Benjamin and we shallow draft boats tuck into nooks and crannies where we can. However, the wind is not always our friend, and for two nights, the evening calm led to rising overnight east winds creating lumpy conditions at anchor. The winds weren’t strong but they were enough to make the boats bump up and down in the little waves which is annoyingly noisy.
We spent three days in the Benjamins kayaking, hiking, swimming and relaxing before it was time to see if we could show our friends a few new anchorages to the west before it was time to head east again.
The next blog will describe those anchorages and our last few days in the western part of the North Channel.
Fair winds and following seas friends.