North Channel Cruise 2020 – Midland to Killarney

One of the things we’ve learned in this new era of Covid-19 is to find ways to de-stress. Jim and are fortunate in that we have been able to still do many of the activities we like to do while still staying away from people.

We went camping in our van just when our Provincial parks opened and enjoyed our time away a lot.

Now we are away again. This time we are sailing in our beautiful freshwater cruising grounds in Georgian Bay in Lake Huron.

Basically what this involves is sailing from island to island or to quiet areas of the mainland and anchoring for the night. We then go kayaking or fish, swim or hike and enjoy the serenity of the north.

We left from Midland and spent several days with friends on two other boats, working our way north through the 30,000 islands.

We anchored off of Beausoleil Island, Wreck Island, Franklin Island, and in Henvey Inlet where a wind farm and burnt trees from wildfires two years ago made for a surreal anchorage. We spent a night in Beaverstone Bay, then made our way down the narrow Collin’s Inlet to Killarney where we hooked onto one of four mooring balls rented out from Killarney Mountain Lodge.

The water is very high in the Great Lakes again…at least 4.5′ higher than chart datum so this causes a lot of damage to trees along the shore which drown, rot and snap off in the strong winds here.

So far the fishing hasn’t been very successful and we haven’t seen much in the way of wildlife other than a mink-like creature and a bald eagle or two.

Our other friends have now joined us so we are four boats exploring the North Channel. Here in Covered Portage Cove just west of Killarney, Jim had a chance to try out his sailing rig that he cobbled together for our 10′ kayak! He says it needs work!

Fair winds for now friends!



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Will They Let Us In?

It was a beautiful day for our Gulf Stream crossing to Florida. If there were bags under our eyes, it was from trying to sleep in a pretty rolly anchorage. Our day dawned with a southeast wind, forecast to build a little and swing to southwest as the day went along.

We pulled anchor and headed west. Gradually, the islands of Bimini became a small smokey smudge on the horizon and soon we we were in the deep indigo waters of the Gulf Stream. The sun was obscured by a few clouds keeping us cool and comfortable. Auto DeViet held us on our course and there were only a couple of ships within sight. Every other private vessel we saw was headed west….going home to the USA or eventually other places like us I guess.

With everything changing daily during the pandemic, we weren’t quite sure how we Canucks would be received once we reached the US. We needn’t have worried. US Customs was great. We used the Roam App which I had previously downloaded all of our info to and we checked into the States once we were about a mile off of Fort Lauderdale. Customs asked if we were just heading straight home to Canada. We said yes, and were given the OK to proceed. Nice!

We sailed up the coast of Florida to a wee inlet at Lake Boca. Some guys on a lovely Seawind catamaran also going in, offered help into this tricky inlet. It silts up near the mouth and there is only a small space where boats wait for a bridge to open up.

Finally the bridge opened and we followed the cat in. Turns out that they both own Corsair trimarans too!

My Mom was able to see us at anchor in Lake Boca via some local webcams. How cool!

The next day we motored up the ICW requesting many bridge openings to Lake Worth. There we sailed outside again and made it to the inlet at Stuart at late afternoon. It was the best sail of the whole trip! The water was pretty flat because of an offshore breeze and we cruised along at 11 knots. Mom and family were able to see us sail into that inlet on a webcam too!!

We dropped anchor in Manatee Pocket and began to prep the boat to haul out the next day. Got the sails off, etc.

The next morning I dinghied Jim to shore so he could get the van and trailer from The Finish Line in Stuart. I met him at the park where the public boat launch was a madhouse!! Martin county was one of the counties nearby that hadn’t closed so everyone and their brother was launching boats with little thought to social distancing on the docks. Nutty.

We were happy to get packed up and on our way.

We took some roads out of Stuart that we’d never been on before. One was a scenic byway with trees growing over the road. Charming.

We took three days to get home. We slept aboard and I prepped all of our food so we really only had to stop for fuel.

We reached the Canada/US at Sarnia/Port Huron to find one big RV and a half dozen trucks…that was it!! Bizarre. The Canada Customs officer read us a statement about maintaining the mandatory 14 quarantine or face fines. No problem we said.

We headed straight home and into a whole new world.

Our Bahamas trip had many great aspects and a few terrifying moments which I will go into in another post. For now I will say that overall it was an awesome trip.

Fair winds friends and following seas.

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One Loooong Sail to Bimini

We left our anchorage at Chub Cay around 5:30 am in the full dark. The night was clear and we could easily see the the other anchored boats, the small islands and the markers that led to the main shipping channel. The prevailing east wind was already up enough to sail so down wind we went.

We figured we had about 85 nautical miles to sail. We hoped we could get into a marina by twilight… as long as we could maintain a decent rate of speed. We also hoped the wind would stay up so we could sail the entire way.

The sunrise was beautiful. The stars gradually disappeared as the sky got lighter and lighter. There was one ship far away to our south, likely heading for Andros Island (if you’ve watched the HGTV show “Island of Bryan”, you might wonder if the ship had supplies for Bryan and his staff at his Caerula Mar Club on south Andros!)

The sun was out and the day was pleasantly warm. The sailing was steady and comfortable for most of the day. The waters along our route are quite shallow and many cruisers on slower boats actually anchor on these banks overnight rather than try to do this hop in the dark. But as predicted, in the afternoon the wind dropped from 12 knots or so to around 5 or maybe less. Dang. Jim decided to motor sail the rest of the way to North Bimini. So, for the last four hours, we motored across beautiful clear waters to our last stop in the Bahamas. Quite a few boats were headed in the same direction over the day, probably trying to get home too.

We arrived as the sun was low in the sky. I remember Jim saying that he didn’t think we would make it during daylight – as we always seem to be arriving in the dark!!

As we got close enough to the islands to get a cell signal, I learned that the Bahamian government had imposed new rules in their efforts to help to stop the spread of Covid-19. The new orders – to start the next day – stated that residents were to stay on their own properties now unless going for groceries or fuel. This was a 24 hour curfew. Only essential businesses would be open. Marinas were likely to be closed too. Once again I felt we were 1 day late to achieve certain goals. In this case, we had a package waiting for us at The Bimini Post Office. Now even the Post Office was closed and we weren’t allowed on the streets of Alice Town. As visitors we could go to get groceries or fuel but we really had no need to go ashore. We stills had plenty of supplies. So our plans were foiled again. We would leave the package in Bimini and try to get it later once the pandemic was over.

As the sun set over Florida 50 miles away, we made a decision and anchored off of Radio Beach on the west side of North Bimini instead of going to a marina. It was quiet and peaceful. Nobody was on the streets that we could see, not much sound from the homes nearby. It was slightly eerie. We had a pretty rolly night due to gentle waves rolling in off of the Florida Straights. We knew it would be rolly from notes on our electronic navigation charts and it was a great jumping off point to head to Florida, but I don’t think I’ll ever elect to anchor there again!

Below are some of the screenshots of wind and tide info we use to plan our passages. (Windfinder app whose info we we take with a grain of salt, and tide info on Navionics which we can use offline!)

Setting out from Chub Cay with our navigation lights on. It’s cool how they light up our pontoons and the forward screecher sail.

Sunrise in the Northwest Providence Channel as we sail westward.

The “cruise ship” dock which was built by the huge resort just visible at the left. We heard a few years ago that visitors to the resort were actually warned to not go to Alice Town as it was dangerous. Give me a break!! The locals in Alice Town were great last time we were there.

Almost to our beach where we’d anchor for the night off of North Bimini. We dropped the hook about 300′ from shore in 10′ of depth in front of the trees to the right of the shot above.

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We’re Home!

Just a quick post to let folks know that we got home on Saturday.  No problems at the Border at Sarnia….it was like a ghost town which was good.  It took us 3 days to drive home from Florida and we kept our distance from people all the way home.  We slept on the boat on the trailer in rest stops or truck stops, made our own food on the boat and basically just got gas – which was cheap!

Now we are in self-isolation for 14 days but will likely keep to ourselves even after that is done because I think that is the best way to fight this damn virus!!  Physical distancing is so important.

Huge thanks to those who take care of us (health care workers like my sister) and those who keep the supply chain moving (like my trucker brother) and those wonderful volunteers who get us groceries!

We have more pictures and videos to upload but that will be as soon as I can.

Stay well everyone!


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Trying to go with the flow but home we go

These are pretty crazy times. The Coronavirus has locked down the globe and that’s a good thing. We do not want to contribute to any issues which the Bahamians may have so we are heading home. We had a lovely time at Southwest Allan’s Cay sitting out some strong winds and exploring new areas we missed the last time we were there. The Iguanas are still interesting as is the friendly local southern stingray who comes around from boat to boat.

During our time there, several boats came and went next to us in the shallows. Most were catamarans and one was a swing keel monohull who squeezed in between us and a big catamaran. Thankfully the Skipper decided to move as they were really too close.

One of the reasons we decided to head home is that we learned that the local marina store would only sell food to local residents. We didn’t blame them but wondered if this would become a trend on the smaller islands. We were well stocked for at least two weeks but our other consideration was our travel insurance would be up in a few weeks anyway. It’s my belief that this fight against the virus will go on for some months so while we possibly could have returned to Nassau and stocked up to anchor at Rose Island for a month, it just seemed prudent to head home.

So here we are anchored off of Chub Cay. Yesterday we were at Rose Island after a lovely sail from the Exumas. I even made a “loaf” of bread in the Dutch oven on the way! We got ice cream and fuel at Palm Cay Marina after arriving from Allan’s. I put the ice cream in our little freezer and we enjoyed it and fresh bread with our sundowners in the anchorage at Rose Island.

Tomorrow we up anchor at 5:30am for a long sail to Bimini in what might be fairly light winds. This will be our jumping off point to the States. Hopefully the next week goes well getting the boat back on the trailer and driving home. We are completely self sufficient and really only need to stop for fuel.

Good Night from the Berry Islands!

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Good-bye Berrys, hello Exuma Islands!

Yesterday we took a weather window and left our lovely anchorage at Hoffman’s Cay and set off for Rose Island, 45 nautical miles away to the south east.

We had returned to Hoffman’s Cay to spend a few days there with our friends Cheri and Don Lawrence along with their son Bennett. They have a Catalina 470 sailboat called “Sarayu” and were keeping it at Great Harbour Cay Marina, a 20 mile sail north of Hoffman’s.

We spent time on our beautiful little beach playing in the crystal clear shallow waters. We tramped through the scrubby brush to the Blue Hole which young Bennett, age 6, wasn’t impressed with. My guess is because you can’t see the bottom.

When we arrived, there were two kids jumping off the 20′ high rock ledge over the cave to the deep dark waters below. I had stood where they were jumping from just a few days ago and balked at the idea of doing that leap. I’d even seen other adults do it on videos. But I chickened out. However, this was too much. I mean, if a ten year old girl could gather the courage to do it, couldn’t I?

Don thought I was nuts but got his camera ready. I did it!! I jumped and thankfully missed the rocks that stick out just under the water. I’ll post the video later. But I was thrilled.

Under the ledge I jumped off of is a pretty cool cave. Jim tapped some of the stalagmites and they all had different sounds. Awesome.

We enjoyed dinners on each other’s boats and commented on how well we eat when we’re cruising. Don thinks everything tastes better on a boat. Hard to disagree.

Our last morning together was a dinghy ride out to the first nook we had tried to anchor in (it was so shallow when the tide went out that we sat on the bottom for part of the night – no biggie as our boat has a flat bottom once the 5′ daggerboard is pulled up!). We called this Turtle Bay. We saw many turtles, a baby Shark and a ray.On the way back to the boat, we drifted over a tiny coral reef full of beautiful little fish and a good variety of corals. Lovely clear water and all of this just inches below the dinghy!

At noon both boats made for the Inlet and headed our separate ways. It was great spending time in that beautiful place with friends.

Now we are anchored at Rose Island, just east of New Providence Island. The lights from the city of Nassau twinkle in the distance, the mast head lights from the 6 or so sailboats here and the myriad of stars above add to the magic of this particular anchorage at night. The sunsets have been really spectacular.

We spent a low key day here today after a lively crossing yesterday from the Berry Islands. Once here we listened to the Bahamian Prime Minister speak about the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a world wide issue now. Jim couldn’t believe that folks at home can’t get toilet paper!!

We have decided that we’ll keep cruising just a bit further south into the Exuma Islands chain. We are away from people and have all we need. Our plan is to return to Canada by April 9 but as the world’s situation changes, so might ours. We have had pretty good radio and/or cell coverage so we can keep up with news.

Hoping you all stay safe and healthy, Carleen and JimMy young inspiration…A peek into Turtle Bay aboveSarayu getting under way.The Atlantis complex, Nassau as we sailed by it.Closed up home on Rose Island. There are about 8 peacocks and peahens running around here, calling to each other. Really drowns out the poor old rooster trying hard to be heard nearby’A southern stingray hunkering down in the sand to await its prey in our anchorage.Good night Nassau!

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Hoffman’s Cay… Thanks for the shelter!

Last Thursday we left the shelter of a perfectly fine marina knowing full well that a strong blow was coming…why? Was it because we’re frugal? Maybe. Was it for the adventure? Oh hell no. Was it because we knew of a snug little place to anchor out of the winds? Not really but we had high hopes, so off we went, motoring southward on a rising tide, through the shallow waters on the west side of Great Harbour Cay. Our destination was Hoffman’s Cay about 4 hours away.As we picked our way through the crystal clear waters which were maybe 12′ deep, a lone dolphin came over to fish off of our bow. Magic but wow was it busy! We also came across a good sized nurse Shark so I tried to get some underwater footage to show later.We rounded some sand bars and were able to sail to the Cay, arriving around 4:00pm.We dropped the Rocna anchor in what seemed to be pretty shallow waters in a very protected nook. But it was very shallow. I knew the tide was still going out but Jim said it would be OK if we settled onto the sand! We spent the next hour lounging on the netting and watching sea turtles feeding on patches of turtle grass nearby. So peaceful.Now, we only need 18″ to float but sure enough, the tide went out and just before bed we were on the bottom. We didn’t hear crunching so no rocks or hard bits under us. Whew!That was fine for one night in settled conditions but when the 30+ knots of wind come, this was not a place to be. So we moved to the south part of the Cay and dropped the anchor in what looked like grass. Hmmm. I don’t like grass to anchor in. Only clear sand if possible to hold in a blow!! I dove on the anchor and only the tip made a half-hearted effort to go into the muck. Shoot. So I, and my new buddy the 4′ Barracuda, swam back to the boat. We anchored in another spot and fearing no luck holding once again, Jim dove on the anchor. He too made a new friend… A 4′ black tip reef Shark! Not sure who was more scared. But I assured Jim that if reef sharks were around, there was a good chance that hammerheads weren’t!! He didn’t think that was helpful.We pulled over to the last patch of clear sand in the anchorage between Hoffman’s, White Cay, Saddleback Cay etc. The Rocna held fast and we and four other boats bobbed and tossed as our shelter from the brief west winds gave way to Stormy 25+ knots funneling through a pass right at us…all night. Not a great night for rest but man did that anchor hold!The next day as soon as the sun was high enough to see into the water, we moved up the coast of Hoffman’s to the first beach. Our anchor found some clear sand and we got shelter from the growing north then east winds.We went ashore to find the famous Blue Hole. I had thoughts of jumping off the 20′ high limestone into the deep waters but I chickened out. I’m not ashamed as it’s a long freaking way to any medical help!! I did snorkel the hole and saw a few fish. There was a ton of algae moss lining some of the steep rock walls. Jim explored the cave like rocks beside the hole.It’s about a 10 minute walk back to the beach. It’s a perfect little beach with no real rocks along the sand.From Sunday to Monday we didn’t leave the boat. Though the island protected us from the worst of the winds and waves, it’s only 23′ high here so our 45′ tall mast was shaking in the strong gusts. We battened everything down and the Rocna anchor plus our backup Bruce anchor both. held. We had three separate devices with an anchor watch running. There were even little choppy waves in our wee Bay. By the way, these strong winds are the result of a “norther”, a cold front. It got so chilly that we had to put the doors in, put on pants, socks, fleeces, and two blankets. The high was 19C and the night time was probably 15C? Brrr…At one point a dinghy came over. It turns out we had met Vicki and Art at the Toronto Multihull Club Regatta a few years ago! They and their labradoodle Roxie were on a Seawind catamaran anchored at the next beach (all of the boats in our stormy anchorage had all skedaddled when the strong winds came).We moved our anchor once to make sure we were farther off the rocky lee shore in case any south east wind showed up…. Good thing too as it did!!Today we did more boat chores as the winds started to subside a bit. The best accomplishment was getting the watermaker to prime, then run!! We ran our little generator in order to have this machine turn salt water into fresh water. Success! The generator also charged the batteries as we made ice with ice maker!Jim also refilled 6 – 1lb propane tanks for our stove from our larger 11lb tank that we carry in the anchor locker (our primary anchor doesn’t fit in the locker).This afternoon we had another dinghy come by. It was the dad and three kids from the catamaran to our south. The kids had a bit of cabin fever but it turns out that whole family had a case of ciguaterra poisoning from a wahoo fish they had caught in deep water!!! Some reef fish carry this poison but not normally wahoo according to the dad. But they’re on the mend and we’re happy to get out. Nice to say hi to neighbours.This evening we watched a spotted eagle ray hunting in the shallows around our boat. There is an extreme low tide as there’s a full moon so it was fairly easy to see the ray between wind gusts.We also both saw the Green Flash when the sun set!!! This happens when the sun drops just below the horizon at sea. And we saw it!! A light green millisecond. Cool.Now Jim is threatening to beat me at cards again…and dang it, he probably will. But we’ll see.Waiting for the green flashThe pic above is of our beach, the Blue Hole and the bigger beach to the northAnchor watch….

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Trying to hide from wind at Hoffman Cay

High winds had us looking for good holding at Hoffman Cay… In vain four times we anchored with no set. Hard scoured rock under a thin layer of sand or clay. I dove on the anchor and only the tip was in a bit of sand. Made friends with a big barracuda patrolling the nearby rocky shore.We moved from spot to spot in between the south end of Hoffman. On the fourth try, Jim dove on the anchor and came face to face with a black tip reef Shark. He wasn’t happy.But the fifth time was the charm as the Rocna 15 Kg dug into clear sand. Last night five boats bobbed and tossed at anchor in 25 knots of wind. Only rough for one night as the winds clocked around (they always go clockwise) from howling west to howling north east. We had an anchor watch running on three different devices and one of us up at all times.Moved around the corner this morning to our own little beach sheltered from strong north and later east winds. This beach has a path to a famous blue hole inland on the Cay. More about that in the next post.

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Ruins and a huge empty beach

(Edit: This should have been posted 6 days ago but had trouble uploading)

Yesterday afternoon’s adventure: Don, Carl, Jim and I took a walk to the beach on the east side of the island. Just up a hill from the marina are the ruins of a Clubhouse where the Rat Pack and their friends used to come and hang out. Apparently their mansion was farther away.

There was an 18 hole golf course here too. Now all of it is in ruins though I hear that 9 holes are still mowed but we couldn’t distinguish greens or tee blocks easily.

We continued along the road to a path to the beach. So pretty and only two other people walking on it. A few sailboats were anchored there but though it was not very windy, it looked rolly. The sand felt like icing sugar and indeed the southern end is called Sugar Beach.

As we walked the shallows, Jim spotted a wee baby black tip reef Shark cruising the edge of the water. Maybe 2.5′? So cute.

Walked to The Beach Club bar but they had just closed…at 5:00…only open for breakfast and lunch. It’s next to the airstrip and has twin conical structures if you’re looking on Google Earth.

Then we walked back to the Marina along some of the old fairways. Boy do I wish I had some clubs and some balls!

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Up Shark Creek’s…with a broken motor!

Yesterday’s morning adventure: to dinghy a mile or two around the corner to Shark Creek, a very shallow mangrove-lined Creek which bisects the island west to East. Mike from S/V Dark N Stormy suggested we gather our snorkel gear and hit the creek on the rising tide because at the other side out near Sugar Beach is a great place to see lots of creatures in the sea.Off we zoomed. My driver was Don and Jim hitched a ride with Mike and Carl. Mike has a 20hp on his dinghy and Don has a 9.9. Both got up on plane and after a bit of a bumpy ride we entered the creek.It soon narrowed into tunnels and depths were barely a foot. Mike explained that this was a great nursery for baby black tip reef sharks. Sadly just before we reached the other side, Mike’s motor died. No luck with repair attempts so we towed him back through the tunnels and finally into the harbour.Once back at the dock, the guys immediately set to work on the motor and got it running so maybe we’ll try again in the next day or two.

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