Power Boating Canada’s Doug Dawson provides an in-depth account on his recent on-water journey to one of Canada’s most popular cruising destinations.
Published in Power Boating Canada Magazine Volume 21 Number 3 – June 2006 by Doug Dawson
A beautiful sunset in Fish Creek. Located in Door County, Wisconsin, and surrounded
Wednesday May 25
“Put your seatbacks in the upright position and keep your seat belts buckled until we reach the terminal,” was the captain’s last instruction before we landed in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Rod and Betty Jane Brebner, along with my wife Brenda and I, picked up our luggage and a quick count of our 17 pieces confirmed we had it all—everything from tools to bedding – for a trip we would remember for a long time.
Rod and Betty Jane are recreational boaters from Meaford, Ontario and cured their two-foot-itis after purchasing a 340 Carver Santego in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Since the couple upgraded from a single stern drive engine to twin inboard engines on a larger cruiser and have never cruised the Great Lakes, they invited Brenda and I to join them on their first voyage from Green Bay to Georgian Bay. Needless to say, we happily accepted.
After a day of provisioning the 340 with supplies,
Thursday May 26 – Carver Yachts Tour
After a night at the Radisson Hotel, we did a thorough inspection of the 340 at South Bay Marina. Since Green Bay was so close to Pulaski, the home of Carver Yachts, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take Rod and Betty Jane for an exclusive plant tour.
A boat trip to Wisconsin wouldn’t becomplete without a tour of
Upon our scheduled arrival, Kim Riley, director of communications provided us with red carpet treatment, which included a large welcome sign listing our names, VIP nametags and a bag of Carver apparel. Kim was delighted to welcome Carver owners to their facility. She couldn’t have done a better job to ensure their loyalty to the brand. We were all impressed.
Following the extensive tour, we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant called Trail’s End. Our waitress informed us that the Wisconsin Power Ball Lottery was $212 Million. Just for fun, we bought tickets and began dreaming about Carver Yacht’s new 65 Marquis. (Ed Note* Be sure to look for an upcoming feature on Carver’s manufacturing facility in an upcoming issue).
Kim taking Doug, Brenda, Rod and
Friday May 27 – Preparation in Green Bay Wisconsin
The rest of Thursday and Friday was spent enjoying the preparation for the trip to Georgian Bay, provisioning the boat with food, fuel, water – all the essentials we needed for the 550-mile journey home.
Saturday May 28 – Green Bay Wisconsin to Fish Creek Wisconsin
Following some time at the helm of the 340, Rod was feeling comfortable and confident and was more than ready for the extensive cruise. Our destination for the day was a trip up the West Coast of Lake Michigan to Fish Creek, but not before bidding one last farewell to the 340’s previous owners.
With any trip, you can expect things to go wrong. However, we didn’t think it would happen so soon. Just before we left, it had started to rain, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the canvas on the bridge hadn’t leaked. A towel temporarily fixed the problem. Additionally, the water pump had been quite noisy and running too long after we used the tap and now it wouldn’t shut off. An internal inspection of the pump revealed worn out parts – the only solution was to purchase and replace it with a new one. As it turned out, Bruce, the previous owner of the 340, drove us to a marine store in nearby Sister Bay. I find boaters everywhere are friendly and obliging, especially when you need help.
Not all was lost on our first day. Before dinner, we made our planned destination, had the new pump installed and the water was working again. After all this excitement, steaks sounded inviting. So, Rod and I fired up the newly assembled barbecue. But, before the meat hit the grill, our eighbours aboard their Sea Ray explained the harbour rule of “no barbecuing on the docks.” The solution was a simple. Barbecue them on shore, then bring the steaks back to the boat. While dinner was late, the steak and wine had us laughing about the day’s events. We were quite relaxed and ready to sleep.
Sunday May 29 – Fish Creek to Beaver Island, Michigan
It was sunny, calm and cool when we left Fish Creek at 11:20 a.m. The washrooms and showers were impressive at the municipal marina and the whole town was filled with unique gift shops – if only we had more time!
We topped up our fuel so we could do calculations on our range since Bruce mentioned the fuel gauges were inaccurate. We felt we had enough to get to St. James Harbour on Beaver Island located near the top of Lake Michigan if we topped up at Washington Island, so we set out. As we neared the end of the four hour leg across the top of Lake Michigan, we smiled with satisfaction and welcomed the lonely buoy at the south end of Beaver Island, which indicated the success of our accurate navigating skills.
Following our arrival, the girls enjoyed margaritas and I attempted to barbecue chicken breasts. But for some reason, the new grill wouldn’t stay lit. Not to worry, though, the microwave chicken was delicious and accompanied by baked yams and salad. And oh yes, more wine to get us laughing about the day’s events.
Monday May 30 – Beaver Island to Mackinac Island, Michigan
We chose to have breakfast at a local eatery and to our surprise, the restaurant clock was ahead one hour—we had already gone through the time zone. After showering, we prepared for our departure from Beaver Island with a course set for Mackinac Island.
After taking numerous photos of the many lighthouses and the Mackinac Bridge, we focused our cameras on the Grand Hotel as we approached Mackinac Island, while dodging the ferries running to and from Mackinac City. There was too much to see for our short stay, but we loved every minute. We also learned that whether the area is spelled Mackinac or Mackinaw, it’s pronounced the same— mack-in-awe.
Mackinac Island is home to several highlights, including the
The island has a unique, charming and historic ambiance. Eighty percent of the island remains state park property. The pace is slow as horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the only forms of transportation, since automobiles were banned at the turn of the 20th Century. We rode in a horse-drawn taxi to the magnificent Grand Hotel where we wandered in amazement. No other words can describe the hotel than a living, working museum, alive with the charm and graciousness of a bygone era.
The breathtaking interior included the main formal dining room that can seat over 750 and more than 300 guest rooms capture a specific time period or theme. In fact, the movie Somewhere in Time, which starred Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve, was filmed here in 1979. Betty Jane had been looking forward to visiting the hotel after seeing the movie years ago. Of course, she had to buy the DVD.
After touring the many rooms, we ventured onto the enormous front porch overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. In fact, Ripley’s Believe It or Not states this is the longest porch in the world, reaching 880 feet.
Brenda Dawson strikes a pose on
We immensely enjoyed a few hours taking pictures of the hotel grounds, wondering what it would be like if we won the Power Ball Lottery. We all dreamed about staying for a week or two. This tourist town should be on every boater’s itinerary.
After browsing and buying souvenirs, we reluctantly accepted there wasn’t time to see everything. The history, Fort Mackinac, Arch Rock, Sugarloaf Rock and much more would have to be experienced another time.
Tuesday May 31 – Mackinac, Michigan to Gore Bay, Ontario
Our plan to leave at the crack of dawn immediately changed when the coffee maker didn’t switch with the time change and we awoke at 8:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. It was 55 degrees in the cabin, but about 65 outside. We dressed quickly and trundled off to the showers with coffee in hand. Then, while Rod and I went to St Ignace for fuel (approximately a mile away where fuel was $2.69 a gallon compared to $3.09 at Mackinac Island) Betty Jane and Brenda walked to Market Street to do a little more shopping. Timing was perfect. When I called on the radio as we were entering the harbour, they were just paying for the last item and were on their way back to the dock.
Doug Dawson, an avid boater,
With more coffee, we cast off and followed the coordinates on the GPS to Gore Bay to clear customs and top up on fuel. The day’s run was 110 miles across the top of Lake Huron and into the North Channel. Our fuel range was approximately 120 miles — a little too close for comfort. So, we changed our plans and decided to stop at Meldrum Bay to fill the tanks.
We arrived at Meldrum Bay at 2:30 p.m. and celebrated being back in Canada. Canada Customs had instructed Rod to call as soon as we arrived, so he immediately called the direct line to report in and clear customs while we fueled.
By 4:25 p.m. the 340 was purring on plane en route to Gore Bay. The North Channel was flat and the sky was clear and beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Rod looked quite comfortable at the wheel now. He and Betty Jane were enjoying identifying the shoreline to the charts and radar. The trip was perfect for them to get to know their boat and enjoy the sights.
We commented about not seeing another pleasure boat other than a 57’ Cruisers headed west from Mackinac and a couple of sailboats towing dinghies. While it was Memorial Day weekend in the United States and just after our May 24th weekend in Canada, marinas were mostly empty. It was the same on the second half of the trip. We were the only ones taking advantage of the beautiful weather and calm water from Green Bay to Gore Bay.
The crew is all smiles after reaching Canadian soil in Gore Bay, Ontario.
We arrived in Gore Bay at 5:30 and while the hydro wasn’t totally hooked up to the empty pier of the finger docks that we had chosen, we switched slips a few times flicking the breakers to get two outlets that worked. Then, as it turned out, our water hose wasn’t long enough and we ended up tying the boat crosswise in one of the double slips. It proved to be an ideal location as the sun set square into the cockpit and the light breeze from the North Channel kept bugs away.
Wednesday June 1 – Gore Bay to Baie Fine
Brenda and Betty Jane served a leisurely breakfast of poached eggs, bacon, toast, jam and coffee, which made the trip seem much more like a holiday than a delivery. We topped up our food supply at the local Valu- Mart and our fuel at the marina before departing at 1:00 p.m.
With Betty Jane at the helm, we glided across the perfect water to Little Current.
Betty Jane at the helm while cruising
Since we arrived in Little Current a few minutes past the hour we missed the opening of the only swing bridge on the trip, so we took the oppourtunity to stretch our legs and fill up with fuel at Wally’s Gas Dock. The proprietor of Wally’s proudly displayed a mangled prop on a sign that said, “We sell charts”. No more needed to be said.
The swing bridge opened exactly on the hour. Wally informed us the locks and bridges monitor channel 14 not 16, 9 or 68 as stated in some of the guides. A thank-you wave and Naut-a-Care (the new designated title for the 340 Carver) continued on to Baie Fine.
At our chosen spot for the night, the water was deep right to the shoreline, allowing us to idle in close enough and drop the stern anchor from the bow pulpit onto the rocks on the island. We then walked the line back to the transom. As Betty Jane let out the stern line, Rod and Brenda prepared the bow anchor to drop on the nearby shore the same way. We were between two anchors hooked securely on opposing shores. While positioning the anchors, we admired the quartz along the shoreline all the way to the hilltops and brought a few souvenir rocks home.
Rod and Brenda tie off the bowline at an anchorage at Baie
Betty Jane and Brenda didn’t waste any time changing into their sun tops so they could catch as many rays as possible and enjoy wine while observing Baie Fine. The light breeze of the day was non-existent, the magnificent shoreline was perfectly mirrored in the dead calm water, while the call of loons and cries of two hawks in the distance were the only sounds. Baie Fine was almost as spectacular as I remembered from our honeymoon.
Thursday June 2 – Baie Fine to Meaford, Ontario
Naut-a-Care didn’t have a generator, so the buzz of a few mosquitoes replaced our coffee maker as our wake up call. Still, with not even the slightest breeze, the water was like a sheet of glass and we reluctantly pulled our anchors and prepared for the last day of our trip. Passing by Okeechobee Lodge, we felt privileged to have had Baie Fine and the North Channel to ourselves. Other than being a little on the cool side, it was perfect boating weather and the scenery was spectacular. Our pictures were great, but being there is indescribable.
Only a few images, such as this one, can really capture the true beauty of the Baie Fine region.
Georgian Bay, which was the calmest I’ve ever seen it, caressed the hull of Naut-a-Care as Killarney faded behind us. Following the GPS route to Lion’s Head, we couldn’t help thinking how fortunate we were to have the fresh water Great Lakes in our country.
Right on schedule, we arrived in Lion’s Head for fuel only to learn they didn’t have hydro and therefore, couldn’t pump gas. The PUC was upgrading the utilities to the harbour and wouldn’t be finished until the next day—maybe.
After much calculation and weighing our alternatives, Rod and I decided to head out for Meaford running at 2,000 rpm instead of 3,400 to give us an ideal cruising range to make it. We also picked up some family members who had driven to Lion’s Head to join us for the last leg.
While a little on the cool side, Mother Nature provided excellent weather and water conditions
Coming down the home stretch seemed to be an eternity travelling at 9 mph instead of 26 mph. After five hours of trawler life, the entrance to Meaford Harbour was a welcome sight. All the adults breathed a deep sigh of relief having feared the embarrassment of being towed the last mile or so by the Coast Guard into our home port. I can see it now on the front page of the Meaford Express: “Publisher rescued inches from Meaford dock after 550 miles”.
“Prepare for docking” announced Captain Rod with a huge smile on his face, as we approached Meaford Harbour. Two proud Carver owners had successfully brought their 340 Santego 550 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Georgian Bay, Ontario. C-Dock is Nauta-Care’s new home.
The end of a journey.