Travels of Lionheart -2011

Lionheart is a 1998 Tartan 4100 owned by Steve and Theresa Roake. Lionheart currently ―lives in Northeast Illinois. She has now been put away for the winter at Larsen Marine Service in Waukegan, Illinois.

For those of you reading this that have not experienced freshwater sailing there are a few things unique to the Great Lakes! The most obvious difference is NO SALT! What a pleasant experience not having to constantly clean up the salt encrustations and stuff actually DRIES! Everything seems to hold up better in the fresh water. Salt corrosion doesn’t exist, and running rigging doesn’t smell if put away damp. There are some downsides, though. There’s a fly season. Although the flies live on the water they much prefer your boat-especially the cockpit well or anywhere out of the breeze. Some are biters, some are just annoying-swarming all over you and the boat. Calm days are the worst! Fortunately, their life span is short-perhaps a week or two. Unfortunately, as one travels on the lakes, the fly seasons vary with the temperature and location, so they tend to be around for a while. Another thing that’s different is the wave patterns. Although the Great Lakes are hundreds of feet deep, the wind driven waves build quickly and tend to have a short period. A five-foot wave on the Great Lakes is a lot steeper than a five-foot ground swell on the ocean (and a lot more uncomfortable!). The good news is that there are no tides! Lastly, the Great Lakes are a no-discharge zone so one must have a holding tank that must be pumped out periodically (We have a 30 gallon tank that lasts the two of us about a week if we’re anchoring and not visiting marinas.). No overboard discharge of toilet waste is permitted anywhere-even in open waters. The good news is that there are plenty of pump-out facilities, generally at all fuel facilities.

Lionheart was launched for the summer on June 20, 2011. We spent a couple of weeks in Winthrop Harbor, IL. at North Point Marina, a 1,500 slip marina operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, getting ready for our cruise before departing on the morning of July 5 for Sheboygan, WI.

Our ultimate destination was to cruise for a month in the North Channel, a wilderness area which is part of Lake Huron in Ontario, CA. We left Winthrop Harbor stopping in Sheboygan and Manitowoc, WI, Frankfort, Leland, Petoskey and Mackinaw City Michigan before arriving at Drummond Island, MI, on July 15, the ―jumping off‖ point for us into the North Channel. We anchored in beautiful Harbor Island bay which is part of a National Wildlife Refuge. Up to this point we had stayed in marinas as the opportunities for anchoring out are very limited.

The North Channel is a wilderness area with lots and lots of beautiful anchorages. This is not the place to go if you’re a marina sailor! The North Channel is formed by the North shore of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island, the largest island surrounded by fresh water in the world. All of the North Channel is within the Canadian Province of Ontario so a visit with Canadian Customs and Immigration is required. Lionheart cleared Canadian Customs in Meldrum Bay near the west end of Manitoulin Island after paying a duty on our excess liquor before moving to Vidal Bay, a wilderness anchorage, and anchoring overnight.

In addition to a sales tax of almost 14%, Ontario has high taxes on tobacco, liquor and fuel. Diesel was about a dollar more per gallon than in the US at the time and beer is about the same cost for a 6-pack as a 12-pack in the US! All liquor is sold through state liquor stores. Canada is on the metric system, with fuel sold in liters, temperatures in degrees Celsius, distances in meters and kilometers, and speeds in kilometers per hour. It hasn’t always been this way, however, and many of the people still think in the imperial system like we do. Canadian charts are a combination of metric and imperial scales as everything is slowly converted to metric. Weather forecasts are given in both systems for wind speeds – kph for land-based forecasts and knots for marine forecasts. The marine fore-casts are further complicated by the fact that Canada is bi-lingual so everything, including the government weather transmissions, is in English and French. All of the marinas still use ―feet‖ to compute fees and dock sizes!

After a quiet night in Vidal Bay, we moved to Long Point Cove along the north shore near Spragge. Long Point Cove is a wilderness anchorage where we anchored for a couple of nights exploring the rocky areas in our dinghy and meeting other cruisers. We then moved east to one of our favorite anchorages – Hottham Island, where we spent the next three nights. We met some of the cottagers in Hotthan who turned out to be retired teachers from Northeastern Illinois. There were five or six boats anchored in their little bay and they invited all of us to their deck for cocktails (BYOB) one evening.

We then moved east to Bell Cove for a night before going to Little Current for fuel and a pump-out and picking up our friends who had driven up from Chicago to meet us and cruise with us for a week.

While in Little Current, we attended the Cruisers Net party and cook-out. Roy Eaton, a retired school principal and local resident, founded the local cruisers net where he broadcasts news, weather and sports as well as local goings-on on VHF every day in July and August. He then logs callers so cruisers can listen for old friends that they might want to link up with. His record is 172 call-ins in one day. This past season he had a total of 6,684 call-ins from 862 distinct boats. This is a very popular program hosted by a very dedicated guy! Cruisers come from Ontario and Quebec as well as the US portions of the Great Lakes. There were also a number of ―Loopers – members of the Great Loop Cruisers Club – who are doing the loop which goes from Florida up the east coast, through the Great Lakes, down the Illinois and Tenn-Tom to Mobile, Ala. and back to Florida. Many we spoke with had passed by Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way!

We picked up our Chicago friends and headed for Heywood Island for a night at anchor. Heywood is a wilderness anchorage without cottagers. After exploring the area by dinghy, we moved across Frazier Bay to Mary Ann Cove in Baie Fine. Mary Ann Cove is a very popular anchorage where boats anchor and tie stern to shore. While there, we hiked to the top of Casson’s peak nearby (actually a pretty steep rock climb) about 650 feet above the water. The view is breathtaking. One can see for miles in all directions. Baie Fine is perhaps the only true fiord in North America.

We left Baie Fine and motored to Killarney for a pump-out and slip for the night at the Killarney Mountain Lodge, a very retro resort from the 50’s. We had lunch at the ―Red School Bus‖ operated by Herbert Fisheries where you order from the side of the bus. Food is limited to deep-fried breaded whitefish and fries. Choices are how many of each. Beverages are available from an adjacent vending machine (we brought our own!) We enjoyed dinner ashore at the Killarney Mountain Lodge before leaving the next morning to meet up with some old friends at Covered Portage Cove.

We spent a couple of nights anchored in Covered Portage, a very popular wilderness anchorage. We did some hiking and climbing as well as a lot of catching up with our friends from Goderich, Ont., whom we hadn’t seen for about three years.

We all then moved to Five Moon Bay in the Blueberry Islands, a crescent shaped wilderness anchorage. We did some dinghy exploring, hiking and climbing. The entire North Channel area has an abundance of wild blueberries. We picked some along the way. Very tasty!! Much better than the store-bought variety!

We left our Canadian friends for a few days while we went back to Baie Fine and the Pool, which is at the blind end of the fiord. The Pool was a favorite of Landscape painters for many years. We anchored and hiked up to Topaz Lake, a beautiful mountain lake in the Killarney Provincial Park. We then moved to Beaver Island Harbor across Frazier Bay to meet some friends of our guests. We stayed in Beaver Island Harbor, another wilderness anchorage, before returning to Little Current to drop off our guests.

We stayed in Little Current an extra day to re-provision, do laundry and kick back while waiting for our Goderich friends to catch up. We all then moved to Mosquito Bay (aptly named) for a night and on to Bell Cove again for a couple of nights, a favorite of our friends.

After Bell Cove, we returned to Hotham Island for a few days. We left our friends in Hotham and moved to Gore Bay, a town on Manitoulin Island midway between Little Current and Meldrum Bay, where we re-provisioned, did some laundry, bought fuel and ice, and had dinner ashore before leaving the next morning for John Harbor, an absolutely beautiful wilderness anchorage along the north shore of the North Channel where we did lots of dinghy exploring and some hiking. After spending three nights in John Harbor with our friends from Goderich, we said our final goodbyes and headed west to Drummond Island, MI. where we would clear US Customs and Immigration before retracing our route back to Mackinaw City, Petoskey, Leland, Frankfort, Ludington, MI, and then to Port Washington, WI. and home in Winthrop Harbor, IL.

In all, Lionheart traveled over 1,100 nm in a little over eight weeks, passing through three states, two Great Lakes, and one Canadian Province. Not too bad at 6-7 knots! We had a very enjoyable time and plan to return next summer for an even longer stay in the North Channel!

Lionheart was hauled and put in winter storage on September 14, 2011.