Here is another great post coming from Windrider sailor Mac MacDevitt. He is back sharing about another great camp-cruising adventure in the North Channel.
I’m going to let him get right to it. (And thanks again for this piece Mac; we know written especially for us small tri fans! :-)
White Waterman and Blue Waterman – An adventure in the North Channel – July 2013
Mac MacDevitt – Windrider 17 Trimaran
The Odd Couple
No predicting a how a beach cruising adventure is going to turn out. Paul and I both have Windrider 17 trimarans. But we were certainly the odd couple. Found him on the Windrider forum. Paul is a white water canoe trekking adventurer. He gloried in incredibly challenging long trips, far from support, dealing with ice, overturned canoes, lost gear and paddles and rugged wilderness camping. His Windrider 17 was his first sailboat and he was learning to sail by the seat of his pants. Couldn’t name many of the lines or the stays or the fittings. Before this trip he had never sailed alone. Not sure how he was going to manage hoisting the main without someone to steer into the wind. Had no idea why anyone might want to make the mainsail smaller – never reefed.
Blue Waterman (Lite)
Compared to Paul I was Blue Waterman. Well, not really – not compared to other sailors who have made serious off-shore passages – maybe Lite-Blue Waterman. I started sailing with bigger trimarans on Lake Champlain, a Jim Brown 27 and a 31, finishing up with a Corsair 27. And I’ve gotten in lots of tight spots: cracked an ama on a dock piling on the Chesapeake, ran seriously aground and had to wade out with an anchor and kedge off before the situation would require a dredger and a tow (and that was with the whole family aboard), even once sailed for quite a while in high winds off Valcour Island before realizing that my sluggish performance had to do with the new Honda 8 outboard I was trolling behind the boat connected only by the control cables.
And Paul, fit as a fiddle. Spent at least half a lifetime with his wife doing Yoga, staying fit, seeking extreme exercise routines. And he exudes energy. And me, an old guy, getting thick around the middle, hoping my knees will work well enough to get me up and out of the rear cockpit. I helped Paul in his shop in Sault Sainte Marie with building a windshield and planning out a topping lift system to make mainsail raising easier. He advised me on installing a wheelchair battery so I could keep my GPS running during the trip. Before he retired, he was responsible for all the electronic equipment in a mining operation. Paul’s wife Karen made me welcome and cooked a delicious and healthy dinner on the eve of our departure.
Heading for shelter
Day One: The first day, after setting up the boats in a hot sun, we sailed south from Blind River. We are in the open lake now. We know that thunderstorms are parading down the lake and we are hoping to make the more sheltered waters of the Whaleback Channel before camping. I look up and there is a huge storm right behind us. I insist that we head for shelter before we get clobbered. We find Charlotte Island connected by a sandbar (a drumlin?) to a smaller island. Paul slips ashore and in the blink of an eye seems to have his tent set up in the shelter of the brush, and a fire started for dinner. I am fiddle farting around with getting my pop up tent set up on the boat, and my anchors set, and he has dinner ready. Steaks no less. The storm doesn’t hit. But I realize, this guy really has his act together. And he would have felt no fear riding the building winds down the lake towards Whaleback Channel.
Huge Thunder Storms
Day Two: In the morning we get underway. Light winds. Fire up the Hondas. Eventually slip thru the pass into Whaleback Channel. My real time weather radar shows that big thunderstorms are building in the west and beginning their march down the lake again. We find a sweet, sheltered spot on one of the Otter Islands just north of Aird Island. We pull our boats up on a rocky beach. Paul finds a sheltered hollow for his tent. Again he cooks for us. Hamburger and fresh veggies.
As it gets dark the winds begin to build. I move my boat just off shore with a stern anchor. The thunderstorm is the most violent I have ever been in. Occasionally I peek out from my tent to make sure Paul’s yellow tri is still there. I am watching the storms in real time on the GPS. They are right on top of us. Huge gusts. Brilliant light show in the tent. We get hit with three big storms in a row. I look out and Paul’s boat is nowhere in sight. Takes me a while to realize that my bow anchor let go, I have swung around his boat and have been blown ashore into some marsh grass. In a lull I check on Paul. His tent is dark and I hear gentle snoring from inside.
Heading for the Benjamins
Day Three: I awake to another storm. Torrential rains. Winds less violent. Paul waits for a break in the rain so he can dry his tent before we head out. We sail down the north shore of Aird Island, and head for Little Detroit. As we clear the east end of Aird, we get the full force of the south wind. We elect to go north of Eagle Island, sheltered from the winds, and then rounding the island, begin to tack south in strong winds heading for South Benjamin Island.
The most beautiful camping cove ever
Paul has taken the lead. He seems sure of where he is headed. I have my charting GPS and a detailed set of charts I have pulled out and laminated from a chart book. I have labeled and organized them, but am struggling to get a good sense of how these islands are laid out. And my GPS is out of whack when I zoom in. It shows me sailing right through the center of small islands. Paul has a large scale fisherman’s map, no depths marked at all. Don’t think he has ever used a chart. And he is sailing confidently through rocks and shoals. We are tacking close to a lee shore, and I notice that his jib is rolled up – he got the sheets tangled – but that he is tacking confidently and cleanly under main alone.
As we round some huge boulders, he leads the way downwind through a narrow pass, and we ground on a beach in a tiny sheltered inlet with huge rock formations towering above us. We are on the extreme south end of South Benjamin Island. It is, hands down, the most beautiful camping spot cove I’ve ever seen. And we are the only boats there. Paul sets up camp, tucked in under some trees just off the beach. We scramble around on the huge, towering, rounded, smooth rock outcrops. Quiet night, and in the morning we are off.
Flying with the wind on the beam
Day Four: Building wind. Choppy waves. We zip over to Crocker Island. Take a spin thru a big cove and then we head south. Wind is on the beam and continues to build. Paul pops out of the rear cockpit and shifts his gear to the windward tramp. We start to fly. Glorious sailing. Paul is out ahead. We are doing a steady 10-12 knots. Same conditions Joe and Rick and I experienced on day one of the trip two years ago. In the lee of Clapperton Island we still have strong winds. As we cross Clapperton Channel Paul stops, scrambles around, gets up to speed and then stops again and fusses with something.
We are heading for a big bay on Manitoulin Island. We think that we are going to Gore Bay for lunch, but we slowly realize that we are in Mudge Bay. We find some shallow water to anchor in and wade ashore. We are in Kagawong. Eating our hamburgers on the front porch of the diner Paul explains his stops in the channel. He says that first he stopped to slip on some warm pants. Then when a gust hit and he tried to release the main, he found that the sheet was down his pant leg, and he had to stop to get the sheet freed.
Over the Pacific
We looked at the charts and decided to head back north to West Rous Island or Bedford Island. My motor died as I left the beach. Damn. Under full sail we headed out of Mudge Bay, but as we cleared Trudeau Point, we fell off on a broad reach. The waves in the channel had all day to build and we began to fly. Paul had offered me rain pants earlier in the trip, but I declined them saying that “I don’t get wet in my Windrider”. I do have dual windshields and a half-spray skirt and full-width trampolines – and almost always do stay dry.
We began to hit 11-12 knots. The waves were big enough that at times all I could see of Paul to the lee of me was his big grin under his rain hood. I couldn’t believe how fast we were going and how well the boat was handing. Spray would hit my front windshield, go straight up in the air, and come down on me. I was soaked to the skin and getting cold. I felt like Paul and I were in the Pacific, flying torpedo bombers and diving thru the clouds at the Japanese carriers far below. We were screaming along. This level of sailing was a whole new experience for me. I was hoping that nothing would let go on the boat. I was half-scared and half-exhilarated.
We tucked in behind a small island just for a breather. I was totally confused as to where we were but Paul led the way. As we rounded the point at the south end of Bedford Island, conditions moderated and soon Paul was picking our way in a ghost of a breeze through the shallow water between Bedford and West Rous. Found a camping spot just off Wise Point. I was knackered. I waded near a broken down crib looking for a spot to tuck my boat out of the small waves. Again, in fact every night of the trip, Paul made dinner while I fussed with my anchors and my tent. All night the boat moved in the swell, occasionally bumping on the rocks and I slept a troubled sleep.
Swimming with the carb
Day five: I think at this point my fatigue got the better of me. I like to sail with a large margin of safety, even in my little Windrider. My malfunctioning GPS was troubling. I’m dyslexic. Get turned around easily. I’m not a great sailor, and I like to know I have my engine ready if/when I need it. We were heading back northeast, sailing with a light wind on the beam. The wind died and Paul took me in tow. I landed on a point and took my carb off and drained it. Then slipped on the rocks and went under with the carb. Damn. Got my spare out. Put it on. Headed out and the Honda died again. (Learned when I got home that my spare plastic tank had let rain water mix with the gas).
Sweet cove on Fox Island
We sailed with a light breeze past a string of sweet small islands just off Fort La Cloche – Matheson, McTavish and then past Solomon Point. We made camp in a small cove, on the south shore of Fox Island. Second most beautiful camping spot I’ve been in. Paul camped high on a smooth ledge with a beautiful view south to the Benjamins. I tucked in next to the rocks where I could step ashore. I left my rain cover off so I could fall asleep with the moonlight shining thru the netting. Just as I was falling asleep, a heard a strong humming outside the tent. By the light of my headlamp I saw hundreds of mosquitos buzzing against the netting next to my head. So glad I hadn’t been forced to set up camp in the dark. Paul later said that we were right next to a huge swamp – a “mosquito factory”.
“Just sail around the rocks”
Day Six: We left in the morning on a light south breeze that slowly built during the day. On the chart I pointed out what looked like a thicket of rocks southwest of Fox Island, right in the middle of our planned track. Paul said, “You can see the rocks, you can sail around them. And if you bump, no big deal”. Again, White Waterman was right and I sailed thru with only a small bump. We went around the south of Eagle Island to keep the sails full and then headed for Little Detroit and the ramp at Spanish. We unloaded Paul’s boat. Like the clowns coming out of the car the stuff just kept coming. He had a huge quantity of gear, including lead weights for his downriggers. Soon Karen appeared and graciously ferried us back to Blind River to pick up our trailers.
Am I getting too old for this….?
As I started my long trip back to Lake Champlain I was thinking, “Either I need to get myself a lot more fit, or I am just getting too old for this stuff”. Paul was patient and kind to me. He is a great natural sailor and a great sailing partner. He is generous and understanding. I’m pretty sure I slowed him down. He would have covered more territory and had an even wilder sail without me along. But following the lead of this novice sailor, I had pushed my limits. I have more confidence in my Windrider now. And more confidence in our ability together (me and the boat) in big winds and big waves. I want to go back to the North Channel again next year. Again with Paul if he is up for it. Looking for a few more Windrider sailors who are eager for the beauty and challenges of this amazing body of water sprinkled with island gems, secluded campsites, strong winds and holding a big potential for adventure.