dest-canada-back_to-large“So you’re back,” says Canadian Yacht Charters co-proprietor Ken Blodgett as if it hasn’t been a year since we’d last seen him.

“I’m back.” I sit down on a Muskoka chair beside Blodgett just outside their office, snugged down on the shores of Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island’s north shore.

I stare at the waters – dark green and mysterious in the late afternoon. I look up at East Bluff, their heights emerald in the sun, etched by pine trees, expanse broken by poplar leaves that seem to glitter

like silver coins, the occasional white gleam of the trunks of birch trees, the mottled faces of limestone bluffs that are one of the last north-climbing reaches of the Niagara Escarpment.

“Might lose the weather,” says Blodgett, desultorily.

That can happen. But right now it doesn’t concern me unduly. I’ve come back to the Channel and ever since crossing the bridge from the mainland southwest of Sudbury into Little Current, the tension has washed off me like dust in a warm shower.

“But anyway, you’re back,” says Blodgett. “Want a burger?”

His wife, Pam, comes out and gives me a big hug. “Welcome back,” she says. “Want some homemade fudge?” Ken and Pam are part of the reason we’re back. Not the only reason, not the most important reason. But part of the reason.

We started coming up here eleven years ago. They were friendly and hospitable then. Now they feel like family. Pam is a Haweater. Back when settlement first began on the biggest freshwater island in the world it was subsistence living. Lots of rock, lots of forest. Lots of fish, but the farming was tough. Earliest settlers had to survive eating the flesh of bitter Hawberries.

Lesser folk would have given up, but like islanders everywhere they’ve made do. Now they call themselves Haweaters with an almost Newfoundlandesque sense of humour. And come summer they have a Haweaters’ Festival in Little Current. Rest of the time they work hard to eke out a living here. Ken works hard but right now he’s every bit as lazy as I am. Pam goes back inside to catch up on some more paperwork.

First met Ken at the Toronto International Boat Show where he was doing an introduction to the Channel.

Struck me at the time that he should take his show on the road – sort of a one man- Broadway comedy act. Struck me at the time that he would be a fun guy to spend time with.

Struck me at the time that we really had to do the Channel.

And now we’re back.

“Where are you going to go?” says Blodgett. He stands up, lifts the lid of the barbecue, tosses some patties on the grill, and sits back down.

I shrug.

Blodgett grins, tanned leathery face showing the weather, the sun, the cold, the

winds, in it. “Where the winds take you.”

We’re back in the Channel. That’s enough.

First time here I had a float plan that would have made Derek Hatfield proud. There are something like three hundred and fifty islands in the Channel. I was going to stop at every one of them. Completely conquer the place.

The Channel had other plans.

Made us wait a day-and-a-half. Rain and heavy cloud. Gore Bay is a charming town in a postcard-picture setting. But there is not a lot to do here in the rain. Second biggest town on the island but this is a relative term. There are something like two traffic lights on Manitoulin Island. Neither are in Gore Bay.

So I was itching to get out there – the islands swathed in mist were Northern Ontario Bali-Hai’s, beckoning and seductive. And I was going to see everyone.

That first day was a warning. “You have to meet the Channel on her terms,” said Blodgett in our first chart briefing. “You go with her rhythm and not yours.”

We pulled out of the dock, making our way north, when a line squall roared through. Got the main up and the boat pitched and yawed. Another squall came through. We turned around and limped back to harbour.

Sometime after twilight I strolled out to where the bay opened up a bit – now the skies were lavender and fading fast to indigo. Not a light to be seen on the Channel, just a few here in town. I cursed silently and then I heard the chuckle of a loon.

Seemed like the Channel was laughing at me.

But I forgave her.

Next morning was perfect and the boat skimmed the waters. We were making for South Benjamin Island.

Ken and Pam are part of the reason we’re back in the Channel. South Benjamin is a bigger part.

We pulled in there that first night and dropped the hook in the lee of a great towering boulder of granite. The water was so clear you could see pebbles at fifteen feet. A cliff, pink granite, rose up from the waters toward the end of a bay decorated with sea grass that glowed neon lime in the afternoon sun.

In a tiny rock channel – rocks formed by wind and water so delicately they reminded you of cushions on a bed – a couple of sailboats were snugged down, sterns affixed to tree trunks on shore.

I decided that if there was ever an apocalypse I would steal a boat from Blodgett and head straight for here.

A couple of trailerables with centerboards had pulled up onto a rock ledge. At twilight they lit campfires.

South Benjamin is part of why I come back to the channel.

We’re not the only ones who comeback.

Before dark that first night in Benjamin we dinghied around the bay and I pulled up beside a yacht from

Detroit. A twenty-something girl reclined in the cockpit, a middle-aged man was reading a book.

“First time on the Channel?” I said.

He grinned. Desultorily. “See her?”He pointed at the girl. “She was a baby our first time. Back every year.”

Back in the Channel, back in Gore Bay, we’re waiting. For both weather and for my wife’s friends, Barb and Dave Anschuetz. It will be their first time on the Channel.

Guys on the next dock over have come back to the Channel too. We go over and share drinks and lies about our favourite anchorages. Blodgett comes aboard. The rum goes down as all these channel regulars (these guys are from Ottawa, been coming up for twenty years.) “Every year,” says Blodgett. He points to another boat down the dock. “Twenty years for those guys too.”

A storm breaks over us and the lightning flashes across the sky. The thunder rattles the mast and thuds against the hull.

The Channel is reminding us. Doesn’t matter how many times you come back, you meet the Channel on her terms.

But everybody keeps coming back.

I have a lot of reasons, I think to myself next morning, sitting in a Muskoka chair usually reserved for Blodgett, waiting for Barb and Dave.

Item: Crossing south between Clapper - ton and Amedroz Islands. The waters are the colour of the sky and Manitoulin looms in the distance, gentle undulating ridges dominating the south horizon, somewhere between blue and indigo. Close-reached: small limestone bluffs of Clapperton capped by dense forest that comes right to the edge of these tiny cliffs off our starboard beam, pine-encrusted low-lying Amedroz off the port beam.

Item: Watching the play of sun on the water from a dock at Kagawong, watching kids jumping off the eight-foot pier, laughing and screaming, gasping with the cold as the day dies, while we set out pork tenderloin on the Force Ten, after hiking up a glittering stream to a waterfall that shimmers like a bride’s veil.

Item: North on a beam reach while son Adam yells, “harden the sail, Dad,” because, with the white peaks of LaCloche Mountains dead ahead, looking like they are snow-spattered though it’s actually quartzite, waters here pewtergilded and wind-riffled, two other sailboats are ahead and Adam’s bought into the maxim that any sailboats headed the same way are, by definition, racing.

Item: When the kids were young, discovering a deserted beach on Darch Island, a family swim, a picnic lunch at anchor, skipping stones in crystal water and watching them bounce like flying fish.

Item: Sailing a fancy Hunter with all the bells and whistles. Sailing a much older Aloha called “Rowdy’s Revenge”, a 38’ cat called “Nauticat”, cruising in a trawler and a power cat both. Canadian Yacht Charters has a diverse fleet with the right boat for your needs whether you want luxury, sail or comfort. And if you don’t feel up to the channel, they’ll provide a skipper.

Item: Late one day at south Benjamin after we’ve picked up Barb and Dave and cast off for this particular return to the channel.

One boat here. Ours. The sun falls and paints the pink granite headland even pinker. We dinghy ashore, clamour up great boulders.

Back on the boat we watch the stars come out – a scintillating tapestry that does something to your soul as you look around, as you hear the call of a couple of loons, haunting and forlorn but beautiful as a Mozart symphony.

“I can’t believe how beautiful this place is“ says Barb. “Like a Group of Seven painting.”

“Two or three other spots I wanted you to see,” I say. Haven’t had a great weather window on this trip so they aren’t going to happen.

Barb takes a sip of wine, looks around the bay, up at the sky. She deeply inhales the evening air, crisp and redolent of pine.

“Next time,” she says.

“So you’d come back?”

“I’d come back in a minute.”

Back to the Channel.

Pam and Ken Blodgett maintain a complete fleet of boats for skippered or bareboat charters out of their Canadian Yacht Charters Gore Bay base.

www.cycnorth.com

Related Articles

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Tankoa recently unveiled its new Linea Sportiva by Luca Dini in a live Zoom event. Conceived and ...
Without the optional bow thruster, getting the new Dufour 430 out of the impossibly crowded docks ...
Last September, we had our first encounter with a World Cat 280 DC – X and it was quite impressive! ...
In the February 2020 issue of Canadian Yachting magazine, we featured our review of the Neptunus ...
A luxury sport cruiser like the all new Prestige 420S has it all—lines that are easy on the eyes, a ...
Once again, Cruisers Yachts is leading the market for day boats with their new 42 GLS model that ...
Optimized sailing performance and comfortable living – a sweet ride. The expression that came to ...
This is such an exciting time in boating! While we feel very sorry for people whose health and ...
For many, the 2020 sailing year will be one to go down into the books as “different”. With delayed ...
What perfect timing! Beneteau is has just announced their new Antares 11 model for North America ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

 

 

 

Boston Whaler 230 VantageBy Andy Adams

The famous Boston Whaler slogan, “the unsinkable legend” has always expressed a safety promise that from their very beginning, set a Boston Whaler apart from other boats, and it’s clear to me that the designers take this heritage seriously.

The Boston Whaler 230 Vantage maintains the virtues that have made Whalers such an enduring success and now the designers have skillfully captured those virtues in a handsome and somewhat more traditional dual console design.

Read More

Brackley Beach PEI National ParkOver the course of four days in September 1864, representatives from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario) gathered in Charlottetown to discuss the idea of bringing these diverse colonies together and forming a country. These discussions laid the foundation for what ultimately led to the Confederation of Canada in July, 1867.

Today, PEI continues to influence the rest of Canada as a vacation playground, known for its laid-back attitude, carefree pace, remarkable food scene and tremendous recreation opportunities. That’s especially true if you choose to explore the island the old-fashioned way – by boat.

Read More

Lifestyle

  • Prev
Just off The Ocean Race European Tour, Daniel is setting his sights on competing in The Ocean Race ...
After being our fearless leader and publisher since CYOB kicked off, Greg Nicoll, handed over the ...
Swim Drink Fish is spearheading the Vancouver Plastic Cleanup by installing, maintaining, and ...
With but four weeks to go, Sarah is in Japan, staying safe while acclimatizing to the heat at ...
MJM is a different kind of boat builder, second generation family owned and operated, we design and ...
Stuart Hendrie, a pro photographer sent along this photo of the pirate ship in Jordan Ontario. Many ...
William Jones and Evan DePaul claimed Canada’s Olympic spot in the 49er by being the top Canadian ...
In my lifetime I have been a member of 5 yacht clubs. There were big differences. The one that I ...
Our photo of the week comes from Europe where Ali ten Hove and Mariah Millen are warming up their ...
Last issue we reported that Theodore Tugboat is moving up to Ontario but HelmBoy of Bedford NS sent ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Last summer there was tremendous interest in buying a boat to have fun in the restricted world ...
The boat buying or selling market is hot now and has been since the late spring of 2020. Sean ...
Last issue we got up with Montreal sailor Marc Robic who has accumulated a lot of tips and tricks ...
While some parts of the country are lucky enough to have year-round boating, there are plenty of ...
A Transducer is a device that is installed below the waterline that provides underwater data to a ...
Spring has finally sprung! At least it has weather wise here in Montreal, so it is with great ...
For most of us, the thrill of being aboard is associated with the motion of the water, wind in our ...
An important, but often overlooked maintenance item on any type of boat is it’s steering system. ...
Insurance may not be exciting but it is important. Check at launch. We all know we need to spend ...
Before you launch: Inspect all around the hose clamps for rust and replace as necessary. Double ...

2002 Doral 330Last summer there was tremendous interest in buying a boat to have fun in the restricted world ofCOVID19. People hauled boats to the end of their driveways with “For Sale” signs. Sailboats and cabin cruisers appeared in Kijiji and Craigs List and it sounds like most were sold to new boaters. But, are they happy owners now?

Last fall we interviewed Rob Hopkins, General Manager at Bayshore Yacht Sales. Bayshore operates at six Georgian Bay marinas and are partnered with Maple Leaf Marinas LP. Rob was quick to agree that web sites like Kijiji can work for boat buyers, especially at the lower price levels for private sellers and buyers looking for a deal.

Read More

 

  

Boat FirePhoto Courtesy of Leslie Harper

Boats aren’t inherently combustible. They aren’t firetraps, and they aren’t any more or less dangerous with respect to fire breaking out than an RV, trailer, car or airplane.

But there are certain ingredients that make fires a potential hazard. And because of this, boaters should be aware of that potential, and take steps to minimize the chances of fire breaking out.

 

 

Read More

 

  

Marine Products

  • Prev
A Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet is ideal for streaming music, but it's often stowed safely away ...
Binoculars are a valuable tool on board any boat but they're often stowed, rather than within ...
Most SUVs drive about equal but the Subaru Ascent is just that little bit different or quirky ...
Exchanging business clothes for bare feet, Ann and her husband, Steve Manley, founder of PORTS ...
From streaming a repair video to downloading weather data, there are countless reasons to have ...
With 10 diameters from 11" to 30", there's a Schmitt & Ongaro Marine stainless steel Destroyer ...
The Grengine UltraLite and an ultra-portable folding 80-Watt solar panel. Combine the versatility ...
Have unwanted residue from removing stickers, decals, tapes, labels or adhesives? Release ...
When people think of boats, they imagine clean, white and glistening. Cleaning fiberglass hulls ...
Many boat soaps rely on chemicals so harsh, they end up stripping wax from your boat and are toxic ...

Cast OffOn Saturday, my boat finally splashed. You could tell it was happy and I was too.  This has been painful. Nonetheless, I have not yet left the dock nor had a social moment aboard.  My excitement has been limited to standing and admiring the scene while thanking the boat gods for vaccines and declining case numbers.

You are likely experiencing something similar as marinas and boat clubs gingerly step forward amid caution and distancing signs.  There is a collective sigh of relief heard across the land because the timing of the delayed launch appears to coincide with a national heat wave. It would have been infuriating to sizzle on the hard with the escape boat stuck in its cradle. I’m grateful for getting this far.

Read More