Continuing Westward In The North Channel

Written by Randy Whaley on August 16th, 2009

 (46⁰08.271′ N by 082⁰15.539 W -  Mile 229.5 - Oak Bay) 

On Friday, August 14th we entered the North Channel when we passed through the narrows at Town of Little Current.  Little Current is located on the north shore of Manitoulin Island and is the northern highway access route to the island.  Called Baiwejewung “where the waters flow” by the natives, the current through this passage can at times be up to 4 knots under the bridge created by wind tide known on the Great Lakes as sèche.   For provisioning, Little Current offers the best choice of shops and services on the island.

If you stop (we did not need to preferring to motor on to the Bell Cover anchorage) you might share dock space with other pleasure boaters or an occasional cruise ship.  During the first week of August we heard that there was a 300 foot ship registered in Malta there for the night.

The only other way to get a motorized vehicle to Manitoulin is to take the ferry named the Chi Cheemaun (Big Canoe) from Tobermory to South Bay Mouth.

Manitoulin Island is quite large stretching seventy miles east to west and nearly thirty miles north to south at its widest points.  It is reputed to be the largest fresh water island in the world and also to have the greatest number of lakes contained within a fresh water island as well.  If you drive across the island the topography reminds you of the Niagara Escarpment since the island has many areas of sedimentary shale with expose rock bluffs.  Other parts of the island have vast flat stretches. 

The North Channel is roughly 70 miles east to west and while technically it is part of Lake Huron it is isolated from the main lake by Manitoulin, Cockburn and Drummond Islands, the later being in US waters.  Its western half is as much as 20 miles wide and since the prevailing winds are from the west, wave heights can sometimes create unpleasant cruises.  I can personally attest to riding the backs of 2 meter waves a few years ago and it was not that pleasant.

While the area surrounding the North Channel may appear to be virgin territory, native Canadians have occupied it for thousands of years while European settlers came to the area to trade, farm, fish and log.  Many of the small towns surrounding this body of water have museums documenting the past.

As this is being written (August 16th) the water is now warm, the mosquitoes are apparently diminishing although you would not know that by looking at our screens at night and the supplies will be diminishing in the local stores.  We met some locals in Bell Cove who commented that many of the American boats were now heading west and that traffic would be diminishing.  I guess these are the times of the year when local cruisers get to enjoy their favorite anchorages after the summer rush.  I can relate to this after cruising in Southern Georgian Bay for so many years.

We left Bell Cove this morning moving westward through the McBean Channel to stay in Oak Bay for at least one night.  This is an area we had been told to visit and we plan to drop the dinghy to explore this afternoon.

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