Monday, January 30, 2017

Day 3: Strong Winds Chase us to Croker Island

Day 3: Sunday, July 17 - Depart Bay of the Benjamins and Arrive to Croker approx. 11:30am (1.9mi)
Strong South winds turning Southwest and Northwest by morning - Strong wind and storm warning

Orca crew leading us to anchorage in Croker (the sailboats were on the way out)

We were having a relaxing morning anchored in the Bay of the Benjamins with Petry's Pet, but becoming a bit concerned about the weather/wind change that was due to happen later that morning (as is typical of the North Channel).  Suddenly Ben noticed Jamie zooming back to Orca on the dinghy, followed by them pulling anchor and leaving the anchorage.  A few minutes later Ben received a message from Paul that the Croker Island anchorage was empty and would be completely protected from the weather change!

Croker Island wasn't on our short list to visit on this trip, but in boating (and in life) you just have to go with the flow and make the best of it.  Planning usually doesn't get you too far! :-)  Paul and Jamie led us in on the dinghy and helped us tie to shore.  After that, we had a whole day of relaxation ahead of us.

At anchor in Croker with Petry's Pet and Orca
We were lucky to have this beautiful, calm Croker Island anchorage while the winds and waves grew on the other side.  We were also lucky this year to have buddy boats with us as we navigated our first trip with a baby. :-)  RJ was still on 3 naps at the time, so Ben and I took turns taking off on the paddle board, hiking, taking out the dinghy, and exploring.  Since I was primarily responsible for feeding the baby, a lot more time was spent in the cabin this summer than ever before! (He's lucky he's so cute) :-)

Captain RJ just being adorable as usual

Croker Island - home of the many swimming snakes 
Although not on our original agenda, this detour to Croker Island was a great call (even with the snakes).  Luckily this visit we knew that the swimming snake was not poisonous, but we still were careful to watch for them before jumping in for a swim or a lake bath!  

Hanging out in the cabin and listening to some music

Daddy and baby love

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Day 2 (cont): How have we gone 4 years without going to the Benjamin Islands??


Day 2: Saturday, July 16 - Depart Spanish Marina 11:30am, Arrive Bay of the Benjamins 12:30pm

That's right, this was our 4th trip to the North Channel, and we STILL HAD NOT anchored in the fabled Benjamin Islands!  So this time, it was our first priority.  And luckily, although the Bay of the Benjamins was a little crowded when we arrived, there was still plenty of space in the anchorage. We met our friends Kurt and Beth outside the bay, and Ben and I went in first to try to find a spot. 
Checking out anchorages - this is actually the South anchorage on South Benjamin

Meeting friends from Indiana in the North Channel!
Help tying up from some friendly local boaters
A group of local boaters who were rafted together saw us looking for a spot, and zoomed over in their dinghys to help us out.  We're always so grateful when people take the time to help, especially in a place we've never been before!  In the N.C., you never know where underwater rocks or shallow spots are lurking, and it just makes it soooo much easier to have help!

We anchored and tied to the rocks behind us, and just took some time to celebrate, relax, and take it all in.  One of our favorite things about our North Channel vacations is that it does not take long at all to settle in and just let the relaxation start.  A big part of that comes from taking our little home-away-from-home or our "floating hotel room" with us when we travel!  No matter where we go to sleep or wake up and have our coffee, we're already feeling like we're at home.

So, first order of business once we are anchored and feeling good about things... lunch!  And for lunch in the Bay of the Benjamins for the first time?  Can't top grilled pizza!

Captain RJ had us securely anchored in no time!

The best pizza is on a grill (the scenery doesn't hurt either).
Kurt and Beth on their dinghy out exploring
Seapickle and Petry's Pet at anchor in the Bay of the Benjamins

After lunch we set out to explore the area behind where we anchored first, and then took the dinghy over to the area referred to as the ski slope due to its steep incline and smooth pink granite.  It was definitely different and a little tricky loading RJ and all our gear into the dinghy just to travel ashore, but so amazing to experience it with him.  And yes!  I did say "dinghy" this time... we decided that the kayak may be too difficult with a baby, so Kurt and Beth generously loaned us their old dinghy for the trip!  We missed the quiet of the kayak, but the dinghy was much more convenient.

We agreed that the Benjamins are regarded as the best anchorage in the North Channel for a good reason! It was absolutely breathtaking.

Having a little picnic and playtime on the rocks
Ben and baby in his Osprey pack doing some exploring

The days are long in the North Channel, and we still had time for some playtime in the boat with RJ before he went down for bed, and we met up with the crew of Orca - fellow GLCC member Paul, and his friends Jamie and Sara, on the rocks for a few beers.  The quintessential North Channel day... and this was just the beginning!

RJ catching up on some Beach Baby reading

Watching Orca anchor - Ben "met" Paul on Instagram and we met for drinks with Paul, Jamie, and Sara that evening

Baby RJ hanging out in his baby piano gym in the V-berth

Bay of the Benjamins from the "ski slope" area

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Day 2: Enjoying the views at the Spanish Marina, Ontario

Looking out into the Whalesback Channel, North Channel, Ontario
Seapickle at dock in the Spanish Marina

Hanging out at the overlook at the Spanish Marina
View of the Whalesback and North Channel from the Spanish Marina trail and overlook

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Day 1: Trailer Boating to the North Channel, Ontario! (aka A 16 Hour Tow with a 6 month old)

Rj's first roadtrip!
Ahhhh... the North Channel. It's early January as I'm writing this, and we're watching a North Channel DVD (and drinking wine) for inspiration as we finally start writing about our July 2016 summer trip. There were so many differences to this trip from previous years (obviously), and one of them was NOT taking detailed notes on our daily activities and weather conditions! I guess you could say we had other top priorities, aka keeping a 6 month old alive and fed. :-) So, we're sorry this is coming so late and may not be as detailed as previous trip blogs! Hope you still enjoy reading about our sometimes crazy, sometimes relaxing, 2 week boating trip with our baby RJ.

On this trip we had friends and fellow GLCC members, Kurt and Beth, also from Indiana traveling with us once we reached the North Channel. They boated all the way up from Michigan City, Indiana in their Sea Ray Sundancer 340. Last year they accomplished an amazing trip of traveling all the around Lake Michigan and enjoyed it so much they decided to retire early and push further North this summer into the North Channel!! 

Day 1 is going to cover our travels from leaving home Thursday night at approx 8:45 CST to arriving at Spanish Marina Friday afternoon at approx 2:00 EST.

Day 1 - Drive to Spanish
All tucked in (with bunny and binky) and ready to go!

Thursday, July 14th - 8:45pm -  
For our first trip with a baby, we decided to try out leaving Thursday night when Ben got home from work and driving overnight. We figured this would be the best bet for RJ sleeping the majority of the trip and hopefully not crying too much! In order to do this, we had to have the boat packed, washed, and on the trailer in advance so that Thursday we could head out right around RJ's usual bedtime.  Overall, we didn't do too bad!  We pulled the boat out Sunday morning and spent the day getting it washed, packed with our clothes and non-perishable goods, and canvas down and ready for towing.   On Thursday, we left the house a little later than we wanted to, stopped at the bank and gas station, and spent way too much time at the marina hooking the trailer up to the truck, but we were on the road to the NC by 10:30pm.

Friday morning and still on the road!
Our first gas stop was in Grandville, MI (exit 67 - just "ok"), followed by a nap stop from 3:30-5:45am EST at a rest area.  Our second gas stop was in Houghten Lake, where we also had breakfast at the Burger King next door around 7am.  Our third gas stop was the Mackinaw City Citgo (kinda small/busy - full service), and final stop right before the border at the 3 mile road exit (the Admiral, our usual).  At every gas station stop, RJ would wake up for a few minutes while we pumped gas and stretched our legs, but as we got back on the road I would stick a bottle in his mouth and he'd be back to sleep in no time!  He did wake up around his normal time of 7am, so we took the opportunity to stop for breakfast and take him out of his seat for awhile.  He did great though getting back on the road, and took his morning nap as usual.  Once he woke up from that though, we had to stop for a side-of-the-road diaper change and he wasn't too happy for awhile.  He napped on and off the rest of the way though.  Traveling overnight and stopping for a "nap" and then breakfast extended our drive by about 4 or 5 (long) hours.  Looking back, though, we think it was the right call and we plan to drive overnight again for our next trip.

Arriving to Spanish Marina, Ontario
Unpacking the truck and packing the boat! RJ shows off our supplies in the mid-cabin (his bunk)

Day 2 - Spanish to Benjamins
Trailer boat launch at Spanish Marina, Ontario
We arrived at the Spanish Marina around 2pm EST to a chilly, overcast, windy day and got to work getting ready to launch.  Our original plans were to meet our friends Kurt and Beth in Gore Bay, but after our long drive and seeing the windy conditions, we decided instead to secure a slip in Spanish for the night.  We were able to make contact with Kurt and Beth to update them with our change in plans and decided to meet in the Benjamin's in the morning instead. 

Tying up in Spanish for the night
We made the best of the rest of the afternoon and tried to catch up on sleep and just prepare ourselves and the boat for the weeks ahead!  Spanish has a beautiful marina, and we always enjoy spending time there at the beginning or end of our trips.

Excited and nervous for our first trip together!