2010 North Channel Cruise - Part One

By Mac MacDevitt - Essex, NY - USA

To Part Two

To Part Three

August 4-9 - Windrider 17 Tri - ONWARD

“The boats have been up to every challenge” – Joe

8 minute video of the trip to start the story.

I headed out for the Canadian border from the little town of Essex on Lake Champlain at noon on Monday with a growing sense of excitement. I had read trip reports, checked the charts and spent weeks getting my blue 2007 Windrider 17 Onward ready for a week-long cruising adventure on the North Channel of Lake Huron. I was expecting strong winds and tricky navigation, scattered small islands and submerged rocks and a wild, natural beauty. If Lake Huron is a hunched over old woman, the Channel is a sack on her back 100 miles long west to east. The Channel is about 25 miles wide from our planned departure port of Spanish on the mainland to Manitoulin Island in the south.

I rolled into the Spanish on Tuesday to find Joe Murphy setting up his white Windrider 17 in the marina parking lot. Joe is tall, incredibly friendly, and a consummate sailor who has grown to know these boats over the years. I sailed with Joe in Florida on a trip to the Marquesas Keys in 2009. I trusted extensive knowledge of and his sound judgment as a sailor. We compared notes and took our time setting up. Instead of paying the marina fee we deployed our pop-up tents on our boats and slept in the parking lot.

I met Rick and his brother David for the first time. Rick has a yellow WR 17 that he has extensively modified. One of the beauties of these trimarans is that they provide a wide and stable footprint, and thus invite an owner to modify and customize to the boat to suit his vision and his needs. Out of the box WindRiders are day sailors and are not set up for extended beach cruising, so each boat needs to be modified to carry gear and deal with the extreme conditions involved in adventure over open water. Rick had cruised his boat extensively on the Great Lakes, had sailed on the North Channel and acted as our guide for the trip. David has shared some of these adventures with Rick and has extensive outdoor experience hiking, canoeing and camping.

David and Rick at Kagawong on Manitoulin Island.

This is only my third season Windrider sailing. I have sailed bigger trimarans on Lake Champlain for 25 years, including 27’ and 31’ Searunners, and most recently a Corsair F-27. I choose the WR 17 because I wanted to get close to the wind and waves like a sea kayaker, be able to run my boat up on the sand like a beach cruiser and still sleep and cook aboard. In my WR 17 I can be out in big wind and waves and feel like I am crossing the Atlantic. For me the smaller the boat, the bigger the sensation, and, sometimes, the reality of adventure. I had checked out a number of beach cruising monohulls, some of them beautiful and capable boats, but I was unwilling to give up the exhilarating bursts of speed that are possible in a well-designed trimaran. At the best of times I feel like I am flying an old biplane from my rear cockpit.

DAY ONE: By noon the next day the flotilla was motoring southwest down the Spanish River into the teeth of a building wind. Once clear of the channel we tacked between some small islands and stuck our noses out into the green water of the open North Channel with their 75 mile fetch. We had the choice of sailing among the islands, which offer protection from the waves, or heading south into the open water. We choose south, skimming along the lee shore of the islands on a beam reach in building waves. Joe took two waves in quick succession into his cockpit, and as he reached between his legs to pump the water out, felt the bilge pump blow. He scooted into a rocky cove. Using Gorilla Glue, twine and duct tape he repaired the plastic clamp.

The sailing was exhilarating. When in the lee of the land in the flat water the boats would fly. I hit 11.8 knots, and Joe was sailing even faster than I was. The open water was even more of a thrill, crashing thru the waves with spray flying. It was the most exciting day of sailing ever for me. I loved the long, uninterrupted beam reach. I think we sailed about 20 miles down to Kagawong at the south end of Mudge Bay. We tucked in in the lee of the shore, in shallow water open to the east, set up our tents and turned in.

We pulled in to this small bay so Joe could repair is bilge pump.

Continued next month...


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