Is it just my imagination, or are there always strong wind warnings forecast when there is a Great Lakes Cruising Club wilderness rally in the North Channel or Georgian Bay? Or does this area of the Great Lakes just get an awful lot of wind?
Ron has been a member of the Great Lakes Cruising Club, an organization that promotes and enhances cruising for Great Lakes boaters, since 1977. We’ve been cruising the upper Great Lakes together every summer since 1990, first with our two young children, now just the two of us. In those days, we used the printed harbor reports which included 1,100 ports and anchorages throughout the Great Lakes. Ron has personally charted and reported on many of the small anchorages in the North Channel. Today, the Great Lakes Cruising Club’s harbor reports are available on their website, downloadable and updated by its members, much like the popular ActiveCaptain website we use while cruising Florida. (The personal upside of GLCC’s reports? They are edited and are more reliable since you don’t have a mish mash of advice/directions!)
Each summer, the Great Lakes Cruising Club holds a Rendezvous of its members, held in a marina where boats are tied to docks, hooked to power, with many events during the day, many meals supplied. This year’s Rendezvous was held in Rogers City, MI and attended by 80+ boats. We had hoped to make the Rendezvous but my sister’s chemo treatments and getting Thyme Hyssop & Wry ready to launch and sailed north got in the way of those plans. However, the GLCC’s wilderness rally, an informal 3-day event where self-sufficient boaters gather in a large remote anchorage to meet up for shore parties, dinghy trips, hiking, kayaking, visiting and just generally relaxing, was still a possibility if we made some long days east. And that we did.
We arrived the first day of the rally and sought out a spot to anchor among the 30+ boats already at anchor. It was a beautiful day, light wind, the water at McGregor Bay was warm (mid-70’s… seriously), the fishing was pretty good. And then we heard the forecast for Thursday (final day of the rally): strong wind warning for W 20, gusts to 35 knots. Great. We decided to move to a less-deep area of the anchorage (the one thing Ron doesn’t like about this particular anchorage is that it’s so deep) and put out more anchor rode. Within a couple hours of the wind arriving, we put out a second anchor so we would not blow around quite so much. Unfortunately, with most folks boat-bound due to the wind, most of those final day’s events were cancelled.
And this got me thinking about past wilderness rallies we’ve attended. Last summer, we left the Georgian Bay rally early due to the wind forecast and the fact we needed to make tracks west. We missed a wilderness rally the prior year due to winds so strong that we were holed up in a protected anchorage for 2 days trying to get to the rally site before giving up. There was the North Channel rally back in the 90’s when most of the boats planning to attend were plastered to the wall in heavy winds at Little Current and the few of us who made it into Sturgeon Cove got to drink up all the wine and eat up all the cheese. There was the rally at Obstacle Island where those of us with deep draft charted a new way into a more protected anchorage when high winds were forecast. Many times we’ve rescheduled shore events in order to avoid weather coming in. And don’t get me started on those of us who have dragged anchor and had to re-anchor. It can be a test of your seamanship skills as winds gust over 30 knots!
Friday morning the wind had gone light overnight; we heard many boats raising anchor and departing at first light, by 0600. We were up early, checking nearby anchorages that would better protect us from the heavy west wind forecast to come back in by noon. We began raising anchor with the wind at 4 knots, it was 9 knots when we departed the anchorage, and was 13 knots by the time we reached the new anchorage, just a couple miles away. By noon the wind was again howling at the top of our mast, but we were snug and comfortable in our bay that provided much better protection from winds. It didn’t hurt that between Ron and our friends on Kahlua III, we had more than enough fish to feed 6 people that evening. Doesn’t get much better than that!