North Channel - Gore Bay, Croker Island (The Benjamins), Moffat Bay, Hilton Beach, ON to Sault Ste. Marie and Lake Superior, MI

Moving through the North Channel, which technically started at the Killarney lighthouse (photographed in the last post) toward Gore Bay we definitely notice the difference in landscape. There is a great deal of exposed quartz in some areas and the islands are much larger with fewer cottages. We depart LIttle Current without issue, as we have a nice end-tie and Larry is a pro now at getting off the dock sideways, even with a current pinning us in. We stop at a marina in Gore Bay (26NM) for the night and poke around the town. We find ‘Split Rail’ Brewery and have a nice frosty lager by the water and then a pizza dinner down the street that has a local guy playing the guitar. Cute town with a nice harbor. We move on toward The Benjamin Islands the next day. There are four islands that make up this group and most of them offer pretty scenery with pink granite, green pines and gorgeous sunsets. We pick a little pocket bay at Croker Island (14NM) and are the second to anchor in this area. Throughout the day more and more boats show up as it is the weekend and soon the little bay is packed. One sailing vessel arrives late in the day and basically anchors over our chain...we will use an anchor ball in the future. A pretty night with winds less than predicted is always nice. Up early the next morning we make a long run (8.5 hours) up the North Channel to an anchorage at St. Joseph Island in Moffat Bay (67NM). A perfect night at anchor without wind or anchor alarms. A quick hop around the corner to Hilton Beach (4NM) the following day to tie up in a marina as the winds are forecasted to pick up tonight. We wash down the boat which has been covered with bugs for weeks and when we are almost done I proceed to crush my fingers in the engine room door. A bit of a nervous moment but I quickly figured it was a flesh wound and with ice, ibuprofen and many band-aid and glove changes it will heal. We move up St. Joseph Channel to St. Mary’s River and reenter the US at Gore Kemp Marina in Sault Ste. Marie, MI (27NM) which means ‘the Rapids of St. Mary’s’ in French. Sault Ste. Marie is a city on the northeastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula on the Canada - U.S. border and separated from its twin city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, by the St. Mary’s River. The two cities are connected by the International Bridge. The area was first inhabited by Native American Ojibwe or Chippewa people who gathered in this area to fish for ‘white fish’ which were found in the rapids. Later the French Jesuits settled the city in 1668 making ‘The Soo’ the third oldest continuously inhabited city in the U.S. west of the Appalachian Mountains (the first is St. Augustine, FL followed by Jamestown, VA). Fur trapping and trading was the base of the economy then later a tannery, Fort Brady and shipping. The St. Mary's River was the only water connection between Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. However, there was a section of the river known as the St. Mary's Rapids where the water falls about 21' from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. This natural barrier made it necessary for the construction of the Sault Locks, a project known as the St. Mary's Falls Canal. The first lock was built in 1797, on the Canadian side, but was destroyed in the War of 1812. The United States built its first lock in 1855. Today there are 4 locks in use, continuously being visited by ships and tourists. Tourism is now the main source of income in ‘The Soo’. So we spread some tourist dollars at the local watering holes and meet some fabulous local people. This is a great town and we hate to leave but after provisioning and getting the Doherty’s back on board we head to the locks of Lake Superior. We can’t come this far to not ‘dip our toe’ (as Larry puts it) into all of the Great Lakes. We ‘up lock’ on the Canadian side where pleasure vessels can transit (the U.S. side is for commercial traffic). It is a slow, smooth fill and we tour Lake Superior for an hour then return to ‘down lock’ and head to an anchorage at Whiskey Bay, St. Joseph Island (52NM).

The big chair at Gore Bay, Ontario

The big chair at Gore Bay, Ontario

Split Rail brewing was started by Andrea and Eleanor in a garage on Manitoulin Island in 2010. Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world. The brewery opened in Gore Bay in 2015. We enjoy a frosty Copper Lager by the water.

Split Rail brewing was started by Andrea and Eleanor in a garage on Manitoulin Island in 2010. Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world. The brewery opened in Gore Bay in 2015. We enjoy a frosty Copper Lager by the water.

A nice dinner of salmon, corn and salad while anchored at Croker Island (The Benjamins). The sailboat in the background is almost over our anchor chain.

A nice dinner of salmon, corn and salad while anchored at Croker Island (The Benjamins). The sailboat in the background is almost over our anchor chain.

Sunset over The Benjamins, ON

Sunset over The Benjamins, ON

Note to self - make sure the engine room door is secure at all times…

Note to self - make sure the engine room door is secure at all times…

Sunset at Hilton Harbor Marina, Hilton Beach, ON

Sunset at Hilton Harbor Marina, Hilton Beach, ON

Sweet lighthouse along The St. Joseph Channel

Sweet lighthouse along The St. Joseph Channel

Larry replaced our Canadian courtesy flag with our Nordhavn 2,500 nautical mile pennant flag after re-entering the U.S. at Sault Ste. Marie, MI in the George Kemp marina.

Larry replaced our Canadian courtesy flag with our Nordhavn 2,500 nautical mile pennant flag after re-entering the U.S. at Sault Ste. Marie, MI in the George Kemp marina.

The Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa County Courthouse built in 1877

The Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa County Courthouse built in 1877

Excavation of the hydropower plant’s canal began in September 1898 and was completed in 1902.

Excavation of the hydropower plant’s canal began in September 1898 and was completed in 1902.

Concurrently, construction of the Edison Sault Electric Hydroelectric Plant began in March 1900 and was completed in 1902. Official opening of the facility was held on October 25, 1902. At the time of completion, the plant was second only to Niagara Falls in terms of hydro development

Concurrently, construction of the Edison Sault Electric Hydroelectric Plant began in March 1900 and was completed in 1902. Official opening of the facility was held on October 25, 1902. At the time of completion, the plant was second only to Niagara Falls in terms of hydro development

The canal and one of the bridges as it looks now

The canal and one of the bridges as it looks now

This crystal-clear blue water is moving toward the hydro electric power plant at about 8 knots or more

This crystal-clear blue water is moving toward the hydro electric power plant at about 8 knots or more

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald memorialized in this mural on ‘The Merch’ bars side wall. The manager at the bar relayed his memory of the day it sank back on November 10th, 1975

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald memorialized in this mural on ‘The Merch’ bars side wall. The manager at the bar relayed his memory of the day it sank back on November 10th, 1975

Love the old brick buildings of Sault Ste. Marie, MI

Love the old brick buildings of Sault Ste. Marie, MI

We enjoy a beer (or two) with our friend John at the ‘Downtowner’ bar. Thank you for your great hospitality John. We really enjoyed meeting you and the gang at the DT!

We enjoy a beer (or two) with our friend John at the ‘Downtowner’ bar. Thank you for your great hospitality John. We really enjoyed meeting you and the gang at the DT!

Up-locking on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie, ON to Lake Superior

Up-locking on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie, ON to Lake Superior

At the top of the lock…21 feet up

At the top of the lock…21 feet up

Going under the International Bridge to Lake Superior

Going under the International Bridge to Lake Superior

A short tour on the Greatest of Lakes…Lake Superior

A short tour on the Greatest of Lakes…Lake Superior

The largest steel plant in Canada sits near Sault Ste. Marie, ON

The largest steel plant in Canada sits near Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Beautiful old stone buildings sit beside the lock

Beautiful old stone buildings sit beside the lock

The gates shut as we ‘down lock’ on return from Lake Superior

The gates shut as we ‘down lock’ on return from Lake Superior

Exiting the lock as we head back down St. Mary’s River

Exiting the lock as we head back down St. Mary’s River