Its no wonder this is rated in the top ten world cruising destinations. Sweet water, friendlies, safe harbors, great scenery.
Places - Images
We spent several weeks in the summer of 2012 cruising the North Channel of Lake Huron. This is an archipelago of isolated islands bordered on the south by Manatoulin Island and on the north by Ontario mainland. To the west is the shipping channel through the Soo locks into Lake Superior. To the south and east is the north end of Georgian Bay. The waters are clear and generally shallow enough to be swimming-warm in the summer cruise months. Most of the area is accessable only by water. There are many small villages seldom visited by cruisers, but don't take jeans and sweets to trade. You will need Loonies and other Canadian currency to trade with the friendly natives. I summered in Northern Michigan from the time I was a child and much of this area is reminiscent of Michigan's north of the 50's and 60's. There are several charters available. You can find them easily with a Google search. We sailed in the company of our dock mates on Emerald Isle from Muskegon, Michigan.
The cruise is up the west coast of Michigan. You can do this in continuous sail, taking advantage of the prevailing SW winds. We made several stops, Luddington, Frankfort, Charlevoix, Government Bay as we traveled north. There are several other harbors of refuge as well. Many of these towns may have summer festivals. You might plan to spend a few days at the Venetian Festival in Charlevoix for example. Make sure you have up to date charts for the harbors if you draw more than 5 feet. The shipping ports will have well maintained deep water channels.
We checked into Canada at Meldrum Bay on the west end of Manatoulin Island. This was an easy procedure; tie up to government dock, call on the phone, exchange particulars, have a nice time, thankyou very much. Holding in the bay was a bit dicey. The prefered spots were taken. We found the bottom in some areas to be cobblestone paved. Eventually we found sand/mud.
Over the next three weeks we visited both villages and remote anchorages. A google earth search will tantalize you with the photos others have left. We visited Kagawong, Bear Drop Harbor, Little Detroit, Hotham Harbor, Little Current, Maei Fine, Topaz Lake, Killarney, E Rausch, Whalesback Channel and many anchorages without name. The water was great. We swam daily.
Total cost was low. We consumed about 110 gallons of diesel over 3.5 weeks and 1200 miles. We get about 4 km/gal and we also run a gen-set about 5 hours per week. You will find many places where motoring is mandatory due to draft and wind. Once on a return schedule, (hate that word) we had to motor in some windless conditions. Roxy is 55,000 displacement, 6'-7" draft, 16 beam and 80 feet clearance. Plan to arrive at Little current early and take a slip at the city marina for the day. There is NO CHARGE, honest, to dock, hook-up power and water for the entire day as long as you pull out by 9:30 PM. The plan is that you will shop and eat at the restaurants. We felt obligated and did this. If you do decide to stay all night, it will not break the bank.
If I had to recommend a favorite place, I'd have to say Baei Fine and Topaz Lake. Others will spend several days in the Benjamin Islands.
Retun to the US can be at Drummond Island Yacht Haven on the NW corner of Drummond Island. This is a pretentious name for the ugliest smelliest place we stopped over the entire cruise. The agent was a nice young man. You can also check in at Mackinaw Island or a few places on the NW end of lower Michigan. You might find the Homeland Security guys in the black boats a bit more excited by this plan but I am told it is OK.