"Family Ties" Sailing
August 2006 Cruise
North Channel, Ontario, Canada
Stan & Pam Williams and Family

We departed Detroit, July 31, 2006 9:14 PM. The first half of the 25 day trip was with our son Josh, his wife Christin, and their three children Caleb, Abby, and Hannah. The second half of the trip we were joined by our daughter Trudy, her husband Steve, and their three children: Micah, Luke, and Annaliese. Returned to Detroit, August 23, 2006, 10:30 AM. Here is a very small selection of the more than 700 digital stills that were taken.


"Family Ties" in Tobermory, Ontario ready for the North Channel. Getting here was supposed to take about 32 hours, straight up Lake Huron for two nights and a day. But a series of storms packing winds up to 90 mph chased us into Kincardine, Ontario at 4AM one night, where we escaped the sustained orange strikes of plasma. WARNING MARINERS: The very narrow entrance to Kincardine's harbor (steel pilings on the left and rocky breakwater on the right) is not lighted. They should fix that. Only Pam on the bow with a 1,000,000 candle power spot kept us from hitting hard as we ran before 40 knot winds.


"Family Ties" at anchor in the Benjamin Islands. This is perhaps the most popular anchorage in the North Channel. South and North Benjamin Islands are made of beautiful pink marble that has been carved smooth by centuries of storms and ice, and are guarded by many huge boulders and smaller islands that rise out of the 50 foot deep water to the South and North which create narrow passageways and coves for the courageous captain seeking a private harbor.




Sunrise at the city docks of Little Current, Manitoulin Island, Ontario. It's called "Little" Current, but a 48-hour, 50-knot Easterly created a 5-knot current at these docks the day before as it sucked water out of Lake Superior and into Georgian Bay. This was the lull, before the current reversed direction.


Circumnavigating South Benjamin Island in our dingy, we stop to climb atop one of the Sow's Pigs (a large marble rock in 50 feet of water) near the entrance to the Benjamin's. (L-R: Stan, Steve & Annaliese, Luke, Pam, and Micah.) Trudy suggests: Now that we're a "rock group" perhaps this picture could grace our album cover.




Stan juggles a sandwich as he tries to hold down the ever-energetic Annaliese who's discovered that an orange peel tastes good and is good for teething. The only time this little girl with the big type A personality was truly happy was when she was strapped into her cockpit seat as "Family Ties" bucked 3-meter waves and 50 knot head winds. She was giddy. Pity her boyfriends. Stan quickly gave her the nickname Dame Ellen. Don't know who "Ellen" is? Click here and hold on: Ellen MacArthur


Trudy and Steve on top of Covered Portage Cover with Family Ties several hundred feet below anchored in 30-knot winds. We anchored in this cove twice during the trip, thinking its tall cliffs would protect us from wind. But, no! The cliffs only served to funnel the Westerly winds that howled outside at 50 knots, southward through the cove, cutting the speed down by 20 but allowing gusts at anchor of up to 40. When Trudy and Steve returned safely with kids and Pam, we weighed anchor and left for another anchorage called "Snug Harbor" ... where the winds were only gusting to 30 knots. (!) Ha! It does pay to have several good anchors on board, although we only used one.




Our eldest daughter, Trudy, shares a laugh with her mom, Pam, on their way back with the kids and Steve from climbing Covered Portage Cove cliffs. Twenty years go this month, Trudy climbed the rocks as a child with her younger brother and sister when the family sailed to the same anchorage aboard a smaller, chartered sailboat. Smaller then wasn't such a problem, because they kids were "normal" size. Today Josh is 6'10". Yes, he played basketball--Navy's center -- Class of 1999. See the picture to the right. But with a 7-foot headroom he can stand up in Family Ties' main salon.


Josh, Christin and family stand for a sunset picture on the aft quarter of Family Ties anchored in The Pool at the East end of Baie Fine. Twenty years ago the water here was great for swimming. But today, Zebra Mussels have cleaned the natural sediment so much that sunlight reaches the bottom of The Pool, allowing lake grass to grow thick within a couple feet of the surface. The prop on Family Ties is 22-inches in diameter, but before we left The Pool and once afterwards, Pam and I had to dive on the prop and cut off a 25-30-inch ball of grass that had wraped around the prop totally hiding it from view.




Some days sailing were rougher than others. Here an approaching storm forced us into our "weathers." Micah (5) started kindergarten a couple days after he returned home. But Micah hasn't been waiting for school to learn everything he can about anything. Constantly he was asking where we were, and Grandpa Stan would show him on the nautical charts where we had been, where we were going, and how to be a good navigator so we'd know where we were right then. Yes, the autopilot works great, even in the worst of weather.


This is Topaz Lake, high in the hills above The Pool. The only water that gets in here drops from the sky. Very deep, and very clear. There is so much acid from the surrounding trees that no moss grows under the surface on rocks. It takes 20 minutes of hard hiking to get here, and you better follow the intermittent Provincial Park trail makers, or you'll never find it. Although when we returned home we did find it on Google Earth: (46-deg 03-min 17.58-sec North, 81-deg 28-min 41.37-seconds W. Elevation 873). And yes, the water is the color of Topaz. Be sure to bring your swimsuit. It's cold, but it's great.




The two ladies that dominated Stan's life during the month. Pam took care of the grandkids; Stan took care of the boat. Both a handful...the grandparents that is.


Hannah Grace was at home wherever her mom happened to plop her down; and every once in a while, Captain Stan got to hold one of his granddaughters -- that is if she wasn't too hungry. He still finds breastfeeding a challenge.




This is a picture of one of the fronts that came rolling over us when we sought shelter in Kincardine's harbor. Between us and the water is a 20-foot high berm. But in the marina we still felt Cat. 1 hurricane force winds.


The storm tore flags, sails, and knocked out Kincardine's lights, including, that night, the lighthouse and approach lights for the harbor entrance that were marginal to begin with. One small sailing vessel with two men aboard came in just after the storm passed, having headed out to sea rather than risk landing on the rocks trying to get in. They were beaten up but no serious injuries or damage.


This is Little Current near the new city docks. I'm smiling stupidly because we're sitting next to the local ice cream deli's order window, and I know what's coming next.


The water was clear and cold, and all you could do was smile. This is Club Island Harbor.




Christin, Josh, Caleb and Abby above Family Ties anchored in The Pool. Sometimes we'd raise the mizzen at anchor to keep the bow of the boat pointing into the wind. But it does make noise and usually we haul it down at night.


The wind was too strong and difficult to get to the Benjamin Islands with Josh's family. But when we got there with Trudy and company, we explored the many inlets and rocks. This is a bay on the South side of South Benjamin Island. Can you see the dingy and kids at the far right on shore. The sand is made up of ground up marble stone.




Josh's family on Fitzwilliam Island near Rattlesnake Harbor. It's smiles...


...all around. Here Trudy's family passes Flowerpot Island in the background. See the tall Flowerpot on the shore? Scroll below for a close-up picture taken by Christin.




Early one morning, Josh and family took the dingy across several miles of Georgian Bay to visit Flower Pot Island, the main attraction in the large "underwater" Provincial Park. Most of the attractions are underwater and there's a huge scuba diving industry here, as well as glass bottom boats.


Thee two pictures are great close-ups of the unique structures that have resulted from centuries of erosion along this portion of the Niagara Escarpment. or here. On the left picture you can see Josh (almost 7' tall) and his kids at the base.



It's the custom of sailors who land on a deserted beach to stack a single rock on top of the others stacked by earlier visitors. Some beaches have a dozen or more such memorials created over time. But this one takes the cake, or so Luke thinks.


Christin and Trudy were great cooks, so we never went hungry -- although the refrigerator gave up its compressor 4 days into the trip. We could have bought a new one for the money we shelled out for ice.




Never underestimate the ability of small kids to adapt to sailing. Caleb and Abby, although occasionally queasy, found plenty to do aboard the boat and exploring on land, and have been asking lately to go again.




One final sunset in Rattlesnake Harbor a great place to slide into when the wind blows from the East. Just a few miles away God arranged Club Island's harbor just the opposite. There you can find shelter from a Westerly. And both about 1/2 way between Tobermory and the North Channel Eastern coves and fiords.




John Weichel, a Tobermory resident whose porch sneaks up on the backside of the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry dock (you can see his place on Google Maps or Earth), snapped this picture as we came into Tobermory for the last time. I guess Trudy and Steve are below getting packed up. Looks like I'm calling the harbormaster on my VHS portable. Thanks John. What's a Chi-Cheemaun? It's a huge ferry who's bow and stern open and close like gigantic mouths to accept up to 143 cars, busses and trucks on two levels. Chi-Cheemaun It's the only way from the South to get to Manitoulin Island, reportedly the largest freshwater island in the world.


After three weeks sailing, and with Steve and Trudy all packed up and ready to drive home, they say goodbye, leaving Pam and I to take a day's rest and then sail and motor home 27 straight hours to Detroit. No storms this time, and favorable winds behind, and clear skies allowed us enjoy sunsets, satellites and meteors as they trace the sky above.


If you're interested in more about the North Channel visit James Herbert's Continuous Wave website at The North Channel. Years ago Jim, his wife Chris, and Stan were members of the same sailing school that cruised to the North Channel on two 30-foot keel boats as part of their fourth year's final exam. Jim's breezy and fresh account of that trip is at: 1986 Transfer Trip. Pam took the first three years of the school's sail trainng, but today has no less than four North Channel transfers aboard Family Ties to her credit. This last trip she was fearless, even sitting on the bow dangling her feet over the side as it crashed into huge waves.

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