First time to North Channel in July 2019: Suggestions welcomed!

David Watt - January 15, 2019

We are renting a Beneteau 473 from Canadian Yacht Charters in Gore Bay for a week in July. We need suggestions on how to plan. Should we expect to sail? or mostly motor? How do we explore places to stop for a visit and for overnight?


David on Lady Lillie's picture

That’s not just a wish for you. It has been our experience in the North Channel. On average, we motor 30-40% of the time on Lake Erie. But on two charters out of Gore Bay, and 3 cruises on our boat, we were able to sail 80+% of the time. Part of this is that there are so many possible anchorages, that there are always multiple choices whichever way the wind is blowing. So relax, and follow the wind!

Lots of good advice above. David did a great job recommending anchorages, but you won’t be able to make them all in a week. Do download the GLCC harbor reports before you go. They are far and away the best advice for the North Channel!

And following seas,


Stanford Wingeier's picture

If your timing in July is lucky, you might consider the GLCC Wilderness Rendezvous being held on Turnbull Island and Harbor.
See the GLCC calendar for dates and activities.


dspencer's picture

Stan and Mel have provided good advice. If you haven't already done so, a glance through NC-0 Cruising the North Channel would be worthwhile. It's also fun in the cold winter months to peruse the harbour reports for the area you are considering. Mel is right that you should be able to sail if you don't have a specific destination in mind although sometimes the wind may be light; especially before 11am. Winds tend to fill in in the mid to late afternoon. Since you only have a week, you may want to enjoy some of the best places the North Channel has to offer which might mean motoring or motor sailing to get where you'd like to be in a reasonable time.
Stan correctly pointed out that Ken Blodgett at CYC does a very good chart briefing and will likely have some recommendations of his own.
if you're looking for destination / cruise routing recommendations, I would suggest the following:

Beardrop Harbour - NC-51. This is a beautiful anchorage about 18 nm NW of Gore Bay near the western extremity of the prime North Channel cruising area. Since it is so far west, it is not quite as busy as some other anchorages closer to Little Current which is arguably the centre of the North Channel cruising world.

Move east through the Whalesback Channel and through Little Detroit NC-38 to Hotham Island NC-34 through to NC-34.6. There are numerous anchoring opportunities in the Hotham Island area... some social and some quiet.

From Hotham, make a short trip to the Benjamin Islands or Croker Island NC-22 through to NC-24. These are busy areas. I tend to stay away from the Benjamins unless I'm fortunate enough to be there in early September when most cruisers have headed home. But, for your first time, I'd recommend joining the crowd for a night and enjoying this iconic North Channel destination. Mel mentioned Fox Harbour NC-27 which is the northernmost island of the Benjamin group. This is another beautiful spot but it is more difficult to enter than most anchorages. Inattention on the approach could be expensive. Make sure CYC is ok with you entering Fox before you go.

From the Benjamin area, you may wish to stay along the north shore and visit the Barren Island area NC-31. What poorly named islands! They are quite pretty and Louisa Island NC-30.5 is popular and easily accessible. Sturgeon Cove NC-28.5 is another spot you would enjoy. Study the harbour report and pay close attention to the ranges set up by the GLCC to enter. CYC may want to know if you plan to go there as the entrance is tricky but manageable with care. (Not to be confused with Sturgeon Bay NC-29.2 which is close by and quite different). If Sturgeon Cove is not feasible, Bell Cove NC-28 right next door is wide open with a nice view of the La Cloche Mountains. It's quite deep but you'll have a windlass.

You'll likely need a pump-out, water, fuel and supplies by now. I'd suggest a day stop in Little Current to reprovision. Call "Port of Little Current" on Ch 68 when in sight of the docks and they will get you a courtesy slip at no charge for a few hours. Stay overnight in Little Current if you wish but I favour anchoring out over docks while cruising.

If you don't spend too long in Little Current, you should be able to make Baie Fine NC-83. The entrance to Baie Fine is spectacular. After running through a narrow but well buoyed opening, the sun on the quartz cliffs is really beautiful. There are numerous anchorages along the south shore or at the extreme east end. If Baie Fine is too far, Heywood Island NC-77 is closer to Little Current and is quite attractive. It's popular but can hold lots of boats without crowding. In 2018, there was an aggressive bear that actually boarded a few boats so it was not used for a good part of the season. You'll hear about it if the bear is back in 2019.

If you make it as far as Baie Fine, it will definitely be time to start heading west to get back to Gore Bay in time. Winds are generally (but not always) from the west so allow lots of time if you're sailing or plan to motor into the prevailing wind.

A stop at Amendroz NC-20, Middleton NC-20.5 or Logan Bay NC-21.4 en route back to Gore Bay may be pleasant.
Depending what time you have to have the boat back, Clapperton Harbour NC-21.5 would be a good place for your last night as it's relatively close to Gore Bay.

A lot of the anchorages I've suggested provide good overnight protection from the prevailing west wind. If it is forecast to blow from the east or northeast, find alternatives with suitable protection.

These are my thoughts only... I'm sure you'll find your own way and come up with lots of great spots that suit you and your crew. Cruisers in the North Channel are friendly and love talking about places to anchor. Some can be wary of chartered boats so after dropping anchor, hop in the dinghy and invite one or two neighbours (If you have neighbours) over for a drink or just chat with them for a few minutes... a great way to make friends and learn about great places to go. Watch for GLCC burgees... any boat flying a GLCC burgee is almost certainly a friend and a fine source of information. Keep asking questions on this forum too. You'll hopefully get lots of useful advice.

Dave Spencer
s/v Good Idea
Port Captain - Lion's Head

Stanford Wingeier's picture

You might also listen to the Cruisers Net for the North Channel.

I also recommend the thumb drive of the North Channel group and possibly the Georgian Bay group charts by GLCC.

I also have used the NAVIONICS Phone app for either android or I phone that is for The Great Lakes(US and Canada).
The neat feature of this app is that is always updated and it has automatic routing.

If you have the luxury of flexible stopovers, I suggest traveling to your most distant port first and then work your way back to Gore Bay. In the event that you get weathered in for a day or two, you can adjust your plan accordingly.

Stanford Wingeier's picture

I have chartered from CYC several times in the past and have always been very satisfied with their service.
Ken Blodgett, the manager, always has a session called "chart talk" prior to everyone leaving the dock.
In this session he will review all necessary do"s and don"ts and review various ports and anchorages.
Their marine store has all necessary charts and Richardson Chart Books and Ports books.

Happy Chartering, Stan

Mel's picture

Hello David-
Here’s some basics. You’ll sail unless you have some predetermined destination in mind—not a good idea. (That’s if the wind is not too strong or light). With a predetermined float plan your odds are say 50-50 that the wind direction will work for sailing (if it’s not too strong or light.) So you may find you’re motoring 75% of the time so if it’s a nice day for a sail then do it. Given you’re only cruising for a week don’t expect to go further east than Killarney nor further west than Beardrop Harbor. You will find one week is pretty short so daysailing and anchoring among the nearby islands northeast of Gore Bay is recommended, including the Benjamins, Fox I, Eagle I, or Hotham I. That’s if anchoring suits you as it sure suits me. Of course you’ll need a good cook aboard. It really is a pleasure to get out in the Channel for a few hrs on a broad reach with your destination ahead or behind you. There will be days more suited for staying put. Be sure to download the relevant harbor reports. And watch your GPS plotter and the depths under the keel. Near everyone is very friendly and ready to help you with advice up there. And I’m available at the number listed in the Gore Bay harbor report, if you don’t see us out there aboard Bliss.