|West Wight Potter Owner's Home Port
Day Sailing-Part Two
Leaving Badgely Island to starboard, I snuck between the rocky shoal and shore to go directly to Bearsback
Island. The island is wooded heavily and appeared to have a rocky shoreline. I was pleased to find the sandy
bottom in the cove that had drawn me to the island. In the cove the water was so clear it was as if the air had
replaced the water. Into the cove opening I motored slowly, looking all over the place. I decided to anchor
before hitting bottom. When the anchor went down, dropped from the cockpit, it went into nine feet of water. I
was shocked because I thought it much shallower. The water was so clear I could see individual grains of
sand. There was a bright spot on the bottom under Peapod, my West Wight Potter 15.
Over the side I went, diving for the colored thing as soon as the mask was fitted and the snorkel in place. I
came up with one very large fishing bait lure designed for trolling. It actually looked like a neon pink, red
and white squid with a big hook. I kept it to give to a friend who likes to fish. I was very careful to not hook
myself with it. Somehow it reminded me of salt-water baits, but I expect Great Lakes Salmon would go for it
too, as would a muskie or pike.
A cup of tea in hand, I lounged in the cockpit enjoying the cove and the solitude. The North Channel is not a
busy place but in high season there may be other boats in the anchorages. As open to the south as the cove on
Bearsback is, not many stay here overnight. Terns were feeding nearer the far shore, and gulls were pestering
them. Their squabbling cries echoed in the cove, bouncing off the evergreens blanketing the shores. I started
the motor after finishing my tea and pottered about the cove a bit before leaving. I love to explore this way
and often do just that. I meandered north toward Amandros Island, skirting the shores there before
meandering the way into the big bay open to the east. Along the shores were broken rocks, dark with lichens,
which gave way to slabs of shale or slate mixed with limestone chunks also layered. The shoreline is wooded
to the shore rocks. Birds seem to favor this island and their songs are wonderful on a quiet day.
The bay opened up with deer on the beach, a sandy shoreline pocket of peace. Two whitetails were grazing in
the grasses and sedges. They leave in quiet walks out of sight as I nose into the sand bottomed shallows
before anchoring. I’ve decided to stay since the weather is stable and quiet. The easterly exposure is so open
that it is best in settled conditions. A large island lends some shelter from the easterlies but it’s not enough in
a blow to give me comfort. It would be a bouncy place in high east winds. ‘Tonight should be okay,’ I think. As
soon as I m all secured with the main furled, covered, jib bagged and anchors set (bow and stern), cockpit
tidied up and things put away down below, I go for a cooling swim in the hot sunny afternoon. Then a short
nap as I dry off. It’s a nice warm sunny day with little wind. Good day for a nap.
The deer had long left the disturbances my presence had created when I walked ashore to explore. I swam
around some in leisurely fashion and ended up walking along the beach area to where the limestone rocks
shelved in interesting layers infested with fossils. The lower water level had exposed more sand bottom to
walk on gradually taking me into deeper water where I swam along the shore. I often do that with Peapod
since I carry no dinghy.
Swimming along the shores from rocks to rocks or islands to islands has been a fun thing to do, to explore
without having to haul anchor and motor. Being no less lazy than anyone, I find if I am at anchor I’m loath to
pick up and go short distances. I’d rather swim around, exercise that way, and explore by water “ratting”. In
the weeds, the deer tracks were abundant on the sand. Deer seem to like to play in sand. It’s something I have
noticed since I was a child. They like to run and stop, spraying sand, and messing around in sand, leaving
hundreds of tracks. I found no treasures beyond the tracks they left. And, there was no evidence of other
people walking along the shores even though I knew that other sail boaters often visited the little bay.
Back aboard Peapod I settled in for the night following my dinner, a one-pot meal cooked on my tiny
backpacker stove. I read for a while with my headlamp resting on my shoulder before mosquitoes pestered
me into going below. I put the screen over the companionway leaving it otherwise open, as is my habit. The
boat is a sort of solid tent that way. I like the air of the open companionway. I continue reading and enjoy it
with no other distractions. It’s nice to luxuriate in reading, one of my summer’s delights. I read eclectically,
broadly, over many subjects, from the Arctic to history, philosophy to junky novels. In winter my collection for
the next summer grows. I consider the books to take, pack them in dry bags made to hold a six-pack for jet
skis, and they become bow ballast for the boat and my mind. I look forward to the time to read that cruising
provides me. The reading takes the edges off of rainy days. It is a companionable activity. I frequently trade
books with other boaters who share their favorites each season. I’ve met some nice folks by taking books
around and offering to trade when at an anchorage.
In the morning I bathe and eat breakfast before hauling the anchor. As I eat my peanut butter and jelly
sandwich, I see over the side through the clear water a huge bloodsucker. I say aloud in full surprise
considering I’d been swimming there moments before, “It must be a foot long and two inches wide!” The dark
red body undulates, moving fairly rapidly through the depth along side Peapod. “Egad!” I’m sure the leach
was hunting but it didn’t get me! One never has in the North Channel. In fact it’s the first leach I’ve seen up
there. I did get some small ones on me when I was a child. It was no big deal to my sister either or our summer
friends. Just part of the environment and salt on their tails made them fall off. Nothing to worry about, or cause
me to avoid the water.
The sails drew well and I sailed a pencil straight course for the Hotham Island area as I made plans to go
through the McBean Channel. I decided I’d sail the length of the Hotham’s before going on to Fox Harbor. It is
a round about way to go but an interesting challenge in SW breezes. I took the east entrance into McBean
Harbor and tacked west along the narrow channel. Beating up wind with short tacks became play and I
attempted to do each one perfectly, playing a game with myself. This went on all afternoon. I stopped for
lunch and a coffee break at the narrows, drifting in a wind sheltered cove where I discovered a wreck just
underwater at the head of the cove. It appeared to be a sailboat of some forty feet in length, wooden and no
hardware visible. I left it alone and sailed on into the west. The wind gradually swung a bit more southerly so
one long haul upwind took me to the west entrance and I was able to turn south, tacking back out into McBean
Channel. Now it was a clean claw to the south on the other tack.
I persisted, tack and tack again, around Freschette Island and Eagle Island, to a point where I could pick up
an abaft beam reach and a jibe north to the downwind entrance into Fox Harbor avoiding the big rocks just
under the water’s surface. Under main alone, I sailed for the bottom of the anchorage to the north. I prepped
the anchor and rode for an easy bow drop so when I arrived I was able to simply drop the anchor, sail past it
before snubbing off in four feet of water, well away from the reed bed in the more shallow water. This set the
anchor by sail. Then the main was dropped, furled and covered. It had been flogging a bit as I dug out the
cover but nothing noisy. Two other boats were in the anchorage and I was grateful all had gone well with the
sailing in of the anchor. I hate flubs in front of others. Ego I suppose. I covered the tiller, put the awning up
and made all tidy. I was now free for the balance of the afternoon, aswarm in thoughts of good sailing and
exploring. Watching the weather was on my agenda so I turned on the VHF weather channel to listen. There
were signs that wind was growing as the trees were talking, making their wind noises of swish and swoosh.
Soon the anchorage had more boats coming in. It’s a popular anchorage, surrounded by soft looking pink
granite rocks perfect for protection and walking exercise.
It wasn’t long before a fox appeared running along the rocks, sniffing once in awhile as he trotted south. I saw
an eagle soaring as it hunted. A red squirrel complained in the trees. No bears came along, nor moose. A blue
heron landed in the grassy shoreline where I’d seen Sandhill Cranes early in June. There had been two adults
and one fledgling at their nesting site. Once in awhile a small fish plopped. Birds called and flitted about in
the shrubs and sedges.
A motor cued me and I watched two sailboats come in. They tied stern-to on shore with a bow anchor each. I
put out my stern anchor to hold my stern to the cove bottom and trees for some privacy and when it was set, I
turned the awning tent-like for more shade and put the water pipe PFC poles into the cabin. The awning had
“come down” into the night mode. I settled in with my book that was having a hard time holding my interest. I
soon gave up and got into the water to swim ashore. I hiked along the rocks and explored an inland boggy
area where I’d seen orchids a previous summer and had been told there were often moose. When I got back
aboard Peapod I made tea and was then content to read for a time before preparing supper, another one-pot
Day sailing can evolve into a voyage with anchoring stops - but voyaging is actually a series of day sails.
Where I live in the USA is about 100 miles west of Little Current on Manitoulin Island in Canada. In one season,
I was a member of the Community Choir at home and the usual May concert was moved to June. I decided I
wanted to tow Peapod to Little Current to launch, and left on the 3rd. of June. The concert was to be two weeks
later, so I planned to sailed back home to sing with the group and salve my conscience of the guilt I felt from
leaving them. Guilt has bristly fur and niggles at one’s mind. Two concerts were scheduled and the group isn’
t that big. My voice isn’t either but I try very hard to do well and not spoil anything. I started for home.
Leaving the Benjamins where I had been anchored, I sailed west to the Whalesback Channel intent on going
as far as I could before it got too late in the day. The route took me north and west through the tight, current
ridden Little Detroit Passage, so narrow by rocky walls and possessing a blind corner, that a security call on
the vhf radio is required. The motor was on and the jib furled as I made my way past the two fishing boats. The
fisherman waved and held up some large pike to brag. They hadn’t blocked the channel but it wasn’t the
safest place for them.
West of Little Detroit I found flucky wind due to the island’s wind shelters and motored out past Passage
Island until I could continue sailing on a reach along the islands toward the Whalesback Channel. I pulled into
John Island area for the night. It had been a good day sail. I’d made progress west toward home. The weather
was promising for the next day and I continued on following a quiet night.
I did see a bear at John Island. It’s always nice to see them so long as I am not too close. I sailed west past
Clara and Turnbull Islands and then southwest toward Meldrum Bay. The wind was favorable and I felt good
so continued to Cockburn Island where I anchored for the night. I was within striking distance of Drummond
Island the next day and made it to Pilot Cove easily. The wind held favorable and so did my energy. Pilot
Cove is a tight spiral where beavers live and work the wood on shore. It’s deep and has a very narrow
entrance close to the shore. No other boats came in while I was there and it was very nice. The only noises
were wavelets on shore, birds singing and chirping plus the occasional slap of the beaver’s tail.
The next day I sailed around the north side of Drummond Island and cleared customs at the Drummond Island
Yacht Haven before going on to DeTour Village where I docked at the state docks there. The concert was the
I walked up to my house where I sewed a new sail cover that fit better than the other one I had. I slept on my
boat though. I didn’t want to break the voyage. The concert went well and the day after that I sailed back to
DIYacht Haven to stay that night. A friend picked me up for the concert and that one went well too. Over, the
season of singing was over!
Free, I set sail for Pilot Cove again, some 25 miles to the east. And, I back-tracked back to the Benjamin Island
group, my favorite place over in the North Channel, stopping to clear customs into Canada at Meldrum Bay. A
couple of hundred miles under the boat and freedom. It felt good.