It was all hands on deck in the tiny village of Rossport, with two summer students and the dock-master assisting as a large US Government Services expedition vessel came in, along with 2 other cruising sailboats, ourselves, and our friends aboard Delusions who anchored nearby and dinghied in. We were inspecting an antique wooden paint bucket which the research vessel had scooped off the bottom of the lake, when into this veritable hub of activity our next guests, Charlotte and her dog Oatie appeared, having driven up from Toronto (a 16 hour trip – just for perspective)!  We loaded up their gear, and extricated ourselves from what must have been the most excitement Rossport has seen for months!

A couple of hours sail and we were back into the peaceful sanctuary of Woodbine Harbour on Simpson Island. We lowered the dinghy to tie our stern off on a dogwood flowering mossy tree bank at the end of the bay and to take Oatie for a walk on a rocky point. We returned after dinner to light the shore fire that the rarely idle  scouter/skipper Steve had built while Oatie was doing his business.

The next day we decided to do a longer 35 nautical mile trip to Loon harbour so we left Woodbine after breakfast and a shore walk and had a gorgeous sail (no waves, sunny day and wind enough to push us consistently over 5 knots) most of the way. As we tacked out for the last time before tuning back to shore we were hailed over VHF by Gabe’s Ghost, inviting us for dinner! So we tacked again and made 7 knots the rest of the way in to Otter Cover instead of Loon. After a quick visit to the waterfall at the end of a creek in Otter Cove to take Oatie to shore while Liz showered on the back deck, we stuffed a rainbow trout and made a salad to contribute to the dinner fare aboard Gabe’s Ghost. As you can see from the somewhat blurry photos (how did that happen?), we had a fun evening.

However, Otter Covewas where Charlotte realized that the Canadian Nationals Tennis Championships registration deadline was July 24…she had qualified and booked flights for herself and her family but not yet registered. And cell coverage on this portion of the north shore of Superior is notably absent. So we changed the “Loon Bay” plan the next day and despite strong winds on the nose, headed instead for Tee Bay at the foot of the giant, hoping to pick up cell coverage closer to Thunder Bay. We tacked back and forth making slower than desired progress in 20 knot headwinds with reefed main and staysail until the winds lightened and we could unfurl the genoa and take out the main reef. Afer a long 40 nm day. with winds out of the Southwest, we anchored in east Tee harbour, a lovely sand-beach lined bay at the foot of the Sleeping Giant.

The Sleeping Giant on a mattress of mist

The Sleeping Giant is actually the southern 5 miles of the Thunder Cape peninsula. It is now a provincial park with spectacular hiking trails and campsites. According to Chippewa legend, the sleeping giant is the famed Naniboujou, a protector of the Chippewa, who once lived on the peninsula but was turned to stone by the Great Spirit when the presence of silver on the peninsula was revealed to early explorers (resulting in the Silver Islet Mining Company). Another story tells how Naniboujou killed his wife in a fit of temper while she was nagging him in a time of starvation. Horror stricken at what he had done he ran out, haunted by visions of his dead wife, and fell backward into the lake. As we sailed towards him and anchored at his feet, the Giant appeared resting and peaceful, an awesome landmark guarding the entrance to Thunder Bay.

The next day we moved the boat around to anchor in the West Tee basin, a rockier shoreline, but which we expected would offer more protection from the forecast north-easterlies. Then we hiked the Giant. Oatie, who was limping slightly with a sore paw, and myself, nursing a painful knee, turned around after about 4 kilometers before the steeper sections, and enjoyed a quiet afternoon in Tee harbour, swatting mosquitoes, watching a deer saunter the shoreline, and reading my book. Charlotte and Steve however did make it to the top of the Giant’s Chest and besides the euphoria of the staggering view and vertigo-inducing “chimney”, they also were able to get sufficient cellphone signal for Charlotte to register for the Nationals! Hooray! The light rain did not dampen their spirits as they returned from the hike. (Slideshow warning: Don’t look if you’re afraid of heights!)

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Despite the success of the registration, we were still bound to a timeline, needing to get Charlotte back to Rossport. The Giant looked a lot less friendly as the weather worsened and wind picked up.  However we enjoyed the spectacle of a deer and her fawn foraging along the shoreline of his toes as we left peaceful Tee harbour to hammer into strong winds and pound through waves to Edward Island.

We rounded a lee shore and anchored in the very beautiful tiny Horseshoe Cove on Edward Island, near Porphrey lighthouse, relieved to find in the well protected hurricane hole! Incidentally Porphrey lightkeepers house has a visiting residential artist program – (stay and paint Maggie and Rick???).

Porphrey lighthouse

Waves gurgled in a cave at the base of high bluffs at the entrance to the cove. Sadly there was only a tiny beach for Oatie to explore as impenetrable woods surround the cove.

The next day we left early, before the waves became rough, and enjoyed a surprisingly good upwind sail in 15 knot winds, gusting over 20 knots. We made Loon harbour at noon, finding two other sailboats in the bay, one rubbing on a rock shoal as the winds had taken it over while the owner was off on a dinghy exploration. They returned and quickly re-anchored without incident and then boat  boats left after lunch and we had the place (i.e. a few hundred miles of perfect wilderness) to ourselves! As the wind dropped again it felt like the first day of summer. We took the dinghy up a high-bluffed channel between islands to a small island just south of Loon near Spain Island, where local boaters have built a rough, beautiful, log sauna! This will go down in our annals as one of the highlights of all of our cruising experiences, let alone a “superior” five star spot. We lit the wood fire to stoke up the sauna, and enjoyed an amazing afternoon, even enticing Charlotte who is NOT a cold-water fan, into jumping into the lake after the sauna.

Returning to the boat we enjoyed dinner and then a shore fire in Loon harbour, as the sun set, and the bay’s namesake joined the party! If we ever return to Superior, we could easily spend several days in this area alone.

The last long day’s sail of Charlotte’s visit was the best! Another glorious sunny day but for one the wind was in a favourable direction, making for a beautiful broad reach. Steve enjoyed picking Charlotte’s brain and taking advantage of her 8 years of experience on the Canadian National Sailing Team to improve sail trim, and then to boost his own confidence with flying our gennaker. In these conditions, the two of them had it trimmed perfectly and we made great progress, dousing it as the wind died mid-afternoon in time for a short leg into the Battle Island anchorage.

Battle Island is named for an apparent skirmish between troops who were marching across ice to suppress an Ojibwe uprising during the Riel Rebellion. But its main landmark now, and the reason for our visit, is a picturesque lighthouse perched high on a bluff. The lighthouse keeper, as part of his severance agreement, continued to use and maintain the keeper’s house and the light itself, until quite recently when age forced his second retirement from this informal arrangement. Now looked after by local Friends of Battle Island Light, the house is still lovely but closed to the public, and the lighthouse needs paint. The windows were blown out during the November 1976 storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. But we loved it – and the delicate looking bluebells growing on rocks on this savage shoreline, and the red Adirondack chairs set out with a view of the light by the volunteer “friends”.

Oatie’s paw had become steadily worse so we were all feeling sad and down as we prepared to de-anchor at Battle to return to Rossport. Charlotte had spoken to her vet in a rare moment of cell connectivity en route to Battle, but after 3 days of boat first aid (antibiotic and lidocaine ointment and salt water soaks) her paw was no better and she had become lethargic. So we were all anxious to get back to Rossport so she could get back to civilization and vet support. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when cruising, things got worse as we weighed anchor in the idyllic cove. We snagged an underwater cable as we brought up the anchor and held fast. The weather almost instantly turned cold again and the wind picked up, but with Charlotte and Steve struggling at the bow with lines, hooks and muscle power, and me at the helm, we eventually got unsnarled after almost an hour of additional stress mixed with a touch of panic.

As we dropped Charlotte and Oatie in Rossport to start her long drive home we reflected that we gave her a taste of true cruising experience – moments of unpleasant terror and/or uncomfortable chop and near-exposure cold, interspersed between longer (luckily) periods of heaven on earth!

Tai Chi in Battle harbour