We were all up early again, leaving Sinclair on July 5 to set sail north along eastern shore of Lake Superior. Despite playing with all sail combinations as the points of wind changed, the promised South Westerlies never materialized consistently enough for an all day down-wind sail and we ended up motor sailing most of the way, passing the 300 foot high bluffs of Old Woman’s Bay and entering our chosen destination, Brule Harbour, at 1:30 pm. The dense woodland surrounding this wild, untouched natural harbour were stunning in the sunshine. We entered the narrow channel into the inner cove and turned the corner to find the large British-made steel hulled trawler, Delusions, already tucked in. Luckily we had befriended the Californian couple, Nancy and Roddy, while docked beside them in Sault Ste Marie, so we dropped our anchor near theirs and backed into the cove beside them, and Roddy took our stern line over to tie off on the shore.
After lunch, we piled into the dinghy for an excursion into the northern, larger cove, where we found a small waterfall nestled in the trees at the end of a pebble beach. I made a chocolate cake, as it was Paul’s birthday, and we invited Nancy and Roddy for tea and dessert after dinner. They were great company. They have been cruising for 17 years aboard Delusions, all the way from California…. their first trip to Superior, a swan song cruise as they plan to give it all up and sell their boat in Michigan at the end of this season.
The next day Steve and Paul were able to return the shore line favour by undoing theirs, then untangling them from a nasty tree root which became tangled in their anchor as they raised it. After they left mist rolled in, and Steve and I trolled out fishing. I caught 2 large pike within about 15 minutes, and luckily the sun returned for long enough for me to clean the fish on the rocks and then take a bath and wash my hair in the shallow rock pool where the water was slightly less frigid than the rest of the lake, but still resulted in some degree of brain freeze!
Gabe’s Ghost appeared truly ghost-like as it emerged out of the mist in early afternoon, and anchored beside us. We invited them all over for a fish fry of fresh pike, chips and salad. While I was preparing dinner, Steve, Mary and Paul explored nearby Pukaskwa Pits. These round, well-like, rock structures on cobblestone beaches or terraces are quite common along this shore but not much is known about them. They are thought to be made by early inhabitants of this area, ancestors of the Ojibwa, likely between 5000 BC and 1100 AD, and may have been used for dwellings, food storage, hunting blinds, smoke houses or weapon stashes. Either way, our crew found the jumbles of rock somewhat disappointing. Of more interest in Brule was witnessing the Lake Superior phenomenon known as a seiche (SAYsh) – a sudden change in water level of 6 to 10 inches (noticeable by “tide” mark on the rocks around the anchorage), caused not by tides or the moon but by an abrupt change in barometric pressure associated with squalls, storms or wind changes. We noticed it again in Boat Harbour, near Rossport.
We had a fun, rowdy evening with 9 on board for the fish fry. As pre-arranged, both Tai Chi and Gabe’s Ghost left pretty Brule together the next morning heading for the mouth of the Michipicoten River. We anchored off the beach to get pumped out by Buck’s Marina, who brought their rather slow, leaky and barely effective portable pump out to each boat in turn. After several hours struggling with the leaky pump we eventually got close enough to an empty holding tank, and the marina people took our garbage and recycling with them, a much-appreciated services in this wild and remote Eastern shore of Superior (no town docks till Rossport on Day 15!).
We turned downwind to sail back out the inlet, and as luck would have it, the strong East wind abated as we left. However, that gave Steve and Paul the opportunity to play with the gennaker for a few hours, which seems to be an annual tradition, and they beat the odds this year by actually flying the large colourful sail for a while, giving us a couple of extra knots of speed. Gabes Ghost pulled into Dog Habour and we put in a few more miles before pulling into Pilot Cove, another pretty, wild little cove, for the night.
Leaving early again, we had a good sail around the corner and north up the coast to Otter Head, where we chose to anchor in a small cove called Old Dave’s Harbour, formed by Otter Island and another small island. After several days on Superior we are becoming used to travelling all day with almost no signs of human life or habitation – just trees, rocks and more trees along the shore. We did chat with Gabe’s Ghost on the radio as they turned into Otter Cove, south of us. We planned our anchorage for the shore excursions this time – a hike to the old light house, now abandoned due to automation. The light keeper’s logs are left sitting out on the dining table of the keeper’s house, and past cruising visitors and added their own notes in an unused log book. Our friends on SV Gaviidae, Julie and Dan, are Great Lakes Cruising Club port captains for this little harbour, and keep up the cruisers log tradition with an online, as well as physical note books for visitors to the lighthouse. We used the dinghy to take a closer look at the dilapidated fishing station (old Dave’s?) on the opposite island in the anchorage, and, while I cooked dinner, Steve went fishing and caught a lovely lake trout.
The next day was calm enough for us to take a long dinghy ride across to the mainland to explore Cascade Falls next to a pebble beach, on which the major driftwood piles told a story of a more typical and less benign Lake Superior. We hiked up to the pool on top of the first falls and at the foot of a higher set of falls, but found it disappointingly not suitable for swimming.
We left Old Dave’s bound for Simon’s Harbour, only 2 hours further up the Eastern Shore, and set the anchor in the easternmost of two well-protected fingers, in time to dinghy to shore, pick up the Coastal Hiking Trail and hike to Lachlan Lake for a much warmer swim! The wooded hike was very pretty– the trail bounded flowering dogwoods, twin flowers, ferns, Labrador tea and pink lady slippers, at times taking us over moss-covered rocks on top of an underground babbling stream. As we travelled north the water temperatures have dropped substantially, making the frigid dip in 14 C of Sinclair Cove seem positively balmy compared to the single digit temps of more northerly anchorages. So the swim in Lachlan lake was pleasant, and would have been even more so were it not for the bugs. Since then, our solar showers have been put to good use!
We went fishing again in Simon’s and this time I caught a large lake trout, and even larger pike! However, while cleaning them on the driftwood beach I got mauled by biting insects and the next day bore the battle wounds – a puffy face, closed-up eye, red ear and multiple itchy bites on arms and legs – no pictures for once!
I was happy for the lack of other humans to show my face to as we made our way north to Pulpwood Harbour as the fog socked in around us. We were the only boat when we arrived, another wilderness cove within the boundaries of Pukaskwa National Park. We planned to spill a day for me to bake bread and to do some hiking in the Park. The first afternoon we took the dinghy over to nearby Hattie’s Cove where the Visitor’s Centre for the park is located. We took advantage of the campsite showers as well as the park centre wifi to catch up on news and correspondence from the Rest of the World.
The next day we took a longer dinghy ride around to Playter’s Harbour, a short-cut access point to pick up the hiking trail to the suspension bridge across a spectacular gorge on the White River – a very worthwhile and relatively easy 7.5 km return trip on mossy trails. Steve and Paul extended the hike to check out another set of falls 1 km further on.
Two other sailboats joined ours in the anchorage that evening, and we changed our plan to set sail the next day after listening to an updated forecast calling for 25 knot winds and 2 meter waves out on the lake. We spent the stormy day reading and playing card games in the relative comfort of our “Florida Room”, thankful again for our full cockpit enclosure, which has been worth its weight in gold in this cold climate and mosquito ridden wilderness.
Enough wind was left the following day, passing a rocky island herring gull rookery for a very pleasant beam reach to the Slate Islands, where we once again marveled at the lack of signs of human interference in the wooded wilderness. Even the few fishing camps or cabins and logging booms which once occupied these shores have been removed, and the only signs of the islands logging industry are an old wrecked barge next to a flowering meadow, where in between the buttercups and swallowtail butterflies, we found some rusty bed springs , pipes, wooden benches and more recent campfire sites, likely left by kayakers. We went through another very narrow, shoaled entrance to Pikes Bay where we anchored for 2 nights. We were disappointed not to see any caribou in the Slates – apparently one of the largest herds of now endangered woodland caribou, once so numerous in this area are here in the Slates. However, we did catch another large pike in Pike Bay!
We passed a Canadian Coast Guard expedition boat anchored in McGreevy Harbour in as we left the Slate islands. We dropped anchor a few hours later in Boat Harbour on Wilson Island, where Steve and I extended our best-ever fishing streak by each catching a good-sized rainbow trout, one of which we stuffed and barbecued whole for our last evening on anchor with Paul and Mary before heading into Rossport, and back to civilization. The days are long here so we seldom need lights in the cockpit in the evenings, but we lit the tea-light lantern in order to determine the champion after successive evening rounds of card game 2500 – come-from-behind Mary!
We made the short run into the village of Rossport the next day in time to pump out and fill the water tanks, eat lunch, walk around to see the sights of the village (gift shop and little art gallery), and have showers before going out to dinner at the Serendipity Cafe – a very pleasant change of venue, cook and dishwashers. Luckily Paul and Mary left their car here, so they are taking us to Terrace Bay to get propane and re-provision, as there are no stores in Rossport. We are sorry to say farewell to them, but are now busy cleaning house in eager anticipation of our next guests – Charlotte and Oatie, who arrive tomorrow!