These are the waters that men dream of: mile upon mile of fine cruising along sheltered, island-strewn passages where the shores are crowded with anchorages of unsurpassed beauty, where pink-and red-rock shores give way to forests of dark-green pine, where smooth-backed islets lie serenely in the perpetual deep blue of an inland sea. Under the matchless clarity of a northern sky are scores of intriguing channels, a hundred hidden beaches, a thousand secret fishing holes. This is the North Channel and Georgian Bay, one of the great cruising grounds of the world.
The yachtsman who goes into North Channel will find yacht clubs ready to supply the social side of sailing, Indians who can guide him to the fishing, baby fiords to explore, blueberries ready for picking and his choice of secluded coves for just plain sitting around and enjoying life.
The area is a natural habitat for the powerboat men of the Midwest—and the sailing, too, is nearly perfect. These are not unknown waters, but neither have they yet enjoyed national prominence—to many, their beauty will come as a personal discovery. To introduce the area's unparalleled delights and help the yachtsman visiting it for the first time, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cruised these waters and prepared a basic itinerary from one end of the grounds to the other, marking the best places to stop, look and explore. The handsome map above will route the yachtsman down the most interesting courses and serve as an over-all guide to a vacation cruise under power or under sail that cannot be duplicated anywhere.
The knowledgeable North Channel man starts his cruise in July or August when the North Channel is warm enough to be really pleasant. Parents find that the children enjoy the cruise to the fullest if they have a like-age playmate along, and if there are plenty of diversions aboard—rubber rafts, water wings, water skis, skin-diving masks, games for rainy days. And the owners pick cruise members outside the family with great care. A boat, as anyone who has not cruised will soon find out, is a very unprivate living unit.
The itinerary of this SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cruise allows seven days minimum for sailing. The other days of the usual two-week vacation will be used along the approaches (see maps next page) or in laying over at a favorite spot. Those who are favored with three-week vacations will have an even better chance to learn the fascinations of North Channel by taking some of the side trips indicated on the cruise map and described at length in this two-part article.
MACKINAC ISLAND TO TURNBULL: SUN AND SERENITY
MACKINAC ISLAND: the start
Mackinac is one of the few places left in the Western world where the visitor, willy-nilly, is dropped back a century into a pleasant, leisurely age. Mackinac town is a full-blown old-fashioned resort, with green lawns, white hotels, bicycle traffic, saddle horses, hackney cabs and Victorian carriages. The bikes and horse cabs are your transportation: there are no autos. The town moves at the five-mile-an-hour pace of the horse and buggy era. Whether in the bridle paths of the cedar woods on the town heights or along the back streets, where the stableboys walk the mounts, or on the hotel verandas full of customers comfortably visiting among the wicker chairs, the living at Mackinac is easy.
The docks at Mackinac are so close to town that it is hardly worthwhile to move your crew ashore unless you plan to stay for weeks and weeks. Best berth is at the state dock east of town. Here the piers are low and there is water and electric hookup for your boat. If you can't get room at the state dock, try the west side of the high ferry dock or the east side of the coal dock, both adjoining Mackinac's main street downtown. (Check with Otto Lang at the Union Terminal Office on the ferry dock for permission to tie up at these last two.)
The coal dock has gas and diesel, but the water depth at the pumps can be less than six feet, so keel boats will have to edge in cautiously as far as they can and then use the long hose for refueling. If your boat needs major repairs after the long run along the approaches, you will have to go to Cheboygan, 20 miles east.