Hilton Beach to Sault St. Marie
Posted on July 6, 2019
Monday, July 1st. Departed Hilton Beach (Ontario) in the morning and made our way to The Soo. Upon departing, we realized that our steering system needed attention so once we got out of the bumpy bay and into protected calm waters, we added hydraulic fluid and were on our way again. The route to and from The Soo and Lake Superior is a channel that is used by the big freighters (called Lakers here). Its common to see 800′ Lakers coming at you or from behind and they don’t slow down or move for the pleasure craft. But we arrived at the George Kemp Marina safely.
The marina is located next to the American locks (primarily commercial) and across the river from the Canadian locks (primarily pleasure). It is also a short walking distance to town and the observation area for the locks. Bob and I walked downtown in the afternoon to have a late lunch/ early dinner and then enjoyed watching these massive ships locking through (photo). There are several tour boats that take passengers through both the American & Canadian locks so they can experience the locking process.
As it was Canada Day and our marina is across the river from Sault Ste. Marie ONT, we were treated to fireworks that evening. Of course, since it doesn’t get dark until almost 10pm, we were struggling to stay awake until 10:30 when they began. The fireworks barge was right across the river and we were treated to a beautiful show.
Tuesday, July 2. We decided to rent a car in the afternoon in order to take a road trip on Wednesday. This was quite the process and adventure. We called Enterprise since they pick up and drop off their customers. When we called, we did not realize that Enterprise was in The Soo in Ontario. And they do not cross the border to pick up their rental guests. So we tried calling the two car rental agencies on the Michigan side. No cars available until next Monday due to the July 4th holiday. No Uber or Lyft will cross the border and a cab company wanted $80 to drive us the 5 miles.
So Bob had a great idea. I would take him over to the marina across the river into Canada via our dinghy, we would both clear into Customs (a phone call), then Enterprise would pick him up at the Bondar Marina, and I would dinghy back and clear into U.S. Customs (a phone call). No problems on my end. However, when Bob drove across the bridge back into the U.S., the Customs Agent was having a hard time understanding how Bob got over to Canada and what happened to me. So he made Bob pull over and walk upstairs to the Customs office and explain it to them. That Customs Agent quickly understood the situation and told him he was free to go. Bob picked me up at the marina and we made haste to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Women’s Semi-final round of World Cup Soccer. There was quite a group of soccer fans there and cheering the US team on. USA beat England and are in the final match on Sunday. You know where we will be.
Wednesday, July 3rd. ROAD TRIP. Headed out at 7am for the 2 hour drive to Munising, MI where we had reservations for the 10am boat tour to see the spectacular Pictured Rocks (photos). This folks is definitely worth a trip. Large & colorful rock cliffs in crystal clear water. We had wanted to do the Pictured Rocks Kayaking Tour but they were sold out and after seeing the kayakers getting in so close and going through the arches, we are sorry we missed out on the kayak tour. But the tour boat was very informative and it was 2 1/2 hours well spent.
After a quick lunch in town, we headed to Oswald’s Bear Ranch which was about half way back to the marina. The ranch is situated on 240 acres and houses about 40 bears. They separate the bears by gender and age. All the males are together but separated into either adults, yearlings or cubs and same on the female side. The most interesting thing we saw, were the bears climbing the trees. In the yearling section, there were 4 bears high in the trees. One was at the top of a tree that was about 4 stories high (photo).
Thursday, July 4th. Another Road Trip. Since we didn’t have to return the rental car until after 2pm, we decided to visit Tahquamenon Falls & Whitefish Point. The Tahquamenon Falls are the largest falls in Michigan. Both interesting stops but nothing like the Pictured Rocks. Whitefish Bay is where the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk during a terrible northeaster (90 mph winds) in 1975. The ship was only about 12 miles from Whitefish Point and as the song says “had they put in 15 more miles behind her” they would have made the point and some protection.
There is a shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point but we were short on time with having to return the rental car so we skipped the museum. So now we are in a bit of a hurry to get back to the marina so Bob can drop me off and return the car. But just as we reach the town of Paradise, the street (only one way in or out) is closed due to their July 4th Parade. (Photos). We sat patiently watching the parade and then were allowed to follow the last vehicle so we were essentially in the parade. Of course we waved!
Okay so now we have to return the car and reverse the process to pick it up. Bob drops me at marina, he heads over to Enterprise and crosses the border, I cross over the river in the dinghy where Enterprise will drop Bob. All went smoothly this time except that it takes me 2 minutes to cross over to the marina but 15 minutes on hold waiting to clear Canadian Customs.
Thursday night. Happy Independence Day! Grilled out on the boat then watched the U.S. fireworks that came on at 10:30pm. Really was quite the show (photos).
Friday, July 5th. We are officially “Superior Sailors”. Decided we needed to take the boat into Lake Superior as we will probably never venture up here again on Island Time. Lake Superior is the largest fresh water lake in the world and is famed for thousands of ship wrecks and fog that can descend on you at anytime without warning. There are very few marinas along the 2,000 plus mile coastline and lots of wilderness.
We cast off our lines, left the dinghy on the dock and headed over to the Canadian Locks. Locked through with no problems (we were the only ones in the lock), were lifted 21′ and then crossed into Lake Superior. Gave the Tiara a really good run and opened her up to wide open throttle (35 mph). We went into Whitefish Bay but the fog was starting to appear so we turned around and headed back to the lock and our marina. Incidentally, there is no fee for transiting this lock and if you are just passing through and not planning to stay in Canada, you don’t have to clear into Customs.
We are headed home for a couple of weeks as Bob has a couple of cases to work on and I will visit the family. So will post in a few weeks when we are out on the adventure!
P.S. You can click on any photo to see it and the other photos if cut off in the blog.