Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blue View, Be Aware of Big Currents in Little Current Manitoulin Island

would like to tell you about our home port. If you have been reading our blog, you are probably aware that we are from Northern Ontario, Canada.  Our sailing grounds are Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel, also known as the Caribbean of the North. Our home port has been Little Current, Manitoulin Island for over ten years. 

No matter where you will go, you most likely will have to deal with currents one way or the other, but myself and many local boaters often say, Little Current was wrongly named, it should have been called Big Current. We have often sat on our boat, watching various boats coming into the town docks without being aware of the currents, which can sometimes be as much as two to three knots.  Also, the wind will change the direction and strength of the current or be in the opposite direction to the current. All this I can assure you can spell disaster.  We have seen boats side swipe other boats, dingy's literally explode on their davits as other boats hit them and sadly people break legs trying to fend their boats off others, It is not a pretty sight. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you this to scare you off or tell you to avoid Little Current.  On the contrary, hundreds of boats dock safely every summer in Little Current.  I write this in the hope that this will help you in some small way, so you can enjoy our great port. This is an amazing town and is a must stop for any boaters or Loopers. 

As you can see on the pictures I included, Little Current channel runs East to West or West to East. The city walls runs the same and the docks are running South to North with fingers East to West.  
 There are more docks now than in this google earth picture

I won't tell you how to dock your boat as they all react differently and each skipper knows his own vessel. But, here are a few tips I use to make my docking easier. 

First, thing I suggest you do is, find the current buoy J44, near Goat Island Point, this buoy base has the shape of a boat hull and turns to point at the current. 
Second, check your gauges and the difference between your water and ground speed. 
Third, check the wind direction and speed. In the Great Lakes area, we have prominent westerly wind, but as you know weather changes and we can have an Easterly wind with a Westerly current. Or visa versa. 
Fourth, call any Little Current marina on channel 68 as they have staff that will gladly help you at the dock.  
Fifth, and lastly we are all told "go slow when docking” well this doesn't always apply in Little Current. Some boats are so slow they forget the current is on their beam, it overtakes them and they end up against the fingers or worse against other boats. 

As an end note, Little Current is a  great place to replenish, take in the sights and relax. Here is a short list of amenities I suggest:

Once you pass through the swing Bridge on the East side of Little Current that opens all summer on the hour from 7 am to 9 pm, you have Little Wally's Dock Service for fuel, pump out and boat equipment. There are two grocery stores in town, a liquor store, beer store, a pharmacy for your headaches after visiting the previous two.  A top notch hospital. Several restaurants and bars including my favourite, the Anchor Inn. The town docks has 70 floating finger slips, plus 20 on the wall. Three marinas; Boyle's, Harbour Vue, Spider Bay with transient slips and repair facilities. We also have our own cruiser's net broadcasted by Roy Eaton from the Anchor Inn daily from July 1st to August 31 09:00 channel 71. 

Although we are sailing the Caribbean now we will be there sometime this summer. Safe docking and hope to see you in Little Current.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Punta Allen Mexico

Before we left, I daydreamed about lush deserted islands, drenched in sun and sugar white sand beaches, friendly untouched native people, that I was going to magically communicate with, piles and piles of cheap fresh fruit, pineapples, mango, oranges, and bananas that tasted better than anything I had ever ate, affectionate exotic animals, schools of colourful tropical fish, and birds, birds everywhere, all of course with a lovely song and plumage that would make any vain woman jealous. It was a sad day when I realized the fact, that I was naive in my thinking and that I am not akin to Christopher Columbus. Happily, though, I did find my nirvana. 

We had a perfect 53 nautical mile sail from Puerto Aventurous along Mexico’s east Caribbean coast to Punta Allen, now how’s that for a Mexican name “Allen”. Punta Allen, located in the Bahia de la Ascencion is a small remote fishing village and is considered one of the best lobstering grounds in Mexico. Sadly, it is April and the season is July to March so as I write this I haven’t gobbled up any lobsters here yet, but there is still hope. 

Instead of using traps, the fishermen create artificial habitats out of concrete, When the lobster reaches the desired size, the fisherman gaff them by hand, leaving the smaller and females with eggs behind. At one time not long ago Punta Allen shipped 65 tons of lobster tails annually to the US. While carefully using this harvesting method they were able to maintain the fisheries. We did learn while we were here that the lobster fisheries is now floundering because the fishermen can do boat, eco, and dolphin tours for tourists, make a more profitable living and work less. 

Bahia de la Ascencion, is also popular with sport fisherman who love to catch the bone fish that inhabit these waters. While doing a walk about we met two Canadian couples from Calgary here on a remote sports fishing vacation, we were assured that this is a top notch world class area for fishing. We were also surprised and interested to learn that often they fly fish here. While in search of an elusive bank machine or business that used visa we met Captain Miguel Encalada the lodge manager for Grand Slam Fly Fishing Paradise in Mexico. We learnt that Punta Allen hosts large tournaments and yes drawing clientele from all over the world. We wandered the lodge enjoyed cold cervasa, checked out the fly tying area and pictures of the fish posted everywhere. 

So why is this my nirvana? We are the only boat anchored in this large beautiful bay, there are few lights or sounds except beautiful sunrises, sunsets and stars, lots and lots of stars, If I could only learn how to take a picture of a night sky to share my view with you,  sigh… On our boat at anchor we have seen and been visited by dolphins, a sting ray, jumped not 20 feet away, and another large stingray guided below the surface in full view and best of all last night as we sat and enjoyed the stars we could see luminescent movement in the water and realized it was fish swimming around the boat, it was remarkable seeing the large flashes of light that outlined the fish, showing their movement, and our amazement that there were so many. 

                                                        A Friendly Guide
                                                       Osprey With A Fish
                                                             Angel Fish

We are using the Captain Freya Rauscher guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. This has been a great asset, but as I think I have mentioned before very out of date. She spoke of being able to ask the Navy guards to allow you to walk up the 72 foot lighthouse for a panoramic view, alas, it has long been abandoned but we spent a great time hiking in the area. Marc braved the no trespassing wall and climbed the lighthouse for a fantastic view. 

We are anchored out from a large mangrove that protects a lagoon so we have spent some of our time here exploring its tangled maze. We watched a large angel fish swim at the edge of the mangrove with its dorsal fin out of the water, something I didn’t know a fish would do other than sharks or dolphins, but I learn something new each day. A native guide saw us in the dingy taking pictures of birds so insisted that we follow him and took us only a few feet away from an osprey sitting in a tree fishing for his dinner. 

The village is small and an easy hour or two walkabout will let you capture just about everything that you want to see. There is a quaint open church, a few authentic pallidar type restaurants, some small stores to pick up minimal essentials, the people are friendly, the houses modest, and of course I love everything about it. Seriously, If you don’t want aloneness, this sleepy little fishing village is not your place. From the outdated guide that we are using for cruising Mexico we can see that this village has just started to be caught in the tourist wave that has been everywhere we have traveled in Mexico, but happily this is the closest we have come to my pre cruising day dreams.   

                                                       House Punta Allan
Check Out The Hydro
                                                            Store Punta Allen

 Beauty Parlor