St. Mary’s River (Day 11)


More firsts today! First time navigating a busy river with a narrow channel. First time meeting a freighter — and being overtaken by one. All this in a persistent mist that mars visibility.

I wonder if we’ll have a dull day soon?

St Mary’s River is almost 75 miles long, connecting Whitefish Bay to Lake Huron. We travel about 40 miles of it today, leaving the Soo at 0900 for the small village of De Tour. The entire river is an international border and my phone alerts me that I’m tapping into a Canadian tower and therefore activating my international Travel Pass. I”m arguing with Verizon about that. 😉 As we travel down river, we get a boost from the river current – about 1.5 mph of extra power. This propels our trawler to 9.2 mph. (We normally travel at 7-8 mph.) Nice!

When we enter the narrowing shipping channel, we keep a close eye on the chart, buoys, channel markers, and other vessels. The channel makes regular turns — sometimes narrow ones — and keeps us on our toes. The binoculars get a lot of use today as we identify the next buoys in the mist and confirm them on our charts – both electronic and paper ones. (I’m a fan of paper back-ups.)

After a week in wide-open Lake Superior, these confines feel disconcerting at first — especially when we encounter our first freighter, seemingly heading straight for us! It’s not, of course. There’s more room to navigate than appears at a distance, but we hug the right side of the channel all day just to be sure. Later, a 2nd carrier astern — which we’ve been eyeing for hours — finally overtakes us. This thankfully occurs in a widened area of the river. I never feel at potential risk this time and delight in taking pictures of our companion boat alongside the monster ship.

We later realize that we could have taken an alternate channel, which would have avoided commercial shipping. I’m glad for the experience, though. It’s good practice for the Mississippi, in case I’m still on the boat then!

The De Tour Village Marina welcomes us with open arms and plenty of hands to catch lines. Jeff is off “jawing” immediately with other boaters, as is his habit. He picks up a lot of tips that way. I explore the tiny village of 350 and find a funky little shop, a cannabis store (they seem to be everywhere now), and one modest restaurant/bar that’s open. Our companion boat leaves us tomorrow, so we celebrate our last evening together with burgers. We end the day in a steady rain punctuated by thunder, echoing last night’s downpour. Life continues. This is why we have rain gear along.

It will be strange to say good-bye to Eric and Gary on Impulse, but such is the way of boating. We’ve already met another sailboat going our way and will “buddy up” with Bob for awhile.

Tomorrow, to St. Ignace and the Straits of Mackinac.

I yearn for a long sleep. So many “firsts” is psychologically tiring! Fun, but tiring. Isn’t that the case with most new experiences?

6 thoughts on “St. Mary’s River (Day 11)

  1. Hi Mary and Jeff, do you have AIS? We found it took a lot of anxiety out of dealing with heavy commercial traffic. Being able to identify vessels, sometimes before you can even see them, allows you to call them on the VHF and ensure they are aware of your presence! Regards Derrick

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    1. Hi Derrick! Thanks for following us along. We don’t, no. I do know about it. Might have to get it before the Mississippi. No problems today, and Jeff doesn’t seem concerned, but i would certainly feel better with it!

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  2. Hello, Jeff and Mary, welcome to the land of Trolls. As I write this you are passing the Les Cheneaux islands where it a hell of a hassle to get to Hessel. This area has lots of classic wooden boats. Once you tire of fudge the smell of horses and well worn leather , Carole and I found it very relaxing to stop at St Helena island before Grays reef and on to Beaver island and the port of St James. You have a lot to pick from befor you reach South Manitou island

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  3. Hi Mary and Jeff
    We just got to “Camp Clow yesterday from Isle Royal. An AIS receiver is a great tool and very easy to install and gives a lot of piece of mind. The Illinois and the Mississippi have lots of barge traffic. We adjust our speed so that we do not meet them in the bends. Have a great trip and we will have to try and get together in Florida this winter. Will be following your blog.
    Tom and Joyce on the C-Otter

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