Author Topic: Lake Huron Sailing Adventure: Mackinac Island, Les Cheneaux Islands, St. Ignace  (Read 1443 times)

Offline Jason

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hi Everyone,

The goodship Lillyanna and crew have just returned from another four day exploration of an area of the Great Lakes.  This year we chose the northwest of Lake Huron, in Michigan USA as our destination, and this turned out to be a good choice due to the fine scenery and weather.  The photo journal below chronicles our four days and three nights aboard the Lillyanna, a 1981 Compac 16, on which we stayed for all but two and a half hours of this journey.  The crew consisted of myself and my brother Justin.  We are familiar with the boat, and I implore anyone that takes on a journey over big water to take all safety precautions.  Especially if you are in a small boat, do not go out on a cruise in forcasted bad weather.  Safety upgrades made to my boat may be found here:

Left Merton Wisconsin at 3:55am and arrived at the St.Ignace Michigan launch on Lake Huron in six and a half hours.  The launch was in great shape and cars with trailers may be parked over night.  We prepaid $30 for four days. At the St.Ignace Launch:

Lighthouse in St.Ignace:

Started with a beautiful easy sail across the channel towards Mackinac Island, when in the middle of the channel the wind died.  The weather on the trip was perfect, 50'sF at night and mid 70'sF mid day, with 5-10kt winds between the south and east.  Mackinac Island is a fun and unique place to visit, featuring perfectly restored 1800s to early 1900s period architecture, older forts, fun restaurants and shops, and the whole is made better by the complete absence of any motorized vehicles.  Ubiquitous horse carts and buggies carry people and goods around the island and bikes are everywhere.  In light of the nature of our destination, we refused to use the motor and proceeded to row.  Our senses of humor and drive to make it to Mackinac without a motor motivated us to row our one ton (fully loaded with crew and provisions) craft, in our bow-ties for three hours till we came up to the dock on Mackinac Island. The dock charged $10 per person and $1 per foot; pricey, but we went for it.  Rowing myself to Mackinac Island:

We walked around the town, and up to the famous old Grand Hotel, where we had two drinks and took in the view.  There is still a coat and tie dress code; luckily we were prepared.
At the Grand Hotel Mackinac:

View from the cupola of the hotel:

There are very frequent and very fast, large ferries coming and going into the Mackinac Island harbor.  In addition there are frequent massive freighter ships passing through the small straight between Mackinac and Round Islands.  A small boat would be tossed around significantly if anchored in that area, so we decided to anchor on the southeast corner of Round Island, in the channel between Round Island and Bois Blanc Island.  We found a pretty little spot and due to the shallow bottom which had many large rocks in it, there were very few boats, especially large ones.  Be careful navigating here, not to run aground or strike a rock.

Lighthouse on Round Island:

Channel Marker between Mackinac Island and Round Island, with the Mackinaw Bridge in the background.  Big ships sail through this tiny channel frequently;  all ships coming or going into Lake Michigan must pass through the Straits of Mackinaw.  One freighter can be seen coming out of Lake Michigan and one can be seen heading into it:

Our anchorage on the first night:

Clear clear water!  Photo here of our anchor:

Added a long streamer to the mast head, I like it.

After a nice sleep, we woke up, took a dip in the nice chilly fresh water, and then headed out on a fine reach northeast towards Les Cheneaux Islands:

Caught and fried up a nice trout off of Bois Blanc Island:

We experienced the doldrums for about an hour, halfway across on our way to Les Cheneaux, and then the wind shifted and came nearly from the direction we needed to head.  We beat into this for three hours.  This was a good opportunity to get some cool photos of the bow of the Compac 16 breaking into the waves (Iphone almost wound up in the lake...)

A side note on packing and provisions;  as in years past we brought traditional provisions that did not require refrigeration: salt cod, salt pork, hardtack, coffee, beef jerky, confit, onions, carrots, rum and of course the most traditional of mariners delights: SPAM.  We sterilized lake water to drink and flavored it with Tang.  For dinner we cooked the Newfoundlanders maritime meal called Fish and Brewis, or we ate preprepared Confits.  Recipes may be found here:

On a small ship there must be a place for everything and everything must be in it's place.

The wind rotated south and we were able to cease beating and head towards the central entrance to Les Cheneaux Islands, when we finally turned north into the channel we were able to run wing on wing into the islands:

Cooking dinner in Les Cheneaux Islands:

Les Cheneaux Islands are a very unique group of islands along the north shore of Lake Huron.  They are separated by small channels with a few large bays.  One feels more like they are on an "up north" inland lake, then on Lake Huron.  Upon entering the islands we noticed that they were more developed than we thought, with many homes and piers; and many of those very affluent and large.  We found a quiet anchorage in a bay on the northwest corner of Little Lasalle Island.

We enjoyed exploring these islands, and they appear to be a lovely vacation destination.  We were there on a holiday weekend, and there was a large volume of motor boat traffic squeezed into the narrow channels.  Add to that the apparent non existence of speed limits and you have a situation where many fast moving and frequently large motor boats are flying by close to your boat.  On the plus side, I've never seen more beautiful wooden motor boats, they were everywhere and perfectly restored.  Photo's of Les Cheneaux Islands:

We sailed northeast through the channel with Marquette island to the west of us, and towards the town of Hessel.  We then turned south to head back out into the lake.  The wind dropped to 1-2kts from the south and after an hour of tacking back and forth and more or less going straight east and west instead of south, we gave up the ghost and used the iron wind to get out into the wind and into the body of Lake Huron.  We then had a beautiful rolling reach eastward to the St.Martin Islands where we swam ashore, explored a bit, and snorkeled some protected shallow waters.

Lillyanna anchored in the St. Martin Islands:

With the fine wind, we decided to continue sailing south to the northwest corner of Mackinac Island.

Approaching our anchorage on the northwest of Mackinac Island.  The drop off is steep just offshore, and there is no harbor, but with the wind forecast to be steady and light from the southeast over night, we anchored here.

My brother in the cozy cabin of the Compac 16:

After another nice swim and evening, we awoke the next morning to a perfect wind from the southeast, and used it to sail across the channel to St.Ignace.  Approaching the harbor at St.Igance, my brother Justin before the mast.

We had a very satisfying approach to the dock, in which we executed a jibe to come around a breakwall, beat up wind towards the dock, beared to port toward the dock, dropped the mainsail to slow down, ran towards the dock under the jib alone, dropped the jib to slow down more, and then gently slid up to the dock on our port side.  Fantastic.  A lucky and wonderful trip all around, and we enjoyed everything we saw and experienced.  As always, the best part was spending time with my brother.

Lillyanna retrieved from the dock at St.Ignace:

Happy Sailing Everyone!

« Last Edit: September 07, 2016, 10:14:49 AM by Jason »
1981 Compac 16 "Lillyanna"
Currently building SCAMP #349 "Argo"
Build log at


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Great write up Jason! Sounds like a perfect sailing adventure.

Offline BobK

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Looks like a great sailing experience!


Offline kahp ho

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Now that was a great journey summery, loved the pictures.

I'm a fan of mast head streamers too.
'07 Legacy "Amphibian"

Offline Jason

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Thanks for the kind feedback all. 

The red streamer was purchased from Duckworks,  called a pennant, they have them in many colors:

1981 Compac 16 "Lillyanna"
Currently building SCAMP #349 "Argo"
Build log at

Offline deisher6

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HeY Jason:
Great trip!  Thanks for the blog and the style tips.
Nothing like sailing into your slip.
regards charlie

Offline Citroen/Dave

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Fantastic!  This is the stuff of which dreams are made.  Thanks for your photos and great story telling. May you and your brother have many more adventures!
"You can't judge a skipper by the size of his dingy."
'85 ComPac 16/2  "Keep 'er Wet" renamed "Slow Dancing"

Offline DaleM

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Jason, without a doubt, your blog, photojournalism, presentations, photography  and descriptions are some of the best I've seen anywhere on the internet.  Outstanding work!  I picked up quite a few ideas from your article.  Anyone interested in sailing will enjoy your creative presentations!
I'll keep looking for more of your articles.
Continued success in all you do!
Dale Myers, Compac 16: Georgia Gypsy, Forsyth, Ga.
If not now..When?

Offline Jason

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Thanks for the supportive comments Dale!  Glad you liked it.  Thank you for the feedback.

1981 Compac 16 "Lillyanna"
Currently building SCAMP #349 "Argo"
Build log at

Offline hoddinr

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Great report Jason!  I've stayed in our 5th wheel in the Les Cheneaux Islands a couple of times.  One little town has a traditional small boat association and boat show every year - Cedarville, if I recall correctly.

Loved the bow ties and the visit to Mackinac Island.  Good stuff.

Ron Hoddinott
SunCat Nomad

Offline Peabody

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Just had a chance to read about your adventure.  So jealous.  Sailed the coast line of Lake Huron in the Greenbush area for 10 years 1985-95.  Back into sailing again, got used Picnic Cat at end of this summer.  Seeing your story has us anxious for next summer sailing on Lake Huron again.