I crawled out of the boat tent as soon as the sky started growing light; a few leftover raindrops rolled off the edge of the tarp and down my back as I wriggled past. I had spent the evening huddled in my sleeping bag reading and looking at charts, shuffling gear around to keep things dry as rain pattered steadily on the tent. With a wide sleeping platform and a tent to keep me dry, my new boat was proving to be luxuriously comfortable, at least by backpacking standards, but September nights on the Great Lakes are long. After so many hours aboard, I was ready to be moving again. I climbed out into knee-deep water and waded ashore.

I left my malfunctioning VHF radio in the car and returned to simpler methods of weather forecasting for this cruise—methods as simple as hearing the patter of raindrops overhead. An improvised boat tent and plenty of books helped me wait out the rain at South Benjamin Island.photographs by the author

I left my malfunctioning VHF radio in the car and returned to simpler methods of weather forecasting for this cruise—methods as simple as hearing the patter of raindrops overhead. An improvised boat tent and plenty of books helped me wait out the rain at South Benjamin Island.

The morning was clear and cool; the sky had washed itself clean of the thick gray clouds I’d encountered on yesterday’s 10-mile passage from my launching point in Spanish, Ontario. I’d never come to the North Channel so late in the year before. The sun hung low in the sky, casting long shadows across the beach and promising shorter days. A stand of yellow-leafed birches at the edge of the beach shifted slowly in a slight breeze, and an osprey flew past with a faint flumph of wings. A dozen small islands and granite outcroppings rose from the water just offshore, and beyond them was the chain of pink rocks named the Sow and Pigs. Otherwise, nothing. There were no other boats in sight—and this at South Benjamin Island, one of the most popular cruising destinations in the North Channel.

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