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Old 03-05-2015, 16:56   #1
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Best boats for the North Channel

We are looking for boat recommendations for extended cruising, several months a year, of the North Channel. We are a retired couple in our sixties, relatively fit and health. We have both sail and power experience up to 42 feet LOA, in both fresh and salt water, coastal and offshore. Since our age does not allow us to spend years of trial and error to find the right boat for this destination, we are seeking boat recommendations. We have up to $300,000 to spend, but prefer to spend much less. We are looking for a functional, easy to handle, easy to outfit and easy to maintain boat for a couple, without too many systems to maintain or to go wrong, and fair light air performance if sailed, and fair fuel economy if powered. She can be powdered or sailed, and no more than about 42 feet LOA, preferably in the mid 30's. We have looked at and considered Nordic Tugs and similar boats on the power-side, and Pearsons, Valiants, Pacific Seacrafts and Fishers and similar boats on the sail-side. Is pilot house a reasonable trade off for sail performance on the great lakes? Is power a reasnable trade off for sail, considering cruising distance covered and wind conditions in Lake Huron and the North Channel area. We will greatly appreciate any recommendations from cruiser with actual experience on specific boats cruising the North Channel. Especially along the line of "if we have to do it over again, we will....., because.....", "Our ideal boat for the North Channel is....., because....", "Our next boat for the North Channel will be...., because.....". We fully understand that different people have different preference, and likes and dislikes, and we will get very diverse recommendations. However, it will be very helpful for us to have these opinions for our decision making process. Thank you very much for your kind attention.
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Old 03-05-2015, 18:13   #2
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

Look over the vessels chartered in the NC. This may give some indication.


We cruised the NC a few years ago in our Nicholson 58. We were somewhat limited by draft as to where we could safely go. If you intend to spend time in marinas, you may have difficulty with a multihull. Most NC cruisers tend to shallow draft and smaller boats. You should be able to search on Google and also on Youtube for cruising in the NC that may give some insight. Consider also a composting head in addition to any standard head unless you have a very large holding tank.


If you are searching for used, Torresen in Muskegon has a large inventory. Many of the charters also turn over their fleets.
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Old 03-05-2015, 18:57   #3
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

I've spent plenty of time in the North Channel. It's pretty protected waters for the most part.

My best advice would be to go with something comfortable. For $300k you should be able to get something brand new that's suitable, although I wouldn't go new, even if I had that kind of money.

Power and sail are both good options, but if you do really plan on sticking to the north channel, I would definitely go power.

Ranger Tugs would be fine if you like their style.

If it was my $300k, I'd get a nicely maintained production sailboat in the 35' Loa/5' draft range for under $100k. Something like a hunter legend 35', and save the other $200+k for something else (like chartering in the Caribbean for the 10 months a year the north channel is to cold too enjoy).

You can't go too wrong for those' waters.

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Old 03-05-2015, 19:09   #4
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

The charters up there tell us that they see many fewer power vessels because of the fuel cost & distances traveled. We did run into one fellow living aboard a 40-ish foot, old, solid teak double-ender. He had removed the mast & winches and was operating as a tug. Old school wide design was packed with space. Easy on fuel. Some of the modern tugs are pretty easy on fuel.
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Old 04-05-2015, 05:51   #5
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

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The charters up there tell us that they see many fewer power vessels because of the fuel cost & distances traveled. We did run into one fellow living aboard a 40-ish foot, old, solid teak double-ender. He had removed the mast & winches and was operating as a tug. Old school wide design was packed with space. Easy on fuel. Some of the modern tugs are pretty easy on fuel.
But is that talking about people who move a boat into the area semi-permanently or people from Chicago/Detroit areas cruising up for a month or so as part of a summer vacation. The entire area is only around 125miles across. If you putter along in a trawler getting 3mpg, you could do a round trip of the entire length each year and burn less than 100 gallons.

To the original poster:

Just about any cruising boat will work but larger and deep draft vessels won't get into some areas, so keep that in mind when looking.

Given the number of rocks, I might lean towards a design that has protected props/rudders.
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Old 04-05-2015, 06:21   #6
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

I have chartered in the NC a good number of times, always from CYC at Gore Bay. Had a variety of boats ranging form Alohas to C&C to ? Most were fin keel boats 30-40' long with depths from 5-6 feet. Don't recall any issues with depth--hell, the waters are deep right up to the shore. Many times we'd plop an anchor off the bow 30' from shore and run a line from the stern to a tree to stabilize the boat.

There are lots of rocks but they are chartered in most areas. Go slowly when unsure.

As I recall, the entire area was a no discharge zone, so you'll need a good sized holding tank or, I guess, a composting head. If you go out early or late in the season, you will need a heater. On the plus side, you will not need an air conditioner. Full cockpit enclosure with screens nice to ward off bugs; otherwise move further off shore.

Awesome area. Hope to take my boat from the Chesapeake to the NC for a summer.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:14   #7
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

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Originally Posted by Moody46CC View Post
I have chartered in the NC a good number of times, always from CYC at Gore Bay...
Here's CYC's current fleet:
Welcome to Canadian Yacht Charters - Canadian Yacht Charters - Manitoulin Island, North Channel, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, Midland, Great Lakes, Ontario
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Old 04-05-2015, 08:40   #8
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

Do not overlook Island Packets. While they may not be the "fastest" they are extremely well built, solid as a rock, have plenty of tankage, storage, comfortable cabin, and a large cockpit for parties. Engine access is exceptional and if you decide to take the boat out to the ocean, she will make your passage both safe and comfortable. Bon Voyage!
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:19   #9
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

With that budget you've got nearly an unlimited selection of boats (both power and sail) that will suit your needs. Specific to the North Channel, one of your primary considerations should probably be draft since many anchorages and gunkholes that typify the area are shallow.

A pilot house would also be a nice option for the North Channel since it can often be cold and/or buggy and the PH will allow you to stay on deck level to take in the scenery in comfort either while moving or at anchor. I've always liked the Fisher 30/34/37s and I think PSC made a pilot house version of the 34, a few of which I've seen for sale in recent years in the Great Lakes.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:21   #10
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

I would find a nice Grand Banks...the 32' if its just 2 of you, the 36' if you expect guests. Top off fuel tanks in the US and that should last all summer. The flying bridge is great for sightseeing on good days, and unlike a sailboat, on rainy days you can still cruise from the pilothouse and enjoy the trip without having to be out in the weather.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:27   #11
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

Other than possible draft issues (which can be checked against a CHART of the area) what makes the NC any different than any other cruising grounds?

With your experience, shouldn't you already be aware that there is no "Best" in boats and boating?

What boats do you have in mind? That would be a better approach to help anyone help you.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:02   #12
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

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Other than possible draft issues (which can be checked against a CHART of the area) what makes the NC any different than any other cruising grounds?

With your experience, shouldn't you already be aware that there is no "Best" in boats and boating?

What boats do you have in mind? That would be a better approach to help anyone help you.
Regarding issues in North Channel cruising, there are millions (billions?) of uncharted granite boulders and rocks in the NC. Most times, when you hit, you hit very hard and stop immediately. As in...BANG. I know people who have been injured this way. Also, I disagree that there are no "best" boats for certain areas. I would definitely buy a different boat for cruising Chesapeake Bay than the Great Lakes, and although virtually any boat may be "acceptable," some are better than others for certain types and areas of cruising. Finally, "What makes the NC different than any other cruising grounds?" Unless you've been to the North Channel, you simply cannot know.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:44   #13
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

The North Channel has rocks. If you want to feel safe...STEEL HULL.

Aside from that, I second the recommendation for a Hunter Legend 35.5 (1990-96). Beautiful, comfortable, roomy boat with a sugar scoop stern. All the comforts of home, including a big aft cabin, private shower, etc. Combined with modest draft (4.5'). The only problem...not expensive enough for you LOL!
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Old 04-05-2015, 13:32   #14
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

Have been to the NC a few times in summers past. The ideal boat .... from an access to small anchorages perspective.... has a draft of 4-5 feet. That said, the water level has been quite low so more draft shouldn't be a problem if water levels continue to rise as they did last year. If you stay in the NC then either a powerboat or a sailboat will do. We've done it with a 35 foot trawler and currently have a 43 foot Irwin sailboat. If you head out onto Georgian Bay..... which I would highly recommend .... then a sailboat will be a better choice for the very rough waters that will be encountered when the wind comes up (often).
The water is drinkable right from the Bay or from the NC so no need for large water tankage. Large waste tank(s) is a good idea if you intend to be anchoring out. Substantial house battery capacity is something that few people seem to be willing to pay for, but most don't understand the science that dictates that only half of the rated capacity of your batteries should be consumed before recharging. We've gone a little overboard with 1275 AH of capacity, but we can sail most of the time then stay at anchorages without having to run the engine or stay at marinas for at least a week at a time.
Your budget is probably 2-3 times what it needs to be. A 35-40 foot used boat shouldn't cost you more than $100K unless you are looking for a very new boat or a very high-end make/model.
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Old 04-05-2015, 13:39   #15
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Re: Best boats for the North Channel

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Originally Posted by rhubstuff View Post
Unless you've been to the North Channel, you simply cannot know.
I have never been there but have friends who have been and I fully understand the attractions.

That wasn't my question, however.
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