62 foot catamaran from South Africa visits North Channel
LITTLE CURRENT—Nicolas and Deirdre Mace, owners of the Catamaran Meshugga, stopped into the Port of Little Current as part of their journey through the famed “Great Loop.” While chatting with The Expositor and Roy Eaton of the Cruiser’s Net they revealed their impressions of the North Channel, Manitoulin, Wiikwemkoong and the Port of Little Current—and those impressions were enthusiastically positive.
Loopers, as they have come to be known, follow a continuous waterway that recreational mariners can travel that includes parts of the Atlantic, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian heritage canals and the inland rivers of America’s heartland.
The Maces made contact early with Mr. Eaton, and it was a fortuitous connection as the VHF radio show host took the boaters on a tour that included the Wiikwemkoong Heritage Festival (aka the Wiky Powwow).
“It was lovely to meet Roy Eaton the Net Controller,” said Ms. Mace, “and on Monday we took him to breakfast and presented him with a Royal Cape Yacht Club Burgee.”
Royal Cape Yacht Club is the couple’s home port, located in Cape Town, South Africa. “It is a large club where all the international racers go,” said Ms. Mace. “It is the stop at the bottom of Africa.” Cape Town is so popular a stopover that it has garnered a reputation as the “Tavern of the Seas.”
The Meshugga is a Benetton Lagoon 62 catamaran (two hulled vessel). “She is 62 feet long and 33 feet wide with a five-and-a-half-foot draft and an airdraft of 120 feet. It is French built, there were 100 of them made and she is number 52,” explains Mr. Mace.
The vessel normally sports a tall mast, but it had to be shipped in order to be able to enter the inland waters. “It was quite a process,” said Mr. Mace. “It had to be split in two and is currently stored on the deck.” Complicating the process was the fact that all of the marinas they researched that were capable of doing the job of taking down the mast were nestled behind bridges. “We eventually found one in Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf of Mexica that could accommodate the size of Meshugga,” said Mr. Mace. The tricky part was actually finding docks that could support the size of crane required to lift the mast out of its socket.”
This Meshugga is not the vessel in which the couple set out from Cape Town on December 2016. The couple actually crossed the Atlantic to South America in a much smaller 47-foot vessel bearing the same name. Meshugga incidentally roughly translates from the old German Yiddish dialect as “crazy,” but despite their year’s long semi-vacation and global trek, that is not a label you could easily hang on the Maces.
The couple decided that they wanted a larger base for their travels when they stopped in at the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Mace, a software entrepreneur whose company’s municipal management program is used by cities across the globe, turned his considerable focus to researching the best match for the couple’s needs. It happened that yacht broker in the BVI had just the thing with a motivated buyer. “I made an offer and said that I did not want to dicker,” he said. The deal was closed in a remarkable 10 days. “Then I told the broker ‘sell that boat’.” The broker ended up buying the vessel himself.
The Maces have a considerable store of good fortune. Shortly after they left the BVI a hurricane paid a visit and many vessels were destroyed.
Meshugga is definitely well appointed, with five ensuite cabins, four normal guest rooms and a fifth crew quarters. There is, however, no crew as such. “She is really at the top end of what you can handle with two people,” said Ms. Mace. Although when it comes to cleaning the decks and hull, the couple admit with a laugh that a crew might be nice.
The vessel is powered by twin 150 hp engines and has a generator onboard that can easily handle the refrigerators and freezers (yes, that’s plural), but they are working on upgunning the vessel’s solar panels and wind generators. “Everything onboard is as energy efficient as possible,” said Mr. Mace. “We are aiming to not need the generator again.”
As to the globally experienced boaters’ impression of the North Channel and Manitoulin waters? “It’s beautiful,” enthused Ms. Mace. “The islands are so beautiful.” She noted the uninhabited nature of so much of the shoreline. “There are so many lovely little islands you can visit.”
If there was a disappointment in the region, it centred on the difficulty of getting information about the islands, not about charts and currents so much, but the islands and communities themselves. “Where are the places to go to?” said Ms. Mace. “We only were able to access local information when we encountered another boat were we able to get local knowledge.”
Mr. Mace suggested that a downloadable book on the region could be a profitable venture. “It is definitely something people like us would pay for,” he said.
“We missed out on a lot of places (due to a lack of accessible online information on the area),” said Ms. Mace. “Stories about the little islands that we anchored by would be good—a tourism guide.”
So the lack of knowledge and the dearth of bears has been a bit of a challenge. “We kept hearing that there were bears on nearby islands but we sat in the cockpit with binoculars for hours and never saw one,” lamented Ms. Mace. “The closest we got to seeing a bear was at the carvers’ display at Haweater Weekend.
When the couple dropped anchor in the Covered Portage, they found some more accommodating wildlife. “We were delighted to watch two otters diving for crayfish under a smaller sailboat anchored in a shallower patch,” noted Ms. Mace on the vessel’s online travel blog. “Not sure what or why, but those otters loved diving under their boat, coming up crunching on something.”
But when it comes to the people they have met on their journey through the North Channel and on Manitoulin the couple could not say enough good things.
“We encountered nothing but friendliness,” said Ms. Mace. “Everyone goes out of their way to be helpful.”
As for their experience of the Little Current Lions Haweater Weekend, the couple pronounced themselves very impressed. “Later Sunday night, the Haweater festival ended with a superb fireworks display,” writes Ms. Mace, adding “in our opinion, better than the 4th of July fireworks we witnessed in Chicago. Well done Little, Little Current!”