Preparing your boat & equipment
Most trailerable sailboats with cabins and some sort of head are suitable for the North Channel. We have had boats as short as 16 feet on our cruises. If you have a smaller boat, you may need to allow for the fact that you will not be as fast as the bigger boats.
Your boat’s mainsail should have at least one reef point. Some boats have roller-furling headsails that can be reefed. If you have only a large hanked-on Genoa, you might want to consider adding some kind of reefing system to it, or getting a smaller jib for heavy weather use. On light air days, although not necessary, a drifter or spinnaker is nice to have. A whisker pole can be useful to hold the headsail out on a downwind sail.
You should have at least the basic spares for your rigging and a sail repair kit could come in handy.
An appropriately sized engine for your sailboat will be necessary as there are some days when it is just not possible to sail in the direction we are going. It will also be necessary to get into marina docks and to maneuver your boat for anchoring. You need to carry enough fuel to go 30-40 miles. You should have the basic spare parts for your engine, manuals and a small toolkit.
Some type of toilet is mandatory for cruising. Requirements for Foreign Recreational Boaters in Canadian Waters states that marine heads must be permanently affixed in your boat and must be emptied only by dock-side pump-out. (Do not empty porta-potties in marina bathrooms!) Porta-potties which are not attached to your boat and do not have a pump-out fitting are not legal in Ontario. However, Spyder Bay has a dump station where you can empty your head for a fee. Save all receipts to prove you have not emptied it over the side. Having said this, we have not heard of this issue being a problem with previous visitors from the US. Composting heads work well and are not specifically mentioned in any Canadian regulations yet, but if you choose to use one, please think ahead about waste storage and be responsible regarding disposal of urine and “composted” waste materials. Guide to Sewage Discharge Regs
A dinghy or other small auxiliary craft is almost mandatory if you want to go ashore, row out a second anchor or join in many of the group activities. Members of our groups use kayaks, rigid dinghies, or inflatable boats. Some have outboards for them; some do not. Canadian regulations require your dinghy have the following items:
Manual Propulsion (oars or paddle)
Audible Signaling Device (Whistle – consider tying to your life jacket))
Floating 50’ throwing line (one ends needs to have a weight)
Life jackets for all passengers (inflatables must be worn)
Bimini & Dodger
Nice to have both for rain or shine. At the very least, you’ll want some sort of sunshade cover when you are anchored.
You should have at least one dependable anchor. A 2nd backup anchor would be a good idea. We suggest at least 150 feet of rode, as sometimes you need to anchor in deeper water. Rode should also have a good length of chain at the anchor end. It is also a good idea to seize the shackles (e.g., tie them off with a piece of wire) so that they cannot come loose. At least one T/SA boat has lost an anchor through a shackle coming loose.
You should also have enough dock lines, fenders, and a couple of extra heavy-duty 100-foot lines for tying to shore. These lines will be easier to use if stored in a bag or bucket, rather than coiled.
You must have a 25W VHF radio, preferably with a masthead antenna. Check it at home to make sure it works! A handheld radio does not have enough range to contact marinas or the coast guard, although it is good to have as a backup. If you haven’t replaced the coax to your antenna within the last 5 or 6 years, you should consider replacing it. Old coax reduces the range for both sending and receiving.
Charts and navigation equipment
GPS/Chart plotter is highly recommended but should not be relied upon 100%. Water depths change from year to year. Some places get silted in and rocks can shift. If you are uncomfortable navigating in tight places, another group member will usually agree to lead so you can follow. You should have paper charts for all the areas you plan to go, even if you have an electronic chart plotter. The Ports guide is also useful, (if you can still get them), as it shows aerial photos of many of the anchorages. You should have a working compass and a depth sounder. A speed/distance log device is handy, especially if you need to navigate by dead reckoning. A handheld compass is useful to take bearings to see if your anchor is holding. There are also cell phone apps you can set that will sound an alarm if your boat moves too far from your anchor.
During the day, mosquitoes are usually not much of a problem, but after dusk they can come out in droves. They can find the smallest cracks in your defenses. Good mosquito netting is very important to enjoyment of your cruise. Designs vary with boat models. There are commercially available mosquito drapes (look on Amazon) with weights sewn in around the edges for the companionway and forward hatch or you can use large pieces of netting to drape over openings.
Life jackets are mandatory for every person on your boat. A throwable ring (or LifeSling) is a good thing to have onboard in case someone does manage to fall overboard. Be sure to review the Canadian Coast Guard requirements for equipment that must be on your boat as well as your dinghy. Note that a floating throw line and a sound-signaling device are requirements in Canada for each vessel (including your dinghy). Floating throw lines may be made or purchased inexpensively at hardware stores or marine supply shops. A Fox 40 whistle meets the requirements for signaling. Jack lines are not usually needed unless you are on Georgian Bay in a blow.