The Hatteras “Stinkpot” and her Journey to the Bay

New to Georgian Bay this season is a very grand, privately owned “Hat” named Stinkpot whose journey to her home port in Penetanguishene, Ontario, with her new owners took three attempts, spanned over two years, two Great Lakes, the North Channel and finally Georgian Bay. If you have ever purchased a new-to-you vessel and captained it home from a distant port, this is a story you won’t want to miss!

Chicago, 2019

A little background on Hatteras Yachts: long recognized as quality built, comfortable cruising vessels capable of tackling the big seas without much fuss. Elegant interiors, spacious bridge designs, luxury accommodations and one of the first companies that, when founded in 1959, began producing fiberglas hulls at a time when other yacht builders were still pumping out the “woodies”. Ahead of their competition these beauties were built to withstand both the test of time and the seas.

A little info on Stinkpot: a 1985 48’ Motor Yacht with an impressive 15’ beam, she is fairly new to owners Richard and Karin who acquired her just prior to covid. In search of a solid built vessel they could bring to Georgian Bay to spend summers cruising on and perhaps live aboard full time in the near future, they first saw this “Hat” at a Chicago boat warehouse the summer of 2019. Powered by two Detroit Diesels 6V92 (435 hp each) and with a Kohler Generator, 4 reverse cycle HVAC units and updated navigational equipment, they felt she checked all the right boxes to easily manage the Bay. Like many of us who have purchased a new-to-us vessel they hoped they had found a diamond in the rough that with the right amount of polish would become a true beauty!

Polishing that hull!

By the time their deal was complete, it was almost October and far too late to be on the lakes so they decided to move the boat to a local storage facility for some needed repairs and maintenance over the winter. They would then return to Chicago the next spring to prepare for their journey and depart for their future home port of Penetanguishene.

Touring the Chicago River

It was on a cold October morning that Richard and Karin fired up the engines, leaving the Chicago marina to move Stinkpot to the storage facility. For anyone who has visited this city you may have witnessed the massive rollers that often develop, slamming the waterfront piers and harbour. But on this particular morning Lake Michigan appeared relatively calm, the forecast was reasonable and they only had a short move – quick and easy, or so it should have been!

Their troubles began out on the lake shortly after departing the marina – a port engine issue leading to complete loss of power. While inspecting that they realized the 2nd was also having issues, in fact struggling to stay running. Karin was at the helm, trying to steer the boat while Richard was in the engine room working to assess the issues. It was then he noticed a fountain of water streaming in through the rudders while the bilge pumps – which luckily worked well – were running non-stop to keep up! By this time the winds had started blowing and the seas were beginning to build as Karin struggled to hold the boat at the right angle into the waves, bringing to light another issue – the hydraulic steering was failing! Realizing they needed help, Karin immediately called for a tow while they sat on Lake Michigan, the waves building to well over a metre and beyond, trying to hold the boat from sitting sideways in those seas. After more than 2 grueling hours the tow arrived and took them to their winter storage facility up the Calumet river. It was not exactly the “maiden” voyage either had envisioned but they hoped the worst was behind them and their departure next spring would go off without a hitch! Over that winter they visited Stinkpot regularly to check on the progress of the repairs, which appeared to be going well, and also to tackle many other needed projects on their own.

Fast forward to spring of 2020 and a big kink in their plans – Covid! – resulting in closed borders and “no travel” advisories. At least the much needed maintenance had been done, including a full cleaning of the fuel tanks – the issue that had led to the initial loss of engine. By early summer of that year flying to Chicago from Canada was still allowed so they decided to take advantage while they could and bring Stinkpot home.

And so on a beauty day in the summer of 2020, excited to have had the maintenance issues dealt with over the winter, they set off from Chicago for what they hoped would be the journey of a life time. Their planned route was impressive with stop overs up the coast of Lake Michigan, Mackinac Island and then on to the North Channel. They had reviewed the charts, plotted their route, checked customs entrance regulations, provisioned the boat – this couple had a well-organized itinerary and were prepared for the journey ahead.

Sadly not long after departure they were forced to return to the dock – the technicians had not sealed the fuel tanks properly and they had started leaking. A big problem. And with the world closing down completely, there was no guarantee how fast it could be fixed. Just a heart breaking day for this adventurous couple; after all the repairs they had made and work they had put into her. As the world got deeper into covid, their dream of bringing Stinkpot home faded each month.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that the fuel tanks were fixed and they were able to plan a departure date – July of 2021. After lots of “covid” red tape and paperwork, they finally left Chicago for good and I am pretty sure that city is no longer on their future “places to visit” list! They planned their departure to coincide with a perfect weather window, they did not get their hopes up whatsoever, and for good measure had their boat broker (who by that point in time had become a good friend of theirs – LOL!) accompany them as they cruised up the west coast of Lake Michigan to Racine, Illinois. And this leg went off without a hitch – they were ecstatic! They parted ways with their broker at that point and continued on their journey to Georgian Bay.

Departing for Racine, Illinois

Their first Canadian stop was Hilton Beach, Algoma, where Stinkpot was cleared by Canada Customs, officially becoming a Canadian vessel! However their welcome was short lived as a major storm quickly descended right after their arrival, downing hydro lines and knocking out local power. They sat at the helm throughout, terrified the docks would be ripped out as the storm wrecked havoc. There was a tornado sighting reported within a short distance away and the marina docks did sustain significant damage from the high winds and current. It was quite the welcome to Canada! From there they continued through the North Channel and onto Georgian Bay, luckily without any further incidents!

Dock Damage after the Hilton Beach Storm

For anyone interested in seeing their Lake Michigan crossing and other portions of their trip, along with many of the projects they have tackled, here is the link to their You Tube Channel “The Stinkpot Chronicles” :

Since arriving in Georgian Bay, Richard and Karin have been exploring the beautiful anchorages and have enjoyed putting Stinkpot through her paces, even taking her through the Norton Narrows on the route back to the Go Home Shute – for anyone who has been through this narrow passage, think “15’ Beam”! Their video of this passage is insane, I have included a few pictures below.

Pictures courtesy of “The Stinkpot Chronicles” (You Tube)

Their story is one of perseverance and courage, some mistakes made and valuable lessons learned, but they accomplished their goal of bringing Stinkpot home!

And for those wondering why the name? Blow by’s or stinkpots, some boaters will recognize both terms and understand the significance and for those who don’t – I suggest the next time you see this beautiful girl on the Bay, stop by to say hello to her friendly owners; with a little prodding, or for a cold beer, they may just share that piece of the story!

Ten Fun Facts about Georgian Bay

Georgian Bay, named for King George IV and also often referred to as the “6th Great Lake”, has some interesting history along with a few world records! Here are 10 fun facts about the Bay:

#1: Wasaga Beach on the southern shore is the world’s longest freshwater beach.

#2: Manitoulin Island at the NW edge is the world’s largest freshwater island.

#3: The Georgian Bay Ship Canal, if built as planned in the early 1900’s, would have joined Ottawa to the Bay through the French River. This project would have been along the same scale as the Panama Canal, with large commercial freighters and cargo ships passing through what is now the unspoiled wilds of the French River. Here is a link to the story if you wish to learn more:

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The Captain goes down with the Ship

This summer while boating I was at the helm carefully guiding Pearl into a busy dock where once we were tied and secure, one of the other boaters who had witnessed my docking came over to chat. He asked if I was the Captain and I explained that no, my husband and I share that special title. He then asked “So who goes down with the ship?” jokingly I like to think but later that night as I pondered his question, I realized whether he meant to or not, he did raise a very important point and meaningful in so many ways!

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Last Call

It was exactly 5 months ago today I boarded Pearl for the first time as her new owner, knowing I had a long journey ahead and with an unknown partner. And now that I think about it, she didn’t even have a name…so she truly was an “unknown”! However Pearl quickly proved herself to be a trusted and reliable ally from our first trip out, travelling from the south end of the St Clair River, crossing both Lake Huron and Georgian Bay effortlessly!

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The 6th Great Lake

I grew up boating on Beautiful Georgian Bay with my parents and brother, back when boaters had no GPS or radar, only paper charts and a hope and a prayer the Bay didn’t churn out some ugly water! And of course many days she did so I quickly learned that yes, Georgian Bay is a natural creation of beauty, but with a definite temper! The many ship wrecks littered across her bottom can attest to that. But today, whether you are boating, cottaging or visiting on the Bay, there is a lot more to do and a lot more technology to help you safely navigate through the stunning 30,000 islands of rock and granite that make up the Bay.