Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

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Keweenaw98
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Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Keweenaw98 »

Our small group has lodging reservations at Rock Harbor that we can't change for a specific week. Tuesday to Saturday.
I had planned to bring my own private boat 17' with 60 hp motor. Good GPS and sonar electronics for fishing and exploration.

When I tried to make travel reservations with the Ranger III this morning to take our group and boat, I learned that that specific Tuesday we were to start our trip the Ranger III only goes to Windigo in Washington Harbor. I was really looking forward to having my boat with my on this adventure.

So I see two options since we can't change the time. Leave my boat behind and maybe rent one on the island for a few days. This would change our plans to leaving from copper harbor instead.

Or perhaps try to drive my boat from Windigo all the way to Rock Harbor. In relatively calm waters I would estimate this trip could be done in 4-5 hours. However, I've fished in Lake Superior with my boat many times, so I know I can't always count on good weather. The trip back to Houghton would be done on the Ranger III and they could take my boat back from there on Saturday.

If we were to try to drive the boat the length of the Island, I would do it with one other person and the rest of our group would take the queen from copper harbor. We have all the safety equipment on board my boat for Great Lakes, and I've traveled/camped the Apostle Islands extensively with it.

I could use some suggestions from anyone that has done boating around IR.

How risky would a small craft power boat trip be from Windigo to Rock Harbor? How Long could it take?
Maybe doable if we watch the weather closely and have a backup plan?
Would the North Side be best or the South Side?

Thanks in advance for the advice.
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Ingo »

There's a few, but not a lot of power boaters on this forum, so don't know how much feedback you'll get. But I understand there's an Isle Royale boaters group on Facebook you may want to pose the question to. I do know that if you rent a boat from the lodge that you'll be limited to Rock Harbor and maybe Tobin Harbor--they used to keep a couple in Tobin Harbor, but I don't recall seeing any in recent years. In any case, they don't allow you to go into open waters or around Scoville Point.

One other possible option to explore would be to see if you could send your boat over early to RH on the Ranger III. I know it was done a couple times when I worked the docks in '79, but have absolutely no idea if that is still feasible today. You would have to arrange with both the park service and the lodge.
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Iconic »

Ingo makes some good points. To expand on them - the boat rentals in Rock Harbor do indeed limit where you can take them, plus if it is foggy the day you wish to go, they will not let you take off untill the fog lifts. That could be hours or days.They are no frill boats, just 16 footers with small hp motors, much like you would get at a fly in Canadian outpost. Still butter than no boat though. I think that you are supposed to accompany the Ranger lll while you boat is aboard, however in talking with the crew over the year I think they can do it in an emergency. Best to call Houghton for the confirmation. The crew of the Ranger lll are some of the nicest and most helpful folks you could ask for, from the captain to the deck hands. Same with the personel on the rock from the superintendent down to the newb park rangers, but they are still bound by the rules. Maybe you have someone in your group that could accompany the boat on the Ranger earlier and camp untill the rest of the group arrives.

As for boating from Windigo to Rock Harbor, it can be done with a 17 ft with 60 hp but again you are at the mercy of the weather. Launching from MN is another possible option. Good luck!

Hi Ingo, I stopped and talked to you at your Merritt camp a few years back. 8)
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by HikerGal »

I am a backpacker who is lucky to have a friend with a 17' Lund with a 60 hp motor who likes to have a fishing partner. And I will take every opportunity to go to Isle Royale - even if it means learning to fish.

Last year we took his boat on the Ranger going to Windigo. We spent 3 days at the Windigo end fishing and then took advantage of a very calm day and motored around the north side of the island to Belle Isle. It was about 44 miles and it took us a little less than 2 hours. We cruised at about 25 mph; the water was like glass. I'd always wanted to boat around the north side but I wanted to do it when we had PLENTY of time to wait out bad weather and the water was VERY calm. The north shoreline provides very few places to dock or even land if you needed to. Last year we had 2 weeks on the island so we knew we would eventually make it to Rock Harbor. Our original plan was to camp at Mc Cargo but since it was so nice we decided to go all the way to Belle Isle. I am glad we did because the next 5 days or so were not the best for boating.

I have been invited for the fishing trip 6 times now and just made reservations for this year. We have had a mixed bag of weather (we usually go early June) and we have mostly stayed on the south side of the island, up until last year. There have been years when we did not get into the open water much due to weather. You seem very experienced at boating in Lake Superior so I am sure I don't need to tell you about the fog.

So, yes, as others have said it is very doable in your boat - weather dependent. And if the water was the same on both the north and south side of the island I would traverse the south side as there are more opportunities to dock if needed. I hope you can figure out a way to take your boat but you will enjoy the island either way.

Would you mind telling me what specific radio you use to get the weather and are you happy with it? We have had difficulties getting weather reports on both the north and south side of the island. Thanks!
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Ingo »

Iconic wrote: Wed Jan 04, 2023 5:02 am Hi Ingo, I stopped and talked to you at your Merritt camp a few years back. 8)
I love that site!
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Keweenaw98 »

Thanks for the great replies. We decided that my wife and I would go early before our group and have some camping adventures with the boat before our friends arrived. This makes it an 8 day trip instead of 4 (bonus) and makes the drop off and pickup with the Ranger both at rock harbor.

My current marine radio is a handheld Standard Horizon HX300. I've never had problems getting the weather station, but I haven't tried to use it quite so remote. I may upgrade to a dash mounted unit with an antenna before the IR trip.

So now that we've made the decision and travel reservations.. What are some good boat camping options? There appear to be several boat accessible campgrounds. Any fishing tips?
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Ingo »

Sounds to me like the best possible solution :D .

I have an HX300 and have had pretty good luck getting weather forecasts. Sometimes on the north side only Thunder Bay comes in decent so know some basic conversions, eg meters/seconds for wind and meters for waves.

I love all the boat in sites. You know Merritt Lane is rather sweet, Belle Isle and the Duncans are also great. Since you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in Rock Harbor when your friends arrive, I’d try to head to the north side, Blake Pt willing. We had good luck with Lakers in Belle Harbor last July—all we caught were trolling the blue to green water line parallel to the reefs with spoons. But I guess that’s just where they were then, I’m always just guessing, lol.
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Re: Taking own boat to IR on the Queen - problem

Post by Bobcat1 »

+1 on a great solution, going a few days early so you can camp and explore!! I agree with Ingo to head straight out around to the Northeast side, as long as the weather is ok for that. Belle Isle, maybe. Day trips to McCargoe Cove, various places in that area. Talk to the ranger on the Ranger III.

You can have lots of fun visiting Rock Harbor, if the weather is acting up. As far as campgrounds in the Rock Harbor area, RH and 3-Mile both have one-night limits and are pretty utilitarian for hikers on their way out or in. Daisy Farm is often crowded and noisy, but it is at a great location where you have day hike possibilities, etc. The gem of Rock Harbor is Moskey Basin. As a boater, you also have easy access to Caribou Island which is very popular with boaters and inaccessible to hikers. Caribou Island would be what I try first to get a campsite, and Moskey Basin second with Daisy Farm a good third. Dayhike up to Mt. Ojibway from Daisy Farm wherever you end up camping, or save that one to do with all your friends. I've always wanted to do a day trip out to Conglomerate Bay and check it out, but haven't gotten to it yet (boat required). Just exploring the back channels between islands on Rock Harbor can be stunning - I especially like the back channels and coves around the Caribou Island area with my kayak. Have fun!
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