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Sailing the Great Lakes


You wonít enjoy frisky dolphins or the tang of saltwater while sailing on the sweet waters seas of the Great Lakes. But you may see an eagle soaring overhead or hear the wild call of a loon. Thanks to its proximity to Canada, my home waters of Lake Ontario offer fine cruising and unspoiled anchorages of quiet natural beauty.

Two of the best areas are the Thousand Islands jointly owned by the U.S. and Canada and my favorite, the Bay of Quinte in Canada. While during July and August the islands can get busy the 60 mile long Bay of Quinte with its many anchorages and towns and small cities never gets too hectic.

Since the best cruising here is Canadian it makes some sense to seek out a Canadian bare boat company. Then by staying in Canadian waters you avoid the fairly minor hassle of checking in and out through customs and immigration.

If you like bright lights and urban life, Canadaís biggest city Toronto on the lakeís West end is a great destination. Its fine harbor created by an island archipelago that is almost entirely given over to a city park offers full service dockage or pretty park anchorages. The city public transit system makes it simple to visit Chinatown or the opera or take in the many festivals and events around town.

At the lakeís opposite end, where the best and most consistent summer winds prevail, lies another sailor friendly city, Kingston. Small but cosmopolitan this 300 plus year old city of limestone buildings and old military fortifications and military college recalls its days as the major British naval yard on all the lakes during the 1812 war. You can sail straight through on a day long passage from Toronto to Kingston through the Bay of Quinte or dawdle along for several days visiting towns and wandering through the Bay of Quinte along the way.

Lake Ontario can kick up six to eight footers in the summer, but really big waves are rare then (with a 180 mile fetch ten to fifteen footers do occur here in fall gales). By July the water is warm enough for snorkeling and swimming. In June cooler temperatures still prevail as winterís chill lingers in the 700 plus foot depths, however anchorages are also less crowded then. Faster moving systems and unsettled weather begin to prevail after mid September.

There are only a couple of bare boat fleet operators currently on the lake but several people including myself offer day trips and overnights aboard their own boats (no bare boating here, sorry).

Two excellent port guides to the lake are in print:
  • US: Lake Ontario Ports Of Call Order
  • Canada: Lake Ontario Ports Cruising Guide

    Fair Winds!

    About the Author


    This article was written by Susan Gateley of Silver Waters.
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