Windsor to Sarnia

Leaving Lake Erie’s west end we entered the Detroit River, passed through Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River to finally get to the clear blue waters of Lake Huron.

July 5: Pelee Island to Windsor (50.3 NM)

The day started well with a nice breeze. Leaving Scudder Bay at 7:30 we had 10-15kn winds from the SW and had a beautiful sail at 6-7kns up to the Detroit River. By noon we were motor sailing up the river with the jib and a whisker pole going almost with the wind. There is definitely a current that slowed us down, so using some help from a sail seemed a good idea. It was a brutally hot day with a humidex of 43 degrees. The river was busy with motor boats not giving much attention to cutting their wake when passing by sailboats.

We took the smaller channel by LaSalle Yacht Club east of Fighting Island watching our depth carefully, but it had plenty enough for our 5’7”draft. Water levels seemed better here than they had been in Lake Ontario. It was a pleasant but hot trip until we got to the Ambassador Bridge. The stretch is quite open from the SW and due to wind and current going in opposing directions, we encountered very confused waves, almost haystacks and blustery wind gusts. No choice but to furl the foresail and unhook the whisker pole quickly, which was a bit tricky while the boat danced wildly in the chop.

We had emailed Lakeview Marina in Windsor for reservations but no luck. They were booked up and passed us on to Windsor Yacht Club. We called and left a message but still had no answer by the time we got closer. There is an anchorage just south of Peche Island which sits right across from the Yacht Club. It might provide an option in calmer conditions but not today. It’s also subject to the wake of passing boats. So we hailed the Yacht Club on 68 which was a much better way to contact them. After circling in front of the club for half an hour and tying up briefly at the pier in front of their club house we were assigned a convenient slip just inside the mouth of the club. It was 6pm and we were good and tired after a long day in the sweltering heat.

July 6: Windsor to Sarnia (49.9NM)

The night was hot/humid and windy. Glad we were safely tied up and not anchored out in the channel. Rested up, we pulled out of the Windsor Yacht Club just before 8am. Lake St. Clair was right at the mouth of the Yacht Club. Other than a few fishing boats it was quiet and the wind was much more gentle today. We motor sailed and got to the St. Clair River delta at the North East side of the Lake at 11:00am. We had to dodge a couple of big lake freighters but they stuck to their side of the channel and we to ours.

The St. Clair River is very picturesque before you get to Sarnia and fans out into many channels before it enters Lake St. Clair. There is current so having wind behind you and being able to have both sails up really helps. We had a West wind of 5-8 kns and even with the motor we were only doing about 4kns on average. The river is wide enough to sail if you don’t have to constantly tack and it was no issue sailing in US waters. We were never stopped by US border patrol.

Once you get closer to Sarnia, the industrial areas take over the landscape. You will pass by Chemical Valley and you will see more and more big lakers and freighters. There’s lots of room to stay over and out of their way though. Just keep an eye out for them as they travel relatively fast compared to a sail boat.

At 7:26pm we finally pulled into Sarnia’s Bridgeview Marina, just past the 2 big lakers that were moored in the entrance. We pulled up to the fuel dock but found that the marina attendant had already closed up for the day. Fuel and pump out would have to wait another day as they didn’t open until 7am and we wanted to head out early onto Lake Huron.

A huge thunderstorm rolled in an hour later with lots of gusty winds and rain. We watched as the coast guard towed in a disabled motor boat with some terrified passengers. They moored them safely at a dock and headed back out into the storm to make sure boaters were ok.
Another 12h day under the belt! But now we would finally be in Lake Huron and we could slow down the pace.

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