June 29: Port Colborne to Long Point (53 NM)
The 16 hours on the Welland had left us wanting a little rest and relaxation, so we decided to stay one more night at Sugarloaf Marina in Port Colborne. We explored the parks around the marina a bit and walked down to the Welland and into town. It’s small but cute. It was nice to see people sitting in restaurant patios along the water. Shoppers drug mart, LCBO and Foodland are all a short and pleasant walk along Clarence St.. The town was once a popular summer destination for American tourists from the south. Over 30 grand mansions and clubhouses still remain on Tennessee Ave. In contrast to that, the east side of Port Colborne is the site of former Inco. After polluting the area with high levels of copper, cobalt and nickel for many years, the residents started a class action law suit against them and were eventually awarded some compensation for losses of property value.
Sugarloaf Marina is a comfortable spot with pump out and diesel/gas dock across the bay. We filled up our tank and tucked in for the night to get an early start on Lake Erie. It’s a long way to the west side and the Detroit River, 219 NM away, with prevailing west/south west winds. The lake is fairly shallow and entirely above sea level. It can whip up a good chop quickly and most ports are far off the main direct channel down the lake. Since we had only sailed this lake once before in a favourable wind and going for 38h straight, we wanted to make sure we carefully considered winds and wave action each day and find anchorages and ports along the way.
We headed out at 6:30 am to do the 53NM to Long Point and anchor between the sand bar and the point. The sand spit called Bluff Bar is several km long and lies in 1-2‘ of water. It meant we had to go deep into Long point bay to clear the northern tip of the bar giving it a wide berth, especially because sand bars silt and move. This is common for many parts of the Sandy shores on Lake Erie. Charts will mention the areas and you have to keep an eye on your depth sounder and stay well outside the buoys.
Another interesting fact for Lake Erie. It’s full of submerged wellheads and fishing nets. Wellheads are marked on the charts. They are part of the numerous gas pipelines that criss cross the bottom of the lake. Generally they submerged in 20-30‘ and no problem, but some are marked as obstructions. We spotted a number of what looked like black pipes along the way. They were hard to spot and I am not sure if they have lights on them. Equally hard was spotting the uncharted fishing nets which had little buoys with flags on them. For those cruising Lake Erie there isn’t a lot of info, no ports book exists. There’s the Great Lakes Sailing website which has a section on this lake, but it’s information is limited. So we were not sure if the buoys with flags denoted where the nets actually were or if the denoted the safe passage.
By 7:30 pm we were finally behind the sand bar and dropped an anchor in 20’+ and set well with 175‘ of chain out. This Anchorage is marked on navionics as well. It felt very strange as we were miles from the low lying shore to the S and W and totally open the the East where you could only barely make out the shallow water over the sand bar. There was a SW wind, but no more than a gentle rocking on the boat.
We explored the sandbar the next day but it was quite choppy in the dinghy and a long way. It was amazing to see the rippled sand you might find just off a beach in 1-2 feet of water, but miles from shore and extending for several km. Skies were overcast all day and cool, but on a warm calm day, this spot would be excellent to anchor a dinghy and swim. What a beautifully serene spot, far off all noise and all we saw was a few fishing boats casting their lines. Waiting for the north wind to come in we spent 2 nights here and even got to install our secondary bilge pump. Works like a charm. (We will link to a separate page under maintenance eventually).
July 1: Long Point to Port Stanley (69.6 NM)
Hoisted anchor at 6:30am in calm seas and light winds. Under motor it took almost 3 hours to finally get all the way around the sandbar and Long Point bay. That is the downfall of this anchorage. On our way out we did notice another anchorage on the east side of the point which would provide shelter from the W/SW but none from the east. Definitely an option in calmer conditions.
Once around the point we threw up the sails, but kept the 2nd reef in the main as strong winds gusting to 20 kn were forecasted for the afternoon and we hadn’t tried using a reef with the new stack pack. We pushed the boat using the engine with sails because we wanted to get into Port Stanley before the winds got too strong.
By the time we were in front of Port Stanley it was gusting to 23kns. It was choppy and waves were building at .6m. Port Stanley, like so many of the Ports on the north shore of Lake Erie, is built on a river that empties into the lake. Usually, long breakwalls reach out to protect the entrance and calm down waves for boats to enter. Once inside, it was a lot calmer, especially because winds were from the North. Navionics mentions an anchorage in the outer harbour north of the breakwall, but when we came in it was still quite windy here, even with a north wind. Also, there is a lot of boat traffic, so definitely not quiet. We went deeper into the harbour following down towards a lift bridge which was strangely enough lifted on one side but not the other. We could see sailboats docked behind the bridge but not many had 2 spreaders, so we aborted and spun the boat around. We had Port side fenders and lines, so we just docked on the eastern pier right in front of the Inn on the Harbour. There were signs to call the harbour master on arrival and we tried 3 times, but it was 7:30pm on July 1, so no one came to collect a fee.
We were right in the middle of the waterfront, lots of people were walking by and saying hello. It was Canada Day, so everyone was in party mode enjoying the sunny, warm evening. The bridge kept opening and closing as its currently being repaired. Without it townsfolk can not walk from Kettle Creek (the west side community) over to Port Stanley. We heard small fireworks and some boats headed out into the outer harbour at dusk to watch. Port Stanley is a quaint fishing village with a resort feel. It has great beaches, shops and restaurants. And although it can get quite busy during the summer we spent a very quiet night at the pier. But watch out for the rats! When Dave got up in the middle of the night to retighten the lines he saw a big brown rat right by the boat on the pier – thankfully it scurried under a concrete block – and so far we have not found any signs of a stowaway.
July 2: Port Stanley to Erieau (42.3NM)
The next morning we quickly walked to Foodland on the east bank to get some essentials which took just 20 min. and we were on our way by 8:20am. Winds were still from the North at 10-15 kns and we shook out the reef and put full sails up. It was a great sail, making 7-8kns SOG. Waves were increasing to 1 m and it was gusty. Eventually, we furled the jib to have less heel, still making 7kns. Closer to Erieau we pulled out the foresail again as winds were calming down to 5-10 kns. Thinking that winds would be even calmer as we go closer to the north shore and the breakwalls into Erieau, we were not expecting the sudden gusts up to 30 kns. As we were approaching the harbour, we were able to quickly drop both sails. In hindsight it made sense to expect some weird wind and wave patterns here. If you look at the map, Erieau is out at a point in Lake Erie (Point au Pins) and is also on a thin strip of low lying land with a huge shallow bay (Rondeau Bay – which is part of a very picturesque provincial park) behind it. The bay was frothy and whipped up from the North winds howling through.
Again, we had originally considered anchoring just inside the mouth of the bay once through the harbour. It mentioned on Navionics as long as you don’t go to deep into Rondeau Bay which shallows quickly. Obviously that wasn’t going to work today. Winds were quite strong even in the channel. There is a Marina here as well with a deep channel which runs perpendicular to the west. We took our chance and headed right to the end as their is a pier in 10‘ depth. Port side fenders, but crap, there were boats all along the pier, nicely spaced out. The only room seemed right at the end of the pier but we were already slightly past it…and as you know I don’t change fenders on the fly. So Dave turned the boat in the tight space and backed in. Luckily, other boaters are always eager to catch lines, so we had lots of hands to hold us in at the short dock end with the winds on the bow. We tied up and put extra fenders out so all was good. Erieau Marina is a little gem, with amazing services, even a pool and they were super friendly. The little hamlet of Erieau has a gorgeous beach on the Lake, some pubs, restaurants and a micro brewery.
July 3: Erieau to Scudder Bay, Pelee Island (47.6NM)
The next morning the winds were light and seas calm so we motored out at 7:30 am. The North wind had already stared to change to NW and we were on a SW heading of 219 degrees. We motor sailed with the jib close hauled. As we headed out of Erieau Dave counted 21 little fishing boats we had to dodge.
The plan was to try and get to Pelee Island and maybe anchor in Scudder Bay on the north side. We had anchored here 5 years ago, with our good friends Rob and Monica and our son Josh. It was our maiden voyage on Vitae, when we moved her from Wiarton to Cobourg, which we did in 6 days. That time our anchor had slipped in the early morning hours when winds shifted to the W and we picked up anchor and headed out for a 38h sail from Pelee Island straight to Port Colborne. It was a beautiful night sail. This time around we wanted a bit more time to relax and explore.
For the most part we were moving along well with jib and motor but the wind was going to shift to W/SW, so getting through the Pelee Passage and over to Scudder would mean going into the wind and waves. Depending how strong we could veer NW and head to Leamington. As usual plan A was to anchor at Scudder but we were concerned as it is fairly exposed to the North and West. Winds were forecasted to increase overnight and switch around being partially from those directions. Scudder Marina seemed an option but we were not sure about depth. We need 5‘7“ and most of the Marina showed less.
As we got closer, we contacted them and Chris put aside a slip for us at the end of centre dock which has 6‘. We had made decent time until we hit the narrows between Point Pelee and Pelee island. We could see the island but the last 5 NM took a while as we were now beating into it. Finally, at 4:55pm we were docked.
Pelee Island is the southernmost populated Point in Canada. It’s only 42 km², but is connected by ferry to both the US (closed during Covid) and Leamington, Canada.
It has some restaurants and pubs, ice cream shops, a bike rental at West Pier and two Provincial Nature Reserves, Lighthouse Point Nature Reserve and Fish Point Nature Reserve. Because it boasts one of the warmest climates in Canada grapes grow well and Pelee island winery is open. Bird watchers love this island as it’s a famous rest spot for migrating birds.
As it’s such a unique place and after some longer days on the water we took our time to explore. It was still quite windy during the day and even on the island temperatures reached 35 degrees Celsius and with the humidex it felt like 41. We decided to stay another night at the same slip and took Sunday to walk down to West Pier for an ice cream and an early Lunch at the winery, which is about 8km one way. The winery would normally offer tours, but because of the pandemic we could only get an outdoor tasting with a boxed charcuterie. It was a lovely spot under a big shaded open deck. Especially the ice wines were a treat and the snack quite sufficient to hold us off. Tasting for 2 with 6 samples and the charcuterie were $29 plus tax — very reasonable. Businesses on the island had just started to open up and have suffered greatly. Canadians are slow to travel and tourists from the States are greatly missed.
In the afternoon we recuperated from the heat by doing some laundry. We now have a little washing machine on board, which we can even run of our inverter. Of course, we always look like quite the decorated boat once all the underwear, socks and t-shirts are spread all along the life lines. Dave roasted coffee – yes, I married a coffee snob – we store green beans and only roast enough for a few days, so it’s always fresh. (Editors note: It only takes 12-14 min to make coffee for 4-5 days) Another job that had to be done: Our furler line had taken a beating. It was old and had gotten chafed in one spot but on Lake Erie we had to furl often and sometimes in strong winds, so the casing had been severed and now it wouldn’t even go through the blocks. Of course, no chandlery on Pelee, but we found that our dinghy rode was just long enough and the right diameter. That would get us through until we found a place to buy something better.
One note of warning, the fish flies and mosquitoes can be a bit annoying on Pelee Island. We really appreciate our new enclosure for that. We have lots of screens for airflow and that night we had some fellow sailors from the Kingsville Yachtclub over to chat in our cockpit. Even their Golden enjoyed being out of the bugs. Unfortunately, we had to call it an early night as the Detroit River awaited us in the morning. But we hope to be back one day.