|Lake Ontario's Fair Haven|
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The village of Fair Haven on Little Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario’s south shore has always been a bit off the beaten path. Smaller and quieter than Sodus Bay 10 miles to the west or Oswego to the east, its several tree-lined coves, good warm-water fishing and abundant public access to the shore have made it a favorite with boaters for many years. But a couple years ago it was starting to get a little too quiet. Two of the three Main Street eateries shut down, as well as both waterfront restaurants. The bay’s only full-service deep-water marina was sold and appeared to be headed for condo conversion. And worst of all, the pizza shop went under!
But now, things are looking up for cruisers here. The deep-water marina has a new name and new, very competent, boater-friendly management. Main Street is perking up with several new businesses and the small but comprehensive grocery is hanging in there. The Pleasant Beach Restaurant, a village tradition for nearly a century, has re-opened under new management with re-vamped deepwater docks, and the pizza shop is back in business.
I always liked Fair Haven as a cruising port of call. It has the best launch ramp access and most public shore of any of the south side bays. The state park in the bay’s northeast corner, with its sandy swim beach for the kids and limited deepwater dockage by the boat ramp, has long attracted cruisers. (Stay away from the park’s main pier though if you draw over three feet, as it has silted in even on its south side.)
Across the bay, the small West Barrier Bar Park has gotten a boost from recent village involvement. It features a car topper launch site where you can beach a dinghy and access the west jetty. It’s a largely undeveloped park and conservation area where you might encounter a nesting turtle or a rafter of turkeys on a quiet day.
Little Sodus Bay presently has two full-service marinas. The Bayside Marina at the southwest corner has limited depths late in the summer if you need more than four feet, but it features a 30-ton lift, mechanical services and pump outs. Fair Point Marina on the bay’s north end has deepwater transient dockage, both gas and diesel fuel, haul outs, pump out and other services. A third small marina at the bay’s far south end, the Anchor Resort and B&B, has a fuel dock and limited transient dockage.
Depths throughout the bay are good and hazards are few, except for two shoals on either side of the entrance on the bay side and Grassy Island (usually marked with small private markers). Several coves offer good anchoring in eight to 10 feet of water, depending on wind direction. Meadow Cove on the west side, north of the Fair Haven Yacht Club, is a favorite of cruisers. The bay does have plenty of weeds though. The small yacht club welcomes visitors from Canadian clubs and has plenty of depth at its extensive floating dock complex, if you don’t feel like fighting the weeds.
The Pleasant Beach Restaurant has dockage for diners and has a few overnight docks, also with good water depths. The restaurant’s veranda provides a delightful view of the pretty cove, Eldredge Point and islands. The restaurant’s new owners are cruisers themselves, and their big cutter rigged Cape Dory, Crescent Moon, resides at the restaurant dock along with an elderly Nova Scotia-built schooner, Sara B, a Ray Stevens design built in the Mahone Bay area. Sara B’s owners brought her from salt water up to Lake Ontario four years ago, and you may see the old gaffer out doing boat rides on weekends.
The village is a short walk from Pleasant Beach’s dock or from the village’s public dock just to the north. A gift shop, antique stores, a small art gallery and the aforementioned grocery store and pizza shop are among the Main Street businesses. A visitor must-see is the Fly By Night Cookie Company, a few minutes’ walk up the street from the Pleasant Beach Restaurant. Even if you’re not in the market for a treat, check out the owner’s amazing and whimsical miniature museum, the Village of Minimally (said to have started out as being loosely based on Fair Haven as it exists in another universe of possibilities). The Cookie Company porch is a pleasant place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the shade as you look out over the bay.