Sailing the Great Lakes Part One

Exploring Lake Erie

Published in the August 2017 Issue November 2018 Feature Tim McKenna

The Great Lakes, from Ontario to Superior and all in between, provide us with a variety of sailing and cruising grounds unrivaled anywhere on the planet, but I imagine most of our readers are already aware of this.

The plans for this column are to provide information about sailing the Great Lakes that will be beneficial to everyone from the weekend sailor and the long-term cruiser to those who race in many of the different venues for the sport.

The Great Lakes offer the sailor choices ranging from cruising the wilderness areas of Lake Superior, the North Channel, and Georgian Bay, to the large city destinations of places such as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and Toronto. In future issues, we will explore sailing to and through these diverse and exciting venues.

In this, my first column for Great Lakes Boating, we will explore my sailing backyard, the Lake Erie Islands.

Island Life

Located in the Western Basin of Lake Erie are the Bass Islands, Kelleys Island and, in Canada, Pelee Island. All of these islands are within a day’s sail of the western end of Lake Erie and even Cleveland is only 50 miles distant. For those who are looking for a longer cruise it is an easy several days coastal sailing from Buffalo or Erie with stops along the way in places along the north coast of Ohio.

Once in the islands your choices are varied. There is a large mooring field as well as several marinas on South Bass Island. While known for its bars and music in the Village of Put-in-Bay, South Bass also offers some incredible attractions. Be sure to take the tour of the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Monument. The view from the top is spectacular. You can almost plan your next sailing trip as you look out over the islands.

About The Author

Tim McKenna is the founder of Erie Islands Sailing School. He began sailing as a child on Lake Erie and, as they say, the rest is sort of history. Tim has competed in most of the Lake Erie races as well as more than a dozen Port Huron to Mackinac races. Although a lifelong Great Lakes sailor, Tim has also enjoyed the opportunities to do some extensive “Blue Water” sailing in the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean. He has done multiple deliveries to and from the Caribbean from New England and the Chesapeake, sailed to the Azores and even had a trip from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands. Tim has sailed through or around most of the Islands in the Caribbean and even managed to live on his sailboat for two winters in the Bahamas.

Tim holds a USCG 100-Ton Masters license and is certified by the American Sailing Association to teach sailing. Having taught sailing at schools on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, as well as in Florida, California and the Virgin Islands, he decided to put together a sailing school where it all started for him—the beautiful waters of Lake Erie. He enjoys sharing stories of many sailing adventures, the people met and the fantastic boats on which he has sailed.

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