Cruising Stories

Navigating Newfoundland

By
Frans Kok &
Mary Shirley

It is a long trip from the U.S. to Newfoundland, but once there, you are rewarded with a cruising paradise of inestimable beauty and challenges. If you'd like to explore long, narrow fjords 600 feet deep and lined by sheer rock faces; if you've dreamed of anchoring in solitary coves beneath steep, rocky walls covered in lacy waterfalls; if you yearn to visit tiny fishing ports clinging to the bottoms of cliffs and free of roads, where the people are unbelievably kind and friendly and speak with an almost unintelligible accent, then the south coast of Newfoundland is the place for you.

Getting There

You have many choices when planning your trip to Newfoundland from the east coast of the U.S. If you have time, you can crawl up the coastline in day trips and then somewhere between Boston and Bar Harbor take the plunge across the Gulf of Maine to Shelburne, Nova Scotia (NS), in an overnight passage of about 300 NM from Boston. You can then continue day tripping along the Nova Scotia coast until you reach Louisbourg. From Louisbourg it's an overnight passage of about 200 NM to the charming French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, where you must clear French customs. From St. Pierre it is only one more 40-NM day trip to Fortune, Newfoundland. If you stopped in St. Pierre, you must clear Canadian customs again in Fortune, which you could avoid if you skipped the stop in St. Pierre. But it would be a great pity to miss St. Pierre, a little bit of France in the western north Atlantic with terrific hiking and wonderful French food and wine.

We recommend starting your cruise of Newfoundland's south coast in Fortune for a number of reasons:

  • There is a customs office right in the harbor. It is the only clearing port on the south coast of Newfoundland of which we are aware.
  • If you skipped St. Pierre, you can take the ferry from Fortune to St. Pierre and avoid having to clear your boat again through Canadian customs, while still exploring St. Pierre.
  • There is good reprovisioning at the local supermarket.
  • The harbormaster is very helpful, and the marina has showers and water. Fuel can be delivered by truck from the local gas station.
  • You can get decent service for your engine and electronics. Parts can be ordered in nearby St. Johns and will arrive within two days from anywhere in Canada.
  • There is a laundromat underneath the harbormaster's office, and some of the local motels will do your laundry for a reasonable fee.
  • There is usually plenty of space at the floating docks. You cannot anchor in the harbor.
  • We also recommend buying a copy of the Cruising Club of America's excellent The Cruising Guide to Newfoundland before you go.

The south coast of Newfoundland offers a myriad of splendid cruising options. We headed west from Fortune to Port aux Basques, visiting 14 harbors along the way. The distance was only 500 NM, but we took our time (19 days) because we wanted to see as much as possible. Although fog is always a risk in these waters, the two times we sailed there ( July 2012 and August 2006) we had surprisingly sunny weather. Below are the descriptions of four of the harbors in our cruise.

HARBOR BRETON

We were greeted by a friendly man on a Jet Ski who directed us to an empty space at the dock. The spot was too short for Remedios, so several people alerted one of the fishermen that there was a visiting yacht, and some fishing boats were moved to create room for us the sort of hospitality for which Newfoundland is rightly famous. If there is a fishing boat that looks sufficiently inviting for you to dock alongside, you should note that in the summer the fishermen start prepping their boats at about 4 a.m., so make sure you don't tie up to a fishing boat that is planning on leaving the next day. Anchoring in the harbor is also an option, but then you miss the social life ashore.

Be prepared for lots of locals to come by to say hello. They will not invite themselves on board, but if you offer them a beer you can hear some interesting stories in heavily accented English. When we visited in 2012, the mayor, Erik Skinner, came by on his motorcycle and told us about the terrible landslide that killed three children, still fresh in everyone's memory even though it happened in the 1960s.

PINK BOTTOM, PICCAIRE BAY

This is a snug and beautiful spot without any commerce. We anchored in about 45 feet of water and were surrounded by towering cliffs and bald eagles. Beware of the rocks at the east side of the entrance to Piccaire Bay.

PATRICK's HARBOR, BAY D'ESPOIRE

You enter Patrick's Harbor through Little Passage, which has spectacularly tall peaks and waterfalls crashing into the sea that are not to be missed. Patrick's Harbor is a lovely protected spot with rolling hills in the distance.

HACHER's COVE, BONNE BAY

Bonne Bay lives up to its name: it is very bonnie indeed. The bay has a number of salmon farming operations, which are not well marked, so if it is foggy we recommend going into McCallum on the west side after the entrance to Bonne Bay. Like most of Newfoundland's outports, McCallum's tiny, brightly painted houses snake up the sides of the hills along long walkways that also serveas roads for four-wheelers, but there are no road connections to the rest of  the island. Although McCallum suffered badly when the cod disappeared, it is becoming prosperous again thanks to the salmon farms. There is a ferry dock and another wharf beside it that you can use to tie up. Make sure you know when the ferry comes in, so you can vacate the space in time.

If you enter Bonne Bay on a clear day, do not hesitate to go up the bay to charming Hacher's Cove. The bay is spectacular, with very steep walls and 200-foot depths 20 feet from the shore. Be careful as you approach Hacher's Cove: the bottom comes up quickly as you get close to the waterfall at the north end of Bonne Bay. You can safely anchor in about 40 feet of water on the eastern side of Hacher's Cove. The scenery is beautiful green hills, lacy waterfalls, and soaring bald eagles.

FACHEUX BAY

Facheux Bay has no populated settlements. It is another incredible fjord with steep, rocky cliffs plunging into deep water, and magnificent waterfalls and mountains. We anchored in Allen Cove in about 40 ft of water but you can choose Brent Cove depending on which way the wind is forecasted to blow.

NORTHWEST ARM, HARE BAY

Hare Bay has a chillingly narrow, often tumultuous entrance. Once inside you'll find calm conditions and the beautiful, solitary surroundings typical of Newfoundland's fjords. The Northwest Arm is about an hour motoring at 7 knots up Hare Bay but it is by far the best anchorage right behind Sandy point. The depth is about 15 to 20 feet and the bottom is a mix of mud and sand.

FRANCOIS

The tiny outport of Francois, with about 100 inhabitants, is located about a mile from the entrance of Francois Bay. Colorful houses are nestled at the bottom of towering rock walls. Francois has wonderful walking trails up to the cemetery located on one of the few flat spots high above the village and to the tops of the 700-foot peaks that surround it. There are two floating docks and a ferry dock. Nothing is far from anything in this little village, including the two local stores; both are a short distance from the docks.

AVIRON BAY

Do not miss this splendid bay, and the pool about three miles up at the head of the bay. It is the most spectacular anchorage on the south coast of Newfoundland. Once again, you are likely to be alone amid this beautiful scenery: a 1,100-foot cliff draped with a magnificent waterfall. Be careful when anchoring, because the winds can really howl between the steep mountain shores. If the winds prove too much, the site near the pool is still a wonderful place for a luncheon stop.

LA HUNE BAY

La Hune Bay is about six miles west of Aviron Bay, so it easy to reach after lunch. We motored all the way up to the top of the bay past Deadman's Cove and anchored in about 25 feet of water. While anchoring close to the shore is tempting, particularly when the wind is blowing, stay at least 150 yards away from the shore. After you anchor, check around with the dinghy and a lead line to make sure you have plenty of swing room with the depth you need from the point where you dropped your anchor.

When navigating in Newfoundland, make sure you always attach a trip line to your anchor with a float, so you know where your anchor is set and, more important, so you can trip your anchor if it fouls. You never know what kind of stuff the old whalers and fishermen (and occasional rum runners) left behind when they used these fjords. Help could be far away and a long time coming. Because of the steep terrain, your cell phone will work intermittently at best, your VHF has almost no reach, and your SSB is pretty well blocked by the mountains. The only reliable signal you can get is via satellite, and even that can be intermittent. Make sure you are largely self-reliant.

GREY RIVER

The entrance to Grey River is amazingly tight, only a few hundred yards wide, and the tide can push against you at up to a couple of knots, kicking up a chop if you arrive at maximum flow. The sheer rock shores rise a steep 1000 feet straight out of the ocean. Once inside, the sudden calm you encounter is astonishing.The tiny village of Grey River has some supplies but very little dock space, and we have never landed there. The area is very well known for its wonderful scallops, and if you encounter a skiff flying the red diver's flag with the diagonal white stripe, you can cautiously approach and ask whether they will sell you some. The reply is usually positive and the fresh scallops are sublime.

We usually anchor up in the northwest arm. You can swim and fish for trout in the river that empties into this arm. We anchored in 25 feet. Make sure you have the proper charts because there are a number of shoals in the arm.

BURGEO

Burgeo is a town of 1,600 inhabitants, a veritable metropolis on the south coast of Newfoundland. Unlike the outports, Burgeo has a road connection to Corner Brooke and indirectly to St. Johns, with regular bus service, so you can make crew changes here. Burgeo also has stores for provisioning and you can purchase fuel, but do not trust the water. The locals don't drink it and that should be a warning.

The dock in Burgeo is difficult to reach and the approach is narrow and treacherous”favor the western shore, take it slowly, and make sure there is someone on the shore to help you tie off. Have fenders out on the starboard side before you enter the final approach. We used our hailer to good effect, and if you have to turn, a bow thruster will help. June, the harbormaster in Burgeo, is happy to assist, but she is not always present. Dockage is a bargain at about 20 cents per foot.If you want to avoid the harbor you can anchor in the Short Reach, which provides good protection from all but the east. It is a bit of a dinghy ride into town. In 2012 the harbormaster was working on getting some moorings into the Short Reach by 2013.

GRAND BRUIT

If you want to see Grand Bruit you'll have to be quick. This outport was resettled in 2010, meaning the Canadian government bought all the houses and everyone left. The power and water were disconnected, the entrance buoys were removed, and the ferry stopped landing. The site is still lovely picturesque houses nestled in the hills and a giant and noisy waterfall bisecting the center of town but it has become an eerie harbor. When Remedios visited in 2012, the ferry dock was solid and there was still a functional floating dock. In a few more years, the fish stages will start to tumble into the harbor, and it will become treacherous to enter.The church was still open in 2012 and the guestbook had four entries, all of them from boats we knew. You can ring the church bell if you feel so inclined. Small boats from Burgeo sometimes enter, and some of the former inhabitants have five-year leases with the government, which allow them to spend weekends camping in their old homes.

ROSE BLANCHE

When entering Rose Blanche harbor you have to choose between three coves. We are only familiar with the middle and western coves. The middle cove is narrow, but it has a government wharf including a floating dock. There was only 8 feet of water at low tide when we measured it in 2012. The west cove is wider and has the ferry dock, and a closed and rapidly decaying fish plant. We docked on the west side of the ferry dock (the ferry docks on the eastern side) and walked over the hill to the town of Roche Blanche. The town has at most a few hundred inhabitants, but it has a road to Port aux Basques. The houses are scattered among huge, astonishingly white boulders; the town name is a corruption of roche blanche or white rock.

It was drizzling when we arrived in town, and we were delighted to discover a snug and charming tearoom run by a very friendly woman, Lynn from Ontario, with wonderful teas and tarts. Lynn also owns the adjacent small B&B with a number of cozy rooms.

The stone light house at Rose Blanche is reputedly the oldest light house in Canada and possibly in North America. It was built in 1871 by Scottish engineers from the family of author Robert Lewis Stevenson. It was entirely reconstructed and refurbished in 1999. You will be astounded that it actually housed a family of 16 people at one point.

PORT AUX BASQUES

Port Aux Basques, with a population of about 4,000, is the westernmost port of Newfoundland. Here you will find the ferry terminal for the large car ferry that goes to Sydney, Nova Scotia, back to civilization. About five miles before you enter the port, check with harbor control on channel 11 to make sure there is not a ferry leaving or entering at the same time. They will keep an eye on you and that is particularly helpful when it is foggy.

When entering the port, keep Vardys Island to your starboard. The public docks are all located to your port. Here again a hailer is very useful to alert the locals you are landing. Request assistance politely and you will be amazed how quickly helpful and knowledgeable aid arrives. I never encountered a local in Newfoundland who did not know how to tie off a mooring line.

The surprising thing in Port Aux Basques is that it is actually very hard to find fresh fish there. We finally gave up. There are some markets, and most staples are available. You can get fuel from the Irving trucks at the dock and the water at the harbor spigots is potable.

We recommend you return to the U.S. by way of Bras d'Or Lakes - it is beautiful, and the most direct route. Make sure you time your arrival at the channel into Bras d'Or Lakes with an incoming tide. The tide runs at up to 7 knots and is not one you want to fight. You can leave Bras d'Or Lakes through the lock at St. Peter's at the other side of the lakes, and follow the Nova Scotia coast westward until you feel comfortable making the jump back to your final destination in the U.S.

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The Autumn: Why Haul Out
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Water and Fall foliage at Dory's Fall
Dory's Fall

Why do so many yachtsmen hurriedly haul out their boats immediately after Labor Day? Sure, the kids are back to school, and the weather starts to change. But we have enjoyed some of our most clear, calm, beautiful days boating in the fall. I dare say don’t haul before fall, have a ball while everyone else is buttoning up their boats and turning to watch football or baseball. Perhaps those sun-soaked sandbar rafting days have passed until next summer, but from New England to the southern coasts you’ll still find glorious warm days, less boat wake and less boat traffic in general, which opens a world of late season cruising opportunities. My father always said boating is better once the “summer yahoos disappear.”

Boating Experience: So soon in fall? 

A FEW REASONS TO LOVE THE FALL BOATING SEASON

Red Fall tree with water and boat in the background
Cape Porpose Maine Fall

Fall boating is just quieter. As most boaters vacate the water in lieu of other pursuits, September and October can offer brilliant blue-sky days. Waterways that were jam-packed with everything from inflatables to tour boats a month prior are now more open for you to explore. Loud two stroke “boater-cycles,” as my friend likes to call jet skis and sea-doos (personal propelled watercraft) are trailered away leaving in the absence of their wake- jumping a more serene scene.

Foliage starts to pop on the waterfront come mid-September into October from Maine to Virginia. The sparkling water reflects the kaleidoscope of autumn leaves in their shimmering crimson, gold and orange. It’s spectacular, truly a photographer’s dream, whether you’re on a lake, the ocean, a beautiful bay or waterway. Boating in September, October, even into November a bit farther south, is a gem. Just be mindful of the forecast, hurricane season, and significant temperature shifts that invite pop-up storms.

Man's legs propped up on seats facing stern of the boat with sunset in the background
Block Island, RI.

The weather. With cooler fall days, temps trend toward delightfully crisp and clear. Days are also shorter, so midday boating is best for peak sun. For your boating comfort, have sweatshirts, sweaters or jackets handy, even hats and gloves, especially if you’re in northern New England.

Good news: Gone are the hot humid mugginess and the bugs that accompany spring and summer heat. Bonus: you have less chance of that scorching summer sunburn. Still, be sure to apply sunscreen, refraction on the water is real even when a chill is in the air. You may want to eat steamed lobster by the waterfront, but you don’t want to look like one. Evenings on the water cool off, making for great sleeping aboard. Snuggle under covers and wake to fresh air and hot coffee on deck that never tasted so good in another season.

Fall means more available dock slips, moorings and anchorages as many are pulling their boots “up on the hard,” which frees up marina space for you. The same prime spots that were impossible to get in summer, with wait lists at places like Block Island, Newport and Annapolis, are now wide open. Same goes for waterfront restaurants with tie ups; their face docks are free and on a first come first served basis.

Just be prepared that dockhands and marina staff may not be as readily available in the fall, as students that typically manage the docks have returned to their campuses, and marine techs are pre-occupied prepping folks’ boats for winterization and storage. Be ready to tend your own lines.

Wildlife abounds in fall. Migratory birds are on the move. Enjoy watching geese, loons and birds-of-a-feather flocking south as winter approaches.

Speaking of marine life, if you like to fish, then fall is your wish. As temperatures decline, the fish sense that winter is coming. In preparation of the next season, fish begin their migrating south and their subsequent feeding frenzy.

Sailboat on a mooring with fall trees in the background
Kennebunkport Fall Foilage

Snowbirds of the human variety start their boating trek south too, if they aren’t storing their boat up north. Cruising the ICW in fall can be a social circuit where you may see the same boat owners and crew as you stop along your way at various harbors and marinas. It’s entertaining to compare ship logs and experiences from your adventures, favorite sights and seaports, with fellow boaters along your journey.

I have always loved how friendly boaters can be, and how an impromptu sharing of dock-side drinks aboard yours or their top deck can quickly transpire into an animated evening talking about best and worst boating with your nautical neighbors.

Word of caution: don’t be like my dear deceased, super-dedicated-to-boating Dad who insisted there’d be one more great boating day in late fall in New Hampshire. He would hold out on hauling his 28’ Eastern well into November, insisting it’s not winter till December. I recall more than once having to chip the ice of the dock lines to free up his pride- and-joy, then boating to the nearest icy ramp while frost clung to the windshield, and it was bitter cold on the slippery decks. That’s taking fall boating to an extreme.

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Cruising Grenada
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Sugar Spice and Everything Nice

When the end of the cruising season in the southern Caribbean was upon us, we did what many Caribbean cruisers do: We sailed south for Grenada. We delayed as long as possible, knowing the hurricane season was upon us, but we didn’t want to be forced south. I had one impression of Grenada, and that was of rotting boats and retired sailors. It was a cruisers graveyard, or so I thought, and I was far from accepting an end to our sailing days.

Grenada is the southernmost group of islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago as well as the name of the main island in a cluster of eight smaller islands and about a dozen smaller islets and cays. The only thing I knew of its geography prior to arriving was that it was one of the few island groups in the Caribbean far enough south to be considered out of the hurricane belt. So, it was ironic that on our first day in the country we had to shelter in the mangroves from a Category 1 storm.

As we lashed our boat Ātea’s bow to densely bound tree roots and secured lines to the cleats of yachts on either side of us, our small unit became part of the larger, unified collective. Little did we realize that this interconnection would be representative of our Grenadian experience.

Safely through the storm, we disbanded and spread out to explore our new surroundings. We completed our clearance in Carriacou, Grenada’s northern sister island, and were amazed to see a hundred or so yachts anchored in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou’s main harbor. I knew Grenada was popular, but if the numbers of boats in Carriacou were anything to judge by, I’d have to cope with much larger crowds when we travelled farther south.

The south coast of Grenada not only provides the most settled weather, but it’s riddled with about a dozen safe harbors from the dominant easterly swell. It’s the reason cruisers gather on Grenada’s south coast and also the reason why they remain. Some stay for hurricane season, some use the island as a base for a few years, others retire from active cruising and either settle or sell. One thing was certain: Grenada was far more than the end of the line.

Before making the journey south, however, we wanted to stretch out the season by adding a short circumnavigation around Carriacou, known as “The Isle of Reefs” to the Kalinago people (the original Island Caribs). We spent our time there dodging bommies (submerged coral reefs) and soaking up the tropical island experience with our feet in the sand, our bellies in the water and our hands on a bottle of rum.

We stopped at Petite Martinique, the third and smallest of the three main islands. There we enjoyed rugged, rocky beaches and side-stepped clusters of goats grazing the green rolling hills as we hiked up Mount Piton for panoramic views of the surrounding islands. We climbed down into the Darant Bay Cave for framed views of the same islands at sea level.

Of course, we couldn’t miss a few sundowners on Mopion, a tiny sand mound rising amid expansive coral reef with a single thatched beach umbrella perched in the center. While technically a part of the Grenadines, its proximity to Petite Martinique made a quick dash across the border for a sip in the shade of this unique little spot a worthwhile experience. Carriacou is an island surrounded by unspoiled reef, and it did not disappoint. A quick tour of her perimeter was the perfect way to salute the end of an amazing Caribbean season.

With a quick stop-over in Ronde Island, a beautiful private island that’s halfway between Carriacou and Grenada, we continued our transit south. Again, I hadn’t prepared myself for the wild beauty of Grenada’s west coast. Mile after mile of dense, lush forest cascade down the leeward side of the island from peak to sea.

We hugged the coastline as we sailed the 13 miles down the west coast, looking up at 2,700 feet of volcanic rock and shear waterfalls that fed small rivers that ran down the slopes of the mountainous interior to the coast. While Grenada is well reputed as a tourist destination for holidaymakers seeking either a sun- drenched party or quiet refuge on one of its 45 beaches, I knew from sailing the coast that my preferences would draw me inland.

Grenada’s coastline contains many large bays, but most yachts head for safe anchorage behind one of the many narrow peninsulas that split up the southern coastline. As we pulled into Prickly Bay, the first of Grenada’s southern harbors, I knew from the crowd of yachts that I would escape to the interior as soon as possible. As it turned out, I didn’t get that chance. As soon as we dropped anchor, we were invited ashore for a cruiser’s jam session to reconnect with friends from past seasons.

The following day we crammed into the back seat of a taxi on our way to an event for the annual Chocolate Festival, and our schedule quickly filled after that with tours of cocoa plantations, cocoa grinding competitions, chocolate tastings and chocolate drawing contests. In additional to the island’s cultural events, we were also immediately drawn into the cruiser’s social scene.

On our first week of arrival our mornings were already booked into early morning yoga and bootcamp on the beach. The kids joined a cruiser’s homeschooling collective and regular extracurricular activities that were held under the shade of the trees. If we weren’t listening to live music or joining the locals’ beach barbecues in the evenings, we were sitting poolside and sipping beers from a $5 bucket with other cruisers at Le Phare Bleu, a boutique hotel that opened its amenities and services to cruisers during the pandemic.

Every morning offered an activity, and every evening we joined a social get-to-gether, so the weeks flew by in a social extravaganza unlike any we’d experienced. As yachts gather in Grenada every year for the hurricane season, the regularity of this influx of boats resulted in a solid cruising community and a variety of services and events. Far more than a collection of retired boats and sunburnt seamen, my preconceived notions of Grenada didn’t come close to the reality of the vibrant cruising network that existed on this popular island.

As we made new friends and reconnected with old ones, we really enjoyed the buzz that the tight community offered.

Pulling myself out of continuous activity took a concerted effort, but I eventually dragged the family off the beach and up the mountains.

After our trip into the interior, I developed a new passion for my time in Grenada: A short bus journey followed by a hike into the forest would lead us to one of Grenada’s many waterfalls. Unlike other tourist destinations where fees were handed over and you’d stand under falls next to groups of other tourists, we had the rivers for free and all to ourselves. Some of the trails were near the road, and we’d hop on and off a bus to walk the short distance to the falls. Others, such as Seven Sisters and the Concord Falls, required planning as it took a full day to hike in and out of the forest, clambering up steep banks and crisscrossing the river to wind through deep forest and get a view from the top.

Each part of the river that ran down from one of the six inland lakes had its own magic, and I was enthusiastic to see what each had to offer. Later I appreciated all that I’d experienced of Grenada’s inland beauty. As I paid $20 per person to stand in crowds under cascading water at Costa Rica’s most popular waterfalls, I couldn’t help but compare it to all that I’d seen in Grenada’s secluded, remote interior.

In additional to nature, we explored some of the historical roots of Grenada’s past. Grenada’s original economy was based on sugar cane and indigo, and with that, slaves were imported in the mid-17th century to work and harvest crops. We set out to search for some of the old plantation houses and slave pens that remained from that period, which took us on a wild tramp through the backstreets of quiet neighborhoods and into unmarked bush to find these lost relics.

It was quite the education for our children to see small, dank, windowless, stone slave quarters set behind grand old houses, a potent reminder of darker times in this beautiful and vibrant country. We also smelled and sampled some of Grenada’s current crops, nutmeg, mace and cocoa at the top of the list of exports, and enjoyed local culinary treats such as oil down, a vegetable stew that is the country’s national dish. Thanks to these excursions we can say that Grenada is, both figuratively and literally, full of sugar and spice.

Cruising often leaves you tied to the boat and, therefore, the sea. Grenada offered a wonderful period of enjoying the most of both land and sea in equal balance, so we were able to get the most of what the country has to offer. To see the beaches but not the forest, lakes and rivers offers only half the experience; likewise, to spend time inland but not explore the coast leaves only half an impression. As Grenada offers safe anchorage throughout the hurricane season, cruisers remain nearby for an extended period, sharing experiences and building friendships. This is unique for a community that is typically very transient, and it offers plenty of opportunity to create a home away from home atmosphere.

In addition, suitable yacht services are available, so that time spent waiting for the next season gives everyone a chance to get much needed repair work done. Far from being the end of the line, Grenada offers an interim rest stop where friendships are forged and yachts are restored on an island that offers a range of activities and opportunities both on and above the waterline.

Article and photos by Kia Koropp

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Our Adventures between the Great Lakes from Detroit to Port Huron
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My husband Tim and I spent 2021 traveling 8,000 miles around the Great Loop. Like many, we wanted to cruise in Canada, but we didn’t get the green light for entry in time. We were initially bummed, but our mood quickly shifted as we discovered some of our favorite stops on the stretch that kept us in U.S. waters, including our journey between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Stop 1: Belle Isle

Estimated Mileage: 2 NM

Belle Isle is the largest city-owned island park in America, located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. The island’s only marina is the Detroit Yacht Club, which has a limited number of transient slips for reciprocal members, so it’s best to explore while keeping your boat at Milliken Marina. 

Roughly 1,000 acres, Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, maritime museum, botanical garden, beach, picnic areas and playgrounds that provide a plethora of options to explore. You won’t find great spots to grab a bite to eat, so we recommend stopping at Atwater Brewery on the way back to the marina.

Stop 2: Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair

Estimated Mileage: 24 NM

Often referred to as the Great Lake’s smaller cousin, Lake St. Clair is large enough to easily keep your distance from freighters yet small enough to explore in a day.

By boat, you can visit several of the lake’s swimming spots in Anchor and Bouvier Bays (or “Munchies” Bay as the locals say), popular for their clear water and hard bottoms. After an afternoon of swimming, cruise through the Clinton River and tie up at one of several restaurants catering to a lively boater scene for a drink and meal. Crews Inn is one of our favorites for their fun atmosphere and great food.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Marina is a popular spot for transients. The marina is located in the park, so after docking, enjoy the expansive park’s beaches, trails, picnic areas and swimming pool.

Stop 3: Port Huron, MI

Estimated Mileage: 44 NM

Port Huron is home to the start of one of the longest fresh-water races in the world called the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailing Race, and the port is a charming and boater-friendly destination.

Ideal for its central location and friendly members, Port Huron Yacht Club is a great place for tying up, sipping a drink at the clubhouse and avoiding the drawbridges on the Black River. Another popular spot is about a mile farther down the river at the 95-slip River Street Marina.

Port Huron is home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, a 10-mile loop through the Black River, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. Your dinghy is a must through the Black River and for exploring the town and clear waters by boat.

Walk a mile along the Blue Water River Walk that runs along the St. Clair River. Be sure to leave enough time to watch the freighters go by and delve into the area’s history that is shared along the route. Continue a couple of miles farther to Lighthouse Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon at the beach and swim in Lake Huron’s crystal clear water.

During a stroll downtown, check out the Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America to discover the history of local ice harvesting that took place along the Great Lakes.

When you’ve done enough activities to work up an appetite, Casey’s is the place for delicious breadsticks and pizza. For a more upscale option, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at The Vintage Tavern. Maria’s Downtown Café offers a hearty breakfast, and Raven Café or Exquisite Corpse Coffee House are great options for a cup of coffee.

Kate Carney is a writer and Great Gold Looper who traveled 8,000 miles on Sweet Day, a 31-foot Camano trawler. Learn more about her and her husband’s adventures on lifeonsweetday.com

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