New to Great Lakes Cruising and in Need of Guidance

The friendliest place on the web for anyone who enjoys boating.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

Capt. Kirk

Veteran Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2020
Messages
45
Location
United States
Vessel Name
"At Last" and "Coquina Cat"
Vessel Make
48’ Offshore Yachtfish and 27' Glacier Bay
Hello Trawler Forum Cruisers,

My wife, Sharon, and I are new to Great Lakes cruising and are in need of a lot of advice.

We are looking for recommendations about "must see" destinations. We will also be looking for recommendations about where to establish a "home base" or home bases, where friends and family can come and meet us throughout the summer.

We understand we can't possibly expect to do all the Great Lakes in one summer, so we plan to focus the majority of our time in the North Channel and around the northern end of the southern Michigan peninsula.

We will be cruising aboard our 1998 48 Offshore Yachtfish, AT LAST, with a hailing port of Annapolis, MD. She has a 15'6" beam and a 4'6" draft. She is a very comfortable cruising boat and we have enjoyed the last four years cruising her along the coast of New England, spending most of our time in Maine.

At the end of last summer, I cruised her up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, into Lake Ontario and we are wintering her at The Thousand Island Yacht Spa in Alexandria Bay, NY.

We will be starting our summer cruise from the Thousand Islands in mid-May and expect to complete the Trent Severn Waterway and be on the eastern end of Georgian Bay by June 1. We plan to spend a couple of weeks cruising Georgian Bay and the North Channel and be in the Mackinac Island area by mid-June.

It looks to me like Mackinaw City might be a good "home base", a place to meet people and a good jumping off point. Some of the places I've been told to go are Mackinac Island, The North Channel and other northern Michigan destinations like Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Charlevoix, Northport, Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc. I found there are two airports in the vicinity, Chippewa County Airport and Pellston Regional Airport. It seems the only major airline to fly into either airport is Delta. Are there others?

It also seems that Traverse City would be a good place to meet people as the Cherry Capitol Airport is right there. It also looks like there are more airline choices - United and American along with Delta.

Ideally a good home base would be friendly and inviting and have a good marina, a good grocery store and some nice restaurants in close proximity.

Please let me know if you would recommend either or both of these as good home bases for meeting our guests.

We don't have a lot of time as we will have to start our journey back to New England by mid-August at the latest as we need to be back in Maine by the 7th of September.

Given this should we take the time to go to Door County, WI or Lake Superior?

Will we be able to dock or moor or anchor at Mackinac Island during the peak of the season or should we plan to ferry from Mackinaw City or

Please let us know if there are other destinations you feel we need to explore.

I intend to go back via the Trent Severn Waterway, as it seems to be a much shorter trip than down around and through Lake Erie.

Sharon and I are long-time cruisers. I brought my Prairie trawler back and forth from Naples, FL to New England on the intracoastal over a dozen times.
I've cruised down to the Bahamas and Caribbean many times and we've been cruising New England for the last 30 years, spending most of the last four summers in Maine.
In fact, we love Maine so much we just bought a place in Rockport, which will ultimately replace AT LAST as our summer home.

I really appreciate any and all suggestions.

Thank you,
Kirk Shearer
MV AT LAST
 
Clayton and the thousand islands are an awesome area to do some cruising in both on the Canadian side and the US side.

If your boat draws less than 5’ I recommend the Rideau canal that starts at Kingston, ON.
 
Traverse City is very good if you can get a dock. Limited docking and prime location but a long way from the North Channel.
Both Rogers City and Cheboygan have very nice marinas and you can likely get a good dock on short notice.
Sault Ste. Marie is another location with Canadian and US customs to make the hop into the North Channel easy.
 
If you've got time, cruise around the Thousand Islands and Lake Ontario a bit at some point on the trip, either this spring or some time in the future as you work your way back out of the lakes (assuming you don't go down the western rivers). There aren't necessarily endless destinations on Lake Ontario, but there are some very enjoyable ones. There are a few you might have to skip with that size boat, however, as a few places are old, small harbors that struggle to accommodate large boats.
 
Canadian Canal lock & mooring season passes are on sale until end of March. With 2 transits thru TS they are worth planning ahead.

My Bacchus website Cruising Notes section has a daily lof of our 2019 TSW Georgian Bay cruise w/ pics & notes, that will provide a preview of our stops.
For planning purposes thenone surprise we had was early season (June),thevTSW has limited hours and staffing that limits how far we could travel each day.
 
Kirk,


If you haven't been to Boldt Castle on the St. Lawrence River, it is a "MUST STOP." While doing the Loop in 16-18, my wife & I went there and it was truly a wonderful place to explore. We were actually able to dock on Heart Island and walk to the castle; however, it is often very full there, so you can go to a nearby town and take a ferry to the island, or anchor somewhere near and dink in. You will not regret it!


Also, when in the North Channel, if you have nerves of steel, you can go to Baie Fine and travel all the way up to "The Pool" to anchor for a night or two. Totally off the grid, but truly unique. If you feel like hiking, you can dink to shore in The Pool and climb up to Topez Lake which I have been told is worth the hike!!! Unfortunately, when Susan and I were there, there was absolutely no one else in The Pool, and without any form of communication, we decided not to try our luck hiking up the hill to Lake Topez. However, friends of ours had done it previously, and they said it was well worth the hike.



Whatever you decide to do, do it slowly -- stop often to "smell the roses" -- too many cruisers go by lots of places without stopping and there is sooooo much to see. Heck, we went back to the North Channel a second time, and may even go back there this coming Summer. Little Current; the Benjamin Islands; Killarney are just a few of the GREAT places to stop.


Hope you have a fabulous cruise. Heck, we may even run into you this Summer.


Cheers and Safe Cruising,


Kurt Smith
m/v Irish Lady Too
GB 42 Classic
 
No point doing the Great Lakes if you don't do Superior, IMO. :rolleyes: Superior is truly wonderful and very comfortable temperatures and humidity during July and August. As with any place you want to cruise to, it all depends on what you want to do when you get off the boat. Below is my trip from Florida to Superior and back. You might find some things that interest you, or not.

https://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/s27/slow-hand-2023-lake-superior-back-67735.html

Ted
 
Kirk,
If you haven't been to Boldt Castle on the St. Lawrence River, it is a "MUST STOP." While doing the Loop in 16-18, my wife & I went there and it was truly a wonderful place to explore. We were actually able to dock on Heart Island and walk to the castle; however, it is often very full there, so you can go to a nearby town and take a ferry to the island, or anchor somewhere near and dink in. You will not regret it!...

Kurt Smith
m/v Irish Lady Too
GB 42 Classic

If you are in that area Singer Castle is another interesting stop. Reachable by private or public tour boat. Smaller than Boldt but was lived in and still operates as a B&B.
Also a must see is the antique boat museum in Clayton. Best to plan a full day there as there is a lot to see.
 
Don,


We went there too -- but Boldt was much more impressive IMHO.

Still pretty cool!

Kurt

I have to agree that Boldt is now impressive. I guess I think back to my first visit to Boldt when it was an unfinished ruins with little more than (an impressive) shell.
Everything internal that is there now was created as a tourist attraction where Singer has a real history and life. Admittedly much smaller but IMO still interesting in its own way.

Many that visit Boldt are under the impression that it has been "restored" when in fact it has been created to represent what it might have looked like had it been completed.

Not being critical as the Bridge Authority has done a great job and it is enjoyed by many visitors every year.
 
Last edited:
Hello Trawler Forum Cruisers,

My wife, Sharon, and I are new to Great Lakes cruising and are in need of a lot of advice.

We are looking for recommendations about "must see" destinations. We will also be looking for recommendations about where to establish a "home base" or home bases, where friends and family can come and meet us throughout the summer.

We understand we can't possibly expect to do all the Great Lakes in one summer, so we plan to focus the majority of our time in the North Channel and around the northern end of the southern Michigan peninsula.

We will be cruising aboard our 1998 48 Offshore Yachtfish, AT LAST, with a hailing port of Annapolis, MD. She has a 15'6" beam and a 4'6" draft. She is a very comfortable cruising boat and we have enjoyed the last four years cruising her along the coast of New England, spending most of our time in Maine.

At the end of last summer, I cruised her up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, into Lake Ontario and we are wintering her at The Thousand Island Yacht Spa in Alexandria Bay, NY.

We will be starting our summer cruise from the Thousand Islands in mid-May and expect to complete the Trent Severn Waterway and be on the eastern end of Georgian Bay by June 1. We plan to spend a couple of weeks cruising Georgian Bay and the North Channel and be in the Mackinac Island area by mid-June.

It looks to me like Mackinaw City might be a good "home base", a place to meet people and a good jumping off point. Some of the places I've been told to go are Mackinac Island, The North Channel and other northern Michigan destinations like Harbor Springs, Bay Harbor, Charlevoix, Northport, Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc. I found there are two airports in the vicinity, Chippewa County Airport and Pellston Regional Airport. It seems the only major airline to fly into either airport is Delta. Are there others?

It also seems that Traverse City would be a good place to meet people as the Cherry Capitol Airport is right there. It also looks like there are more airline choices - United and American along with Delta.

Ideally a good home base would be friendly and inviting and have a good marina, a good grocery store and some nice restaurants in close proximity.

Please let me know if you would recommend either or both of these as good home bases for meeting our guests.

We don't have a lot of time as we will have to start our journey back to New England by mid-August at the latest as we need to be back in Maine by the 7th of September.

Given this should we take the time to go to Door County, WI or Lake Superior?

Will we be able to dock or moor or anchor at Mackinac Island during the peak of the season or should we plan to ferry from Mackinaw City or

Please let us know if there are other destinations you feel we need to explore.

I intend to go back via the Trent Severn Waterway, as it seems to be a much shorter trip than down around and through Lake Erie.

Sharon and I are long-time cruisers. I brought my Prairie trawler back and forth from Naples, FL to New England on the intracoastal over a dozen times.
I've cruised down to the Bahamas and Caribbean many times and we've been cruising New England for the last 30 years, spending most of the last four summers in Maine.
In fact, we love Maine so much we just bought a place in Rockport, which will ultimately replace AT LAST as our summer home.

I really appreciate any and all suggestions.

Thank you,
Kirk Shearer
MV AT LAST
I recommend you add Lake Superior to your agenda. Houghton, MI, Apostle Islands, Duluth, Thunder Bay, Isle Royle, and if you have time - The Nippigon are all "must-see" places.
 
I agree with OC Diver and sealandsky - Lake Superior is fantastic. That said, it is MUCH more remote than Lake Michigan (and Door County, which you asked about). There are many towns to cruise from day after day in Green Bay. Lake Superior requires long stretches between destinations. For some people, that's a huge part of the draw, but for others, it's very intimidating. For us the solitude, the crystal clear water, and the wildlife are irreplaceable. Both areas are wonderful in their own way.
 
Just my opinion but shooting for June 1 to be on Georgian Bay is aggressive. Early canalnstaff & hours are limited and distance traveled / day is somewhat limited. We tried to shoot for 1st July to be on Georgian Bay and chose to stay at Honey Hbr... S Bay Cove Marina around the July 1st & 4th holidays as anchorages are crowded & crazy. We headed out for anchorages when most others were returning to their home ports and it worked well for us.
If you are in Alex Bay... i would seriously consider a Rideau, OtrawaRiver, Chamblee, Lake Champlain, Champlain Canal, Erue & Oswego canals back to Lk O before heading further west.
The above is some great cruising you will miss if you just head west and skip the above cruising...
Many stay in Brewerton or Alex Bar a couple yrs to enjoy the area.
No matter what, dont miss the antique boat museum in Clayton!
 
Petoskey is a great stop, lots to do and nearby services. Beaver island is a nice place to visit and close to Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Traverse City and a great place to jump over to Green Bay and Door County.
 
If your in the Northern Lake Michigan area, if you do Beaver Island, then a short hop South you should stop in at South Manitou Island, one of our favorite places to anchor. You can dinghy in to the beach and there is transportation around the island to see some of the sights. If the weather is calm you can take your dinghy around the South end of the island and see the shipwreck that has been there since the 60's. Normally the lighthouse is open and the last time we were there they were redoing the keepers house to open that up for tours as well.
 
Thank you for all the great input.
We did get to spend some time cruising the Thousand Islands last fall and it is a wonderful cruising ground. We also enjoyed tying up at and exploring Boldt Castle. I'd also highly recommend it.
As much as we'd like to cruise Lake Superior, and don't mind long open water passages, we just don't feel we have the time to do it justice.
I've done plenty of "delivery runs" and these days we try to take our time and stop to smell the roses. While it's not always possible, we like to stay for at least two nights any time we drop the hook or discover a nice town.
 
Another friend who is an experienced Great Lakes cruiser also recommended Petoskey and Harbor Springs as great towns to visit along with Leland and Charlevoix. He also recommended the anchorage at South Manitou Island as a great overnight stop in prevailing winds after spending some time at South Manitou Island Sleeping Bear Dunes.
 
I do have a few more questions:

What Charts do I need?
I plan to buy the paper charts for the Trent Severn Waterway and the Richardson Chartbooks for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Are there any other paper charts I'll need?
I have a pair of Furuno Chartplotters on my boat and Navionics on my iPad and iPhone.

Do I need to display a quarantine flag before I clear Canadian Customs and then a Canadian Courtesy Flag once I've cleared customs?

While I will not be doing any overboard discharging, do I need to do anything special to my holding tanks or discharge system to meet Canadian or US regulations?

I appreciate all of your input.

Thanks,
Kirk
 
I do have a few more questions:

What Charts do I need?
I plan to buy the paper charts for the Trent Severn Waterway and the Richardson Chartbooks for Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Are there any other paper charts I'll need?
I have a pair of Furuno Chartplotters on my boat and Navionics on my iPad and iPhone.

Do I need to display a quarantine flag before I clear Canadian Customs and then a Canadian Courtesy Flag once I've cleared customs?

While I will not be doing any overboard discharging, do I need to do anything special to my holding tanks or discharge system to meet Canadian or US regulations?

I appreciate all of your input.

Thanks,
Kirk
If you plan to do part if the inland small craft route on GB those charts will be a necessity IMO. ThevGreat Lakes Cuising Club has an extensive member resource that shows details fir MANY uncharted anchorages... very helpful if you want to explore off the main marked channels. It comes with a price but the ability to off the beaten path to some great anchorages really enhanced the enjoyment.
 
Just my opinion but shooting for June 1 to be on Georgian Bay is aggressive. Early canalnstaff & hours are limited and distance traveled / day is somewhat limited. We tried to shoot for 1st July to be on Georgian Bay and chose to stay at Honey Hbr... S Bay Cove Marina around the July 1st & 4th holidays as anchorages are crowded & crazy. We headed out for anchorages when most others were returning to their home ports and it worked well for us.
If you are in Alex Bay... i would seriously consider a Rideau, OtrawaRiver, Chamblee, Lake Champlain, Champlain Canal, Erue & Oswego canals back to Lk O before heading further west.
The above is some great cruising you will miss if you just head west and skip the above cruising...
Many stay in Brewerton or Alex Bar a couple yrs to enjoy the area.
No matter what, dont miss the antique boat museum in Clayton!
Just a heads up that the Rideau for anything over a Bungalow is going to be hard this year as the LaSalle Causeway has had some very significant damage done to it during the winter rebuild, and now construction has stopped and no date is being given for continuing - let alone completion, 3 Tour boats and 1 cruise ship (Bateau Mouche, Island Belle, The Canadian Empress, and the Capt. Mathew Flinders) are land locked in our Marina, (Kingston Marina) we are lucky to be able to get under the fixed bridge, but any flybridge vessel will only be able to access the Rideau, via Montreal
 

Latest posts

Back
Top Bottom