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BoatUS Magazine names five top Great Lakes cruising destinations

by Scott Croft 2 Aug 12:14 UTC
Great Lakes Cruising Club port captain Jim Ehrman watches the commercial ships in Lake Erie from the helm of his 44-foot Carver motorcruiser, La Dolce Vita. © Janice Vitucci-Ehrman

"Local knowledge" is what boaters crave when they cruise to unfamiliar destinations. But when it comes to seeking out the best getaway spots for recreational boaters on the Great Lakes, whom can you ask? The August/September issue of BoatUS Magazine has those answers in "Favorite Harbors of the Great Lakes," with advice directly from some of the most capable and well-traveled members of the Great Lakes Cruising Club (GLCC). Here are their favorite cruising destinations on each of the five Great Lakes.

Lake Superior: CPR Slip, Ontario. You can't find CPR Slip on Google map, and you'll need some local knowledge to help enter the tricky small harbor, but Bonnie Dahl, widely regarded as the absolute cruising authority for the lake, says remote CPR Slip is a "prize." The former Canadian Pacific Railroad fishing camp on Saint Ignace Island with a protected harbor surrounded by Boreal forest can be a busy place on weekends with lively gatherings around a fire pit and the sauna getting heavy use. Many dinghy over to nearby islands to hunt for agates (crystallized quartz rocks).

Lake Michigan: Escanaba, Michigan. While she does head out often aboard her Bristol 35, GLCC port captain for Escanaba, Michigan, Marilyn Kinsey, says her hometown is her unqualified favorite location on Lake Michigan. Located at the end of Door County-Green Bay area, the welcoming, protected harbor and "end-of-the-road" boating destination never turns away a boat. It offers a 165-slip marina, marine services, supplies, great fishing, predictable winds every day, and is on the popular "Golden Triangle" route, including Escanaba - Fayette - Washington/Rock Islands.

Lake Huron: Bad River, Ontario. In an incredibly scenic area of the lake where narrow, rocky inlets lead deep into the Ontario shore and block-iron tinged waters conceal shallow reefs lurking below, Bad River offers a unique wilderness anchorage. Having a motorized dinghy is a must for exploring, says GLCC Commodore Steve Reinecke, who named it his top destination on Lake Huron. Bad River may be 20 miles from the nearest civilization, but this popular safe harbor can easily hold more than 40 boats – but you won't feel crowded.

Lake Erie: Erie, Pennsylvania. Its shallow depth occasionally causes Lake Erie's waves to build to the size of whales. However, the harbor at Erie, Pennsylvania, not only provides protection, but also has excellent recreational opportunities for water sports, dinghy exploring, swimming, picnicking, golfing, hiking, and biking. The arching peninsula of Presque Isle State Park swings out into the lake, creating the 10-square mile natural harbor. With more than 100,000 residents, Erie offers a lot to do, says GLCC Port Captain Jim Ehrman. With great shopping, museums, a water park, restaurants and nightlife, it's Ehrman's top Lake Erie cruising destination.

Lake Ontario: Endymion Island, Ontario. Part of Canada's Thousand Islands National Park, Endymion Island is on a popular route – just be aware of hard granite rock below the surface that, "is the Thousand Islands," says GLCC Rear Commodore Eric Sunstrum. His top Lake Ontario destination pick, Endymion Island has two public docks, plenty of nice anchorages and even a few mooring balls. Exploring other nearby islands is a top activity, and fishing is often good right off your anchored boat. Sunstrum believes the best time to visit is in September after the Toronto boaters have gone home for the season.

To see "Favorite Harbors of the Great Lakes" as well as information on crossing the border, a list of charter companies and information on the Great Lakes Cruising Club, go to BoatUS.com/Great-Lakes.

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