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Lake Erie Completion Tour

11/24/19 – this page is currently under construction. I’ve hidden it on my site with a falsely old date. I’ll move it to the top of my home page when I’m finished with it in a month or two.

3rd Sail on Rowdy – September 2005

In 2005, my friend Scot Adkins, invited me to go sailing on his friend, John Blair’s boat. It turned out that it was a Wednesday night race in the Cleveland Yacht Racing Association. I had no idea what was going on. In fact, I was startled the first time the boat heeled over but I looked at everyone else and they were unconcerned so I figured it must be okay. To me, it felt like the boat was just about to capsize – in what I later learned was pretty mild conditions. I was 40 years old and it was literally the first time I had ever been on a sailboat – even though I had always wanted to sail. For some reason, I thought I’d like it and I did. When we got back to the dock, John graciously told me, “Come back any time.” I took him at his word and managed to come back two more times in 2005. In 2006, they let me be regular crew and they started training me to be the new bowman. Or, as one of the other crew called it, “The guy on the pointy end.”

I embraced it enthusiastically. Even though I lived an hour south of Lake Erie, I was making the 2-hour round trip two and three times a week to go sailing. They trained me on the foredeck and I ended up doing it by myself during the Bayweek regatta in 2006. I was sailing all I could and learning as much as I could. After 6-7 years of foredeck, I knew that the only way I was going to take the next step was to get my own boat.

In 2013, I contacted a broker and he agreed to show me some boats. I gave him my budget and explained that I wanted to learn to cruise; that I’d never been at the helm of a sailboat but I thought I’d like it. The first boat he showed me was 50% over my budget. When I reminded him of that, he said he understood but that was the boat I should buy. I looked at six other boats, but he was right. I ultimately bought the first boat I looked at and I can’t believe what good advice he gave me and how lucky I was that I listened. My boat is a 1985 Ericson 30+. It’s an excellently designed and built boat and I am truly delighted to have it.

First time at the helm of my own sailboat – May 2013

So, there I was, 48 years old with my first boat, no idea how to get it away from – or more importantly – back to a dock. I knew how to run a foredeck well. I probably could do it blindfolded. But trimming a main or a genoa? No way. I was well-versed in the concepts but no practical experience. It was time to start converting the thousand and one questions I’ve been asking for the past 9 years into practice. John Blair and another sailing friend, Dan Kava helped me that first day on my boat making the 6 hour motorsail from Vermilion to Cleveland. It was a calm, gray, and rainy day but it was thrilling. That summer, many days consisted of what I call “Cleveland to Cleveland” but most people call daysailing. Of course, I’d only go out with “crew” and then, I’d constantly be worried that they weren’t having a good time. I told Kathleen that she didn’t have to like it; That “I liked it enough for both of us.” But, of course, I wanted her to like it and have fun. When fall came, I decided to keep my boat in Vermilion where the previous owner kept it in the winter. Parsons’ marina knew my boat better than I did. And, it made every sailing season begin and end with a 30nm sail.

In 2014, I knew that I needed to take a few more risks and go a little farther. I joined the Cleveland Yacht Racing Association and managed to tie for third in one of the Sunday season series in the slowest class. But, I didn’t want to race. I wanted to see new ports. In July, Kathleen and I made one sail to the next port east of Cleveland – the Chagrin River – and spent the night at the club there. That was our first cruise. In July, two buddies were helping me sail to Cedar Point when we sought safe harbor in Vermilion before we got hit by a storm. But I still had to get the boat to Cedar Point the next day – so I did it myself. That day, single-handing for the first time, changed everything.

First time flying my Canadian courtesy flag – September 2014

I single-handed back to Cleveland from Cedar Point a couple days later – 9 hours. Then, in September, I sailed almost due north out of Cleveland and crossed Lake Erie arriving in Erieau, Ontario in just about 10 hours. It was my first time being completely out of sight of land, my first time sailing to Canada, and I was completely thrilled. From Erieau, I sailed to Leamington, Ontario and Pelee Island, Ontario before heading back to Cleveland. In 2014, I had been to five ports I had never been to before. And although, it was still moderately terrifying coming in to dock, I loved coming into a port for the first time and figuring out how to get docked and secured. And then, of course, even better, I’d get to explore the port. People love sailing for a lot of different reasons. And, I certainly do love the sailing part of it. But, for me, the best part is after a long sail, getting into port and tying up and preparing to see what that port has to offer is my favorite part.

Single-handing improved my sailing education in a way I never anticipated. Since I wasn’t worried about other people’s comfort, I was free to make mistakes. I was free to try something that I read about or watched on a video without showing my ignorance. And, it allowed me to go out any time I wanted. I didn’t have to wait for other’s schedules or for the weather to be just right to go sailing. And, I kept managing to get to more and more ports in Lake Erie.

In the winter of 2017, I was looking over my sailing stats and I realized that I had been to 21 ports in Lake Erie. I’m a member of the Great Lakes Cruising Club so I read all their harbor reports again and I made a checklist of all the ports I wanted to visit in Lake Erie. There were 32. I checked off seven in 2018 and finished the last four in 2019. So, on this page, I’ve decided to share pictures of each port and my impressions. These are not really harbor reports. The Great Lakes Cruising Club does a much better job of that. I’m just going to share what I liked about each port. I’m going to list them in order of my first sail there.

Scroll down or click on these links to skip to a particular port.

1. Vermilion
2. Cleveland
3. Chagrin River
4. Cedar Point
5. Erieau
6. Leamington
7. Pelee Island
8. Put-in-Bay
9. Lorain
10. Geneva
11. Erie
12. Port Stanley
13. Huron
14. Sawmill Creek
15. Port Dover
16. Port Colborne
17. Buffalo
18. Dunkirk
19. Colchester
20. Kelleys Island N.
21. Kelleys Island S.
22. Sandusky
23. Middle Bass Island
24. Catawba Island
25. Port Clinton
26. Toledo
27. Toledo Beach
28. Rocky River
29. Conneaut
30. Ashtabula
31. Fairport
32. Mentor

1. Vermilion, Ohio

First visit May 28, 2013

Since I keep my boat in Vermilion in the winter, I visit Vermilion at least twice each year. It’s by far my second most visited port behind my home port of Cleveland. It also happens to be one of the best. Besides docking at Parsons where my boat is stored, I’ve also docked at the Port Authority docks and the Vermilion Yacht Club. I could see when I’m no longer working in Cleveland, becoming a member at the Vermilion Yacht Club. It’s a friendly place – and much closer to the islands than Cleveland. I highly recommend Parsons if you need work done. Chez Francois is a practically perfect dining experience but be prepared emotionally for the bill. Kathleen and I have gone twice and it’s certainly worth it. But, my go to place is Rudy’s. They have great wings.

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2. Cleveland, Ohio

First visit May 28, 2013

My boat home. Cleveland is the biggest city on Lake Erie, the best skyline, and certainly has the most things to do. (Sorry Buffalo) It’s also the port with the most traffic and the most complicated entry. It’s absolutely not a port you want to enter for the first time at night.

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3. Chagrin River, Ohio

First visit July 25, 2014

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4. Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

First visit July 31, 2014

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5. Erieau, Ontario

First visit September 16, 2014

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6. Leamington, Ontario

First visit September 18, 2014

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7. Pelee Island, Ontario

First visit September 22, 2014

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8. Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio

First visit April 29, 2015

In 2015, instead of heading straight to Cleveland from Vermilion in the Spring, I went to Put-in-Bay first. To say that it was pre-season was an understatement. I was literally the only boat on a dock that is normally tied off 3-4 boats deep. I spent a few nights there – by myself. Most of the bars and restaurants weren’t open – or their seasonal liquor license was not valid until May 1. It’s been on my list to return during the actual season and stay on a mooring ball. Hopefully, this summer.

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9. Lorain, Ohio

First visit June 13, 2015

Kathleen and I had an island cruise planned for June 2015. I was moving the boat from Cleveland to Vermilion where she was going to meet me. The wind was coming from the west so I decided to start the engine and do a little motorsailing to get to Vermilion sooner. Within a minute of starting my engine, smoke was billowing out of the companionway. I turned off the engine and hustled down into the cabin and pulled out my extinguisher before opening the engine compartment. Luckily, killing power to the engine stopped the electrical fire but the boat was still full of smoke. I was just past Lorain. I sailed in the lee of the Lorain breakwall, dropped anchor and called for a tow into Lorain. To say it was exciting was an understatement. After being safely at dock – but stranded – I heard a large crowd and live music. I walked into town where Michael Stanley was playing for Lorain’s Rocking on the River. Fun. I was stranded in Lorain for a week while the brand new parts that had just failed were replaced under warranty. Of course, this made us postpone our cruise.

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10. Geneva, Ohio

First visit September 17, 2015

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11. Erie, Pennsylvania

First visit September 18, 2015

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12. Port Stanley, Ontario

First visit September 21, 2015

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13. Huron, Ohio

First visit June 28, 2016

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14. Sawmill Creek, Huron, Ohio

First visit June 29, 2016

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15. Port Dover, Ontario

First visit September 11, 2016

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16. Port Colborne, Ontario

First visit September 15, 2016

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17. Buffalo, New York

First visit September 18, 2016

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18. Dunkirk, New York

First visit September 21, 2016

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19. Colchester, Ontario

First visit September 20, 2017

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20. Kelleys Island North, Ohio

First visit September 25, 2017

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21. Kelleys Island, Ohio

First visit September 25, 2017

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22. Sandusky, Ohio

First visit July 25, 2018

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23. Middle Bass Island, Ohio

First visit July 28, 2018

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24. Catawba Island, Ohio

First visit July 29, 2018

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25. Port Clinton, Ohio

First visit August 3, 2018

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26. Toledo, Ohio

First visit August 4, 2018

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27. Toledo Beach, Michigan

First visit August 5, 2018

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28. Rocky River, Ohio

First visit September 12, 2018

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29. Conneaut, Ohio

First visit August 22, 2019

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30. Ashtabula, Ohio

First visit August 22, 2019

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31. Fairport, Ohio

First visit September 20, 2019

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32. Mentor, Ohio

First visit September 20, 2019