Sailing on Lake Superior

In our last edition, Lorna Olson alerted us to a contest being held in her community of Thunder Bay.  Even if you don’t win, you might like to add a visit to this region to your plans.  Here Lorna tells us about some of the attractions that can be enjoyed there.

The 2007 CBC contest, Seven Wonders of Canada, recognized the Sleeping Giant, a huge peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior east of Thunder Bay, as ‘The People’s Choice’. For anyone travelling across Canada, it’s easy to access Thunder Bay from the Trans-Canada Highway, and enjoy its many interesting sights and activities. There is Fort William Historical Park, an historic site that depicts the fur trade activities of the North West Company’s inland headquarters, and celebrates the Company’s annual Rendezvous which was held from 1803-1821.  Also, the many inland lakes around the city offer excellent fishing, boating, water-skiing, and swimming in clean water.

While in Thunder Bay, take advantage of a unique opportunity to view lake freighters, get a close-up view of a lighthouse, see beautiful Marina Park, majestic grain elevators, and the entire lakefront from a comfortable seat in a 40-foot sailboat.

Last summer, we boarded Sail Superior’s Frödo at Pier 3, Marina Park (next to the orange caboose). Owner and captain, Greg Heroux and his new bride Laura greeted us, distributed life jackets, and gave us important safety information before setting sail to the Welcome Islands. Along the way, we were able to see the stone breakwall and the red and white Thunder Bay Main Light (lighthouse) perched at the entrance to the harbour.

Capable of carrying 12 passengers as well as two crew, the sloop was built in Finland in 1982 and launched in 1983. She was purchased by Greg and his father Frank in Connecticut, and delivered to Thunder Bay in 2001. In two years, she has carried more than 1,000 passengers.  Having done several harbour cruises on a much larger, motorized ship, years ago, I was a bit concerned about how I’d handle this trip, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was smooth sailing in spite of “a bit of a chop”.  A 40 HP diesel engine supplies power when there is no wind; but we had a light breeze which gave us a pleasant ride under sail at about 6 knots. Greg showed us how, by changing direction, or changing the amount of sail, he is able to make the cruise comfortable. “I always gauge the people on board; some like a bit of excitement, while others prefer a very smooth ride,” he explained. Sail Superior also does charter trips. One destination is Silver Islet with its 120-year-old general store and famous lion head rock formation. Now a cottage community, it is situated close to what was once the world’s richest silver mine. Other charters include Thompson Island in Lake Superior; Loon Harbour with its calm water anchorage; and Isle Royale US National Park, with its ample wild- life as well as shipwrecks just beneath Lake Superior’s surface. In addition, there are daily, 90-minute harbour- cruises – ideal for anyone who would like to see the breakwall, lighthouse, grain elevators and any ships anchored in the bay, close up.

On this charter, there were five passengers. It was a good sailing day with fair skies, until we were almost back at the marina. With rain threatening, Laura brought out waterproof jackets for those who needed them, and we had only a few droplets before docking.

Sail Superior offers a very personal boating experience: we all had a chance to chat with Greg and Laura, who answered our questions and supplied a great deal of information about the boat, the many species of birds we saw, and whatever else we wanted to know. You can learn more from the website: www.sailsuperior.com.

For your accommodation in Thunder Bay, I heartily recommend the 102-year-old Victorian-style manor located just a few blocks from the marina.   Host of the McVicar Manor is Louise Blake, renowned in Northwestern Ontario for her delicious Sunflower Cottage Catering company, so you can be sure her breakfasts will not disappoint!  And Louise will also cook dinner for her guests by arrangement.  However, the property is also close to many fine restaurants: Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and more.  Close by there’s also shopping, theatre, downhill and cross-country skiing, Fort William Historical Park and Kakabeka Falls (the ‘Niagara of the North’).

The property features antique furniture and beautiful views of either Thunder Bay Harbour and the Sleeping Giant, or McVicar Creek that runs through the half-acre property.  Each bedroom has its own Jacuzzi pub, plush robes, luxurious amenities, chocolates and fresh flowers.  Guests can enjoy a glass of wine or eat breakfast in the beautiful sunroom; wander down paths to the creek or gazebo to enjoy the mature trees and birds.  Indoors there’s a den with large satellite television and wireless internet.  Louise tells me that she has many European travellers staying at the manor (which is open year round). “We have a lot of English and German visitors, as well as some from France and Ireland and, of course, quite a number of Americans who are travelling around Lake Superior.”   For more information on McVicar Manor call 807 344 9300, e-mail [email protected]  or visit the website and see photos at www.bbcanada.com/3918.html. Prices from $90 to $140.

Lorna Olson, Thunder Bay, ON