Sailing on Lake Superior is an amazing experience. Sometimes the wind howls and the waves crash. You try not be out when the famous gales of November come through (like the one that sunk the Edmond Fitzgerald), but feeling the power of the wind and water is definitly something to experience. A humbling reminder of the fierce beauty of nature and the massive expanse of this body of fresh water; the largest in the world by surface area.
Most of the time (especially in summer) the water is calm, the breeze gentle, and time seems to stand still. Colours shift as the fading light of day dances across the water and clouds; a canvas for brilliant sunsets. Your perception of distance changes, pushes the bustle of the City far away and draws the towering cliffs of the Sleeping Giant closer. And of course, you can get right next to those cliffs. You can sail to them, explore wild islands, or visit remote light houses perched on rocky promontories. Some islands have saunas, campsites, and trails. Others only moose, caribou, and wolves.
No matter the purpose or destination of a sail, simply being out on the water is magical, freeing, invigorating – call it what you want! I have been lucky enough to get out on the Lake once a week for the past few years as a race crew member and have ventured offshore a few times now. Even without your own boat there are plenty of ways to get out and experience sailing on Lake Superior.
1. Monday, Wednesday, & Friday Night Racing
Perhaps the easiest way to get out is to hop on a boat that is looking for extra racing crew either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday evenings. Races typically start at 18:00 so show up around 17:00 and either hang around the “crew bench” (the railing in front of the Thunder Bay Yacht Club building near the Pearl Street entrance to Marina Park) or ask people that are getting on boats if they need an extra crew or know someone who might. It normally helps to have a six pack of beers with you and a bit of sailing experience, especially for the competitive Wednesday night races.
2. Sailing Lessons
Sailing lessons are great for both getting out on the water and learning how to sail at once. While you can learn a great deal as a crew member on someone’s boat, you typically learn things through a much more structured sequential approach while taking sailing lessons. Starting with the basics and working your way up is very handy and allows you to get a good grasp of the whole sailing thing without being over or underwhelmed (people with little or no sailing experience typically have very basic roles if they go out on race nights). In Thunder Bay there are dinghy sailing programs offered through Sail Thunder Bay, a new crew program offered every spring through the Thunder Bay Yacht Club, and a number of sailing courses offered by Sail Superior.
3. Sailing Charter / Tours
For the most simple and stress-free option, you can go on a sailing tour with Sail Superior. They offer a range of options from 90-minute harbour tours to multi-day sailing expeditions and also do charter rentals.