Back in the 90s, most of my sailing was on the Great Lakes. Predominantly Lake Ontario. I was teaching sailing out of either Hamilton or Kingston. Both areas offered vastly different sailing experiences. It has been years since I even thought about any of my Lake Ontario adventures…
Lake Ontario Facts
Lake Ontario is the smallest of all the Great Lakes. With a surface area of 18,960 square kilometers, but its waters run deep. While the length of Lake Ontario is similar to Lake Erie (310 kilometers by 85 kilometers), Lake Ontario holds almost four times the volume of water, with an average depth of 283 feet. The deepest part of Lake Ontario is 802 feet!
The lake’s name comes from an Iroquois word for “a beautiful lake”. Unfortunately, Lake Ontario is the most polluted of all of the Great Lakes as all of the other lakes flow into Lake Ontario, bringing along their pollution.
There are a significant number of islands in Lake Ontario. They are primarily concentrated in the region known as the Thousand Islands. This area is an archipelago of nearly 2,000 islands that line the U.S. and Canadian border. While many of the islands are small or even uninhabitable, the largest is Wolfe Island and is 124 square km. This is where my husband’s family cottage is 🙂
Lake Ontario Shipwrecks
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum estimates that there are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with over 30,000 sailors having lost their lives.
There are about 50 shipwrecks listed for Lake Ontario in Wikipedia. Among them are HMS Ontario a British schooner which sank on October 31, 1780! This is the oldest shipwreck found in the Great Lakes thus far.
Several vessels were used during the War of 1812 and later scuttled in Lake Ontario for diving attractions (primarily near Kingston). These include: HMS St Lawrence, USS Sylph, and HMS Wolfe.
Memories of the Kingston Area
Kingston is known as Canada’s eastern sailing mecha and for good reason! It is always windy! This is also why Wolfe Island has one of Canada’s largest wind farms with 86 wind turbines located on the Western end of the island. Ironically, I used to sail around Wolfe Island often with my students not knowing that my future husband was sitting on the island watching the boats sail by 🙂
Off of the Southwestern tip of Wolfe Island you can anchor in Big Sandy Bay. The waters are crystal clear and it is a beautiful anchorage during a calm evening. I took apart a winch once while anchored there to clean up the bearings, good thing the water was like a mirror!
Some of my favourite memories of sailing out of Kingston involve sailing to Picton Marina and walking around town. Picton is the administration centre for Prince Edward County (wine country!) and is located on an arm of the Bay of Quinte. Picton has been developed as a harbour and distribution centre for the surrounding countryside.
Waupoos Marina, also located in Prince Edward County Northeast of Picton, was also a fun place for us to dock and we found a small winery/restaurant that was 3 apple orchards south, 2 to the west and 1 winery south 🙂 The Waupoos Marina also had a hot tub, however the most recent guests were all spiders, so we skipped the dip!
Kingston itself has several marinas including the Kingston Yacht Club, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour (where they host the Canadian Olympic Training Regatta in Kingston (CORK)), Collins Bay Marina, Kingston Marina, and Confederation Basin Marina. There are probably others I am missing, but you get the idea. There are several!
Hurrican Isabel Comes to Town
Sailing on Lake Ontario can be a wonderful adventure. Like the Ocean, you can see the weather coming towards you for hours before it hits. You can get some open water sailing, or you can find a secluded anchorage such as in the Thousand Islands area.
One vivid experience I remember is when Hurrican Isabel hit Toronto in September of 2003. I was teaching an Advanced Cruising course whereby we left from Toronto Harbour, circumnavigated Wolfe Island, and headed back to Toronto. We were poised to head into harbour before the storm hit, otherwise we would have had to wait it out in the middle of the Lake. The morning sunrise was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen (even though I knew what it meant!). We managed to squeak into the harbour just before the gusts increased and we were safely tucked away…
Don’t mess with Mother Nature. Even if you are only sailing on a “lake”.
Lake Ontario facts retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/34571-lake-ontario.html
Lake Ontario image retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/468374429967977815/?lp=true
Thousand Islands image retrieved from: http://boatingtales.com/history-and-facts-of-the-thousand-islands/
Wolfe Island image retrieved from: https://www.inspirock.com/canada/wolfe-island/wolfe-island-wind-farm-a3489392957
Waupoos Marina image retrieved from: https://marinas.com/view/marina/vgcqlq_Waupoos_Marina_Picton_ON_Canada
Big Sandy Bay image retrieved from: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1368174-d4184583-i375215334-Big_Sandy_Bay_Conservation_Area-Wolfe_Island_Ontario.html
Penny thanks for the blog. I found the information helpful. I too learned to sail in Hamilton and taught at Harbour West. After 20 years of not sailing, I am going to have my first boat to remember how to do it all over again. Im looking forward to sailing Lake Ontario again. I wonder if you’re the same Penny I remember from sailing school. Wouldn’t that be funny.
Yup I probably am the same Penny. Glad to hear you are getting back into sailing!