Wisconsin: LaPointe, Bayfield,
Minnesota: Lake City
Michigan: Traverse City, Cheboygan
Ohio: Huron, Port Clinton
Indiana: Michigan City
Ontario: Thunder Bay,
Gore Bay, Little Current
Being There: North Channel
Canada’s North Channel, a hundred-mile stretch of Lake Huron separated from the main body of the lake by Manitoulin Island, is one of the best-known cruising grounds in the Great Lakes, and not without reason. Though its cruising season is short—go too early in June and the black flies will drive you away, stay past August and you’ll want your winter hat and gloves—you could easily spend a month exploring its many islands, coves, and inlets.
With a small enough boat and a shallow draft, you can tuck yourself into coves too small to share and explore the pristine beauty of the forests that border the channel. The few towns in the area can provide what amenities you may need, but the true magic lies in its remote beauty—wind-bent pines, jutting rock formations, and water so clean you could drink it.
But the pleasures of the North Channel are not for small boats alone. At times up to 20 miles wide and with depths up to 250 feet, the channel gives you plenty of room to stretch your legs and can blow up conditions as wild as any of the Great Lakes. Big boat or small, you’re guaranteed to feel the lure of the North Channel—it keeps sailors coming back year after year. Rebecca Waters
Eastern Great Lakes: Our charter season runs from early June to the end of September, but the real sailing season is mid-April through October. My favorite time is September, when the water is warm, the breezes (predominantly westerly, at 8 to 12 knots) are steadier, the days are warm (70 to 75 degrees), and the lake is much less crowded. Sailors here can choose to cruise to the islands at the western end of the lake or go up to Canada. T.J. Wright, Harbor North (Lake Erie), Huron, Ohio
Western Great Lakes: The charter season here runs from May 15 to September 30. July and August are beautiful—warm, even hot sometimes—but in September things slow down, anchorages can be solitary, and the water is as warm as it gets. The wind moderates and steadies, so you can sail almost all the time. The changing of the leaves is dramatic; you’re basically sailing in northern forests.
And in fall the wind swings to the northwest; we have a lot of good anchorages for a northwest wind. Tim Bauernfeind, Sailboats Inc.