Like most Lake Erie ports, Long Point’s marinas have thoroughly modern facilities for welcoming boaters. But the area also has a long history of trade and war. Even in quiet Port Dover, a War of 1812 incident included a terroriststyle attack on civilians by American forces.The attack on what was then called Dover Mills mainly involved looting and burning of properties and supplies that could have been used in the war. It’s all part of a fascinating tapestry of cross border relations that continues today.
Well sheltered from westerly winds, Long Point Bay in Lake Erie’s eastern basin is the busiest boating area on the Canadian shore. Port Dover has a large municipal marina, but further west the bay is also home to several private marinas with more than 2,500 slips – or wells, as they are usually called on Lake Erie.Thousands of trailer boaters also launch every day.
In Port Dover, the town dock is a hive of activity on summer days, with swimmers, anglers and land based visitors coming downtown to visit the restaurants, gift shops or the beach.
During the late June Marine Heritage Festival, the town focuses on its unofficial role as keeper of Canadian history, giving visitors a look at what life would have been like in the early 1800s.A military reenactment illustrates the War of 1812 incident that took place there, as volunteers take on the roles of American and British army, militia or marine units.
The festival highlights Port Dover’s past, but visitors can also stop at the local museum any time. Its curator, Ian Bell, says the museum tells the story of the fishing and shipping industries and the town’s important place in them.
“Port Dover is a town that’s always been pretty much defined by the lake and in the old days it was a schooner town,” Bell says.“Nowadays people think of it as a resort town or a fishing town.What happens at the Marine Heritage Festival is a little bit of everything for people who like boats, people who like history and people who like music.”
The reenactment doesn’t dwell on the treacherous attack on Port Dover. In fact, history is rewritten during a battle on the beach and the Americans are soundly defeated.These days, Canadian and American boaters get along just fine.
Port Dover’s main harbour is mainly home to fishing and commercial boats along with the museum.The harbour is also the starting point for something local boaters call a “creek cruise.”
“With the Lynn River and Black Creek, you can actually go up the river two miles in a small boat, a mile in a larger boat,” says Ed Laevens of Bridge Yachts.“And a lot of people come to Port Dover just to do the river cruise.”
Past the Port Dover Harbour Museum, boaters can head upriver to see two sides of the town’s story – the fishing and commercial shipping industry and recreational boating.There are many tugboats, several converted to use as pleasure boats,moored along the shores of the river.The Port DoverYacht Club is also located upriver, along with Dovercraft Marine.
Alongside the main harbour, boaters will find plenty of restaurants and shops – and the wellstocked chandlery of BridgeYachts Ltd. – in downtown Port Dover. But to reach the pleasurecraft basin to the east and the Port Dover Harbour Marina, boaters have to head back out into the lake then east.
The Port Dover Harbour Marina, built about 22 years ago, is now owned by Norfolk County and has fuel, pumpout, launch ramps and haulout for larger yachts. Most of the marina’s 455 slips are occupied by seasonal boaters, but transient slips are also available. Reservations are a good idea on busy summer weekends.
Docks are equipped with water and power outlets with wireless internet service.The spacious grounds have picnic tables and shelters plus charcoal barbecues.Washrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a snack bar are in the main service building behind the marina office.
One of the marina’s best points, though, is its location. Once you’re moored for the night, downtown Port Dover is just a short walk up the hill and over the bridge.And when you’re ready to head back onto the water, the sandbars, beaches and great fishing of Long Point’s inner bay are just a few miles away.
Long Point Bay’s warm shallow water, sandbars and beaches – plus the protection from westerly winds – make it ideal for boating. So it’s no surprise the area has plenty of marina options, including one of Ontario’s largest recreational boating facilities – MacDonald Turkey Point Marina, which on the north shore as you head into Long Point’s Inner Bay.
At 750 slips and growing, MacDonald Turkey Point Marina is a unique blend of small and large slips, waterfront mobile homes and beachfront cottages located on a series of basins and channels that extend far inland. Marshlands to the west and south provide privacy and excellent fish and waterfowl habitat.
Kenzie’s Restaurant is conveniently located beside the marina entrance, close to the seawalls that provide most of the marina’s transient dockage.The fuel and pump-out dock and laundry facilities are also at the entrance.
One of the marina’s east-west channels leads back to a Travelift equipped service bay, a well-stocked chandlery, service facilities and boat sales. Next door to a long sandy beach,Turkey Point offers a wide range of waterfront lifestyles along with full marine service.
Safely cruising around Long Point Inner Bay’s sandbars means following the marked routes, but the payoff is even more marina choices.The village of St.Williams has three – Fin & Feather, Booth’s Harbour Developments and Hilltop Lodge. But only Booth’s encourages transient cruisers.
Booth’s sign and new grey-painted office and shop make it easy to spot.The fuel dock, with gasoline and pump-out – where you get directions to your overnight berth – is right in front of the new building. Like other Long Point Bay marinas, Booth’s has a large mobile home development.
The marina’s 370 berths are a mix of boathouses and open slips.There are two separate harbours with their own entries and washrooms and showers.Wireless internet and a children’s playground are also provided. There’s a launch ramp and a 15-ton lift for service or repairs, and the new office has washrooms, a snack bar and chandlery with basic boating supplies.
Like many marinas on the bay, Booth’s also keeps a good supply of bait, because many boaters in this area come for the fishing.And with the right bait – and a little luck – fishing can be very good indeed.
Heading counter-clockwise around the bay from Booth’s are Akers Marine and the Funny Farm, both focusing on seasonal boaters. Bayview Marina is further southwest, near Port Rowan, Ont.With 175 slips, gas and pump-out, as well as a playground, wireless internet and a variety store, Bayview also welcomes transients.
The Port Rowan town dock is about a mile further along on the western shore of the inner bay, with a row of boathouses and docks for local
boaters and a small park and docks for visiting small craft boaters, Back in the bay, the entrance to Sandboy Marina and Marina Shores is about three miles further south, at the foot of Long Point. Sandboy Marina, with 80 slips, gasoline and pumpout, is first to starboard. Call ahead for transient dockage there.
Back in the channel, boaters have to head south to reach Marina Shores, a 600slip facility with a variety of covered and open slips and waterfront mobile homes.There is no transient dockage, but gasoline and pumpout are available.
At the base of Long Point, you get a good idea of the unique wetlands and marshes that qualify the area as a World Biosphere Reserve. Countless fish, animals, waterfowl and migratory birds either live on or pass over the Point every year, but have long existed in harmony with the many boaters also using the bay.
No trip to Long Point Bay would be complete without a stop at Pottahawk Point, where boaters anchor off the north end of Ryerson’s Island.The island is owned by a private hunting and fishing group known locally as“the Millionaire’s Club,”but boaters can use the beach.Although there were only a handful of boaters there during our visit, thousands gather for the Pottahawk Party every second Sunday in July. It’s legendary among Lake Erie boaters, with monster raftups and diehards who party well into the next week.
Long Point’s prominent 30metre white lighthouse is the last Canadian landmark you’ll see before heading about 30 miles south to the Presque Isle peninsula and the city of Erie, Pa.