Day 44 – Tailwinds and thunderstorms

Leaving Northwestern Ontario behind after nearly a week exploring the ‘wild side’ of the province, we headed down highway 11 out of Ignace this morning toward Thunder Bay and our afternoon Sail Superior adventure.

Captain Greg Heroux has been running charters and boat tours around Lake Superior since 2000, and has been sailing himself since age ten. We met him on board Frodo, a one-mast Finnish-built ocean-going sloop, at Thunder Bay’s Marina Park, and headed out into the harbour basin. Captain Brett Clibbery joined us aboard Sail Superior’s habour touring vessel Journeyer, a 38-ft downeaster ketch, and we raced for the harbour light.

It was a gorgeous day for a lazy spinnaker drift across the harbour, and Greg pulled the chute on his newest sail and brightened up the between-showers harbour with bold bursts of turquoise, yellow and fuschia. He entertained with stories of his Atlantic crossings in Frodo, and the eight-month voyage from Thunder Bay to Portugal and beyond with his family.

As beautiful as Lake Superior is when you’re watching it from the peaks and valleys of highway 17, it’s really a special thing to become acquainted with it out and on the water. Islands stretch out in the distance, and Sleeping Giant guards Thunder Bay with its peaceful head.

It’s a changeable lake — Thunder Bay’s not called Thunder Bay for nothin’ — and weather can go from gorgeous sunshine to ferocious skies in an hour or two. We were glad we were in such capable hands as the storm started back up again in the evening — Greg explained that the mast and the halyards formed a protecting pyramid around the cockpit, so even if the boat was hit we’d be safe. (And since Alexe has already been struck by lightning, the chances of it happening again were quite slim). The lights of Thunder Bay twinkled as we cruised back into the harbour surrounded by thundering skies and flashes of lightning over the town — a big glorious summer storm to break the heatwave.

Greg makes it easy for those traveling to Thunder Bay — and locals as well — to experience the beauty of the Superior, with a variety of sailing adventures for any itinerary and budget. He offers “big lake” adventures to Sleeping Giant and beyond, with Nature Retreat Packages that take in the best coastal towns and coves in the area. He’ll also customize private group excursions to the Welcome, Thompson, Pie, or Caribou Islands, just for the day or for overnight adventures including gourmet dinners onboard.

He runs four Thunder Bay Harbour Sailing tours everyday, where guests get a close-up look at the lakers and salties and the massive grain elevators for a different perspective of Thunder Bay. He’s also recently branched out with sailing instruction, and offers sailing lessons as well as cruise and learn holidays, from beginner basics to coastal navigation. For those with sailing experience, he also provides bareback charter rentals for do-it-yourself vacations to Isle Royale, Thompson Island, Slate Islands, and along Superior’s North Shore.

This was our second trip with Captain Greg and Sail Superior, and there’s not a single doubt that next time we’re in Thunder Bay we’ll be out on the water with him again. It was definitely one of the highlights of the Road Trip, both last year and this year!

Tomorrow — North, north, north again to Greenstone and up up up to the 1.2 billion year old Pijitawabik Palisades!

Photo of Captain Gregory Heroux by Alexandra Sawicki

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