Port Colbourne, Lake Erie

Situated at the southern end of the Welland Canal, Port Colbourne is a place that most people transiting between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie will call in at, even if only to refuel.

The Sugarloaf Marina is adequate and friendly enough without being outstanding. From looking at it on the chart one might expect it to be very sheltered with 2 lateral and 2 longitudinal breakwaters protecting it from the lake. However, in a strong southerly blow an extraordinary amount of swell penetrates into the marina basin and in these conditions standing on the pontoons is a bit like riding a fairground roller coaster.

The entrance to Port Colbourne can also be be disproportionately rough in a south westerly blow and the waves can persist a long time after the wind has subsided. When leaving the harbour in less than 10 knots of wind, a full 18 hours after a storm had abated, we were still brought to a complete standstill by the square waves that prevented any progress upwind.

Much of this is due to the fact that Lake Erie is so shallow and is aligned with the prevailing winds on a NE/SW axis. In a strong SW blow the water is blown up to the NE end of the lake and is held up outside Port Colbourne. When the wind drops to the point where it is no longer strong enough to hold up the water, the flow reverses and the water rushes back to the SW end of the lake, in the process creating a wind against current situation which leads to waves that may be even more severe than when the wind was at its peak.

The town of Port Colbourne has a variety of shops and eateries, but little to inspire one to stay for longer than is strictly necessary. There is an excellent supermarket (Sobey's) and a Canadian Tire depot where propane bottles can be refilled, but both are in the out of town shopping mall. The Marina staff may be able to sort out a lift or courtesy car to the mall.

Whilst Port Colbourne itself may not tempt the visitor to stay for long, there is much in the surrounding area that is worthy of exploration and hiring a car for a couple of days is very worthwhile. Having ascended or descended the Niagara escarpment via the Welland canal, most will want to see the falls themselves which can be reached within 40 minutes driving distance from Port Colbourne. The drive from the Falls along the Niagara River and Escarpment to Lake Erie is also very scenic and worthwhile, with the beautiful and historic town of Niagara on the Lake particularly worth visiting.

Although little heard of outside of Canada the Niagara on the Lake area produces some fine wines from a wide variety of small boutique wineries. Most of these offer tours and tastings, and many have excellent restaurants attached. Spending a couple of days exploring is a very pleasant way of restocking the ship's wine store.

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