American Yacht Agents


Debora Radtke takes a look at some of the varied cruising grounds on offer from southern Florida to the Great Lakes and the unique landscapes each has to offer the superyacht owner and guests

Fort Lauderdale has longed called itself the yachting capitol of the world. More than just American hubris, it is home to the largest boat show in the world and it may, indeed, deserve that title. Yachting is an integral part of the economy of South Florida. The fact that it kept growing and moving even during a pandemic is proof of that.

So why should a yacht decide to “discover” south Florida? It’s a great jumping off point to the Bahamas, it’s easy to get parts shipped in, and typical tax and duty is less than 10% for items that don’t qualify as ships spares. It has world class repair facilities. But South Florida is becoming more than just a pitstop between Caribbean and Med seasons.

Miami rivals any other city in the world with night life, restaurants, art galleries, and events. Art Basel at the beginning of December has dockage options sold out months you can cruise to Palm Beach and take in a Polo Match, or move further up the coast to Cape Canaveral for a Space X rocket launch

However, many American owners and others are choosing new cruising grounds. One “undiscovered” area is the Great Lakes, a string of 5 freshwater lakes, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie, that separate the US and Canada. The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water. Lake Superior, the largest, has often been called an inland sea. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface; thus, it makes its own weather.

Access to the lakes is through the St. Lawrence Seaway. The majority of the seaway follows the natural path of the St. Lawrence River, but since there is a rise of 600 feet from sea level to Lake Superior, the western most lake, there is a series of locks, the most notable of which is the Welland canal – the path around Niagara Falls. Pilotage is compulsory for the majority of the trip, for foreign flagged vessels over 300 GRT.

Entry to the seaway is through an area rich with sea life. One of the first stops may be Taddoussac and the Saguanay Fjord to see Beluga whales. As you work your way west you will follow the path of early explorers and fur traders where you’ll experience the effect of the tidal currents lessening and the influx of fresh water from the Great Lakes turning the water brackish. The first major city to visit is Quebec, Canada. The old city is a UNESCO world heritage site. From Quebec City you would continue west to Montreal. This is where you would have your seaway inspection and pick up the seaway pilot. From Montreal, you head into the Thousand Islands area, a popular vacation destination for Americans and Canadians where you can see some relics of the gilded age, such as the Boldt Castle, in Alexandria Bay. Entering Lake Ontario, you can choose the Canadian side and visit Toronto, Canada’s center of government, or continue on your way to the Welland Canal.

The Great Lakes is an exciting mixture of big cities such as Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, and remote small towns like Parry Sound in Georgian Bay. There are tens of thousands of islands in Georgian Bay. Most of these islands are along the east side of the bay and are collectively known as the Thirty Thousand Islands, including the larger Parry Island. Manitoulin Island, lying along the northern side of the bay, is the world’s largest island in a freshwater lake. In October 2004, the Georgian Bay Littoral was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Both Canada and the US have numerous provincial and national parks that line the shores of the Great Lakes. In Superior Provincial Park you can discover pictographs from the earliest settlers, and a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakes shore along Lake Superior’s Wisconsin shoreline takes you among 22 islands and the opportunity to kayak among sea caves that have been carved by a millennium of water and ice movement.

Destinations along Florida’s east coast or through the Great Lakes have much to offer the yachting scene; from the excitement of a large city experience to stunning natural areas, the options for cruising are many and varied.

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