Wolfe Island, and high water on Lake Ontario

There's a good reason why Kingston is considered the freshwater sailing capital of North America. The weather is generally good, navigation is relatively straightforward, and there are several dozen nice anchorages and tourist destinations within day-trip distance.

Wolfe Island has quite a few nice little spots, of which the Big Sandy Bay nature area is likely one of the most popular.

Wind turbines and beach at Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island

There are two ways to get here: take the ferry to Marysville, then drive or bike to the conservation area, then hike 1.5 km in. Or take a boat. The former option makes for a long, bug-ridden walk; the latter is very subject to the whims of the weather (BSB is exposed to the prevailing winds off the lake, and if the wind comes up, you're beating off a lee shore into a short, steep chop).

On our last trip out there, the wind was three knots, which makes the trip somewhat smoother. Rarely is this the case.

Katy at the helm of Sunset Chaser

But then you get to the north end of the bay, and you find this:

High water covers much of the beach

(Yes, the water's high this year! Not high enough to keep from dinging the prop on unmarked rocks, but high nonetheless.)

And if you head a little farther south, near the middle of the bay, you get past the families and students who took the shore route, and encounter the powerboat party. If the weather's nice, there might be anywhere from two to 20 of them, often rafted up, usually with dinghies buzzing around towing tubes and skiers, and always having a good time. It's still pretty quiet compared to Sandbanks or Presqu'ile, but a decent party nonetheless.

Powerboats anchored near the beach

A few of these are last year's photos; the water level is very high this year and not much beach is showing at the moment. The dunes here, like their counterparts elsewhere, are fragile. These have an advantage, though: a little three-leaved plant called Toxicodendron radicans. Signs saying "warning, poison ivy" are far more effective than signs saying "please stay off the dunes"!

Moving southward, we're out of the party zone, and start encountering sailboats. This section of the beach is much quieter and more laid-back. No parties here, just a handful of boaters calmly enjoying a relatively pristine natural environment however they please. Not many people put in the effort to head out this far, where the beach is narrower and rockier.

Three sailboats rafted at anchor

I don't normally like beaching Sunset Chaser, but sometimes it's calm enough here to safely haul her up to the shore.

Small runabout on the beach in front of trees

Big Sandy Bay isn't a free beach. The local government puts a fair bit of money into maintaining the trails and parking, and cleaning up the beach, so they charge a toll from Victoria Day to Labour Day- currently $8 for adults and $3 for kids when arriving by car, or $6 / $2 by bike or boat. Park staff come by in a golf cart a few times during the day to collect fees and keep people from damaging the plants or the dunes, and they usually drop by again in the evening to make sure everyone who came by land has made it back safely.

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