Niagara Falls Sailing

[ Background | Equipment | Where ]

Background of the Sport

Moored sailboats at marina

Sailing uses the wind to power the boat's motion. It's not as much by pushing the sail (as is the case when sailing downwind) but by creating forward-pulling lift using airfoil-shaped sails (when sailing across or into the wind). The joy of sailing combines the joy of being on the water, the power you feel in harnessing natural forces, and with the thrill of going fast without significant energy on your part.

Sailing dates back to the ancient Phoenician traders, though the technology of sailboats has improved dramatically over the years. Innovations in the past 50 years include fibreglass hulls, metal masts and booms, synthetic sails, computer controlled laser cut and sewn sails, and computer aided design for boat hulls have made sail boats faster, safer, cheaper, and easier to maintain.

Small sailboats under 20 feet in length come in two main configurations: either single hull or multi-hull (like a catamaran). They typically have one mast, one mainsail (the big one), and a jib (the small triangular at the front, to direct the wind around the mainsail), and sometimes a spinnaker (the large round-shaped one for going downwind). Small boats are designed for a limited number of people to crew, with them either sitting in or around the cockpit (which may be a tightly stretched tarp between the catamaran hulls), or supported from a trapeze rig over the edge of the boat (in high winds). Smaller boats with centreboards include modles like Albacores and Lasers.

In coastal waters and in larger lakes, boats can get larger (with fixed keels), more sophisticated (and much more expensive), and can handle larger numbers of people. Some such boats even have multiple masts, and complex sail configurations. Such larger yachts are suitable for a sailing on open water for significant distances, and provide sleeping, kitchen, communications equipment, even entertainment facilities.

Yachts with gear at a marina

To go sailing, you'll need a boat, and lifejackets.


Sailing in the Niagara region is concentrated in three areas, on Lake Erie, on Lake Ontario, and on the lower Niagara River.

Here are the local sailing clubs:

Sailboats on the Niagara River below Queenston

Jordan Harbour

Jordan Harbour is located 8 miles (13 km) east of Grimsby harbor, 5 miles (8 km) west of Port Dalhousie. A sand beach extending 2.4 miles to the east of Jordan Harbor provides a landing for boats under fair weather conditions. CAUTION: Shoal waters extend 500 metres offshore, so cruise well offshore in this part of Lake Ontario. Jordan Harbor Light is located on the west end of the north breakwater, with 30 feet height on white circular tower 12 feet high, with a green upper portion.

Beacon Harborside Marina (905-562-7888) with depths of 10 feet, with transient dockage and facilities with fuel, pump out and other facilities . There is an excellent restaurant, a friendly bar, reasonable rooms, and has an indoor pool & sauna.

Port Dalhousie
Port Dalhousie (4312' :N, 7916' :W) is a suburb of St Catharines. Located 24 miles (39 km) ESE of Hamilton Harbor and 9 miles (14 km) WSW of the Niagara River.

Most of the coast along this part of Lake Ontario has 30 to 50 feet high wooded clay bluffs overlooking a narrow beach. There is an excellent sand beach to the west of the Port Dalhousie piers.

CAUTION: boulders and shoal waters lie along the westerly approach to Port Dalhousie 0.3 miles (500 metres) to the west of the piers with a depth of 5 feet extending 0.4 miles (650 metres) offshore.

Port Dalhousie Light is near the end of the east pier and has a square wooden tower with a green upper portion. The west pier has a starboard day beacon on its outer end.
CAUTION: in high waters or storms, the outer sections of the west pier may become awash or submerged.

Dalhousie Yacht Club (905-987-5251) at the south end of the east pier is private, with privileges for reciprocating clubs, with depths ranging from 6 to 13 feet with dockage, mooring, pump out and other facilities. Also contact: Lincoln Marina (905-987-5251).

Port Weller
Between Port Dalhousie and Port Weller, the coastline is mostly clay bluffs of 39 feet (12 metres) height. Watch for the huge parallel breakwaters of the Welland Canal, which extend 1.2 miles offshore, about 2.5 miles to the NE of Port Dalhousie.

CAUTION: this is a major international commercial throughfare with very large (and hard to manoever) vessels which have the right of way and require a clear channel. Small craft operators are cautioned not to use the harbor un-necessary. A small craft tie-up wharf for vessels waiting passage while transiting the Welland Canal is on the east side of Port Weller harbor.

Port Weller Light Buoy W is located 2.1 miles north of the Port Weller Harbor entrance and the Port Weller Outer Light is on the outer end of the west break wall on a 40 feet high red skeleton tower. CAUTION WRECKS are located 0.4 miles (650 metre) east of Port Dalhousie 0.1 mile (150 metres) offshore. One of the wrecks projects above the water approximately 6 feet, and the outer wreck is marked by a buoy

The St Catharines Marina is on the east side of the east breakwater wall has depths from 6 to 10 feet and can accommodate up to 60 transient boats.

Niagara On The Lake
The coast between Port Weller and the Niagara River has of wooded clay bluffs, which drop to a height of 10 feet west of Four Mile Point (43 16 " N - 79 08 " W), about 4 miles (6 km) east of Port Weller and 3 miles (5 km) west of the mouth of the Niagara River. Four Mile Point is gravel-ly with low & swampy ground.

CAUTION: Shoals lie offshore from Four Mile Point for a distance of 0.3 miles (500 m). Watch for a charted wreck of a concrete barge at 7 feet depth about 0.2 miles (300 m) west of Four Mile Point. Firing Practice Area! The Canadian Forces small arms range, halfway between Four Mile Point and the mouth of the Niagara River, extends 1.5 miles offshore with the boundaries marked by spar buoys.

The Niagara Bar is a sand bar formed by the silt from the Niagara River, and is located 4 miles (6 km) from its mouth, covering an area from 4 miles NE to 1.5 miles NE of Four Mile Point with a depth of 8 feet. The Bar is marked on is outer extremity by Niagara Bar Lighted Buoy 2 (U.S. 2490).

Ramsey Shoal is about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) N.of Fort Niagara, and has depths of 17 feet. There is a shallow mud bank about 5 feet deep, extending 0.8 miles (1.2 km) offshore from the east side of the Niagara River entrance, with its NW side marked by a lit bell buoy.

Niagara-On-The-Lake is a Customs Reporting Station. The customs wharf is 0.6 miles SE of Mississauga Point, and extends 20 feet into the river with a length of 52 feet parallel to the shoreline. Recreational watercraft can be rented at this wharf..

Niagara-On-The-Lake Sailing Club (905-468 3966)

Niagara River
The International Boundary bisects the river and boaters should observe appropriate reporting rules. The Niagara River banks steepen when proceeding west up the gorge leading towards Niagara Falls but flatten on the eastern shore just before entering Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls Falls is only 11 miles from the river's mouth but, only the lower 7 miles may be navigated, up to Lewiston, NY..

CAUTION: Northerly winds cause eddies off the east entrance point, and the river current may rip in two locations north of Mississauga Point, both can be hazardous to small craft.

About 2 miles from the river entrance, on the Ontario side, is the Smugglers Cove Boat Club private marina (905-468-3331) offering depths of 24 feet. An anchorage areaclose to Smugglers Cove Boat Club has lights marking its NE and SW corners.

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