When many people think about summer, they think about family picnics, camping and baseball games. Many boaters in the Long Point Bay area think about swimming, fishing, Pottahawk, Long Point and even Erie, PA. For those of you who have ventured out to 'the point', you're nearly half way to Erie! From the gas dock at MacDonald Turkey Point Marina, it is approximately 17 miles to the beautiful and picturesque Long Point lighthouse. Although the shortest distance to the shores of Pennsylvania is approximately 23.5 miles, it is just over 27 miles to the mouth of the channel leading into Presque Isle Bay in Erie, PA. Aside from the easily avoidable Bluff's Bar and the shallow waters off the tip of Long Point, you should have nothing but clear sailing (or motoring)! Hopefully this blog will ease your fears and answer any questions you may have about travelling to Erie, PA.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
With a little planning, your trip to Erie can be safe, easy and fun! It is a GREAT idea to visit an online map similar to Google Earth to see exactly where you are going and lay out coordinates for your destination that may not be included below. A trust worthy weather app or website such as Windfinder is also critical to ensure a safe trip!
Remember that any good trip starts at home. Ensure everyone planning to accompany you to the USA has proper identification (as outlined later in this blog). Boats over 30'-0" will be required to purchase a CBP decal at an annual cost of $27.50. This decal must be affixed to the boat as directed and can be purchased online or through a paper application. Additional information can be found at the DTOPS website.
This process may take time. PLAN AHEAD!
Prepare a sail or trip plan including a description of your boat and your intended destination along with estimated departure and arrival times. Make sure somebody at home is aware of your trip and let them know when you have arrived safely. (Sample plans can be found online and are important in the event you do not arrive at your destination as planned).
Now that your boat is FULL of fuel and you have checked all your required safety equipment and ensured an adequate number of life jackets, you are ready to "cross the pond!"
AWAY WE GO!
To avoid the known sandbars, the following three GPS coordinates are all it takes to ensure plenty of water both to and from Erie. (Always take precautions and alter your speed if in doubt as changes in sandbars occur frequently.) When leaving MacDonald's Turkey Point Marina set your compass to 113˚ and your GPS to N 42˚33.700 W 80˚1.350
(you may have to change the settings on your GPS or use an online converter to change the format for your particular GPS unit). This first set of coordinates will have you boating just north-east of the lighthouse with one of the most beautiful views in Norfolk County and a safe 10-15 feet of water under you. Next travel south approximately 2 miles at 180˚ to coordinates N 42˚31.970 W80˚1.350. Now that are safely around the point, travel at 182˚ and set your GPS coordinates to N 42˚9.700 W80˚3.000. This will take you to the well marked channel leading into the bay at Presque Isle. With relatively clear conditions, you will see three distinct towers dead ahead on the shores of Erie not long after rounding the point.
Now that you have arrived safely, you have a few options as to where you head next. If all passengers on your boat have obtained an I-68 Form (Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit) or are ALL Nexus/Sentri/Fast card holders, you can simply call customs (up to 4 hours prior to your arrival) at 1-888-523-2628. Anybody not in possession of the above noted documents must go directly to a CBP Office (call 1-814-833-1355 for additional information and locations) or report your arrival at one of the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) Videophone Inspection Stations to contact a border patrol agent
and receive your 18 digit inspection verification number (be ready to record it). Keep in mind that only the Master of the Ship may leave the boat to make contact with CBP until permission is granted by a CBP Officer.
Although this may sound complicated, the Videophones are very easy to use. It is simply a phone directly connected to a customs official. During the "interview" process, you can expect to receive similar questions you may be asked when crossing at a land border. It is important to have the following additional information ready;
- Identification for each person on board the vessel including date of birth and current address. (A Canadian Passport is the preferred document)
- Boat name, registration number and length
- Port you left from in Canada
- Port you are currently calling from (or intend to arrive at if calling by phone)
- Declaration of any goods you may have on board
- CBP Decal number for boats over 30'-0"
- Dinghy license and papers
- Copies of prescriptions for any medications on board
Four CBP Videophones are located in Erie PA. The first you will encounter is located at Lampe Marina (N 42˚8.930 W80˚4.425) which is a marina located to your port side (south) just prior to entering the channel which leads to the Presque Isle Bay. The other locations are at Dobbins Landing (the large steel tower at the end of a pier along the south shore immediately to your left as you enter the bay). The Videophone at Dobbins Landing is located on the west side of a pole at the east side of the pier at approximately N 42˚8.300 W80˚5.460. (It is important to note that the pier is posted and you are not allowed to moor your boat there.) You may tie up your boat at the easily accessible courtesy dock behind the Sheridan Erie Bayfront Hotel (just west of the pier). The courtesy dock is well marked and access is by the channel between the Sheridan Hotel and Bayfront Convention Centre (west of Dobbins Landing).
Although the courtesy dock is easy to get to, I personally prefer to use the Videophone located at Perry's Landing (N 42˚7.817 W80˚6.558). Although this location may be slightly out of your way, the Videophone is located at the kiosk at the fuel dock and is just a few steps from your boat. The other advantage is, you will be tied up at a fuel station. (I do recommend fueling your boat upon arrival or in the morning if you arrive at night. In the event that you need to leave in short notice, you will have a full tank and be ready to go).
The final location of a CBP Videophone is located at the beautiful Presque Isle State Marina. All of the Videophones are located at fuel stations except for the one at Dobbins Landing.
WHERE TO STAY?
Once you have been welcomed by a border patrol officer and received your inspection verification number, you are free to make your way to your marina of choice. There are approximately 8 to choose from. Not all marinas are open to transients and it is recommended to make reservations prior to leaving since Erie is the home of many festivals and special events including Erie Days and Roar on the Shore. You can expect to pay approximately $1.50 - $2.00 per foot per night. (If you are the member of a yacht club in Canada, you may want to check to see if there are any marinas with a reciprocating agreement with your club). I have personally stayed at the Wolverine Park Marina (located adjacent the courtesy dock behind the Sheridan) which is the closest marina to State St. if you intend to use public transit. The closest bus stop is at the top of the hill across from the hospital. Although the bus is inexpensive and relatively easy to use, it can be quite unreliable. Several car rental companies are also available in the area and are much cheaper than in Canada and a vehicle can be rented for approximately $30 per day (check your coverage for rental vehicles from your insurance company in Canada and have proof of coverage to save additional costs when renting). State St. is also the hub of night activities with many restaurants, bars and nightclubs less than a half mile away. The other marina I have personally stayed at in Erie is the Bay Front Marina, home of the Sloppy Duck Saloon. It is exceptionally clean with great amenities and modern bath house. Commodore Perry Yacht Club and the Presque Isle State Marina are also popular choices. Be sure to do your homework to find a marina that best suits your needs!
THE RETURN TRIP
They say that all good things must come to an end. In order to return home, simply follow the GPS coordinates provided above in reverse order. The last coordinate on the return trip (not mentioned above) will be MacDonald's Turkey Point Marina which is located at N42˚39.900 W80˚19.725 (Don't forget to add or subtract 180˚ to your compass bearing.)
Canadian laws state that if you have left Canadian waters for any length of time, regardless if you anchored or not, you are required to report to a CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) designated marine reporting site (one of which is MacDonald's Turkey Point Marina) and call the reporting centre at (888)226-7277. DO NOT EXIT THE BOAT OR UNLOAD ANYTHING UNTIL YOU ARE GIVEN THE ALL CLEAR BY A BORDER AGENT! You can once again expect to be asked similar questions as you would be asked at a land crossing. You will need to identify yourself and all passengers as requested (have your passports handy). You will also need to provide your boat name and registration number and declare any purchases. Canadian Officials may or may not request you to stay in your current location so they may come for a physical inspection. A confirmation number will once again be provided to prove you contacted border patrol upon your return. Keep a record of your confirmation numbers in the event you are asked to provide it by authorities.
Be aware that rules and laws can change. Please visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection to verify any information provided.
The only thing left to do is prepare to share pictures and stories of your adventure with family and friends! BE SAFE AND ENJOY YOUR TRIP!