Trailer Sailing the Slate Islands
by Sue and Alan Frisch

After years of talking ourselves out of sailing across Lake Superior from Bayfield to the Slate Islands in our Tartan 31, we finally did it. And, we did it our way - we hitched up our 17’ WindRider to our Volkswagen camper bus on August 31 and drove there, humming Woody Guthrie songs all the way. Well, maybe a few Frank Sinatra for variety. (Does anyone know the entire words to a song?) We think the journey is as important as the destination - maybe more.

Sue Frisch sailing on the WindRider 17 to the Slate Islands.

Our first night found us at a Cajun festival in Grand Portage, MN. This was a delightful start to our sailing adventure. We made our next stop at old Fort William near Thunder Bay, Ontario. This is an easy four hour layover and well worth the visit. It is a working fort with staff, in period dress, engaging us in conversation and somehow bridging their world with ours. We arrived just days before the Fort closed for the season. We would have liked to have had lunch in the ‘officers mess’ but we were too late in the season. From there, we journeyed to Terrace Bay and the Slates.

Terrace Bay has a lovely boat ramp and two docks that you get to by driving via the golf course road. The launch is located at the foot of a picturesque waterfall with a hiking trail to the top. We were slightly nervous about the fourteen mile round-trip across open water to reach the access to the Islands and return. After sailing on Lake Superior for many years, one can imagine anything. I did not want to have to sleep in the WindRider, Al thought it would be kind of fun. I laid out our sailing plans to the motel owners and later started to do the same with some local men fishing on the docks. They already knew. The WindRider is unique and word gets out in a small town. Mind at rest, we sailed out for the day. It was spectacular! The Islands are split down the middle with Caribou herds inhabiting them. Much to my relief, there are free cabins available for use. Kayakers love this destination. It is sheltered and shallow with many inlets between the two Islands. The wind was light so we motored here and there, with lunch and a nap on a beach. However, with the wind in the right direction it would be a wind tunnel and a fun sail right down the middle.

The picturesque village of Rossport, Ontario from sea.

Upon our return, we hitched up the WindRider and went to Rossport. We had reservations at the Rossport Inn and well worth a stay. It is a renovated railway hotel with Hansel and Gretel cabins available. The food is awesome, fresh fish prepared in ways you have never tasted before. Dinners were very social with emails and invitations changing hands.
Reservations are necessary to obtain lodging.

The islands out from Rossport are similar to the Apostles only bigger and breathtakingly beautiful. We were the only WindRider among kayakers. Kind of the same thing without all the work and sails to boot. The sailing was perfect, good steady winds and lots of fun places to explore. We topped off our stay at Rossport with a day hike to Rainbow Falls. The trail is well marked but hiking boots are a good idea. Binoculars and a camera are a must.

Al Frisch at the cabin.

Rossport is a lovely little town. There is a selection of B&B’s and restaurants, all within walking distance from the marina. For myself (a light sleeper), the only drawback was the Canadian Pacific trains that come roaring through town, with whistle blasting, several times a day and night.

“The Hat,” Al Frisch taking a nap in the WindRider 17 at the Slates.

Try it - you will like it. Rossport & Terrace Bay are an easy, eight hour drive from the Twin Cities. A great destination for kayaks and Trailor Sailors.

Sue and Alan Frisch live in Plymouth, MN. They keep their WindRider 17 and Tartan 31 in Bayfield, WI.