Tips From The Great Lakes Cruising Club: Port Huron

By James Acheson, M/Y Lady J; Past Commodore, GLCC

For our April/May 2013 issue, focusing on the Great Lakes region, we asked our friends at the Great Lakes Cruising Club what their top picks were for things to see and do in their area. Here's what they recommended.

Photo of the Mackinac BridgePhoto: Michigan Sea Grant

Port Huron is the "Maritime Capital of the Great Lakes." Everywhere you look along the waterfront there's interesting maritime activity.

In the middle of it all is the Great Lakes Maritime Center at Vantage Point, housing the headquarters of the website, an online resource of all things Great Lakes. The Maritime Center, at the confluence of the St. Clair River and its tributary, Black River, features artifacts from the river and lake bottoms, a real-time display from an underwater camera, free Wi-Fi and even a snack bar. Visitors from all over the world come to view passing ships from equally diverse nations. You'll recognize the building by the colorful rooftop collection of 41 flags from shipping companies and other maritime organizations.

At the south end of the Desmond Landing River Walk stands the Seaway Terminal, popularly known as the Bean Dock, where cruise ships, military vessels, tall ships and other vessels occasionally stop. Here's where the former U.S. Coast Guard seagoing buoy tender/icebreaker Bramble is moored, exhibiting her illustrious history as taking part in the 1946 Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test and as being one of three ships in the flotilla making the 1957 breakthrough transit of the forbidding Northwest Passage.

At the north end of town, just into Lake Huron, is Fort Gratiot Light, the oldest lighthouse in the state of Michigan, dating to 1829. It remains active and open to visitors, guiding mariners from the lake into the St. Clair River with its flashing green light.

Just down river from the twin Blue Water Bridges lie two more Coast Guard ships. Port Huron is home to the active 250-foot icebreaker/buoy tender Hollyhock and, nearby, the former Huron Lightship. The lightship (never call her "the Huron”; lightships were never named) was the last lightship out of 32 on the Great Lakes when she was retired in 1970. She's now a museum.

In the lower reach of Black River you'll find fuel and services at Desmond Marine. Adjacent to it is the headquarters of the Great Lakes Cruising Club, an association of some 2,000 American and Canadian skippers. Further upstream, beyond two bascule bridges, lies the city's 140-slip River Street Marina, managed by Desmond Marine. (The bridges are on a half-hour schedule during the day on weekdays. They monitor VHF channel 9.)

At an easy walk from the waterfront, the Port Huron Museum boasts a nice collection of maritime artifacts throughout its second floor. It also manages the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and the Huron Lightship.

Port Huron is a popular jumping-off point for cruising yachts heading into Lake Huron toward North Channel, Georgian Bay or Lake Michigan. It's also a convenient check-in point for those returning from a Canadian cruise. (Call CBP at (810) 985-9972.)

Some of the events occurring in Port Huron over the summer include the start of the 290-mile Port-Huron-to-Mackinac sailboat race in mid-July and the international offshore powerboat race on the St. Clair River in early August. 

— Published: April/May 2013


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