December 22, 2014

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Beyond the beach

Finding adventure on Lorain County’s waterways

Life can be a beach, but being stuck on one when the gleaming lake is calling isn’t much fun. With
10,000 square miles of Lake Erie surface within the shoreline’s grasp, finding a way to explore the water can leave anyone without a boat on the shore kicking the sand in frustration.
Sure, there are ferries to the islands, piers to fish from and plenty of pleasure cruises in neighboring counties, but finding a local boat to rent or a captain to drive could take some creative and expensive measures. Before another summer on the water passes you by, here are some local experiences to get your feet wet.

- Charter a fishing boat — but leave the worms at home

With higher gas prices and lower angler turnouts, charter captains are more willing to set their reels aside and take a cruise. The catch: It’ll probably cost you.
Robert Jaycox Jr., charter captain of the “Skipper 2” docked in Lorain, said although fishing pays the bills, for the right price he’ll take anyone anywhere. “A lot of times, these boats in Lorain are sitting around and doing nothing,” he said. “I don’t promote (a pleasure cruise), but if people call and they have a couple hundred bucks in their pocket, sure I’ll take them.”
Jaycox said the cost of gas is one reason he requests $100 per hour, per person for a ride.
Charter captains are numerous in Lorain and Vermilion harbors, and finding the right one for the right price can be as easy as calling around. The one stipulation you’ll find with any of them is there’s no way anyone can get in the water. That’s where their insurance coverage ends and the liability begins.
Mark Mishak, captain of the “One More” in Lorain, said he’d do a two-hour sunset cruise for $350, but passengers have to bring their own wine and cheese.
“You have to realize that there are a lot of people out there who don’t fish,” he said. “They just want to go out for the evening and watch the sunset.”
Visit LorainPortAuthority.com to find a contact list and directory of local charters.

- Return to the Vermilion lagoons
The small paddle wheels of the Mystic Belle offer a relaxing way to experience the old fishing port of the Vermilion River.The 50-minute tour travels the banks of the Vermilion lagoons, where working marinas and riverfront homes mix with local wildlife and natural scenery.
Cliff Parsons, captain of the Mystic Belle, narrates the adventure and said the relaxing atmosphere and history of the river can be surprising for those who haven’t experienced it.
“The river’s not very big, but it has one of the largest boat harbors on the south side of Lake Erie,” he said. “People always get a kick when they see how many boats there are in Vermilion, and the piers that have been around since the 1800s.”
Although the boat isn’t built to take on the sometimes rough waters of the lake, it exits the river to explore the Vermilion coastline.
Weather permitting, the tour takes off at 2 and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. On weekends, a special sunset cruise departs a half-hour before sunset.
Rates for adults, senior citizens and children are $10 and under.
Group rates also are available for private tours.
Call (440) 315-1907 to book a reservation.

- Eco-tour on the horizon
If enjoying the sites of the Black River in a kayak is slightly beyond your comfort level, a tour aboard the Lorain Port Authority’s shuttle boats, the “Pride of Lorain” and “Lady Charleston” could be your ticket on the water.
The boats have been reserved for special events — such as Lorain’s International Festival and Lorain Lighthouse tours — but Rick Novak, executive director of the Lorain Port Authority, said a deal is in the works with the Lorain County Metro Parks to start up an eco-tour.
“Part of our goal is to get people on a boat and on the water who’ve not had the opportunity,” he said. “We have a tremendous asset here.”
Novak said the tour would focus on the plants and wildlife of the Black River and Lake Erie shoreline and would be narrated by a Metro Parks’ naturalist. Although no official date has been set, he said the tour could be available in August.
“We’re opening up the waterfront for everyone to use,” Novak said. “We’re hoping people take advantage and enjoy it.”
To learn more, contact the Port Authority at (440) 204-2269.

072907beach.jpgJason Miller / Chronicle
You may not have your own boat, but taking a kayak down the Black River is just one of the ways you can still enjoy the waters in and around Lorain County.