BY PHIL WHEELER
The 17th annual South Bass Island Kayak Rendezvous lured a fleet of kayaks to the wide waters of Lake Erie last weekend, as paddlers from around the region, including nearby Canada, came to enjoy the unique harbinger of summer.
The heritage and beauty of the islands’ natural resources can be explored on the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails (LEIWT), five separate paddling trails around each island (North Bass, Middle Bass, South Bass and Kelleys) and along the nearshore mainland (Catawba to Marblehead).
Eric Slough of Toledo, who has relatives on the mainland a short paddle away, began the SBI Kayak Rendezvous. It is the premier kayaking gathering on Lake Erie, typically drawing more than 100 kayak enthusiasts.
“At its core, we started organizing this event to show off the Lake Erie Islands as a paddling destination and to gather, socialize and explore,” he said.
Official activities that coincide with the event are still on hold this year due to Covid-19, but that didn’t stop many from coming out to enjoy the weekend. The State Park was filled with colorful kayaks of all sizes and shapes.
Kayak enthusiast Dan Cavins has been coming to the event for half-dozen years, driving all of the way from Cincinnati.
“It’s just a great event,” said Cavins. “They call it a ‘rendezvous’ because there are no scheduled events, no scheduled start times. People just break off in their groups and do what they want to do.”
There are paddling opportunities among the islands for any level of paddlers. Beginners can paddle in the safety of Put-in-Bay Harbor. More experienced paddlers can travel the miles of island coastlines, and there are dozens of open water crossings between islands for the more adventurous to explore.
In addition to the SBI Kayak Rendezvous, big crowds traveled to Put-in-Bay last weekend for the 47th annual Founder’s Day Weekend celebration of the islands founding father, Jose DeRivera. DeRivera was a Hispanic merchant who purchased South Bass, Middle Bass, Sugar, Gibraltar, Ballast and Starve Islands for the grand sum of just $44,000 in 1854.
He then sold off parcels of the land to the community for a fraction of the price to develop the cluster of islands as a better place to live. The family-oriented free event featured live entertainment, as well as arts and crafts from local and area vendors.