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The Best Boating Spots to See the Eclipse in North America



It's not too often we get a total eclipse of the sun.


Well, eclipses in the general sense happen more often than you might think, but a total eclipse of the sun is a rarity.


According to NASA, there are at least two solar eclipses per year on Earth, but a total solar eclipse can only happen during a New Moon cycle. Total solar eclipses happen about once every 1-2 years, but what they call 'nearly identical eclipses' occur about every 18 years and 11 days, or every 6585.32 days. This is when there's a nearly complete overlap between the sun and the moon.

During your regular run-of-the-mill eclipses, the moon covers the sun but leaves an outside ring, often referred to as the "ring of fire," which darkens the sky but doesn't have quite the same dramatic effect. During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes directly into the Earth's shadow creating a night-like darkness during the middle of the day.


Which brings us to April 8th, 2024, when a total solar eclipse will occur.


As luck would have it (depending on how you view such things), North America will have some of the best spots in the world to watch the moon pass directly in front of the sun.


To get the best vantage point (or worst, if you're not wearing eclipse glasses), it's important to understand the "path of totality." This is the line across North America where the eclipse will be at its fullest, which means an increased darkness, or an increased 'effect,' of the eclipse.


On April 8th, the path of totality will travel from northwest Mexico, through 15 U.S. states, and through southeastern Canada. It will be 115 miles (185 kilometers) wide on average, and only those within the path will be able to experience darkness in the daytime with the naked eye for up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds. This path of totality is also known as the moon's umbra, where the moon appears to block the sun's shape completely.


So, if you're a boater, where should you be? In order to catch the eclipse, here are a few prime locations to consider:


Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico


Mazatlán sits on the west coast of Mexico and just south of the Gulf of California. That puts it right at the water's edge, which is a great location to hop into a boat to experience the eclipse from the water. According to Astronomy.com, the moon's umbra will touch the coast around 12:07 pm on April 8th, about 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Mazatlán, which means anyone along the coastline will be beneath the line of totality. As it happens, this same spot was a major destination for travelers the last time a total solar eclipse occurred back on July 11th, 1991. Apparently the city is used to an influx of travelers for the event, so no reason to think they're not expecting an increase in boat traffic too. The eclipse starts at 9:51 am MPDT with the maximum eclipse 11:09 am MPDT.



Buchanan Lake, Texas


Austin will be a hub for terrestrial eclipse chasers because it's practically under the line of totality, but nearby Lake Buchanan is the best option for boaters. The lake also feeds into the Colorado River, which travels southeast and into Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (great lake name, btw), so there's no shortage of options for boaters within the immediate area. Kerville, Texas will be the center of the path of totality, so if you're in south-central Texas plan accordingly. The eclipse will arrive at 12:14 CDT and the peak will be 1:34 pm CDT.



Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas


Nearby Russelville, Arkansas is within the path of totality, but boaters may want to head over to Lake Dardanelle for the aquatic experience. The lake flanks the entire west site of the city which includes Lake Dardanelle State Park, not to mention it flows into the Arkansas River farther to the west. If you can't get on the water, eclipsers will also be climbing nearby Mount Nebo for its impressive vantage point. Nebo resides just to the southwest of the lake and sits 1350 feet (410 meters) above the surrounding valley. The show starts at 12:33 pm CDT with the peak eclipse at 3:10 pm CDT.



Cape Girardeau, Missouri


As you can tell by the name, Cape Girardou is a waterfront city on high banks of the Mississippi River. It's also the largest city in southeastern Missouri with 80,000 residents and serves as the border with Illinois, which sits on the other side of the river. For boaters with a trailer, it's easily accessible from Interstate 55, but you'll want to do your research as that's a major thoroughfare for commercial vessels. The show will get started at 1:41 pm CDT with a peak eclipse at 2:00 pm CDT.



Wabash River, Indiana

The nearby small city of Vincennes, Indiana is directly under the line of totality, which means it'll be the peak of the eclipse for the Midwest. The nearby section of the Wabash River is the largest body of water available to boaters, and thanks to its massive size there are plenty of places to launch in the immediate area. Much like the situation in Missouri, the Wabash divides Indiana to the east and Illinois to the west, so boaters from both sides should easily be able to find a launch point. For trailerable boats, it's along U.S. Highway 50 and Highway 150, which run East-West respectively, and it's close to U.S. Highway 141 which runs North-South. The show kicks off at 1:46 pm EDT and peaks at 3:04 pm EDT.



Cleveland, Ohio

The metropolis of Cleveland, Ohio boasts over two million residents, but that number will increase on April 8th when eclipse chasers come to town. This is because the line of totality moves directly over the esteemed city. Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland offers an expansive vista to its west and an unobstructed view of the horizon. The city saw a huge spike in tourists for the last eclipse in 1991, so you might want to make a weekend out of it. There's also the Cleveland Museum of Arts and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to make the trip even more memorable. The eclipse starts at 1:59 pm EDT and shows its maximum at 3:15 pm EDT.



Erie, PA

The only large city in Pennsylvania to be graced by the Moon’s umbra is Erie, which is pretty handy since it's also on the shores of the Great Lakes. Thanks to the access provided by the world's biggest freshwater playground, you can expect some cruisers to fuel up in Erie during their eclipse adventures. While it's not exactly the height of summer, spring is in the air and boaters are already anxious to get on the water. What better excuse than to take your boat for her spring shakedown and catch the eclipse in Erie? The eclipse starts at 2:02 pm EDT and peaks at 3:18 pm EDT.



Niagara Falls, New York


There's always a good reason to escape to Niagara Falls, and if the eclipse doesn't motivate you, there are other great options like the city's magnificent waterfalls. As a boater, you'll want to be careful if you're navigating through here as the entrance from Lake Ontario is a busy one, and the Niagara River itself is chock full of commercial and civilian traffic. But, once you're in, it's an exceptional vantage point to see the eclipse. Even if you can't witness it from the water, there's an outlook called Terrapin Point that's directly behind the falls that will give you both an aquatic and celestial experience. The nearby city of Buffalo is also expecting a big boater turnout. The show starts at 2:04 pm EDT and hits its crescendo at 3:20 pm EDT.



Kingston, Ontario


Kingston is actually a little off the path of totality, but given its geographical importance and access to water, it had to make the list. Kingston has a rich history to Canadians, but it's also just a stone's throw from the U.S. thanks to the nearby bridge at Gananoque. It's also a boater's haven with seemingly endless access via the St. Lawrence River and the countless tributaries and channels that make it one of the most popular recreational boating hubs on Earth. It also has easy access to the Great Lakes, which means travellers may come from afar to visit Kingston in April. In other words, in terms of accessibility it's the best spot for both Canadian and U.S boaters to see the eclipse from the water. You can expect to see a lot of vessels anchored up when the eclipse passes overhead. The eclipse starts at 2:09 pm EDT and peaks around 3:23 pm EDT.



Riviere Saint-Francois, Sherbrooke, QC

In the heart of Quebec, for Canadians who don't want to cross the border they may want to head to old-time Sherbrooke for their eclipse experience. Sherbrooke is only 100 miles (161 km) from Montréal, plus it sits on the shores of the Riviere Saint-Francois. Much like the urban centres mentioned above that are based around a major waterway, so too is Sherbrooke, but the views within the city itself are worth it. It's still frigid in Quebec in early April, so if you can get on the river around midday, you're still in for the best eclipse experience in Canada. The line of totality falls right over Sherbrooke, meaning the eclipse will start at 2:16 pm EDT and peaks at 3:29 pm EDT.



Even if you can't make it to any of these locations to experience the event from the water, you can still watch it live through NASA's telescope live feed.


And remember, be safe out there boaters. As fascinating as the eclipse will be, remember to protect your eyes, your boat, and your fellow boaters.


You can watch the path of totality across North America in the video below:


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