A Day Cruising Detroit’s Riverside Marina

Riverside Marina, originally named Harbor Hill Marina, was the dream of Coleman A. Young and Portfield Wilson in the late 1980s.

Photo courtesy of David Rudolph.
Photo Courtesy of David Rudolph

It’s a sunny afternoon in the city and I am feeling like I need to feel the sun rays on my skin and the wind in my hair. Growing up and living in Detroit my whole life sometimes I forget that there’s plenty of things I haven’t done, seen or experienced. My city is filled with new and old hidden gems and this Summer I am dedicated to having new experiences in the Motor City. Today, I decided that it’s time to see Detroit from a different perspective. So, my mission was a boating experience on the Detroit River. 

My wheels hit the brick road of Michigan Avenue with a rhythmic pace as I head to the I-75 to take me to the Riverside Marina to meet with Jason McGuire and experience yachting on the Detroit River for the first time. McGuire is the President and CEO of ABC Enterprise who operates and manages Riverside Marina. 

Riverside Marina, originally named Harbor Hill Marina, was the dream of Coleman A. Young and Portfield Wilson in the late 1980s. It is a special place because it’s one of few Black-owned, managed, developed and designed marinas in the world. Driving past boat after boat after boat knowing that over 90% of these boats belonged to people that looked like me was nothing short of inspiring. 

We made our way over to the boat filled with excitement to feel the cool whisper breeze of the waves. We were greeted with open arms as McGuire showed us around his cabana that was equipped with a small kitchen, plants, couches and snacks. He shared with us how he came onto the marina years ago because he wanted to fully immerse himself into the boating world. The owner at the time told him we have no space for you, but McGuire wasn’t taking no for an answer and said he would work for free! Three days of hard work later he was hired and the rest was history. 

Before we climbed on to his three bedroom, two bathroom, white, 1998 Sea Ray 480 Sedan Bridge named Life’s Antidote, he walked us down to his speed boat which was the same type of speed boat that was used in that final scene of “All About The Benjamins” (2002) starring Ice Cube and Mike Eppes.

Photo Courtesy of David Rudolph

McGuire extended his hand to help us hop onto Life’s Antidote. The moment my feet hit the boat I felt luxurious and fancy. We toured the inside and discovered that during the summer months McGuire and his family spend most of their time on the boat. The inside of the boat was beautiful and brown with gold trimmings, a nice size kitchen, table with a booth couch. We stopped by the boat gas station before heading out to the water. Boating is not a poor man’s hobby. I thought paying $60 to fill up my SUV was an issue. But it took $900 to fill up Life’s Antidote. Thankfully McGuire said that the gas usually lasts for a few weeks.  

We pulled into the open water and I was reminded that regardless of how big I feel my worries and problems are, there’s nothing like the open water to remind you that the world is much bigger than a emoment. The boat has two levels, on the first level there’s a cushy bench for sitting and storage. But I wanted to have a first hand view of the sights so we climbed the stairs to the upper level. I sipped a mimosa and cheered with my guest as he drank tequila and lemonade. This time I was seeing Detroit from a different perspective. I watched as we passed by the historic Boblo boat, at least what was left of it. McGuire dropped Detroit nuggets along the ride and shared that a couple of investors were rebuilding the boat, it was a lot of wood that looked like the beginning of a sturdy structure. We saw the beginnings of a new bridge from Windsor to Detroit. The opening to each side looked finished and there was a Canada flag maple leaf sign at the top of the Windsor side and a Spirit of Detroit sign at the top of the Detroit side. We passed by many steam cargo boats from both Detroit and Windsor. We embarked on international waters and chatted about the prohibition times in the 1920s when smugglers like the Purple Gang, who made $300 million dollars a year. The Purple Gang and smuggler gangs like them would travel back and forth from Windsor to Detroit to bring liquor, beer and moonshine.

We docked at the Waterfront Restaurant and Lounge to get a bite to eat, and sat outside on the patio to enjoy the views of the vessels pulling in and out of the water parking lot. The restaurant had an amazing atmosphere, with indoor and outdoor dining. They host weddings, they have live music, and food and drinks that hit all the right spots. After McGuire paid for our lunch we hopped back onto the boat with the assistance of McGuire.

Over all my first boating experience on the Detroit river was filled with history, gratitude and inspiration. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Seeing Detroit in this way has ignited a flame in myself to have my own vessel so I can continue to discover new places and faces while cruising the river.

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