Mark on Camper 58
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Grand Rapids Michigan
Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
Rep Power: 8
Forget waves on Erie -- think seiches.
Such an event is not uncommon on Lake Huron in the Saginaw Bay. A strong persistant SW wind will blow the bay (Shallow) out and a strong NE brings a flood. My father told me of people collecting stranded fish in the bay when he was a child. The boat I raced from the mouth of the Saginaw River was hanging from the dock lines one race day - cancelled because most could not get out. The largest waves I have sailed on were off Sleeping Bear point diring the 1981 Mac race. Winds built NE all day to a peak of 70 Knots and held there for 7-1/2 hours. We made less than 3 knots into it and lost sight of the mast lights of nearby boats in the troughs. Several boats lost masts. 1/4 of the fleet dropped out in safe harbors. We estimated crest heights of around 30 feet with about 120 feet crest to crest.
We saw 18 footers at Muskegon in October with W to NW winds of 45 to 55 and a shorter fetch than in 1981. Waves at the Grand Haven harbor were breaking over the North light (36 feet) and also over the light house on the South wall (42 feet). In these conditions, you can neither enter or exit the harbor channels in most boats. The bore traveling into the channel will both throw boats over the wall and ground their keels. Even the Coast Guard stays home unless there is need for assistance. The two cross-lake ferries will also not venture out. On much of the West Michigan coast there is no where to run or hide if you are trapped by this situation. Only a few harbor entries such as Muskegon or Luddington have outer harbors defined by extended arms. If you can pass into the safe zone past the outer lights it becomes peaceful by about 200 yards up-river. We tried to exit Luddington with 12 footers comming in and almost fell short on power to buck the bore.