Recommendations for Lake Michigan cruiser - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 05-01-2010
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Recommendations for Lake Michigan cruiser

I apologize in advance for the length. Jeez, I guess I ramble. For those with ADD, feel free to skip the background info. :-)

Background
I've been spending a good deal of time on sailnet the last two months, lurking and learning. And I think I'm getting closer to deciding what my first boat should be. Now that I have a clearer idea what I'd like to do, I'd like to elicit advice from sailnetters.

First, a bit of background. I'm 42, single, live in Indianapolis, in decent shape (if you don't count memory). My experience in sailing thus far has been sailing Sunfish and the occasional Buccaneer on small inland lakes. Great fun, but I wanted something different.

A little over a year ago, I decided I wanted more, but wasn't sure where that would take me. I took a week-long liveboard course on a Pearson 39 in the San Juan Islands to get my ASA 101-104. Best day on that trip was the first... complete with small craft advisory, reefing, and heaving-to to let a tanker pass. Very cool. I was hooked.

So when I joined sailnet a couple months ago, I thought perhaps the best way to was jump in with both feet, sell the house, and move south to live aboard. The short of it is that that's probably not in the cards right now for personal reasons.

Because I live in the middle of Indiana, I began searching for a trailer sailer to sail locally. For some reason, I never really considered buying a larger boat and keeping it on Lake Michigan. I saw the combination of cost and distance as limiting factors. But after having lunch with a buddy here in Indy who regularly sails on Lake Michigan, I'm thinking that sounds like an awfully good idea.
Now I need your help to see if I'm thinking in the right direction. Here are my thoughts.

My goal is to buy a boat that I can keep moored on Lake Michigan (~3hr drive) and spend every other weekend sailing. I'd want to do some cruising up into Wisconsin and/or Michigan for a week or two at a time. (I have a web development business, so I can work remotely if I plan these trips well. It'd be liveaboard lite.)

I'd be single-handing a majority of the time. My preference is definitely cruising and exploring, not racing. I'd probably lean toward comfort over performance.

I've been looking at Catalina, Pearson, Ericson, and Sabre in the 25-28' range.

In terms of budget, it'd be nice to stay at around $10k. I realize I'm going to be getting an older boat for that price. I'd rather look at what the best boat is for me and then determine whether I can afford it, rather than set an exact amount and get a disappointment. If you say I need to spend $15k, I'll look at that and find a way. I'll give up Klondike bars... for life.

I'm opening up my search range into Chicago, southern Michigan, and southern Wisconsin. My thought there being that I'd hire (or bribe) an experienced captain to help me sail it down to northern Indiana, learning the boat and lake as I go. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Shew, if you're still with me, and you want to tell me whether I'm barking up the right tree, I'd appreciate all comments... recommended boats, practicality, etc.

Cheers,
Mark
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Old 05-01-2010
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If you're looking at Catalina, Pearson, Ericson and Sabre, you might want to add C&C, Tartan and Canadian Sailcraft to the list as well. The CS27, Tartan 27, 28, various C&C models would also be possible good fits for you.

I'd recommend you read the Boat Inspection Trip Tips thread I started, as it will help you determine whether any boats you look at are even worth going forward on, saving you the price of a survey on boats that aren't worth looking at further.

I'd also recommend you save about 15-20% of your purchase budget for upgrading, refitting and modifying whatever boat you do buy.
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Old 05-01-2010
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Don't limit yourself to lake michigan, with the ecomony in the detroit area the way it is there are lots of great deals from lake st clair down to toledo. The best deals aren't on line, take a weekend and cruise the boat yards & see whats available. Don't be shy , drive in, walk around & look (but don't touch without owner present) (example 28' catalina sitting next to mine $5000)
I bought my last boat in holland mi and sailed it around to lake erie just a nice 5-6 day trip (or 4 days when in a hurry)
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I would agree with both of the previous posts. Don't limit your boat choice until you find out what is out there and at what price. Do look into the
Detroit area and all of Michigan to see what is there. However, in all of this be aware that sometimes fixing a boat is a lot more expensive than buying one.

One other caveat: Do your homework on where you may be able to keep the boat and the cost involved. In some areas getting a slip can be as difficult as finding the boat. Total costs include slip fees, insurance ( you will need it to keep the boat in a marina), registration, launch fees, storage fees,and lots of maintenance, etc.. This is not meant to dash your dreams, but sometimes the surprises are not fun.

Good Luck. Buying your first boat is a great experience. Using it is priceless.
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SD: I've read the inspection list a couple times, but I'm definitely going to take an experienced sailor with me on any 2nd visit, as well. It's a lot for me to take in.

Others: thanks for the advice on expanding my search further. I was wondering about that. At this point, to be honest, the hardest part of expanding my radius is the fact that there might be too many available to be able to triage them effectively. But part of that might be because I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. I guess if there are more available, then I'll start making my "wants" list into a "needs" list. The crappy economy does indeed help out a bit, sad to say. I'm also unsure of how much of the delivery trip I could do alone.

Here are a couple questions related to my wants list:
  • Marine head: From what I've read, I cannot dump a holding tank in Lake Michigan. My source was pretty old, so I'm trying to research to find what the latest laws are. Where can I find that info?
  • Inboard diesel or outboard (at what size should I rule out an outboard on the Great Lakes?)
  • Fin keel w/ 4' draft: Is this reasonable for Michigan?

Thanks!
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Sir Realism- you might consider west end of Lake Erie instead of Lake Michigan for a place to keep your boat. Drive time is about the same. There are more sailing destinations in west end of Lake Erie. (i.e. the Islands) Anchor Pointe or Toledo Beach in Toledo areas might be a viable alternative for season dockage.

You will be hard pressed to find a cupcake 27-28' boat with a diesel for around 10k. My friend is searching right now for that type of a boat and the pickings are pretty slim for a boat that has been decently maintained.

Older boats are expensive to refurbish unless you have the summer off and are talented at fixing things. Expect to pay around $13-15K and you can find a decent boat. For prices under that you need to get lucky. Outboards are dis qualifiers if you do any overnight sailing on the Great Lakes.

BTW I am a former Indy resident now living west of Cleveland.

Last edited by Sanduskysailor; 05-01-2010 at 01:18 PM.
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Sandusky - A whole 'nother lake. Great, now you're making it more complicated. ha ha.

It looks as though Toledo would add an hour to my drive each way (compared to Hammond, IN). I'll look into that; it's definitely not something I had considered. Are the conditions in west Lake Erie similar to southern Lake Michigan? Erie is much shallower, so do there tend to be more centerboard or swing keel boats?

I'm glad you mentioned the inappropriateness of an outboard for overnight motoring. That's exactly the type of info I was looking for. As I look at engines and fuel capacity, what kind of mileage can I expect?

I guess I'm not dead set against a gas inboard. They definitely seem to be more plentiful.
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Wink

Realism,

Your options are really quite open and they should be for a while. An inboard diesel is usually the preferred (costs more) but there are a lot of old Atomic 4's out there to choose from. Gas needs to be respected as it settles and can blow up. That being said, the reason that there are still so many old ones out there with inboard gas is because they were respected and safe.

Dependent on your intents, and you left them fairly open as well,I would not rule out an outboard. The amount of times that you will be away from land, and overnight, will most likely be few and far between. The norm is a night in an anchorage or a marina, especially if you are alone. Lots of those to choose from. Once above 25' it is just more efficient to have a inboard. Most inboard diesels on a boat in the 25-30' range average .6-.8 gallons per hour. Factor in the boat at 5-6 knots and you have your range.

Marine head: porta potty or fixed. NOTHING can be dumped into the lake. Boats with heads in the Great Lakes will have a holding tank and it has to be rigged so that it cannot dump overboard. Most marinas have pump out stations.

4' draft will certainly not be a limiting factor in 99% of Lake Michigan.That said, you will run aground someday.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomandchris View Post
Dependent on your intents, and you left them fairly open as well,I would not rule out an outboard. The amount of times that you will be away from land, and overnight, will most likely be few and far between. The norm is a night in an anchorage or a marina, especially if you are alone. Lots of those to choose from. Once above 25' it is just more efficient to have a inboard. Most inboard diesels on a boat in the 25-30' range average .6-.8 gallons per hour. Factor in the boat at 5-6 knots and you have your range.
One thing that might force the inboard/outboard issue is that my cruising might consist of sailing at day, and working a little in the evenings. (Yeah, I know, not fun, but it beats the heck out of working at home.) Working for me involves using my computer. So when I'm not at a marina, I'll be draining the batteries by using the computer. (I posted a couple questions over in the gear > electronics forum on that issue.)
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Old 05-02-2010
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Sir realism- Lake Erie is shallow but anything under 6' is not a problem for most marinas. For a boat in your size range, 4-1/2 - 5ft is a reasonable draft. Short duration chop is a bit different from Lake Michigan but that's about it. Sailing destinations are way more accessible on Lake Erie. You will have fun sailing to Put in Bay.
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