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  #1  
Old 07-11-2007
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Plotting A Course: Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair

Going by the subjects, this appears to be the right sub-forum, so...

Within the next couple weeks or so, my wife and I hope we'll be bringing our new-to-us boat home. We'll be coming up from the North Cape Yacht Club (adjoining the Toledo Beach Marina), up the Detroit River, most of the way up Lake St. Clair, to a private slip off a canal just south of the Clinton River.

I have the Erie, Detroit River and St. Clair Richardson's, a St. Clair chart and a Garmin 498 (which I hope to have installed before departing). I'm thinking of picking up Detroit River and Lk. Erie charts, as well.

The trip is too long to take in one day. (We don't want to be attempting the canals and the unfamiliar slip in the dark, dead beat tired.) We plan on over-nighting in a transient slip on the Detroit River. Pier 500 looks good. (Any other suggestions are welcome.) That's be about the half-way point, looks like.

I've got a tentative plot figured out, but not plotted (either on the charts or on the GPS). It goes like this:
  • Out of NCYC on a (roughly) northeasterly course, after clearing the shallows out of the marina, to the Detroit River Light.
  • Up the channel, bearing to starboard into the Amherstburg Channel. (Have a print-out from a web page entitled "River" that says that channel is for NB traffic, the Livingston Channel for SB traffic. Why doesn't the chart indicate that?)
  • Into the (combined) Ballards Reef Channel after passing Bois Blanc Island (Bob-Lo).
  • Bear to port along the northeastern end of Grosse Ile and the eastern side of Pt. Hennepin (don't see a channel name there), over to the Trenton Channel and up to Pier 500.

Day Two
  • Out of the marina, up the remainder of the Trenton Channel and back into the Detroit River proper.
  • Past Belle Isle on the Canadian side, and out onto Lk. St. Clair.
  • A generally NNE course up to a point near Metro Beach, where a friend of mine will rendezvous with us and lead us in to the slip.
Have I got it generally right?

(I'm going to try to get this charting/course/plotting thing down well enough, and pick up dividers and a pair of triangles, so I can do the course segments manually, verifying my results with the GPS.)

Jim
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Old 07-11-2007
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Jim,

Your post is new and may get quite a few answers to it. If not, I would suggest joining the Lake Erie and Lake Huron email lists here on Sailnet and posting your question on them. The Erie list is usually quite active and responds to questions like this. Lake Huron is less active for some reason. It seems that many of these people are active sailors but not active on this forum.

Good luck in the purchase and delivery.
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You got most of it right, you have to allow for the current, and leave early to reach Trenton before waning daylight. There are spots near the Detroit light that the charts show shoaling though I have never had a problem there, I tend to get into the channels early and stay there. I have sailed this trip several times in my oday 30 (I was at Toledo Beach for 6 years, now at BVYC in Toledo, Oh), and my old charts show the traffic direction as you have stated, my experience also. Watch out for the recreational boaters here, as they will go any direction at any time with out looking for any one sailboats or freighters, and the river is a bit constricting at times. . Also look back for freighters as they seem to come out of nowhere from behind. Be careful at the north end of Grosse Isle, as the channels meet oddly and there may be shallows. There are several yacht clubs in the area, and one of those might be able to help you with an over night slip, a couple on Grosse Isle (the Grosse Isle Yacht Club comes to mind) and a few more on the mainland.

You must pass Belle Isle on the Canadian side if you are in a sailboat, as the Belle Isle Bridge has very limited clearance, and stay in the channel to the canadian side. When you pass I think it is called Peache island and the range light you should be able to set a course for Metro Beach, but again you will be pushing it to get there during bright daylight. I am no good to you past Harsens Island as I have always gone up the St Claire river at this point.

Good luck, and have fun. Keep your fuel tanks full as once you pass downtown Detroit it is a bit difficult to get fuel. It is a very interesting trip, but not really what you would call scenic. Wes Carroll

Last edited by wescarroll; 07-11-2007 at 11:39 PM.
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Old 07-12-2007
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The Detroit River at downdown gets very choppy at times. Wind against current plus powerboat traffic can make it miserable. Try to get there early. Usually the Canadian side is less choppy but not by much. The Trenton channel will be the nicest part of the trip.
If you are going past Metro Beach/Black Creek, watch for the very weedy area just off Metro Beach. Stay well east of that spot, the weeds plus the shallow water will cause you grief. It's marked on the chart but a lot of boats cut across that area.
If you need to make a third day, Keans marina near the Roostertail makes a good stop. The Nautical Mile marinas in St Cl Sh have transient slips but I don't know what channel they monitor. You might have to cruise up to the gas dock to ask, they have plenty of empty slips these days!
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Old 07-15-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
You got most of it right,
Great! Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
you have to allow for the current, and leave early to reach Trenton before waning daylight.
We plan to leave pretty early each day. Like 8 or 9 a.m.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
There are spots near the Detroit light that the charts show shoaling though I have never had a problem there,
Hmmm... I just looked at my chart ("Waterproof chart #28) and it doesn't appear to indicate any shoaling near either Detroit light. Where do you see this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
I tend to get into the channels early and stay there.
It looks like, to my amateur chart-reading eyes, I can take a straight shot from just out of the marina (after clearing the shallows either side of its channel) to the Detroit light? Then, yes: Plan to stay in the channels until out on St. Clair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Watch out for the recreational boaters here, as they will go any direction at any time with out looking for any one sailboats or freighters, and the river is a bit constricting at times.
There's a surprise

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Also look back for freighters as they seem to come out of nowhere from behind.
I've heard that. Not just there but in freighter channels, in general. Thanks for the warning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Be careful at the north end of Grosse Isle, as the channels meet oddly and there may be shallows.
Will do!

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
There are several yacht clubs in the area, and one of those might be able to help you with an over night slip, a couple on Grosse Isle (the Grosse Isle Yacht Club comes to mind) and a few more on the mainland.
We were planning on getting a bit further up-river, into the Wyandotte area, on the first day's sail, to make sure we'd have plenty of time on day 2, for getting to our new slip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
You must pass Belle Isle on the Canadian side if you are in a sailboat, as the Belle Isle Bridge has very limited clearance, and stay in the channel to the canadian side.
Yup

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
When you pass I think it is called Peache island and the range light you should be able to set a course for Metro Beach, but again you will be pushing it to get there during bright daylight.
We have been told the entire trip, were we to attempt it in one go, would take 13-15 hours, depending on weather conditions. Wyandotte is about the half-way point, it looks like. If it takes us 6-8 hours to get to our first overnight, we should have plenty of time to make it to where we're going on day 2, no?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Good luck, and have fun. Keep your fuel tanks full as once you pass downtown Detroit it is a bit difficult to get fuel.
Thanks! We plan to refuel at our overnight stop. (That's one thing on my checklist: Ask the PO about "gas mileage.")

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
It is a very interesting trip, but not really what you would call scenic. Wes Carroll
So I'm led to believe. It'd be much more interesting if we could do (more of) it under sail, but ya gotta do what you gotta do, eh?

Thanks, Wes!

Jim
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Old 07-15-2007
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Originally Posted by xort
The Detroit River at downdown gets very choppy at times. Wind against current plus powerboat traffic can make it miserable. Try to get there early.
As early as we can! Ideally we'll have time to get where we're going and relax on the boat with friends for a bit before the sun goes down.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xort
The Trenton channel will be the nicest part of the trip.
I'd take the Trenton Channel all the way up, but I don't want to have to rely on the good graces of the drawbrige operators .

Quote:
Originally Posted by xort
If you are going past Metro Beach/Black Creek, watch for the very weedy area just off Metro Beach. Stay well east of that spot, the weeds plus the shallow water will cause you grief. It's marked on the chart but a lot of boats cut across that area.
Past? No, not past. Well, past Metro Beach, then into a canal system entrance at Black Creek. That's the route to my buddy's house, where we'll be slipping the boat. Yeah, I can see the problem areas on the chart. He's going to come out and rendezvous with us and lead us in. Thanks for the caution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xort
If you need to make a third day, Keans marina near the Roostertail makes a good stop. The Nautical Mile marinas in St Cl Sh have transient slips but I don't know what channel they monitor. You might have to cruise up to the gas dock to ask, they have plenty of empty slips these days!
We shouldn't need a third day, I should think. But thanks for the suggestions. I'll make a note of those facilities, Just In Case.

Thanks,
Jim
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Old 07-15-2007
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I'm sure you checked, but just in case...some of those canals are pretty shallow. Venetian is deep but many of the others are questionable. Traffic on the Black is pretty thick.
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Old 07-16-2007
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I have never been able to make it in 13 to 14 hours. I usually spend a few hours anchored in a small cove off Wyandotte near a small island I don't have the name of at the moment. Not the most comfortable place, but out of everyone elses way. I got there around 11:30 PM after leaving at 11 in the morning. You may make better time as I am not so much into speed when I sail. I also solo most of the time and prefer not to sail when I am tired, prefering instead to stop and head back out after resting.

The shoaling near the Detroit light appears to me to be 2 or 3 shallow spots south and west of the light. There seems to always be a lot of vegetation growing in the area. Also my charts are kind of old, and the shoaling my be nonexistant today. As I said I have not had a problem there, only a minor concern.

Again I have never made the run from Wyandotte to the St Clair river without getting later into the day. You may have better luck as stated earlier, it doesn't take a great deal of speed to do a horizon job on me generally. Good Luck and have a good safe trip Wes Carroll
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Old 07-16-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
I have never been able to make it in 13 to 14 hours. I usually spend a few hours anchored in a small cove off Wyandotte near a small island I don't have the name of at the moment. Not the most comfortable place, but out of everyone elses way. I got there around 11:30 PM after leaving at 11 in the morning.
Whoa! Nearly 12 hours to about 1/2-way up the Detroit River? Maybe you're coming from further away than we will be? Seller said about 4 hours to Grosse Ile. Can't be more than another four hours, max, from there up to Wyandotte, can it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
The shoaling near the Detroit light appears to me to be 2 or 3 shallow spots south and west of the light. There seems to always be a lot of vegetation growing in the area. Also my charts are kind of old, and the shoaling my be nonexistant today. As I said I have not had a problem there, only a minor concern.
I'll keep my eye out. There is an old (IIRC) dumping spot approximately WSW (going by memory) of the Detroit light, just outside the down-bound shipping channel to Toledo. Could that be what you're thinking of? We plan to dodge that by sailing to a point a bit south of the Detroit light and getting into the channel there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Again I have never made the run from Wyandotte to the St Clair river without getting later into the day.
Hmmm... I was told about three hours from the mouth of the Detroit River up to where we're going on Lake St. Clair. Fooling with the GPS in simulator mode last night, it appears to be only about 12 nm. At only 4 kts that'd be three hours. If we're half-way up the river in Wyandotte (I'm going to have to take some measurements to confirm that's true or not), that'd be about 16 miles of river to go. If I can cruise that 14 nm under motor at only 3 kts SOG, that's another five hours, approximately. (I hope to be able to do better than that.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
You may have better luck as stated earlier, it doesn't take a great deal of speed to do a horizon job on me generally.
"Horizon job?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by wescarroll
Good Luck and have a good safe trip Wes Carroll
Thanks! And thanks again for the feedback

I've got my Lk. Erie/Detroit River chart, now, and my charting/plotting tools should arrive today. So tonight, maybe, I'll get the course formally plotted, put it into the GPS, and see what it comes up with for travel time.

JIm

Last edited by SEMIJim; 07-16-2007 at 09:29 AM.
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