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  #1  
Old 05-30-2007
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Great Lakes voyage - idle pondering....

I've done a bit of daysailing on the Great Lakes but never a "serious" cruise. Looking at the maps, I'm wondering what a sail from the western shore of Michigan up to Duluth and Lake Superior would be like. I know freighters do it all the time but what about with a 25' sailboat?

What would be the best time of year for such an undertaking? How long would it take (bad question when applied to a sailing trip I know....)? What kind of conditions would I encounter as I move from Lake Michigan and head north up into Lake Superior? Where are the rough stretches going to be?

Assuming this is going to be a nonstop, offshore trip, not port hopping what kind of provisions and equipment unique to the Great Lakes would I want?

Are there any books or articles of a similar trip? Just something I'm pondering and got curious about. Would love to hear from other Great Lake sailors and their experiences.

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 05-30-2007
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If you have not done much crusing and are on lower Lake MI why not do a circumavigation of Lake MI first? I am on Huron but northern Lake MI must have a lot of good crusing ground. Next I would look at crossing over onto northern Lake Huron, the " North Channel" is a world class crusing area.

I have been crusing up there for almost 30 years other than the fact that it is now pretty crowed, I still think it is great.

I have often thought about Superior but it is a challenge, very few good ports, lots of very cold water and few protected areas. The Western end looks nice but it is a hike to get there. Not for the inexperienced.

Gary
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Old 05-30-2007
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We do a lot of cruising on lower Lake Michigan.

I too think when starting a cruise that I will sail day and night and not harbor hop.

I reality, I much prefer to stop and get a good nights sleep each night doing approximately 50miles a day. This we have found is much easier on the crew and there are a lot of nice and interesting sights to see along the way that you otherwise would pass right up.

We sail and cruise generally with just myself and my wife and we use a two hour watch system. We find it much more pleasant to stick with the 50 miles a day 8 - 10 hour days.

Get the Lake Michigan "Ports o Call" cruising guide. It is a valuable tool to have on board. Every port on the Lake is listed in this guide.

I assume you will have a GPS on board. Other than that, we always make sure we have plenty of water and canned goods for emergencies.

Just use your charts and be aware of the shipping lanes. Keep a watch on deck at all times.

Keep an ear to your Weather Channels and watch the forecast. It can get very nasty out there as you know.

Monitor VHF 16 at all times.

If your going into Superior you will have to navigate up the St. Mary's River which will have quite a bit of Commercial Traffic. Than you will lock trough at the Soo, I believe there was a recent thread on this site about locking at the Soo. Search for it for info in that part of your cruise.

Most likely you will be going through the Manitou Pass off of Sleeping Bear Point on Lake Michigan. Be careful there once again for Commercial Traffic. It is the shortest route North to the Straights and everybody kind of funnels through there.


We have done many cruises on Lake Michigan (we have not done your proposed route) and have never had any problems.

Good luck, it sounds like a fun time. Stop along the way and enjoy yourselfs. No need to rush, your cruising.
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Old 05-30-2007
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You've gotten some good advice Mike. Particularly, doing some shorter trips first. It gives you a chance to see how the "reality" goes, rather than what you plan.

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I would suggest driving to Duluth. By driving, you avoid all the expense of sailing and the potential for mishap -- and it's much quicker. The other alternative, of course, is flying commercial. Talk about fast!
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Old 05-30-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailhog
I would suggest driving to Duluth. By driving, you avoid all the expense of sailing and the potential for mishap -- and it's much quicker. The other alternative, of course, is flying commercial. Talk about fast!
Sailhog
I'm thinking that might miss the point of it,
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Old 05-30-2007
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Lake Superior

My home port is Duluth,MN and I even get to live here year round. I actually work 5 minutes from the boat.


Here are my thoughts about a long trip into lake superior from Michigan. 4 years ago I brought my Catalina 27 from Traverse City to Duluth, MN up through the Soo Saulte Ste Marie, Mich. It was a great trip in which I will do again someday soon. We pushed and did it in 10 days. That included 2 overnights/days in Houghton, MI for weather window and 2 days in Apostle Islands(which is awesome) Anchorage delight. Not that crowded.

Other posts are true...There is some vast open parts but there are some great ports on both the north side and south side of Lake Superior. The best reference is Bonnie Dahl's Superior Way. It gives depths, amenities, and any other information you need about the area.

Isle Royal is also a popular place where you can observe the predator prey balance between the moose and wolves.


Okay to answer some of your questions.
(1) traverse city to Mackinac Island Maybe I am just a deep water sailor but it freaked me out to have to worry about the channel in the rock.
(2) St mary's River. Be sure to have good charts and start early in the day. I did it at night in the downbound lane. Learned some lessons. When channels come back together it is a light fest
(3) You must have an auto pilot or forget it.
(4) From whitefish bay until keweenau pen. Is a trek. Can also take the canel... Very pretty through there.
(5) The strech from keweeneau to Apostles is a pretty long dark strech if you don't stop in Ontonagon.

Hmm.....


If you have any questions please feel free to PM me and I will gladly field any questions you may have..


Get out and explore

KM2X

Duluth, MN

Last edited by km2x; 05-30-2007 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 05-30-2007
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Quote:
If your going into Superior you will have to navigate up the St. Mary's River which will have quite a bit of Commercial Traffic. Than you will lock trough at the Soo, I believe there was a recent thread on this site about locking at the Soo. Search for it for info in that part of your cruise.
Locking through the SOO is really simple. It was about the east thing I did on my trip up to Superior, although coming down might be a little different.

km2x

Duluth, MN
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Old 05-31-2007
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Oh Great And Mighty Salts, please forgive my earth-shattering semantic faux pas. Although the MAP (LOOK! He did it again! Horrors!) I was referring to was a map I was looking at of commmercial shipping ports of the Great Lakes in the 1920s. I was under the impression a chart showed things like depths, currents, land masses, navigational notations and symbols...etc.

Okay, sarcasm aside, thank you all who provided useful advice and comments, this is a great place to learn and I appreciate those who take the time to pass their knowledge on. I transplanted myself from Utah to Minneapolis. I've since discovered that having my boat (ship? yacht? vessel? OMG now I have nautical nomenclature paralysis! ) transported will cost more than the boat is worth. So as much as it kills me I have to sell her where she floats and find something new.

Found a Ranger 26 in Muskegeon, MI and was toying with the idea of sailing it to Duluth and having it transported from there to a marina near the Twin Cities. So I threw out a question and in the process learned a wealth of information about sailing the Great Lakes. How cool! Thank you all. Oh and I found a Mirage 24 closer to home that might do it for me. Any subjective impressions about that sailboat?

Although the rope things that hoist the main look a little worn...

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 05-31-2007
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I would not worry too much about the maps comment, as you obviously are not, but if you were to do a trip like this I would certainly get lots of charts. The West side of Michigan has lots of places to hide, but some of them are still 30-40 miles apart. Doing this trip all off shore would be a bitch, and unless you were lucky with weather you would probalby spend a few days wishing you were back in Utah.

The Great Lakes are not called The Inland Seas for nothing. It can get more than a little hairy out there, especially in a 26' boat. The trek from Whitefish Point (on your map it is just W of Sault St. Marie) to the next hospitable place is about 180 miles. And the beach is not friendly.

Unless you found the perfect boat, at the perfect price, this is one of those 3 week vacation trips, and you still might have to go back and finish. There are lots of boats in Superior already, buy one in the Apostles, cruise there for a week or so, and then ship the boat whereever you want it. Lots of Minnesotans have their boats permantly in the Apostles.
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