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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related)
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  #1  
Old 12-18-2007
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Sailing in lakes as opposed to sailing in the sea

Hello all,

Playing in the "Tell me what place is this" thread (I should say "withnessing others play", rather) keeps reminding me how beaurtifull the nature in the great lakes is and has made me consider chartering a sailboat next year, or in 2009, for a week or so in the area.

As a total ignorant (we don't have this kind of lakes in Europe) it looks to me like sailing in the lakes must be a piece of cake: "What can go wrong?. Even in the worst conditions there is not enough fetch to create big waves... There must be some tricks to learn, but should be much more quiet than in the sea". Is it really like that or is it only out of my ignorance that these thoughts come to my mind?

And also, since I don't know the lakes (well, apart from Chicago and other lake cities, but this is not really what I am talking about), I would appreciate some recommendation about your favourite areas.

Thank you very much.
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Old 12-18-2007
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While there will sure to be others that can respond with authority here, I'd suggest you don't underestimate the conditions you may encounter.

These are LARGE bodies of water, and in fact often the weather systems on inland lakes can be ferociously unpredictable.

There is no shortage of weather related shipwrecks in this area.
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Old 12-18-2007
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I agree, for the most part TwentySeven, but keep these three words in mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ."Edmund Fitzgerald".
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Old 12-18-2007
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Lake Superior

Is 82,000 square kilometers, I would say it has a bit of fetch.
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Old 12-18-2007
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The Great lakes are more like inland seas than traditional lakes.Correct the waves don't quite get an ocean like fetch unless you are going south from say Fayetteville to Chicago into three or four days of 20 to 30 mile winds, similar waves happen on Superior too with westerlies. Also the lack of fetch means the waves are usually much closer together. Imagine 10 footers about 200 yards apart, not to bad, now move them to say 10 yards apart and you get the picture. Ted Turner racing in the Chicago to Mackinac near Greys Reef got into what he said was the worst, quickest and most violent storm he had ever seen. There have been many shipwrecks in each of the greatlakes and several lives lost, all over about 250 years of history. read a little about our weather, the thunderstorms and the infamous "White Hurricane" that hit about the beginning of the 20th century, I don't know the exact year. The Lakes are a piece of cake to sail if they feel like cake, otherwise they are not to be underestimated.
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Second that, 40 miles of bad road after having to motor and then running and heaving-to just to have a smoke.
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Old 12-18-2007
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We've got enough water, ports, islands, beaches and achorages to keep an adventurous sailing soul occupied for years. The winds can be light and unpredictable in the summer months. For the most part, the water is a brilliant color of blue with summer surface water temperatures ranging from the high 50's to the mid 70's. For as big and beautiful as they are, the Great Lakes remain a bit of an undiscovered sailing paradise.

But more to the point of your post, the Great Lakes are delightful, but can also be frightful.

Exhibit A: The following photos were taken in November of 2006 aboard Misener Steamship's M/V Selkirk Settler as she crossed Lake Superior in what was termed "a typical Lake Superior storm". (Sorry for the links - I couldn't embed the photos in the post so they were big enough to see).

http://www.mn-blackdogdiving.com/Wave%20over%20bow.jpg

http://www.mn-blackdogdiving.com/Lak...ng%20rough.jpg

http://www.mn-blackdogdiving.com/Lak...ig%20waves.jpg

http://www.mn-blackdogdiving.com/Lak...ing%20seas.jpg
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Last edited by kwaltersmi; 12-18-2007 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 12-18-2007
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The Selkirk, now the Spruceglen (2) does ply its trade on the Great Lakes but where I found those pics it states that they "were taken during a North Atlantic storm February, 13, 1987 on an eastbound passage from Tampa, Florida to Ghent, Belgium"

http://www.boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/spruceglen.htm
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Last edited by CapnHand; 12-18-2007 at 08:40 PM.
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Old 12-18-2007
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CapnHand: Very interesting. The site I found them on says Lake Superior in November of 2006 (see the bottom of this link: http://www.mn-blackdogdiving.com/photo_gallery.htm). I guess that's the problem with internet information...who knows what's really true.

In any case, I can assure you that the Great Lakes get plenty nasty enough for even the hardiest of sailors.
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Old 12-18-2007
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Yes KW, who knows? I wasn't there, can't say for sure. What I am sure about is that there are days when it's better to be on shore wishing you could be out on the lake, than to be out on the lake, wishing you were on shore.

On the plus side, no sharks.
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Last edited by CapnHand; 12-18-2007 at 09:10 PM.
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