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Old 08-05-2008
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Great Lakes Weather - Wait 5 Minutes

I'm always amazed at how quickly the weather can change on the Great Lakes! We sailed (Lake Ontario) from Toronto to Niagara-On-The-Lake this weekend (and back) and had every possible kind of weather you can have over a year - in one day!
Checked the WX and planned accordingly - but...
Left Toronto on Saturday morning - Nice northwest breeze - we'll be there in 5-6hrs (23Nm) - an hour later - becalmed. An hour after that wind shifts to southeast. Oh-oh bad direction. 30min later a line squal comes through. See it coming - furl the jib, drop the main (with wife & kids on board it's easier [and faster] to motor the squall than to heave-to) - hits just as I'm lashing the main. 70+MPh winds, bullet-like rain coming horizontally. Can't see 20ft. Waves about 5-7 feet. 26' boat pitching heavily. Kids scared - wife is sea-sick. Lightning around but spares us (thank you)
10 min later squall is gone - light breeze picks up again (west) - blue skies - make it to NOTL total trip time 10hrs.
Yesterday - Leave NOTL 7am Good SSW breeze - be back in 5hrs - great. An hour later - becalmed. Wind backs to NW (no problem - will beat back) - 20 min later becalmed. Halfway home. Wind shifts to SE (as per forecast). Wind decreases by 50% for each remaining mile home. Motor in the last 1.5 Nm. Back in 11hrs. Exhausted.

So much for planning

Don't like the weather in the Great Lakes - wait 5 min. It's sure to change.

Man I love this!

Tom
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Old 08-05-2008
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Yeah, that's about right. A lot of the reason that the forecast is off at the west end of the lake is due to the fact that the land "pinches" a bit there and there is higher, hotter land acting like a pair of cupped hands from Niagara and the Escarpement all the way to the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The prevailing westerlies/south-westerlies of summer can soar completely over the water before "sinking" halfway to Cobourg. Alternatively, pop-up thunderstorms in humid air (like today) can form fast, nasty squalls. At least you got your timing right, and in a 26' footer, it's better to reef or lash down completely, get the engine going, and plow into it for the 10 minutes until it dies. You'll usually be rewarded with a fresh, clean westerlies to work with on a beam reach.

Anyone racing out of Toronto knows that the wind will die a hour before sunset, as the onshore breeze fails in front of the breeze from the city created by heat "uncorked" into the lake. I sail out of National Yacht Club, and knowing this, you can use that late in the race puff to win if you can creep into position parallel to the shore.

Generally, mid-lake can be dead in the summer if the heat in the surrounding land is send air up instead of across...always bring plenty of fuel or plenty of time, or buy a cruising spinnaker.
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