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Old 05-07-2010
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Lake Michigan Boat Question

We are planning on moving up to larger boat capable of sailing the Great Lakes. Home port will be in Traverse City. One of the divisions often cited on this forum is the coastal cruiser vs the off shore boat. We plan on doing at least some cross-lake sailing (Lake Michigan). Would people consider cross Lake Michitgan “off shore”? We are looking at a new (or newish) Catalina 309-320-350 and everyone here seems to think that Catalinas are not off shore boats. Are we looking at the wrong type of boat?


Any thoughts?
Thanks

Frank
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Old 05-07-2010
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My son and I sailed a Hobbie across a few years ago.

The limiting factor is never the boat - it's the crew and the weather.
Ever hear of the Edmund Fitzgerald?


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Old 05-07-2010
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The Catalina would work fine for what you want. You just want to pick your weather window.
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Old 05-07-2010
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Agree - as long as you pick the weather you'll be fine. "Offshore" is generally for boats that will be out for many days, so long that you can't predict what the weather will be because they can only predict accurately a few days out. You can be across the lake by then.

Our hailing port is still Northport, MI, although we haven't been back for 8 years now. We understand its changed, but we miss it, and the area. Enjoy the Cherry Festival for us!
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Old 05-07-2010
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Echoe-ing what's been said above, crossing Lake Michigan is a matter of finding the right weather window. Many lesser/smaller boats than C309's/320's/350's do it all the time. If you have the right winds and right conditions, the crossing should be a 8-14 hour affair, pending where you cross.
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Any boat can take more than the passengers

even the lightly constructed sailboat will take rough seas for 12 - 16 hours that it could take you to cross
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So then people generally consider it "off shore". I would have thought so and we would have, of course, been careful about weather as I think you really are off shore. We also don’t just expect to “dash” across the lake but rather, sometimes, bee line it from TC down to Chicago. 100’s of miles down the center of the lake. I still wonder if the Catalina would be up to it. There is a difference between what is possible and what is reasonable. I don’t like the idea of having to duck into port unless it’s really necessary and I am wondering at what point will the boat brand start to influence the decision and is that point reach too quickly with the Catalina.

Additionally, all of the really significant ocean storms that I have been in have, frankly, not been as disconcerting as what I have seen in the Great Lakes. Last month sailing off San Diego the wind was blowing like hell and the waves were large, just about had the rail in the water and it was a blast because the waves generally didn’t break. A three foot chop in the lakes always seems to be white capped. I’ve seen waves wash over the flight deck of the USS America (I was on a tin can off to its port side) and the waves didn’t break. It was a great ride for us in the can but I would have worried if the top 20 or so feet of those waves were breaking.
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short waves compared to ocean swells

i have cross Lake MI many times...it is the short wave length that will beat you up...compared to the large swells (although the big pond gets those too)
serously, boats can take this with just minor problems
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Michigancruiser,

Depending on your needs the 309/320,etc., or even the old versions of them, are fully capable of cruising the Great Lakes. People leave TC, or Leland, or whereever every day of the season and cross to somewhere in boats a lot less seaworthy than the boats listed.

That being said, beelining it because it is on the schedule, is not a prudent course of action on any of the Lakes. Staying out there because you are on that schedule not a good idea. Three foot breaking chop is uncomfortable, ten foot breaking waves a lot more uncomfortable, but the boats will take a lot more than you and your crew ever will in those situations.

Crossing to Wisconsin from GT Light is a 70 mile straight line trip. Sailing, 70-100+ miles dependent on the winds. You are never more than 35 miles away from land out there, and that does not count the Islands. This certainly more than fits the description of Coastal , even if you decide to cruise down the middle of the lake to Chicago. Coastal also means that you have the ability to duck in somewhere when it gets bad.

I also sail out of TC. I hope you enjoy the boat buying process and sailing the lake. There are lots of great places to visit, and if you get to half of them in ten years you will be the exception. If I were to guess, I would say that no more than 25% of the boats in the Bay leave the Bay more than once a year. Many never leave the lower Bay and stay south of Suttons Bay.I hope that you are one of the exceptions. Sail safe.

Oh, have you found a slip yet? I know that they are finally available in the Bay, which had been the exception for many years. Not a lot of extras, but I keep hearing that they are there.

I just looked at your list of Catalinas. Dependent on whether you have a slip already, I would add the C36 as well. I say that because many of the marinas in the Bay have 30' LOA slips and then jump to 38' LOA. None of the boats listed would likely go into a 30' slip as Catalina LOA is always longer than the name it carries. Therefore you will most likely end up in a 38' slip. Eliminate the early stages of 2' itis and buy a bigger boat first. The C36 is a great family cruiser and I know that they are available used in TC. Of course there are lots of different brand boats that also fit into the $ and use range.

Last edited by tomandchris; 05-07-2010 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 05-07-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michigancruisers View Post
So then people generally consider it "off shore". I would have thought so....
No, it is not considered off shore sailing; Deffinitely Coastal Cruising.
The great thing about the Great Lakes is that you are very rarley more than 20 -30 miles to your next safe harbor.

Even on your jaunt from Traverse to Chicago there are plenty of oportunites to get off the water if things turn nasty. What is the widest point of the lake? Grand Haven to Milwaukee. At that point the lake is 83 Statute Miles wide, so even in the very middle of the fattest part of the lake you are still only 40 miles from a harbor.

This is not to say that the lake can not or will not kick you butt, but it is deffinitely not considered "Blue Water". (Other than the color) See Eryka's response; off shore means many days at sea with nowhere to hide.

Edit: I see I have repeated a lot of what Tomandchris has said. Good post T&C
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Last edited by sailortjk1; 05-07-2010 at 12:29 PM.
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