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Old 09-20-2011
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Yes Lake Erie last year there was race from Lake Erie Pa. to, Buffalo and someone in the race got caught and had his powspirt broken off! He was really mad but i woul dhave thought you could see them.. I never saw one yet but pictures look very scary!
Reynolds 21

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"""Here's a toast to you on the coast and the sailors out at sea Drink your ales, hoist your sails Ride the windssssssssss and think of me,,,,,,,,,, 'cause Oh I wish I was there tonight"""
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Old 09-20-2011
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I lived in IL for 33 years, and worked with the NWS as a volunteer severe weather chaser/spotter for a lot of that time.

I've never dealt with waterspouts in a sailing context, but I'm familiar enough with them to think that I wouldn't want to. The winds can approach (rarely even exceed) 100mph. They aren't usually that strong, but certainly have the potential to be dangerous. Another thing to consider about them is that in the lower levels of the circulation, they're usually full of water. An impact from even a weaker waterspout could hurt, when you consider you're being hit by not just strong winds, but a swirling wall of water. Lot of weight, equaling a lot of force, behind that. It's like how a real tornado becomes much more damaging once it's already impacted something and is then full of swirling debris.

Waterspouts form by a different mechanism than tornados. Real tornados, spawned by supercell thunderstorms, can form or move over water too of course. I think I'd take a waterspout over even a weak supercellular tornado, since a true tornado comes with lots of other hazards, like low-level inflow jets, rear-flank downdraft wrapping around the back of the wall cloud etc.
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Old 09-21-2011
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Waterspout on Lake Michigan

I cannot speak to the frequency, but I have been sailing toward one.

It was years ago, on my first sailing trip in my recently purchased 23' boat, and I was about to set out on my longest passage ever, 20 miles across the top of the Bay of Green Bay to Big Bay de Noc and Fayette. We were worried about the run across open water and a highly experienced sailor at the dock was going to make the same trip and offered that we follow him. Following him out of the bay, we saw the waterspout about 2 miles off to the north. I called him on the VHF and asked if that was what I thought it was. He called back and said "You can go on if you like, I'm turning around". Back at the dock he told us that he had been a freighter captain for 10 years and never seen a waterspout before.

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