Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ? - SailNet Community

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Old 03-29-2013
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Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Hi All,

With the following experience, how difficult is it to circumnavigate Lake
Superior ?

This is one of two possible plans for this summer.

I have sailed out of Duluth for about 6 years now, spending weeks anchoring out in the Apostle Islands.

I have a Ranger 26, with a 8.5 Honda 4 stroke.

I have been caught in a couple of mid-range storms.

I have a hand-held gps and a hand-held vhf radio.

I have plenty of time : from the later part of May to the end of July - hence, willing to sit out bad weather.

I have the Dahl book on Lake Superior.

I try to be extra cautious and conservative in my sailing.

I know the northern shore has few and far between places to get supplies and fuel.

I also worry about finding anchorages quickly in the remote areas when the weather turns bad. Also, about how cold it may get.


I love exploring and seeing new places by my boat, and wonder if I have enough experience to try this kind of major (to me) cruising trip.

It sounds like an adventure to me - but I want to be smart about it.

thanks for any thoughts, Gregg
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Old 03-29-2013
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

That sounds like it would be a great trip! The north shore is quite rugged and tends to be more rock than sand.

And of course it will be cold. I'm going up to the Apostle Islands at the end of May and I've been told that there will probably still be some ice on the north sides of islands. Bring good clothes and a warm sleeping bag!
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Old 03-29-2013
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

I am going to guess that the conditions would be pretty brisk in May. Lots of wind and cold.


Out of curiosity, what would your other trip be, if not Superior.
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

It can certainly be done with your boat. Just pick your weather windows wisely, and on those long runs plan for weather to change for the worse.

If you are willing to sit out bad weather on the lake your biggest issues are: Keeping warm, keeping warm, keeping warm! Superior does not warm up much until mid to late June, and warm is a relative term. There is not much colder than a night aboard in June, where the day has been sun and 80 degrees, and it goes down into the 30's at night.

Good Luck, and have fun. It is beautiful!
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Thanks All,

I appreciate the advice.

Barquito - my alternative trip might be Duluth to Chicago (lots of family there) and back.

Or, push on from Chicago to the Mississippi - BUT :

1: I hear on Great Loop sites that there is a 20 ft bridge in Chgo that requires unstepping the mast.

2: I also heard that the Mississippi might flood rather badly this year. Flooding and wingdams and traffic might make the river an unwise trip.

BTW, Barquito, I see you have a Bristol 27 - I love that boat !

Everybody / anybody - any good ideas on dealing with the cold in N Superior ? Besides the obvious bundle up and buy an even better sleeping bag ?

Again, a lot of thanks to everyone, Gregg
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Old 03-29-2013
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Quick Question -

What would be the 'average' sailing time for a single hander on a Ranger 26 from Duluth to Chicago ?

thanks, Gregg
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Let's see, the Trans Superior race from Sault Ste. Marie to Duluth is 325 nautical miles and according to Wikipedia the Chicago to Mackinac race is 290, so I suppose Duluth to Chicago would be around 650. Of course that would be straight shots across the open water, if you hugged the coast it would be a lot longer.

In July I'll be on a 34' going from Bayfield to Sault Ste. Marie (to deliver it for the Trans Superior race) and we'll be taking five days.
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

You can certainly circumnavigate Superior in that time Gregg. Superior tends to be fairly placid through that time, and in fact you'll probably be becalmed more than you'll be sitting out storms. August through the fall is usually when storms become more frequent. Given this, your fuel capacity may become an issue along the north and east shores (the Canadian shores). I'd strongly recommend you are well equipped for light-airs sailing. But be sure to have good ground tackle, and good squall capabilities as well.

It is cool up here most of the time, but good clothes and a basic heater is certainly adequate. You probably won't be swimming much ... unless we get another warm season like last year.

Anchorages: east shore heading north from SSM has fewer options until you get north of Agawa Bay/Sinclair Cove area. After that they become plentiful. I'd recommend you try for Michipocoten Island (Quebec Hrbr), although it's 25 nm of open water. Besides, you will likely want to pull into Buck's Marina in Wawa for resupply. Say hi to Brad (Buck) for me!

Tons of beautiful spots heading west & north from Wawa. Lots of big sandy beaches, and good holding just about everywhere. If you want, I could give you a list of our favourites.

The character of the lake changes once you hit the north shore. Turns rockier, with smaller anchorages, but still lots, and mostly good holding. Allouez Island off of Pic Island (near Marathon) is a neat place. And plan to spend a number of days in the Slate Islands.

I could go on... If you want more info just ask. Happy to help. We travel the Canadian shore almost every year. I've done the Apostles, and it's nice, but for me, the north, and particularly the east shores are the tops.
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Having spent most weekends this winter on the boat, with temps sometimes in the low 20's, I would run an oil lamp and use a propane heater, sparingly. Took the edge off. Most of the time, I would stay bundled up and have my legs in the sleeping bag while in the cabin.

I would wear my Mustos while outside, with layers underneath, including wool, and a wool hat.

Have a great trip.
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Old 03-30-2013
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Re: Degree of difficulty in circumnavigating Lake Superior ?

Thanks to all for all the help and ideas !

I spent the day looking at charts and getting excited about this summer .
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