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bryanphaas 08-17-2010 03:15 PM

First Lake Crossing; Chicago to ? Western Mi
So before this entire season wastes away; I really want to plan a weekend excursion to Mich.
Im planning on 4.5 days total; and was wondering if anyone has any advice; recommendations, or cautions.
I'll be sailing a catalina 27 TR across, leaving thursday night from Montrose Harbor (Friday's are bad luck after all!!) and hopefully returning during the day on the following Monday.

I'd head to Eldeans, but it seems pretty far north, and would like to take it easy as it is my first lake crossing. I'll probably have to save that one for next year.....
So at this point I am looking at New Buffalo, St. Joseph, and South Haven.

I've heard that New Buffalo has shoaling issues; so Im leary of heading there...

At this point, my main concerns are being in the middle of the lake, outside of Cell phone and VHF range, even if it is for only 30+ miles or so.... Does anyone use, or trust a SPOT satellite transmitter?
I realize that it isnt a replacement for an EPIRB; but an EPIRB is far outside my budget at this point.

So, any advice, recommendations on places to go and things to see would be greatly appreciated.

FYI, it will be a crew of 3 young men, ages 27-30, so a nightlife would be a bonus; but certainly not a necessity.


tomandchris 08-17-2010 04:14 PM


You may get some responses as their are some S. Lake Michigan sailors here. If not luck, go to and ask the question there. Tim has not been spending much time here lately, but he keeps his boat at Eldeans in Holland, sails over to Chicago regularly, and is familiar with ports all along the Western side of Michigan.

Good Luck. I don't think you should have issues with cell coverage on the crossing unless you have a poor providor. There are few places in the north lake that I have problems with so the south should be no problem.

Everything I have heard about SPOT it should work for you. Tim can answer that as well. I know he used it on a trip last year. If you are paranoid, I think that you can rent an EPIRB from West Marine.

cormeum 08-19-2010 02:50 PM

St Joe or South Haven (we do the Waukegan to South haven run most summers).

Pick your weather well and I don't think you'll have any issues needing an EPIRB.

jnorten 09-11-2010 04:53 AM

Crossing thoughts
You can rent a EPIRB for well under $100 from the Boat US foundation. We did so for The Hook Race this year. For your trip, it's good insurance. However, I've done 6+ similar crossings. We chose not to rent one while cruising because we could always pick our weather window. But be careful, the lake is BIG and weather can come up unexpectedly!

I've personally skippered a bareboat twice from Monroe Harbor Chicago to New Buffalo, MI. It's a great little town. One main strip downtown. Beautiful beach with taller dunes and boardwalk to the top. A nice breakfast joint or two and one or two bar and grills (rooftop seating at the Stray Dog). A bit of nightlife.

Our boat was 30' and drew 4.5'. The harbor entrance and transient area is shallow, but we had no problem. Even if you scraped it seemed pretty darn sandy.

The whole offshore thing--on a clear day you might just barely lose sight of land between Chicago and New Buffalo. New Buffalo, in my mind, is the first port from Chicago that represents a true crossing. Michigan City, to me, feels pretty coastal.

You gotta' love Lake Michigan (as long as you respect her). For years, I did a bareboat charter "with the guys" each summer. One year, we had two days and everyone needed to be back at work on Monday--not a good recipe. Well, the forecast stunk--no severe storms but plenty of rain, wind (pushing 20 knots), and waves (5-7'). I honestly did NOT think that we'd leave Chicago. Well, the crew was moderately experienced and the boat pretty stiff. We poked out of Monroe Harbor and things felt good so we went to Michigan City. We really got the boat into a groove. That was the first time I ever saw someone truly green. Unfortunately, one of our crew got sick--really sick. Well, we put him on the train back to Chicago Saturday night.

On the way home Sunday, the weather was more of the same. Instead of a reach, our ride home was a very broad reach. We screamed (both in boat speed and literally) home! We FLEW into Chicago Harbor under double reefed mainsail and a sliver of jib. It was really a sense of accomplishment. We still talk about it (in case you haven't guessed!).

jnorten 09-11-2010 04:56 AM

one more thing...
Another thought...

New Buffalo is closer than St. Joe and MUCH MUCH closer than South Haven for you. South Haven is VERY offshore (but it is a beautiful town).

seabee 10-08-2010 05:21 PM

Bryanphaas--------- I hail out of New buffalo,great little town, there has been a draft problem on the south marker (red) just stay to left as you come in. every one at new buffalo will bear off and let sailboats run along jetti wall, once you pass red marker and your heading for trans slips (straight in and no bridges) piece of cake. I also sailed out of St.joe,mi. for 6 years, Great town, great town, great town--- ahhh did I mention it is a great town, but longer walks to town from trans slips. but you can tie up to the town wall and walk is about 200 yard to town, have sailed into South Haven many trips (beautiful town ) easy walk. have a good time but this late in season weather can come up on you real fast, the old saying ( reef early ) have a good one on your crossing, seabee

Patient 10-09-2010 04:21 AM

Sounds like a fun trip!

I have a cottage about 5 minutes from Eldeans. Its a pretty impressive facility. There is a restaurant right there called the Sandpiper that has some great food. The only problem is that other than that it isn't easy to reach any of the other sites from there without a car.

I would suggest making the stop before hand to Saugatuck. That is a fantastic spot to visit as stepping off the dock lands you in an actual town with tons to see and do. There is a great burger spot called Wally's that is must visit. Bed and Breakfasts, bars, places to dine, shops etc etc. Its a pretty town.

North of Macatawa is Grand Haven which is also a decent spot to visit, but may be out of your range with that time limit.

svsirius 10-09-2010 09:14 AM

It's been a long time sine I lived there but first crossing was belmont to holland by mistake in 1984 or so before gps or loran. Did it in a Seidleman 299 with a bunch of friends much like you are talking about. We were heading for Saugatuck and missed using DR only. At this point it's all about weather and having a good window. I would also make sure flares,lifejackets etc. Are up to snuff not the CG minimum requirement. Epirb rental can't hurt. Night crossings are a blast and back in the day that's how we started most crossings.

Paladin27 02-27-2011 09:13 AM

Bryan, I'm interested to hear if you ever made that trip and how it went? I have a boat in South Haven and am thinking about a similar trip, in the reverse direction. :)

bryanphaas 02-28-2011 09:49 AM


Much to my chagrin, the trip never happened. I was being a stickler for a solid weather window; and the weekend that was planned fell through due to crew commitments.

We did though make it to the Indiana dunes in a flotilla with the Poor Man's Yacht Club; about 7 boats left Monroe harbor, sailed/motored (no wind) to Indiana, set the hook, and had a wonderful beach party. I highly recommend this easy trip for any Chicago sailors. Coastal the whole way, and a great change of pace from sailing up and down the Chicago skyline.

The good news for this year is that I have a new 100% for this season, a new spot transmitter in case of emergency, and lots of sailing time this summer! (Hooray for being laid off.... :-/ )
I'll definitely be doing a couple trips and exploring the east coast of MI.

Now if i can just find reliable crew.... :-D

Depending on which Harbor you transient in, let me know when you make the trip; I'm always up for sharing a boat cocktail with another young(er) sailor!

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