Join Date: May 2007
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Barquito, you want to avoid 8 to 10 foot waves on Lake Michigan in the first place. My first thought, if you were out in 8 to 10 footers, is that you misjudged their actual height. 8 to 10s on Lake Michigan are MEAN. If you're fairly new to Lake Michigan sailing, and you're in waves of that size, your best option is to sail to the nearest port. My boat's a 31 footer and I've sailed Lake Mich for the last 30 years and don't care to crash about in the 10 footers.
Handling moderate waves on Lake Michigan, from 4 to 6 feet, only becomes tricky when they are on your stern or your rear quarter where they can keep you busy maintaining your course.
On other points of sail in moderate waves, you can pretty much ignore them and let your properly trimmed sails keep you stable. Staying on course isn't an issue in moderate waves. You'll find your boat absorbs them nicely.
If you find yourself in the big nasty waves between two ports, pick the port where you can sail into the waves. Going long distances with the waves on your stern is tiresome as the waves try to cause you to broach. At the very least, you'll find yourself constantly spinning the wheel to keep your course. Personally, I find tiller steering on a 27 footer preferable on Lake Michigan...instead of constantly spinning a wheel, you simply establish an easy push pull motion on the tiller.
More than once I've been happy to drop my sails in the big waves and motor directly into them to get back to port.