Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 23 Old 03-19-2019 Thread Starter
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Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Hey everyone. Sure is quiet around here. Pretty sure most of you aren't out sailing today. Brrr.

I'm going to step up and start the dream machine to help keep people's minds off of the freezing rain.

Assume for a moment that:

* You and your spouse or best buddy have spent some time sailing in southern Lake Michigan and it was nice, but...

* You and your spouse or best buddy have spent some time sailing in western Lake Erie visiting the Bass Islands / Kelley's Island / wineries / crystal cave and it was nice, but...

* You've often said, "Someday, when I get the time, I'm going to spend the whole summer exploring Superior, Apostles, Huron, North Channel, etc. etc."

* Someday has come. By some miracle you've retired healthy, financially stable, and owning a 32' sailboat, w/4.5' draft. Assuming you were to start mid-May (+/-) in southern Lake Michigan and expected to end mid-September in the south eastern Great Lakes (more or less), possibly to bring the boat south down the ICW for the winter, but so far undecided on that), what would be your route, what places are do-not-miss?

This is not a brain teaser requiring you to visit every lake, nor is it a requirement to never cross your own wake, nor is it a requirement to never visit the same place twice. However, logic still applies ... you don't want to unstep then re-step the mast on this size boat too many times; beating to weather still sucks; summer doldrums still suck; bugs still suck.

As I wrote, you've already done western Erie and it was nice, real nice even, but perception is that there is far more to enjoy up in Superior, Green Bay, Traverse City, Mackinac, Georgian Bay, etc. Tell me if I'm wrong.

So, for example, totally bypassing Lake Erie is acceptable. Maybe pulling the mast to take the Trent-Severn from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario is a good idea, especially since the mast would have to come down anyway to take the Erie Canal out, if the plan were to be continued down the ICW in the fall.

You prefer quiet coves, scenic vistas, clear water, swimming, good food, but don't have too much use for festivals and social gatherings. Obviously you don't need to maintain a very strict timetable, but you want to put together an overall plan to hit the best of the best, at the right time of summer. What sort of itinerary / routing would you suggest?

3-2-1 go.
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post #2 of 23 Old 03-19-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

To me, the absolute best GL cruising is the north & east shores of Lake Superior. This is the Canadians shores, but itís not a nationalist thing. Itís just that the south and western shores, outside of the Bayfield/Apostles and Isle Royale, arenít all that interesting to me.

For rugged beauty, for wild and remote anchorages, for mostly untouched wilderness, for solitude and wildlife, and for big water sailing, itís hard to find a match for the north (and east) shores anywhere outside of areas like Newfoundland or the PNW.

The problem you face is, it is a big area, and relatively far away from your ultimate destination of Oswego. A 32í sailboat is not a speedster, so unless youíre really willing to put in lots of long, hard days, or a few overnight sails, the north shore might be out of reach. Anything is doable, but itís probably not desirable.

Given my approach to cruising (read my signature line ), Iíd probably head over to the Green Bay area first, and spend some time exploring there. Then Iíd head up into the North Channel, and take the slow cruise east. If you arrive here before the end of school it will be relatively quiet. It gets a lot busier in July/mid-August.

Meander through the North Channel, then head down Georgian Bay. Take your time. Lots to see and explore here, but also more people/boats. Take the Trent. Iíve never done it (but know it quite well). It would be a fascinating float through history.

Youíll flush out in the Bay of Quinte. Personally, Iíd get the mast back on there and go explore the Bay and head up into the 1000 Islands. Youíre no longer in wilderness, but thereís lots of beautiful places to see, and itís still possible to find quiet anchorages in Quinte. The 1000 Islands will be busy, but are still worth it.

From there you can head back into eastern L. Ontario, passing through the Henderson Bay area before finally making your way to Oswego.
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post #3 of 23 Old 03-19-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

I think 4 months would be plenty of time to get up to Superior. But, maybe not leaving a ton of time to explore before heading back. I would first head to Door County. Most of the pretty harbors are on the bay side of the peninsula. Nothing much south of the Sturgeon Bay. If you actually get going by mid May, you may want to take your time to get some warmer weather before going too far north. May and September can both be a bit more frisky wind-wise. Leave Door County via Death Door Passage, and head over to the Manitou Islands, Charlevoix, and Beaver Island. Not sure if I would go to the North Channel first, or head through the locks to Superior first. If you like a slower pace, just stay in the North Channel the rest of the summer. With a good weather window you should be able to get back down to southern Lake Michigan in a 3 day passage. The winds on the lakes in the summer are more often out of the South than any other direction. However, as systems pass, you will usually have multiple days of wind from other directions.
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post #4 of 23 Old 03-19-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Yes! What MikeOReilly and Barquito wrote.

Manitowoc, WI has a great full service if you need it.
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post #5 of 23 Old 03-20-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Mike,

Thanks for the good information. I was a lurker here for a while before I decided to post and really enjoy your perspective.

It looks like I may have to dedicate another summer just to Lake Superior. Not really a surprise.
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post #6 of 23 Old 03-20-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

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Originally Posted by PeterVV View Post
Mike,

Thanks for the good information. I was a lurker here for a while before I decided to post and really enjoy your perspective.

It looks like I may have to dedicate another summer just to Lake Superior. Not really a surprise.
Thanks Peter. My approach is always to go as slow as possible. I spent nearly a decade cruising the north/east shore of Lake Superior and still didnít see it all. You could easily spend a lifetime up there. Iíd still be there it is wasnít for the winters. Dedicating a season to the area would be a great idea. Then you can take your time and get a real taste of the area.

One possibility to consider is to plan and haul out in Thunder Bay or Duluth. That way you can spend the whole season the entire short season exploring this wonderful area.

Ö can you tell I miss it
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post #7 of 23 Old 03-20-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

If you make it to western Lake Superior the sea caves on the mainland just north of Cornucopia, Wisconsin are quite spectacular! The sea caves out in the islands are cool too, but not quite as jaw dropping as the mainland caves.

Following up on what Mike said, I believe there is some cheap haul out and storage facilities in Duluth. Some people keep boats in the Apostle Islands over summer, but take them back to Duluth for winter storage to save money.
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post #8 of 23 Old 03-20-2019
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Hey PeterVV,

This is a great time to pull out the charts and dream about the upcoming season. The "season" is a key item to consider when planning if your ultimate goal is being on the Hudson and heading south before the NY Canal system closes. So begin with the end in mind and also know that our brothers to the north are a bit stricter with radios licences, holding tank lockouts and port-of-entry procedures. Make sure you know/comply with their rules before you venture into Canadian waters.

(We sail Lake Michigan out of Milwaukee and often spend our time north from a line Winthrop Harbor to South Haven.)

Now the fun stuff . . . It sounds like you tend to enjoy the local sights, sounds and flavors as you sail from here to there. Lake Michigan is dramatically different on the WI side vs MI side. The WI side has no anchorages from Chicago to Door County. Great for quick N/S travel but has limited tourist interest. The MI side can be dangerous if you are sailing to a calendar schedule and like to explore local attractions. The coastal communities on the MI side have re-invented themselves as tourist destinations for visitors from both the land and the lake. Great marina support exists from South Haven north to the Manitou's and Leland. There are quite a few places where you can drop the hook vs tied to a dock.

From Leland/Manitou's you have a choice to take a side trip over to WI and the Door County/Green Bay area. This will easily consume a week.

Grand Traverse Bay can consume nearly a week on its own if you venture south all the way to Traverse City and do touristy things.

North of Leland and Grand Traverse Bay are Beaver Island and/or the Charlevoix/Petoskey area. And then you head for the Mackinac Bridge.

A touristy trip, the length of Lake Michigan, can easily consume four or five weeks.

Things to know about Lake Michigan in general:

May . . . cold! Early June . . . unpredictable weather and often brisk temps. Quite a few places aren't open until later in the May.

Many of the municipal marinas are now operating with/through centralized reservation systems. Most of the MI side uses the MI DNR camping/boating reservation website. Many of the WI ports are using the DockWA reservation system. The days of spontaneous overnight port stops (call/radio ahead to ask for transit dock space) are just about done.

Enjoy!
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Last edited by MSN2Travelers; 03-20-2019 at 02:07 PM.
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post #9 of 23 Old 03-22-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Thanks for the tips, everyone. I'm going to copy them into my notebook.

The where-to-end-the-summer waffling has to do with changing lifestyles. We're retiring and we already have a place in Florida where we used to go to escape the cold for a couple of weeks, especially near the holidays. Now we are planning on that being our primary residence starting next winter, but we hate the Florida summer heat even more than the Michigan winter cold. That's why we were going to spend (at least) this summer on the boat on the Great Lakes. But that is a lot longer than we are used to spending on the boat. Figured one of two things:

(1) We could be still having a blast sailing as fall arrives. In this case we would sail the boat down to Florida for the winter. The Keys, Bahamas, etc. Kinda been a dream of mine. But it would be a long way back to do another summer in the great lakes. Yet, we have to go somewhere to escape the summer heat!

(2) We could be burned out and so we would put the boat on the hard for winter '19-'20, enjoy Florida from land for a couple of months. Come spring 2020, two things again:

(A) We are ready again to sail. Do more Great Lakes.
(B) We are still burned out, sell the boat.

I guess the answer is to get started and see what happens.
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post #10 of 23 Old 03-22-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Suggestions Please for Great Lakes Bucket List Cruise

Side trip...

Torch Lake (East of Grand Traverse Bay) seems interesting. It looks like it may be possible to get there in the dink, via several canals and another lake. Anyone know the accessibility?

Thanks.
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