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I had an interesting conversation with a 78 year old sailor that wandered past my boat this weekend and wanted to share his thoughts and get some feedback.
He said he had sailed both blue water and on lakes. (I can't speak to the actual truthfulness of this statement but he did seem rather knowledgable) He told me several interesting things that I'm just going to list with no order in mind as to importance.
He said that with ocean sailing the waves a bigger BUT the wind does not gust like it does on Oklahoma lakes.
He related that a friend of his that grew up in England likes to tell people that "he learned to sail on the North Sea. He learned to trim sails in the extremely gusty conditions on Oklahoma Lakes." (we had this discussion because over the weekend we saw winds that were around 15 but gusting to 35. Something we consider normal this time of year)
He also related that as lake sailors we spend a lot more time tacking and in general it's his experience that it makes lake sailors better at tacking.
Then there's the issue of the size of waves and the way the boat rolls in swells. He says that blue water sailors are better prepared to handle things like chafing issues and securing the interior of the boat for these things as well as things like running preventers.
On the issue of navigation of course the blue water sailors get the nod as there's not much to navigation on "most" inland water ways.
The other thing that I found the most interesting is that he said that there are a lot of boats out there that many consider passage makers that he would never cross an ocean in. He specifically talked about a 37 foot Endeavor he spent time on a few years ago.
Not trying to institute an argument here but thought these were some interesting observations from an elderly and experienced sailor and wanted to hear what other sailors thought of these things.
 

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One difference between Lake & Ocean sailing is that with the "other side" there is a slight difference in distance. :laugher
There are more gusts on lakes due to the terrain around the lake.
 

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As a Great Lakes sailor, I noticed the ocean swell aboard our esteemed member Giulietta's boat, but I can't say any of the conditions were "bigger" than those of even Lake Ontario. My wife had breezier conditions and didn't mention that anything was different except the period of the wave trains, due to 2000 NM of fetch, I suppose.

The viciousness of sudden summer squalls and the steep "square" waves of Lake Ontario have surprised many an ocean sailor, though. There was a member here named Lyn in a steel Roberts 38 with her husband Andrew who commented on it when we made their acquaintance in Toronto a couple of summers ago. I have heard from racers that if you can sail in Lake Ontario's frequently nasty conditions, you will be fine on the ocean.

Lake Superior is arguably worse and certainly colder. Many an ocean-sized ship lies in several pieces a thousand feet down in its dark depths.

Chafe is an issue, but far less, of course, than at sea, where 20 days of 24/7 trade wind passagemaking can wear a hole in anything. The effects of salt water can also surprise freshwater sailors...unpleasantly!
 

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SailGunner
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Correct

The old timer was pretty accurate. There are more challenges in the blue water but lake sailors tend to be better at tweaking the sails because they have to do it so much.
 

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I am a long time saltwater racer and not much has topped some of the sudden weather bursts that sneak over the mountains on Lake George NY :)
 

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Very Steep with no break in between is the best way to describe the waves on Michigan. You are constantly in motion. There is no break. You get hit by a wave and the next is literally on top of you before you can say "Holy Crap". And it does not end. They just keep coming and coming. This of course is in storm or sever conditions.
Now, that said. I hear of twenty foot mountains in the ocean swell and I think, "No Way. Not for me"
 

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Lake Erie also is very nasty at times but if you keep an eye on the weather with lake sailing you can choose whether to be out in it ,or not,ocean sailing you have to take what comes.You have to make sure you can handle it and not rely on all the latest gizmos,the "comfort" of a rally or being rescued.If you cant look out for yourself you dont belong on the ocean.Apart from going the short hop to the Bahamas you wont see me out there!
 

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October Moon B43
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We used to keep boats on the NJ shore and the ocean was the only place to sail. Under normal conditions there was always a nice steady breeze, either off shore or off land. For sail trim you could set em and forget em and follow the land right down the coast. You also could get rollers with breaking tops that you could see over while standing at the helm.

Now we're on the upper Chesapeake Bay and there aren't any rollers. No room for them to build up. Chop is yet another thing. Like sailor said about Lake Michigan, they just keep coming at you. Short, steep waves that will make make that cold beer you have when hit port taste awefully good. Winds on the bay are flukely as well. A lot of influence from the land masses that surround it.
 

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Tides and currents

Of note is the absence of any appreciable or predictable tides and currents on the lakes that are experienced on the ocean. Here on the Great Lakes there is a phenomenon known as a seiche. These occur (especially on the east-west oriented lakes) when water builds up on one end of the lake due to barometric pressure and wind effects. This can cause water levels to drop or rise a foot or more and is generally unpredictable, unlike a tide. The lack of appreciable currents for most of the Great Lake waters makes navigation simpler as there's rarely need to consider strong set or drift in laying out a course. (There are some areas where appreciable currents need to be accomodated but for the most part that's pretty rare.)
 

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I had an interesting conversation with a 78 year old sailor that wandered past my boat this weekend and wanted to share his thoughts and get some feedback.
He said he had sailed both blue water and on lakes. (I can't speak to the actual truthfulness of this statement but he did seem rather knowledgable) He told me several interesting things that I'm just going to list with no order in mind as to importance.
He said that with ocean sailing the waves a bigger BUT the wind does not gust like it does on Oklahoma lakes.
He related that a friend of his that grew up in England likes to tell people that "he learned to sail on the North Sea. He learned to trim sails in the extremely gusty conditions on Oklahoma Lakes." (we had this discussion because over the weekend we saw winds that were around 15 but gusting to 35. Something we consider normal this time of year)
He also related that as lake sailors we spend a lot more time tacking and in general it's his experience that it makes lake sailors better at tacking.
Then there's the issue of the size of waves and the way the boat rolls in swells. He says that blue water sailors are better prepared to handle things like chafing issues and securing the interior of the boat for these things as well as things like running preventers.
On the issue of navigation of course the blue water sailors get the nod as there's not much to navigation on "most" inland water ways.
The other thing that I found the most interesting is that he said that there are a lot of boats out there that many consider passage makers that he would never cross an ocean in. He specifically talked about a 37 foot Endeavor he spent time on a few years ago.
Not trying to institute an argument here but thought these were some interesting observations from an elderly and experienced sailor and wanted to hear what other sailors thought of these things.

I know nothing about the Endeavor, but as for the rest... I would agree completely. Let's see but I may have a few comments of my own:


  1. You are always screwing with the sails on a lake... especially on Lake Texoma (yes, guess what... it is in OK and TX). This is at least partially due to the canyons that surround it. They change the wind in a matter of seconds and can funnel it stronger than what it is blowing.
  2. Other things I would add is that on the ocean, you are primarily concerned with sea state. ON the lake, it is more wind speed.
  3. You don't have to deal with as many trout line/crab traps on the lake versus ocean.
  4. I would like to tell you that the typical boat in salt water is a true sea going vessel - but I have always found the opposite true. I am not sure why. But there is some stuff in the ocean that I truly do not understand how it is even floating. That was a huge surprise to us.
  5. In a lake, you might tie your boat up tight to the docks. In the ocean, you better not if you want your cleats attached when you get back!! Tides... it took a bit to get used to. The wind can be blowing one direction, but the boat turns the other.
  6. The fish can eat you too.
  7. You can actually see your keel and bottom of the boat. THen you realize you wish you couldn't.
  8. Oh my GOD there are some expensive boats out there. Hatteras, Bergs, Ocean Alex, Nords, etc. Millions and millions of dollars per boat. Yet, it is still the same freaking little Sea Ray 340's that run your butt off the ICW.
  9. Some people take their fishing wayyyyyy too serious. The fish can eat you too.
  10. On a lake, every Sea Ray that has a VHF uses the VHF as a drunken loud speaker to call their friends. Forget good 'etiquite'.... none of them know it or how to use it. On the Ocean, all the Sea Rays may know how to use it... they just don't turn it on (especially when blowing past you on a half plane in a no wake zone).
  11. The coast guard listens and takes their business seriously. They have to with all the Sea Rayers. Not to mention, the fish can eat you too.
  12. Take a good collection of books. You will need them when you spend the night on a unchartered sand bar. And you will learn that even though you spent 120 on your Sea Tow membership, there is no such thing as a soft grounding.
  13. There is this little thing called Hurricanes. Everyone will tell you that they are very rare and have not landed anywhere near you in 54 million years. We went through 5 within about 24 months (Gabrielle, Chralie, Gene, Francis, Ivan).
  14. Mosquitos are NOT the worst biting insects... the No-Seeums are. And they fit through mosquito netting. Bet you didn't know that, huh?
  15. Sailors lie about this Green Flash thing - ain't none of em seen it either except when they pump their heads.
  16. The smell of the sea water you are pumping into your head is worse than what you ate earlier and deposited yourself.
  17. On the lake, no one knows anything about boats and finds a service guy to do it. On the ocean, everyone knows everything about boats, does it themselves, screws it up, and decides they didn't need it in the first place.
  18. And finally, I should lightly mention that the fish can eat you too.
 

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Sailors lie about this Green Flash thing - ain't none of em seen it either except when they pump their heads.
I think you are facing the wrong way Dad, it's in the Pacific and you gotta be in deep water facing west.:D I've raced small boats on lakes and don't much like it, freakin' land all around makes the winds erractic. Other than that you get the deck a lot saltier in the ocean. A friend who DID learn to sail on the North Sea recently sent this picture of me & the Admiral, just liked it so much wanted to share.
 

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In my search for the 'next' boat, I've been aboard a few Endeavour 37's. That sucker has a HUGH cockpit and for it's size, 2 little bitty drains...getting pooped would not be a good thing. Seems to be built like a tank and probably a fair motion in a seaway, but the 'ol salt is spot on...not a good sailor for the "O"zone IMHO.
 

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Thanks Smack, It's a '94, I've spent some time and money getting it pretty "clean", someone left a note on it last week asking if I'd like a partner or to sell. I've got a larger slip available to me and have been thinking about the next boat for a while but I just replaced/rebuilt/serviced everything including the head & kinda hate to give this one up, it's a fun and versatile boat that's easy to squeeze into tight anchorages.
Sorry for the Hijack, carry on as before please.;)
 

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Yamsailor
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There is an additional difference to consider--Fresh versus Salt water. Salt water is more dense and therefore a sailboat has greater buoyancy than does Fresh water. All else being equal this could affect a sailboats righting-moment as well as performance.

Boasun--Aren't the load lines on a ship different for Fresh and Salt water?
 

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umop apisdn wI
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He said that with ocean sailing the waves a bigger BUT the wind does not gust like it does on Oklahoma lakes.
He related that a friend of his that grew up in England likes to tell people that "he learned to sail on the North Sea. He learned to trim sails in the extremely gusty conditions on Oklahoma Lakes."
As an Oklahoma sailor, I can confirm this statement. You learn early how/when to reef. We have wind here and lots of it. I have jiffy reefing on two sets of reef points and can reduce sail in a flash. It's called survival.
 

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I live in the Western NY area and have good access to both Lakes Erie and Ontario. I'm looking for a nice used cruiser/racer. I recently came upon a listing for a 43 footer and wondered if that might be a bit large considering the average conditions found of either or both of these lakes. Any advice?
 

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48' wood S&S yawl
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I live in the Western NY area and have good access to both Lakes Erie and Ontario. I'm looking for a nice used cruiser/racer. I recently came upon a listing for a 43 footer and wondered if that might be a bit large considering the average conditions found of either or both of these lakes. Any advice?
I have a 48 footer on Michigan and she's definitely NOT too large.

The Lakes can be quite vicious. Just ask Ted Turner
 

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We only sailed on a lake once, Texoma, not for us - when got back to the dock my wife said - no more - let's ship the boat back to the Gulf! Offshore is much more predlictable, a lot less sail handling and tweeking and large waves don't usually break. In the second of the two Force 10 storms we endured, according to the Coast Guard, the seas were 28-30 feet and they were just huge rollers that for most of the 36 hours we were in it, they would wooooooosh under the boat.
 
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