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Old 06-03-2010, 04:37   #1
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Great Lakes to the Atlantic to South Africa

Hi Guys, I am a South African and don't know my way around the U.S. I am considering buying a boat in Superior and sailing it through the lakes to either N.Y. or the St Lawrence seaway and thence back to S.A.. Any comments welcome, like is there reliable wind on the lakes, how long would be the minimum duration of a trip like that, can one anchor out or is one forced to use marinas, what are the costs of going through the locks. etc. I'm really enjoying this forum.

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Old 06-03-2010, 04:54   #2
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Hello. I cannot answer all of your questions but I know the answers to some of your questions.

I have been planning a trip to Nova Scotia from Port Dover Ontario. So from Lake Erie. I know the cost of the Canal is 25 bucks per lock. So about 200 bucks to get through. It takes about 24 hrs to do.

I know on Lake -Erie you can anchor outside of the marinas, there are some areas where the is anchorage, just so you don't drag your anchor on any underwater well or cables. A good set of charts shows all of this.

Hope this helps, I am sure others will fill in the blanks.

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Old 06-03-2010, 05:37   #3
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How big is the boat?

There's a couple of routes available from Superior. By motor vessel it's 7 days from Thunder Bay to Sept. Iles in the Gulf of St. Lawrence following the commercial shipping channels & locks. By pleasure craft a lot longer using only daylight navigation.

You can follow the pleasure craft route along the north shore of Superior to SS Marie and the North Channel of Georgian Bay to the Trent-Severn waterway. This will bring your out in Lake Ontario bypassing the commercial shipping canals. It's a very nice way to go. From there you have two options, cross Lake Ontario to Oswego and enter the Erie Canal. This will bring you across NY state to enter the Hudson River. From there it's a straight shot to NY City and the Atlantic. Plenty of jumping off options for an Atlantic crossing there. The other alternative is to transit the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. That transit will take you a few days to get to Quebec City. That route, I believe, will leave you fewer options for a crossing and will likely lead you to a North Atlantic crossing and fewer options for anchoring/resupply along the way.

The recreational boat canals (Trent-Severn & Erie) offer a beautiful way to travel out of the Great Lakes. You can purchase a transit/camping pass from Parks Canada that'll allow you to tie up at all of their facilities overnight. If you need shorepower you'll have to purchase that seperately. Many of the sites have washroom & shower facilities. The Erie Canal offers a lot of free dockage & water/power along the route. As long as you're not in a rush this would be the preferred route out of the lakes. There are a number of Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River cruising guides that can help you with anchoring etc.

If you choose the St. Lawrence River route the first part is scenic as you transit the world famous 1000 Islands. Once you pass through those it's pretty boring, mostly commercial ship canal.

It would be a shame to come all the way from SA and miss some of the most beautiful scenery NA has to offer in their recreational boating canals. If it were me I might consider also doing the Rideau Canal & Ottawa River (if time permitted).

I appologize for the poor quality of the map.

Good luck on your adventure.
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Yours Aye! Rick
"It's not the boat "you built" until you've sworn at it, bled on it, sweated over it, cried beside it and then threatened to haul the POS outside and burn it!"
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Old 06-03-2010, 06:26   #4
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You can download all the charts for the great lakes and east coast for free from here: NOAA's Office of Coast Survey

You may also want to download pilto charts, free also.

Probably go through the Erie, pull the spar down in Oswego and restep in New York. the St law will be a long way to go.

Good luck, let us know when you're going through Erie, we'll try to meet up.
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:09   #5
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From Lake Superior to Lake Huron there is only the Sault Saint Marie river /locks at the east end of Superior. Superior can be a very nasty place, it sank the Edmond Fitgerald, a 1000' freighter one November. It's also very cold up there until June, especially for a S African!
There are 3 ways to get from Huron to the ocean.
1. South on Lake Huron to the St. Clair river into Lake St Clair to the Detroit river, out to Lake Erie and east to Buffalo, NY and the Erie canal. You pull the mast for the Erie canal and take the canal east to Albany NY where you pick up the Hudson river. Step the mast there and head for New York city & the Atlantic ocean.
Not too many anchorages on Lake Huron or St Clair. Several on Erie and the Erie canal has free ties on the canal walls. Several on the Hudson.

2. Same as #1 but in eastern Lake Erie you take the Welland canal into Lake Ontario and east on Ontario till you reach the St. Lawrence River which will take you NE around Newfundland and into the Atlantic. You will be much further north than NYC.

3. At Sault St. Marie, you stay on the east side of Lake Huron into the North Channel then down to Georgian Bay. Near the southern end of Georgian Bay you can pick up the Trent/Severn waterway that will take you to Lake Ontario. You can take Lake Ontario east to the St. Lawrence or cross the lake to Oswego canal in NY that will join you to the Erie canal and east to Albany.
I don't think you can take a boat bigger than 40' on the Trent Severn plus I don't know if there are places to unstep the mast at the start of that route. You will have to have the mast down.
North Channel is fantastic, plety of anchorages, same for Georgian Bay. Trent has ties on the canal walls.

I'd do route #1. You could swing through the North Channel as a side trip on route #1.
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Old 06-03-2010, 14:27   #6
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Mississippi to Gulf ofd Mexico

You can also go down Lake Michigan to Chicago and via Sanitary canal enter the Mississippi system. Again you must pull down your mast.
If you are going to use the St. Lawrence seaway I believe you must have three people on board at the locks. (two rope handlers)

Good Sailing
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Old 06-03-2010, 15:00   #7
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Could be a very fun trip. I grew up on Lake Ontario and spent a lot of time on Lake Superior too and just a few times on the rest. The Great Lakes are a wonder of the world.

They may be lakes but generate their own weather. It is best to think of them as small oceans and take head at your own peril. It's big water - make no mistake. Still, some amazing things to see that you'll never see again anywhere on the planet. I would plan on going late to mid June and spending enough of the summer to see you off and out the Erie Canal or the St Lawrence River by September / October. I had a good friend try to leave Nova Scotia late October and it was not fun to say the least, though he did make to the Azores (another good spot). Plenty to see and do in the US and Canada. Everybody talks funny and the beer is pretty good too. July / August is the prime time, though a great September Day might yield some amazing fall color.

Rick also notes the LONG way. Anyplace going to is worth taking the long way - this would be one of them. Best to enjoy as much of the summer there as is possible or time affords you. Just a greatest place to be in the northern hemisphere during summer. Not a place to be when it's winter -0 at least on a boat. Think of all your friends in SA in winter as you enjoy. Some guide books would be worth the investment. There are far more places to go than you could ever hope to see.

We have many members here that live there now so take the time to consider a long trip. I would love to take Bright Eyes back to her birthplace on the the eastern shores of Lake Huron.
Paul Blais
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37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 08-03-2010, 02:10   #8
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Thanks all you guys, that sounds like a great trip, but looks like it would need at least two seasons. I'll download the charts and decide. K.
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:57   #9
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Originally Posted by Sailor Doug View Post
You can also go down Lake Michigan to Chicago and via Sanitary canal enter the Mississippi system. Again you must pull down your mast.
If you are going to use the St. Lawrence seaway I believe you must have three people on board at the locks. (two rope handlers)

Good Sailing
Hi Folks
I went through 3 locks when I bought my Mirage 25 near Montreal and took it home to Brockville.Two 40' locks at Cornwall On. and Massena,NY.They take Canadian or US cash.Just me and a friend on board.The floating bollards in the lock wall rise and fall with the water level but your bow and stern lines are attached to one bollard so you need big fenders each side of the bollard as you will be jostled around by the turbulence.A lock employee will pass a basket on a stick for your $.Be carefull pulling into a lock behind an exiting ship as the back wash will add a few knots to your speed.
The lock at Iroquois is just a flow control so there is very little change in level.
The ships get priority at the locks so you could be waiting a few hours at each lock.


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