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Old 13-02-2015, 22:39   #1
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Great Lakes Sailing

Hi guys, Is it possible to sail from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario with the mast up? Anybody know what the bridge clearances are. Are there locks and what is the cost of traversing them? Many thanks.
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Old 13-02-2015, 23:19   #2
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

Mast up, yes. Lake Superior to Lake Huron via the Soo Locks: Detroit District > Missions > Recreation > Soo Locks Visitor Center > Frequently Asked Soo Locks Questions
Lake Huron downstream to Lake Erie via the St Clair & Detroit Rivers (no locks)
Lake Erie to Lake Ontario via the Welland Canal
Seaway System - Recreational Boating - Pleasure Craft Guide
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Old 14-02-2015, 00:38   #3
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

Thanks Jim, That's exactly what I wanted to hear.! You may go to the top of the class.
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Old 14-02-2015, 05:51   #4
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

What Jim said. I'd suggest taking the Canadian lock at the Sault. It's geared to recreation boats so a lot easier and quicker.

We did this journey last season. Great trip.


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Old 14-02-2015, 07:06   #5
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

Thank you Mike, I'll take note of that. I am not a US citizen, - if I go to the Canadian side will I not be required to book-in, ie need a Canadian visa.?
Is there wind on the Lakes, or is it a motoring scenario?
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Old 14-02-2015, 08:30   #6
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

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Originally Posted by holmek View Post
Is there wind on the Lakes, or is it a motoring scenario?
Wind is more consistent toward mid to end of July and then August, September, and October. June and early July tend to be somewhat calm unless a low goes through. Prevailing winds are westerly.

May, June and early July can be foggy on Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

Rule of thumb for cruising in the Great Lakes is that you motor 50% of the time.

Currently at Standard Rock in Lake Superior there are 55 knot gusts with sustained 45 knot winds. Temperature is 0 deg F. Blizzard conditions on the Keweenaw Peninsula with zero visibility driving and sustained whiteouts. I love this place!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I lost it for a second. I'm alright now.
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Old 14-02-2015, 09:34   #7
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

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Originally Posted by holmek View Post
Thank you Mike, I'll take note of that. I am not a US citizen, - if I go to the Canadian side will I not be required to book-in, ie need a Canadian visa.?
Is there wind on the Lakes, or is it a motoring scenario?
You don't have to clear into Canada to transit through the locks. As long as you stay on board, and simply transit through, then my understanding is that you don't have to formally clear in. That said, it might be easier to stick to the USA if that is the country you are entering first and departing from. On the other hand, if you stick to only one country you're going to miss 1/2 the Great Lakes. Clearing back and forth is usually not a big deal, although I speak as a Canadian citizen, so non-Canadian/Americans might be more challenging.

I second LS's summary of general conditions. As a general rule, it gets windier the further you move though the season. Our season runs May to October, with July-September being prime. Fog is a serious issue early in the season, and especially on the upper lakes (Superior, northern Huron/Michigan). General prevailing winds are westerly, but being continental our weather can be highly variable. Frontal systems will often dominate.

Are you planning to do this journey? It's not a small trip, but is wonderful.
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Old 14-02-2015, 22:32   #8
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

Yes, I am planning to do the trip. It looks like a great way to see that part of your country. Is it possible to anchor out at night, or am I stuck with marina fees? What would be a reasonable time budget for the trip from western Superior to Oswego.?
I was thinking of Oswego thru the canals to the Hudson, or would the St Lawrence be better, - I need to get the boat to the Atlantic.
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Old 15-02-2015, 06:27   #9
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

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Originally Posted by holmek View Post
Yes, I am planning to do the trip. It looks like a great way to see that part of your country. Is it possible to anchor out at night, or am I stuck with marina fees? What would be a reasonable time budget for the trip from western Superior to Oswego.?
I was thinking of Oswego thru the canals to the Hudson, or would the St Lawrence be better, - I need to get the boat to the Atlantic.
It's impossible to generalize about the Great Lakes Holmek. In some areas anchoring out is your only option -- there are no marinas to go to. In other parts it's virtually impossible to find an anchorage. I can go into greater detail if you like.

Reasonable time ... well, I did almost exactly the same journey last season and I took nearly three months. But that was intentionally slow. I figure I could do it in about two weeks if I had to, but that would be a delivery, not a fun trip. So it depends on the type of trip you're looking to make, and what you want to experience. It also depends on when you're leaving. Boat size will matter as well.

As mentioned, early season will be colder, less windy and foggier (esspecially on Superior). Later in the season will be windier, with more lows that could have you harbour-bound for days. Last season we got hit with two week-long gales that kept us anchored and tied to a dock.

So it really depends. It's not a small journey, nor should it be taken lightly in any way ... but I assume you know that.

Oswego is definitely the easier and quicker route to the Atlantic. The St. Lawrence is further and harder. But it is the route we are planning to take b/c we want to spend time in Newfoundland and the Maritimes. Plus, I like being a sailboat and not a motorboat. You have to dismast to do the canals.

As I say, it's hard to generalize about such a large and varied cruising area as the Great Lakes. But there is plenty of experience here on CF. Keep asking, and we'll keep answering .
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Old 15-02-2015, 07:03   #10
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

Thanks Mike, and the other forumites. You've been a great help.
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Old 15-02-2015, 07:16   #11
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Re: Great Lakes Sailing

On Lake Ontario stick to the south shore as there are harbors every 15-20 miles. In some you can anchor others require staying at a marina.

The Welland Canal is in Canada, not sure about clearing customs into Canada and then back into the US. Along the south shore of Lake Ontario there are Video phones that you can use to clear US Customs.

Probably the fastest way to get to the Atlantic is to enter the Erie Canal on Lake Erie at Tonowanda and go straight across to Albany. It will take you about a week. If you go through the Welland and Oswego/Erie Canals to Albany it will take you about a week. You will be less weather dependent on the Erie Canal.

As for the St. Lawrence route to the Atlantic, the question is your destination. If you are headed towards northern Europe, England, Ireland, etc. you will be miles ahead going out the St. Lawrence. On the other hand if you are headed south, you will be adding several thousand miles to your trip. It's roughly a thousand miles from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence.

There are plenty of posts in the forum on going through the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany. No need to repeat them here.
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