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Old 24-06-2019, 18:21   #1
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Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Hello All,

I am considering the purchase of a 25' Cape Dory and sailing it from Milwaukee to one of my local marinas in lake Saint Clair. I am new to cruising and this would be my first attempt. I have little experience, although I grew up on the lakes and have done some sailing on various day sailers. I know it's different but I am a licensed airplane pilot and get the gist of navigation and radio communication. But I am uncertain about taking on the trip with such limited experience.

Does this sound like a risky proposition? Are there any particular pitfalls such as strong currents or other concerns I should be aware of. How long could I expect the trip to take? I was thinking of crossing lake Michigan directly east from Milwaukee then following the cost of Michigan until I reach a yet to be secured marina on the north west side of lake Saint Clair.

Any advice is greatly appreciated

Dave W
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Old 24-06-2019, 18:39   #2
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

The secret to making it a safe trip is unlimited time. You could probably have the boat trucked for a reasonable cost or hire a delivery crew. That said I would take the boat north along the western lake shore to about Sturgeon Bay. Cross the lake to Leland. Then Charlevoix to Mackinaw City. Then Alpena then Harbor Beach then home. For Leland and Charlenvoix you will need reservations at the marina.
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Old 24-06-2019, 18:44   #3
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

You will need a good 10-12 hours of weather to cross the lake. The same to go to Charlevoix. Then Mackinaw City. I have crossed the lake several times. You canít have an easy wind but about everything else is ok. What shape is the boat in and can you sail?
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Old 24-06-2019, 18:45   #4
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

It's a really long trip around Lakes Michigan and Huron, two to three weeks minimum. Remember you're only going to be moving 5 to 6 mph on a good day. A little different than the airplane. Good news is most of the way the harbors are pretty close together so you do it in a lot of short daily trips. Great Lakes weather can change in a heartbeat so you need to keep a close watch on that. I would sail North on the Wisconsin side to Cheboygan or Sturgeon Bay then cross over to the Michigan side. The crossing there is only 40 something miles compared to 90 something at Milwaukee. From there it's harbor hopping all the way around. Are you going alone or with crew? Having an experienced crew member aboard would be a very good idea. I don't think I'd want to do it alone and I've been sailing about 50 years.
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Old 24-06-2019, 18:52   #5
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

The weather issues tend to be thunderstorms/cold front and the good news is the pass quickly. 20-40 minutes just get all sail down until it passes. I have crossed the lake twice alone in a 32 footer. 2 years ago I brought my Catalina 36 home from Mackinaw City where I bought it to Marinette in 24 hours with my brother. Weather is everything. I have also crossed in my old CAL 24.
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Old 24-06-2019, 19:06   #6
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

A big issue is taking a new untested and unfamiliar boat with the first trip being the biggest you will probably ever do. You will need gps, radio, charts and fuel for 60 miles. Buy something closer to home.
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Old 24-06-2019, 19:20   #7
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by david63 View Post
Hello All,

I am considering the purchase of a 25' Cape Dory and sailing it from Milwaukee to one of my local marinas in lake Saint Clair. I am new to cruising and this would be my first attempt. I have little experience, although I grew up on the lakes and have done some sailing on various day sailers. I know it's different but I am a licensed airplane pilot and get the gist of navigation and radio communication. But I am uncertain about taking on the trip with such limited experience.

Does this sound like a risky proposition? Are there any particular pitfalls such as strong currents or other concerns I should be aware of. How long could I expect the trip to take? I was thinking of crossing lake Michigan directly east from Milwaukee then following the cost of Michigan until I reach a yet to be secured marina on the north west side of lake Saint Clair.

Any advice is greatly appreciated

Dave W
Never sailed the lakes.....Just some things for you to think about. Research the **** out of it and plan contingencies. Weather, boat integrity, redundancy of emergency communication devices, PFDs, liferaft?, GPS?, EPIRB?, PLB?, tools? Find a friend with some type of real boating experience who wants to go on an adventure. If something is not adding up with the boat or there is a real question about its seaworthiness, just figure something else out. Things will go wrong on your trip, but you want to obviously try and avoid catastrophic failures and/or have a plan for them.
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Old 24-06-2019, 19:24   #8
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

One last aside from me. It would be a very, very, very tiring trip without an auto pilot.
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Old 24-06-2019, 19:26   #9
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

I don't have any specific wisdom for the trip, other than to have fun!

We keep our 22 O'day in the NW part of Lake St Clair, just south of Lake St Clair MetroPark.
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Old 24-06-2019, 19:34   #10
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Thanks for the great response and good advice. Sounds like I will be trailering the boat. I didn't realize that it would take so long and hadn't actually calculated the time over the charts.


Saying that, does anybody anticipate difficulties trailering it? The boat weighs 5000lbs and is on a two axle aluminum trailer that is in very good condition. The beam is 8' so I'm thinking wide load restrictions wouldn't apply.


Any additional thoughts?
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Old 24-06-2019, 20:05   #11
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Yes. I would hesitate to go thru Chicago. The UP is very scenic and forgiving. That would be my choice. I drive it often.
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Old 24-06-2019, 21:01   #12
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

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Originally Posted by dangerfield55 View Post
Yes. I would hesitate to go thru Chicago. The UP is very scenic and forgiving. That would be my choice. I drive it often.
I lived in Chicago for the first 39 years of my life. I see no problem with driving through Chicago other than avoiding the rush hour traffic. Driving north and then south over the Mackinac bridge is at least twice and probably three times the mileage. The interstates that you would travel are probably much better that the roads through the UP.

If you had the summer off lakes Michigan and Huron are great cruising grounds. Also the North Channel, Bruce Peninsula and Georgian Bay. The St. Clair river has a strong southerly current do it is not likely that you will be cruising north through it.
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Old 25-06-2019, 04:08   #13
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Yes, I have driven through Chicago, and would take that route through the early hours to save time. Tolls would be a pain along the route and surely not as scenic but probably half the distance. The boat does have an auto helm and diesel inboard. I suppose I could motor across and have my son meet me on the other side with the trailer. that could be another option.
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Old 25-06-2019, 08:58   #14
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

Check or re-pack the wheel bearings on the trailer before setting out.
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Old 25-06-2019, 08:59   #15
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Re: Great Lakes Advice (risky venture for newbie?)

As a "newbie", you might consider trailering it Lake St. Clair, get a Summer's worth of experience with your boat, THEN take it cruising.

As mentioned, weather in the Great Lakes changes rapidly. These are large bodies of water that develop some big waves. Get to know your boat, learn how she responds to a variety of wind's and sea states, practice reefing, then you can be comfortable sailing her anywhere.
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