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Old 10-10-2017, 18:20   #16
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

"Keep an eye to the weather, I have been in 20'+ waves, short interval, in some blows from the North when we were out in the middle." InTheDish

Dish, I have sailed LM for 30 plus years. There have been only a couple times since 1981 that waves have reached that height. The last time was October 2014 at the South end of LM and it had been predicted well in advance. To reach these heights, the wind speed would have to be 50-60 mph for a considerable time period. These are survival conditions even for large freighters but your boat or any other recreational vessel could never survive those conditions for any length of time--- especially in the violent short-fetched waves you have mentioned and 40 odd miles from shore. I have been in 12-foot breaking/cross-hatched, short interval waves in LM in my last boat for only 12 miles and it was touch and go the entire way until we were blanketed by a headland which diffused the worst of the seas. Contrawise, we approached Virgin Gorda from the North running downwind in 20 plus foot swells that although were impressive . . . were quite benign. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your measurement criteria. This, in my opinion, is not credible information concerning LM. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 11-10-2017, 07:01   #17
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

20 foot waves on L Michigan?? Waves do look twice as big when you should have reefed sooner.

Real 20 footers do happen during early and late season gales with sustained winds of 30 kts +. A more typical and still serious challenge to summer sailing out on the open lake is frontal winds in the 20 kt range with 4 to 6 foot waves. These conditions should be approached with caution for most recreational sailors. For a 2 person crew, make sure your boat is rigged for safe and easy reefing with reef lines and main halyard led to the cockpit. The lake remains dangerously cool even in mid-summer. With 2 people, you do not want to be in a man overboard situation - EVER! Safety harness and jacklines are mandatory.

Learn to navigate. Practice sailing at night close to home. Dealing with weather and not knowing where you are is a bad combination.

Always check the weather and plan ahead - crossing the lake over to the Michigan side on an easy reach with a 10-15 kt SW L Michigan summer "tradewind" can be a real pleasure. As recent Chicago to Mackinaw races have shown (including many racers withdrawing and seeking shelter this year) summer fronts with strong squalls and thunderstorms can be dangerous.


Excellent wx site with links to multiple resources: Lake Michigan Marine Weather Dashboard
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Old 12-10-2017, 03:48   #18
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

I guess you chaps are smarter...AND better sailors too! There had been a steady blow for 48 hours from the north and the waves from South Haven, where we had harbored, were directly from the North and evenly spaced. The winds were in the 35 - 40 kts range all day, the weather was nice and sunny. If I had to guess at the year,(we spent a couple of months every year sailing around), I would put it circa 1995-97.

Perhaps a year later we got caught in the near tornados coming into Monroe Harbor, on July 5th I believe, if you want to dig some. I was there so no need.

As for wave calculation, I did a two day round trip from St. John to St. Croix in March of this year, (7th and 8th?) picking up a passenger, and the winds were steady 45 from the East with gusts of 50. Wave heights then were 18- 20 with some cresting.

Do you lads give lessons?
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Old 12-10-2017, 06:09   #19
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Trying to scare folks away from the Lake with tall wave stories? Why?

20' seas on Lake Michigan are rare. The tallest on record from the southern buoy was 23' recorded a few years ago. Sustained winds of 45-50 knots from the north. Typically seen in October and November. The cooler air of the fall is denser and packs more power. These winds are easily predicted well in advance and so are easy for a sailor to avoid. Great Lakes freighters would seek safe harbor in such conditions.

Of more concern to small boaters are the squalls that can pop up with little warning. We track these rather easily with a weather radar app on the cell phone. While they aren't easily avoided, they tend to be short lived and, thus, can not generate large waves. I've been on the lake during squalls with 60-70 mph winds. They last maybe a half hour. I took down the sails and used the motor to keep the boat headed as close to the wind as possible. If one had time one could perhaps set a storm sail and heave to. We set our storm sail during a wind squall many years ago. Wind speeds were at least 45 mph. Went downwind like a scalded cat. It was over in 20 minutes.

All bodies of water have their personalities. Each of the Great Lakes is different due to size, depth, fetch and a host of other aspects. A prudent sailor will be prepared and enjoy!

The north end of the lake is festooned with islands from the Manitous and Foxes to the Beaver Archipelago. Traverse Bay and Lake Charlevoix are as different as they are fun. The Traverse Islands that separate the Lake from Green Bay and down into the bay are quite interesting. Harbors and marinas are plentiful and the towns interesting to visit. You won't be disappointed.

But the likelihood of being greeted by 20' waves is small unless you plan on sailing in November.
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Old 12-10-2017, 06:59   #20
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Do go sailing on the lake! I have just pointed out the extremes. My bad.

It is a wonderful body of water. Be ready to loose the sails and go swimming out in the middle on hot summer days.

Other fun includes saving your empty rum bottles to put notes into and then taping them to the bottom of kites that you fly as you sail. We have received many responses from those that recovered our missives.

One wag we had on board insisted on sending a streaming message that read;

"Ignore first message." We thought that was a hoot.
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Old 12-10-2017, 07:03   #21
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Again, thanks to all who have responded so far. Local information is invaluable. As has been expressed and as it should be, weather and lake conditions are a foremost concern. Whether on our local reservoirs or up there, safety comes first but our added criterion is that it be pleasant because this is all about leisure so my approach is conservative. It does raise the question as to whether I'm using reliable weather products. Bear in mind I am not a techie and have a phone that is as dumb as its operator so my service that is limited to that kind of phone. Based on that limitation, I began studying the point/zone forecasts, near shore and open lake forecasts available from NOAA/NWS long before the boat arrived up there to get a feel for the patterns and to ready myself for decision making. In my very limited experience, these resources seem to be fairly accurate (wish I could say the same about the Atlantic coast). Where I feel the synopsis is too confined, I will sometimes switch to the aviation side and access the prognostic charts as I am familiar with these and it offers a big picture as to what's going on or coming down the pike and can sometimes support our plans or give us pause. Although I do not rely on them for boating, land based general and aviation reports and forecasts have also been helpful. On the water, I have relied primarily on VHF weather broadcasts but also keep an AM/FM radio on hand. The latter seems a scant source but, since most of our trips will be daysails with only a very rare overnighter, it seems like it should suffice if I've done my homework before we depart. Am I on firm ground for making calls here or should I add something to the kit? Thanks again!
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Old 12-10-2017, 08:22   #22
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

As long as you don't go sailing in late October or November, and you stick close to shore until you can "read" the weather, you'll be fine.

I've been sailing for 40 years and have only encountered waves higher than 4 feet once, and that was my fault for being young, foolish and too macho.

The beauty of a sailboat is you can always adjust the sails to power her down. When the squalls come at you, you've got at least 15 minutes to reef the sails and most weather events only last 15 - 20 minutes. It's more about wet than worried. At this point in my life, I don't go out too far if the weather patterns look like there might be raindrops.

The west Michigan side of the lake is a lot more fun than the western shore of the lake ( Illinois and Wisconsin ), because there are so many neat little harbors to explore.
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:54   #23
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

As far as weather prediction on the Great Lakes, I have been very happy with NOAA zone area forecasts for accurate marine weather. They've been predicting weather on our lakes for over a hundred years, so have it pretty well down. I also use Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) and Wind Finder (https://www.windfinder.com/forecasts/). I buy the Wind Finder Pro app on my phone.

The NOAA National Data Buoy Center has dozens of buoys on the lakes, so find your closest and get real-time and historical info (National Data Buoy Center).

I never bother to listen to TV or local radio for any weather because it is mostly useless for weather at sea. Sure, the TV guy will tell you that there's a cold front but not the pressure differential or even speed of transit. Will this be a mild rain storm or spawn tornadoes? No info.

The other advice I always give new Lakes boaters is brush up on your hypothermia knowledge and procedures. If you're used to boating in southern conditions, you don't have appreciation for 50 degree water that's common at the beginning and end of our seasons. People on forums talk about taking 15 minutes to recover a MOB - it won't happen up here because they'll be nothing to recover!
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:58   #24
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

"I did a two day round trip from St. John to St. Croix in March of this year, (7th and 8th?) picking up a passenger, and the winds were steady 45 from the East with gusts of 50. Wave heights then were 18- 20 with some cresting." InTheDish


Hi, Dish,
The great thing about the internet is that it provides information to corroborate a person's claims. According to SAILFLOW "Wind Archives" for March 7 and 8th in the Virgin Islands they are as follows:

Tuesday March 7, 2017: Highest wind 20mph; Lowest wind 6mph;
Highest gust: 30 mph at 0900- one event
Average wind speed: approximately 13 mph

Wednesday March 8, 2017: Highest wind 12 mph: Lowest 9 mph;
Highest gust: 23 mph at 7 p.m.
Average wind speed 10-12 mph

With this information at hand, a reasonable person finds its difficult to believe your fantastic claim of steady winds E45 with gusts to 50 and 20 foot waves since the recording office at Tortola shows a completely different picture. In fact, during the entire month of March 2017 there were never conditions as those you have described. Can you explain the tremendous variance between the actual wind reports and those you have stated? Good luck and safe sailing. Here's a link to corroborate my findings: sailflow.com/spot/17214
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Old 12-10-2017, 12:49   #25
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

You come across as a prudent person with the kind of background that leads to conservative behavior. It will stand you in good stead as you become familiar. If your boat is well found you can handle much of what the lakes have to offer even if you are caught off guard. You'll do fine.
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Old 12-10-2017, 13:04   #26
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Gosh Vald,
I was there and will try to find the proof since you think I was hallucinating. The locals said biggest in seven years. (Must be true if you found it on the innerwebs!)

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Old 12-10-2017, 13:42   #27
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Windfinder wanted a bunch of $$$ for the history. Wonder what Sailflow says about the 9th? Wonder why they didn't leave the 7th or 8th? Go figure. Hmmmm

Getting the sh*t kicked out of us from Virgin Gorda to Anguilla – S.V. ENTROPIA

EDIT- The first week of March was rocking and rolling. Things settled down to regular around the 10th.

Double Edit- They call it taking a beating, I think of it as good old sporty sailing.
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Old 12-10-2017, 14:36   #28
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheDish View Post
Windfinder wanted a bunch of $$$ for the history. Wonder what Sailflow says about the 9th? Wonder why they didn't leave the 7th or 8th? Go figure. Hmmmm

Getting the sh*t kicked out of us from Virgin Gorda to Anguilla S.V. ENTROPIA

EDIT- The first week of March was rocking and rolling. Things settled down to regular around the 10th.

Double Edit- They call it taking a beating, I think of it as good old sporty sailing.

Hi, Dish,
The info is free on the link I provided. You have to use the backup key to get to March. However, here are the highest winds for the first week of March 2017:

3/1 Hi 16/Gust 27
3/2 Hi 15/Gust 27
3/3 Hi 17/Gust 25
3/4 Hi 16
3/5 Hi 15
3/6 Hi 18/Gust 30
3/7 Hi 20/Gust 30

These are far cry from the winds you stated and would not produce wave heights of 20 feet. I sailed the Virgins for over 5 years and know the water very well. These winds would produce waves between 2-4 feet maximum and would need steady winds of 15-25 to produce waves of 4-6 feet outside the Drake Channel. Also, in your attempt to discredit the source of my information, they are based on meteorological observations in Tortola during that time period. I suggest you revisit the site and download the information I have provided from their excellent website. I have totally accessed the information and it is free to anyone who chooses to view it. They also provide free weather forecasts for the subject area. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 12-10-2017, 14:45   #29
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

Dish,
Here's March 9th, 2017:

High: 16 mph
Low: 9 mph

And, SV Entropia said nothing about 20-foot waves. I believe they said 11 feet which perhaps is also not accurate based on actual wind speeds. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 12-10-2017, 14:56   #30
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Re: Lake Michigan Seasonal Sailing Considerations?

I'm on my way to dinner but will point out that you now have two eye witnesses that dispute your web site. I too have been sailing the Virgins for many decades and I was there and know what I saw.

I do know that I called a buddy in the States who went on Windfinder to advise on the best crossing day and he said they were both going to call for a third reef.

When you see dolphins chasing flying fish on the face of a wave even with the first spreaders you are looking at 20 footers.

Anyone else that was actually there March 7th and 8th want to chime in?
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