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Old 11-02-2016, 16:58   #1
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New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Hi all
I have been sailing mainly Lake Ontario went up Lake Erie up Lake Huron to the north channel in Georgian Bay. Planning to go out the St Lawrence and down the east coast then south.this spring. Many of us Canadians in the interior only have the Great Lakes to sail on.So what can we expect out there on the big water.

I see there is a lot of experienced skippers out there on CF that may be able to share their knowledge on fresh water vs salt water
  1. tides
  2. wave hiegths
  3. Currents
  4. Winds
  5. Any others toughts
Let the knowledge flow
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Old 11-02-2016, 17:06   #2
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

It's exactly the same: Never sail in the wrong season.





Years ago I did Muskegon to Nova Scotia and it was wonderful. The first wave the boat dipped its bow to made it come alive. A real boat at last!
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Old 11-02-2016, 17:32   #3
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

I have sailed lakes (not Great Lakes size though) before I sailed the oceans.

I think everything is just bigger, stronger and further in the Ocean. Mess-ups and trouble also seem to be exponential - the other shore can be thousands of miles away.

The only thing good is that ... the other shore can be thousands of miles away - you are less likely to hit it if you get too tired and catch a nap.

On a more serious note, to me, the biggest difference is the size, shape and energy of the waves.

b.
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Old 11-02-2016, 18:06   #4
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

"...Have only the Great Lakes to sail on???"

That's like saying, "Only the Blues to listen to."

"Only a Shelby Cobra to drive."

"Only Venus to make love to."

And you a Canadian, too. Tsk, tsk.

Paul
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Old 11-02-2016, 18:41   #5
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Hey Paul
Not saying anything wrong with the Great Lakes they a probably one of the best places to sail in the world. Great waters, great sailors, great places to visit. Some of us want to get out there and explore new waters . Yes I'm proud to be a Canadian and hope to meet others out there on the ocean and share experiences with them as well . Canada Strong and Free . Free to explore Free to ask advice Free to have an
opinion
Fair Winds my fellow sailor
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Old 11-02-2016, 19:07   #6
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Tidal ranges and currents can take some getting used to, but that shouldn't take long. Weather on the lakes can sneak up on you very quickly and be very nasty. I recall a thundersquall up by the Manitous that dropped a half inch of hail on deck and 30 seconds later blew it all off with 50 knots of breeze. We were doing 8 knots under bare poles. You generally get more notice out in the salty stuff, but it can grow bigger and last longer. Long-term winds build waves constantly bigger and bigger, and then if it shifts you end up with slop from the new breeze on top of the leftover rollers from the old. Squalls hit on the ocean too, but they're generally pretty well forecast. Keeping a good watch is always a good idea. Enjoy!
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Old 11-02-2016, 20:24   #7
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Hi Eric

good trip to take. I grew up sailing in the Bay of Quinte and in 2012 my wife and I finished our 3&1/2 yr Caribbean odysey. Different boats though.

For one thing the salt water is a blessing and a pain. The density of salt water means your boat will float higher. But that salt is hell on anything metal, especially electrical. So be prepared to cope with that.

Tides are a lot higher as you travel North, but in the Caribbean they're not much to worry about normally with 1 ft to 18 inch tides

Everything is so much bigger and in the popular sailing routes the only thing you really need to watch out for are other boats. Underwater obstructions only occur close to shore, mostly. Obviously there are exceptions! I would say that if you cruised the North Channel, then you are well trained for the south. By co-incidence, we are heading for the N Channel, first time, next summer and I feel slightly intimidated when I see all those + 's on the chart

And yes weather is an issue where you have to pick the right season. Even then, weird stuff happens (a nasty squally swept through the Bahamas very recently) so an eye to the weather.

Someone mentioned currents and yes there are island effects that are quite pronounced.

You say the ocean and I've assumed you mean the North American East coast to the Caribbean. North of Beaufort NC we stayed inshore on the ICW and Chesapeake bay but beyond that we had many cruises of several days at a time between North America and the Islands. the longest 12 days. Somehow, a trip of 400-500 NM seemed to take on the proportions of an overnighter on Lake Ontario as the distances are greater to get from A to B.

We often describe our ocean sailing as the "Best and worst of times".

Jim
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:34   #8
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

As we are also Great Lakes sailors prepping for oceanic passagemaking, I would suggest our own course, which has been very helpful. Offer yourself out as delivery crew on ocean voyages. I would start with the usual "Virginia to Caribbean" (or vice-versa) route, because there's jets at either end and the route is well-travelled. You'll learn a great deal standing watches and dealing with squalls, things breaking, etc., and you'll get a lot of real-life information if you go with a skipper who has done it more than once (an absolute requirement, I would say). My wife and I have done two ocean deliveries each, and not together, for maximum experience-sharing.

The second arm is education: it is foolhardy in my view to go into tidal waters without having experienced tides or without knowing how to deal with them. Those two old fellows who've been rescued too many times in the UK come to mind: they clearly don't grasp what a six metre tidal range means when one is tied off to a pier in a drying harbour.

To remedy this, I recommend RYA courses to at least the Yachtmaster (Coastal, Tidal) level. These courses aren't cheap and you have to take the better ones in Europe to get the experience of big tides, but they are hard to beat when it comes to consolidation of seamanship knowledge already acquired here on the Lakes, which, while no small thing, is not nearly the whole picture of life aboard or safe passagemaking.

Hope this helps.
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:58   #9
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Best wishes for your upcoming voyage. My wife and I have sailed up and down the St Lawrence River from Halifax, NS to Lake Ontario and back again. Sailing down the St Lawrence will teach you a lot about currents (starting at the Thousand Islands) and tides (starting at Three Rivers, Quebec). I strongly recommend you obtain the CHS Guide on tidal currents in the St Lawrence Estuary (can't remember the exact name at the moment) to provide critical information on currents along the river from Quebec City to Gaspe.
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Old 12-02-2016, 08:59   #10
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

To reiterate what JimJohnston wrote, your boat will float higher in the saltwater as well it will respond more quickly to waves, bobs more readily. I have been in a great deal of extreme weather in the oceans of the world but I was never more concerned, than when we encountered severe weather on the Great Lakes.
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Old 12-02-2016, 09:16   #11
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

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Originally Posted by seasick View Post
To reiterate what JimJohnston wrote, your boat will float higher in the saltwater as well it will respond more quickly to waves, bobs more readily. I have been in a great deal of extreme weather in the oceans of the world but I was never more concerned, than when we encountered severe weather on the Great Lakes.
Quite true. In addition, the waves on the lakes tend to be steeper and choppier than the open Atlantic. Lake Erie, because its shallow, tends to build up into walls of water. You will also notice the lakes smell different from the ocean. But, if you can sail the GLs you can sail anywhere.
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Old 12-02-2016, 11:12   #12
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Great post everyone. I'll b e starting on st. Claire and Huron come spring. All these responses have fired me up! Invaluable, resource. Can't wait.

Joel
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Old 12-02-2016, 11:12   #13
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Oh and welcome Alberg 45!
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Old 12-02-2016, 11:33   #14
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

1) Tide and tide current is the biggest difference you will notice. Tide current and ocean current against wind (and their effect on wave patterns) are more pronounced than in the Great Lakes.

2) Ocean swell. You get some swell effects at the eastern end of the Lakes, due to the prevailing westerly winds (NW or SW), blowing across the Lakes. Swell from storms in the ocean can come in different directions and different periods, in addition to the wave heights on top of them.

3) Salt water vs. fresh water. Way more corrosion and way more maintenance on the coast than you see in the Lakes.

Good luck to you.
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Old 12-02-2016, 11:51   #15
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Re: New beginnings ,Great Lakes vs the ocean what to expect

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alberg 34 View Post
Hi all
I have been sailing mainly Lake Ontario went up Lake Erie up Lake Huron to the north channel in Georgian Bay. Planning to go out the St Lawrence and down the east coast then south.this spring. Many of us Canadians in the interior only have the Great Lakes to sail on.So what can we expect out there on the big water.

I see there is a lot of experienced skippers out there on CF that may be able to share their knowledge on fresh water vs salt water
  1. tides
  2. wave heights
  3. Currents
  4. Winds
  5. Any others tHoughts
Let the knowledge flow
I'm sure you will receive many responses to your direct queries, so I'll restrict mine to what perhaps you will not receive.
If your vessel was built for the Great Lakes you might find the grade of stainless steel is not suitable for chlorides and could rust out in a year.
Winds are less inland such that mast height and sail area are larger meaning you will oft find your reefing on the ocean.
Before I came south 10yrs ago I sailed the Great Lakes for 40yrs. First time I tied up in a Marina with a 6ft tide my pulpit caught on the wall and bent it out of shape in falling tide..
Carry more and longer dock lines.
Best investment I made was a full enclosure.
Your anchor will be too small and you will go with all chain eventually with spare anchors.
You'll find leaks you never knew you had. Invest in hatch covers.
Carry plenty of spare filters and oils, bandages, medications. Carry fuel Jerry cans on deck and invest in a good portable water/dirt filter.
Storage is always a premium, discard all non essentials.
Upgrade battery capacity and seriously consider wind/solar energy.
Nautical/chandler supplies are less expensive the further south you go in NA.
Obtain good dingy and outboard. Consider life raft.
Wear polyester for ease of laundering.
Have adequate reliable frig/freezer capacity.
Obtain coast guard regulations for passage area.
Develop a maintenance plan and stick to it.

Have FUN~~
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