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Old 10-05-2017, 08:30   #1
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Sailing Across Lake Michigan

I am planning to relocate my 1980 30' O'Day sailboat from Racine to South Haven this June (next month). I am have beginner/intermediate experience on Lake Michigan but have never sailed across the Lake. I have 2 issues: how many crew members to take along and how to get them back.
I am conservative by nature and do not want to take unnecessary risks. I am retired and can go most any day. I have never sailed in bad weather and I am looking for any and all advice prior to crossing including anyone who is willing to make the crossing with me.
Thanks.
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Old 10-05-2017, 08:45   #2
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Here are some threads or previous discussions in CF on the topic of Lake Michigan.
https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=011403...gan&gsc.page=2

Bon Voyage!
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Old 10-05-2017, 08:59   #3
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Couple of options, leave in the evening take a slow sail across. This will be cold,the lake is only in the 40's now.
I've done this in May on a delivery for a friend.
Or leave early morning making sure you maintain enough speed to arrive before dark.
Crew depends....
Is this a new to you boat?
Do you have autopilot?
A heater would make the night option more bearable.
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:15   #4
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

What is the distance across? leave at night so you arrive during daylight. It will be COLD. 1 or 2 crew is ample Make lot's of hot drinks Do it on a clear night and it's a whole beautiful new sky to admire. Have a blast. drive a car over before so you have one for the crew to drive home. have a blast!
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:43   #5
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

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Originally Posted by ctl411 View Post
Couple of options, leave in the evening take a slow sail across. This will be cold,the lake is only in the 40's now.
I've done this in May on a delivery for a friend.
Or leave early morning making sure you maintain enough speed to arrive before dark.
Crew depends....
Is this a new to you boat?
Do you have autopilot?
A heater would make the night option more bearable.
I have had the boat for a year now and have only done cruising around the shore.
I do have auto pilot but I haven't used it and I think it only works as far as locking the wheel in place manually.
A heater is certainly worth looking into. Any suggestions as to what kind?
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:47   #6
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

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Originally Posted by Kalinka1 View Post
What is the distance across? leave at night so you arrive during daylight. It will be COLD. 1 or 2 crew is ample Make lot's of hot drinks Do it on a clear night and it's a whole beautiful new sky to admire. Have a blast. drive a car over before so you have one for the crew to drive home. have a blast!
It's about 80 nautical miles. I was hoping to do it during the day to minimize the cold and have less worry about crossing paths with freighters. Thanks.
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:58   #7
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

With no working autopilot it would be nice/easier with someone along. They don't need to know how to sail just a wheel holder.

Heat, a bus type heater core if you have a fresh water cooled engine is a great addition. Even cooking some rolls in the oven will give a bunch of heat plus something warm to eat. I emailed a friend who may have time for the trip. I'm not retired so... Being retired is one of your best assets you have. Picking a nice day or night makes all the difference.
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Old 10-05-2017, 17:48   #8
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Saugatuck is better than South Haven.
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Old 10-05-2017, 18:01   #9
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

I have sailed LM for over 30 years. A lake crossing any time of year is a serious passage. My advice to you based on your honest dialogue and experience level is to harbor hop: Racine to Chicago; Chicago to Benton Harbor; Benton Harbor to Saugatuck. A nice 3-day sail with no frightened or angry mariners. One mate is sufficient. Arrange a rental car on the other end for your return. Good luck and safe sailing.
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Old 10-05-2017, 19:43   #10
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

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A lake crossing any time of year is a serious passage.
That's kind of funny. I was born on the shores of Lake Michigan in Holland and have also spent an incredible amount of time on it. We wonder often why we don't go to Milwaukee more often. I mean - it's right there - see it.

No you don't, and you don't see it before the side you left disappears for quite a while. But it really isn't that far. If you think your boat can go 100 miles straight along the shoreline, why do you think it can't go 80 miles straight across.
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Old 10-05-2017, 20:37   #11
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garymadhatter View Post
I am planning to relocate my 1980 30' O'Day sailboat from Racine to South Haven this June (next month). I am have beginner/intermediate experience on Lake Michigan but have never sailed across the Lake. I have 2 issues: how many crew members to take along and how to get them back.
I am conservative by nature and do not want to take unnecessary risks. I am retired and can go most any day. I have never sailed in bad weather and I am looking for any and all advice prior to crossing including anyone who is willing to make the crossing with me.
Thanks.
Going straight across is fine. Watch your weather windows. Don't go if any chance of thunderstorms are forecast, you don't want to be caught out in that. Try not to go if waves are forecast over 3' it's just won't be comfortable, though your personal preference may vary. Best would be to go in some SW winds so you can go on a comfortable beam or broad reach for a beautiful sail. NW would do the trick too but it would be cooler. In June though the middle of the lake will still be cold so pack warm. Invest in a life raft if you don't have one and maybe a satellite tracker like a Spot beacon so you can signal for help if you need to. 50 degree water will kill you in about 2 hours.
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Old 10-05-2017, 21:42   #12
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

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What is the distance across? leave at night so you arrive during daylight.
Nights are short in the north, in June.

Sunset in Chicago is around 20:25 PM, sunrise around 5:15 am. 15 hour days and 9 hour nights.

Nautical twilight is around 21:40, and 04:45 am. Seven hours of darkness.

In other words, if you left before dusk, you'd have light when you arrived. Of course, if you left at dawn you'd have light when you arrived, but you'd not have as much cushion if things took longer than expected. (Which they almost always do.)
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Old 11-05-2017, 05:16   #13
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Forgot to mention - since you asked about getting crew back. If you have crew and you can somehow get them to Bangor, MI (about 10 miles from South Haven) there's Amtrak back to Chicago and you can even get all the way to Racine area with the train. Super cheap. Otherwise you'd need to drive.
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Old 11-05-2017, 05:37   #14
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

Here's my recipe for crossing Lake Michigan.

It's a great crossing and very cool to be mid-lake with no land in sight. I'd leave pre-dawn (4am?). You'll be surprised how many freighters you see in the shipping channels. Keep an eye out on the radar/AIS (if you've got one) and an ear on the VHF. Bring warm clothes, hat, gloves and foul-weather bibs for night, even if it's not raining. Be prepared to do some (potentially a lot of) motoring.


Check the mid-lake/open water forecasts carefully. They are often very different than the nearshore forecasts that us Great Lakes sailors are so accustomed to. Nearshore may call for 2-3 footers with 10-15 knot winds all day while offshore you could see 5-7' with 25 knots from a different direction. When I've crossed, the wind and waves have always kicked up higher for about the middle 4 hours of the crossing.
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Old 11-05-2017, 05:47   #15
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Re: Sailing Across Lake Michigan

The train also stops in Holland. Sounds like an adventure, good luck, fair winds and weather!
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