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Old 02-02-2012, 14:53   #1
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Sailing in Lake Superior - Small Day Sailer

I have a small 16ft day sailer. I usually vacation on lake superior park on the canadian side and kayak a lot there. Kayaking on the lake can get quite scary as it happened to me once ive got caught in good 10ft swells which made it quite fun trying to get to shore.

Anybody experience sailing there ? any concerns etc ?So far everyone has warned me how dangerous lake superior is. I wouldnt want to sink my boat or damage it severely. Is it worth taking it up there when i go ?
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Old 02-02-2012, 15:08   #2
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

I’d treat a 16' daysailor much as you would a kayak.
You can have a ball, daysailing from the various Parks on Lake Superior’s north shore - but, you must take great care to be aware of weather.
As you’ve already learned, Superior can get quite nasty; but what a joy, on a good day. I'd bring the boat, and decide, on a daily basis, whether to launch her or not.
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Old 02-02-2012, 15:25   #3
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

Hi Andrei, I'm based out of Thunder Bay and cruise the north shore of Superior. It's a wonderful cruising ground, but it is not to be trifled with (as you already know). The main issues with cruising the north shore (aside from big seas and complex weather) is the remoteness, and distances between marinas. Be sure you look at the charts.

Superior can be a challenging place to sail. It can produce waves of ocean-going size, but because it is still a lake, so the wavelengths will be shorter.

During the typical cruising season (June to September) 1 to 2 meter wave forecasts are common, 3 is not unusual, and 4, 5 or more can occur during storms. Wind speeds are typically 20 knots or less, and light airs are common, especially during July and early August. Of course they can also pipe up to storm speeds. And fog ... don't forget the fog. Cruising in June and early July you're sure to hit many days of fog.

You boat is pretty small, but there are some nice semi-protected areas where it might be perfect. You'll be sail/camping I assume. Launch out of Rossport and explore the islands there. Or look at Red Rock or Nipigon. Nipigon bay and area would be good. I wouldn't sail out of Thunder Bay or further east of Rossport.
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Old 02-02-2012, 15:27   #4
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

Yes, weather indeed. Problem is, im not that experienced to tell weather just from surrounding hints. I know some people can tell what is going to happen by wind .. sky etc various points of reference. I still rely on information from weather stations etc and without internet im kinda lost.
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Old 02-02-2012, 16:24   #5
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

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Originally Posted by Andrei123 View Post
Yes, weather indeed. Problem is, im not that experienced to tell weather just from surrounding hints. I know some people can tell what is going to happen by wind .. sky etc various points of reference. I still rely on information from weather stations etc and without internet im kinda lost.
The weather is far more complex on the Great Lakes than on the coasts or the deep oceans. But learning to reading the sky, and understand what it is saying, is not that hard. Observe, and pick up a book or two. It's fun.

Environment Canada and Thunder Bay Coast Guard Radio both do continual broadcasts on the VHF weather channels. You can usually pick up at least one channel (although there are some places where it gets lost). Internet access is spotty, although GSM service is getting better. But I would never rely on that as my primary source of weather info up here.

A good VHF, and your own good sense, are far more important.
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Old 02-02-2012, 16:25   #6
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

The biggest problem with Lake Superior occurs if you end up in the water. The cold water will kill you fast. A 16' boat on the big lake is something to be taken seriously.

Why? Ask yourselve how far you can swim in 50 degree F water if your 16 footer goes over and you can't get it back up because of higher winds.

Most 16 footers are made for inland lakes or for where there is a rib standing by.
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Old 02-02-2012, 18:56   #7
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

Ive been up there many times, this year might be the first i take the sailboat with me. The scariest thing is when you are close to shore, i dont see myself going very far from shore. Altho i was planning on dragging my kayak behind the boat ... just in case. Also have a small 4hp motor on the boat + the insane amount of styrofoam on the bottom of the boat gives me a bit of comfidence.

I do remember the expression of the skippers on these two fairly large cruisers last year when they heard there is a storm heading their way. They must of cleared out the cove they were hiding in preeeettty fast.

I usually go to Lake Superior park a bit north of Sault Ste Marie and a few short of Wawa.
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Old 02-02-2012, 20:02   #8
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

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I usually go to Lake Superior park a bit north of Sault Ste Marie and a few short of Wawa.
Andrei, I would NOT recommend you try sailing that shore in your small boat, especially with limited sailing experience. It is a great shore for sea kayaking, but is far less forgiving to sailors. It is exposed, open to a 350 nm fetch, and has fewer good anchorages. Your small boat is a poor choice here. It is too big to easily duck into the nooks, and too small to go off shore. Go further north. Look at Rossport. That would be a good place for a sailing trip with your boat.
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Old 02-02-2012, 20:31   #9
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

Hehe thanks Mike, thats pretty definitive. It kindof confirmed my fears. Those shores do seem very treachorous.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:44   #10
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

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Hehe thanks Mike, thats pretty definitive. It kindof confirmed my fears. Those shores do seem very treachorous.
I don't mean to unduly scare you, or anyone else. But as you know from kayaking this shore, travel on Lake Superior is not to be taken lightly. It is one of the most amazing cruising grounds in the world. The vastness, the beauty and the remoteness draws me year after year, but to travel here safely you must always respect the Big Lake (as you obviously do Andrei).
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Old 03-02-2012, 08:46   #11
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Re: Sailing in lake superior small day sailer

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... Look at Rossport. That would be a good place for a sailing trip with your boat.
Indeed!
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