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Old 22-02-2013, 07:41   #1
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Family cruiser questions for Lake Pepin Minnesota / Wisconsin sailing?

My wife and I are in the "research phase" of potentially purchasing our first sailboat. The plan is to keep learning as much as possible and crew with a local yacht club this year... and purchase a boat next year for weekend sailing on Lake Pepin (popular sailing spot along border of MN and WI). We have a daughter who is currently 10 months and would be looking for a comfortable family cruiser with less of an emphasis on performance. I haven't nailed down a budget yet... but we were considering boats under $25k. I certainly have a lot to learn and would be more than happy to spend much less to meet our needs. We're trying to determine if we should be looking at water balast boats that would be easier to trailer (Hunter 260) in case we wanted to go up to Lake Superior for an extended weekend cruise. I've also read several recommendations to look at older keel boats for Lake Pepin knowing we could charter a boat on Superior if we wanted to try that out. I see many 70's keel boats for under $10k that would make this dream much more realistic. Understandably, both my wife and I like the look of newer boats but we are trying to get into this for as little $$$ as possible understanding that as we learn more we would be better informed to know what we really want in a potential "next" boat.

If anyone here is familiar with Lake Pepin, what is the minimum draft that you would recommend?

There are at least three sailboat marinas on Lake Pepin, does anyone have opinions / preferences between them?

If we went with a trailerable boat, is there potential savings by not using a slip full time? Do marinas have options for trailer storage so we could store the boat there and not have to step the mast each time? Would this have a significant impact on bottom paint wear?

Thanks for any and all replies, this is a great forum!

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Old 22-02-2013, 09:14   #2
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Re: Family cruiser questions for Lake Pepin Minnesota / Wisconsin sailing?

Hi there and welcome to the forum,

I am a Lake Pepin sailor. I don't have much to offer in terms of specific boats that you might want to look at, however I can tell you that we used to own a Hunter 260 and it's a great boat and would be a good boat for sailing on Lake Pepin. In terms of trailering and moving the boat to other waters, I suspect you will find out what we did, it's really too much of a hassle to derig, trailer and rerig, it sounds fine in theory, however when you have 1 - 2 hours to pack up the boat on the trailer and then 1 - 2 hours to set it up again, it just seems easier to stay put.

The average depth on Lake Pepin is 30 feet, you can get most anywhere you want with any typical draft boat of 5 - 6'. The Minnesota side drops of quite dramatically, so you can sail almost right up to the shoreline, however the bottom on the Wisconsin side tends taper more gradually. Since the average depth makes this a rather shallow lake, if the wind is kicking up, you can get a pretty significant chop on the Lake.

There are 3 marinas on Lake Pepin. 2 on the Minnesota side and 1 on the Wisconsin side. Minnesota has Lake City Marina - this marina is full and you will not likely get a slip here unless you happen to find a boat for sale that is already at Lake City. The other marina in Minnesota is Hansen's. Hansen's is the lower end of all 3 marinas in my opinion. The marina on the Wisconsin side is Pepin Marina in the town of Pepin. We have our boat docked here and I am partial to Pepin Marina. Great town, resturants and atmosphere here.

Even if you have a trailer boat, you are contracting for a slip for the season, so regardless of whether or not your boat is in the slip, you are likely still paying for it for the season.

Yes, all three marinas have options for trailer storage and storing the boat on the trailer in the winter. You may find people who tell you that Pepin Marina doesn't have the facilities to haul boats in and out or provide storage and that was true up until last year when they install a new travelift to be able to now provide these services.

"I'm the reason the rum's gone"
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Old 22-02-2013, 10:59   #3
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Re: Family cruiser questions for Lake Pepin Minnesota / Wisconsin sailing?

Thanks for the excellent response! I think this summer we will take a road trip (we live in the Minneapolis area) to check out the area as well as the three marinas.
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Old 26-02-2013, 20:53   #4
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Sounds almost exactly like us 12 months ago! We live in Minneapolis, have kids (2) and bought a 23' Aquarius with a trailer last spring.

The boat is on a buoy on Lake Harriet ($450 a season) which, being 15 min away, is great for being able to go for an evening sail after work. And yes, it's a small lake... Upside is that it's easy to take friends out, either the whole family, or just a buddy and myself. We sailed pretty much every week, some weeks 2-3 times. I know we wouldn't have sailed as much if it wasn't as close and convenient.

I agree putting up the mast *everytime* would be a drag (although some boats are easier). Last year we took a long weekend on Pepin in mid season, and since we're wintering it up north, ended the season with a trip on Mille Lacs. Planning on doing another Mille Lacs trip this spring, hopefully the Apostles mid season and likely another Mille Lacs trip again in the fall.

Good luck!
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Old 05-06-2013, 10:50   #5
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Re: Family cruiser questions for Lake Pepin Minnesota / Wisconsin sailing?

Well several months have passed.... I joined and am crewing with the Wayzata Yacht Club on Lake Minnetonka and am having one heck of a great time while learning as much as I can. This past weekend my wife and I took a trip to Wabasha (1st time leaving our daughter with grandparents overnight which was great!) and checked out all three marinas on Lake Pepin. We also went on a 2hr ride with aboard his Hunter 310 and had a blast while solidifying my wife's interest in sailing! Our desire to become boat owners is going to be delayed a bit as we are expecting our 2nd child this December but Lake Pepin sure looks like a great place to have a boat and slip. I'll hopefully be able to add more to this thread in the future!
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:46   #6
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We had a 22' sailboat at Hansen's Harbor which we also trailered along the south shore of Lake Superior. Ended up with a 34' boat at Barkers Island Marina in Superior, WI.

Lake Pepin has a fun family orientated sailing scene. Good place to learn how to sail. Listen to weather radio because you do not see bad weather until is on top of you. Don't underestimate the current of the Mississippi. Water not always swimmable. Apply good bottom paint before putting your boat in the water because Pepin is infested with Zebra mussells.

After your family is hooked and you might find Pepin claustrophobic and look to Lake Superior. The drive time to Duluth is about an hour longer from Minneapolis than Lake City. We thought it was worth it. The sailing is much better, and if you have good vacation time the MN North Shore and Apostles are very pretty trips.

I recommend sending wifey to sailawaysailingschool with Joan Gilmore. I think girls just like learning to sail from other girls rather than bossy Cap'n types. You can even get your ASA bareboat in BVI with Joan. She let us bring our toddler. Then charter in the BVIs every winter.

It's a pretty darn good life. Too bad the Minnesota summers are so short!
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Old 05-06-2013, 16:22   #7
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Many years ago we lived in Mendota Heights, just south of St. Paul. We had a wonderful time with a small trailer boat, a 16 ft AMF Sunbird. With our two small children my wife and I sailed on lakes Harriet, Nokomis, Calhoun, Minnetonka, White Bear, Pepin, even Superior and many lakes up north as well as in neighboring states. The kids grew up sailing starting from under a year. That boat was small, easy, cheap, lived in the garage so no moorage fees. Of course it did not have the room and comfort of a bigger boat and my wife always longed for an enclosed head, but we sailed more and had more fun than we would have had on a bigger boat farther away. Later, we started chartering for vacations a week or two each year. Now, many years later, we live in Southern California and have a 42 ft. sailboat. Just as much fun, not necessarily more fun but different, better for distances and living aboard for extended periods of time and, of course my wife got her enclosed head. Now the grand kids are sailing with us.

My advice to you is enjoy your sailing adventure. Keep it simple to start. Be sure your wife likes the boat as much as you do. Have fun.

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