Eric, I assume you mean the Great Lakes. A 6.5 foot draft while doable will present some challenges getting there and I do believe you will have to unstep your mast unless you plan to go north and then into the St. Lawrence. You might visit the AGLCA website, America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association and read some of the accounts of folks doing the Great Loop and get some info on getting to the Lakes.
Chesapeake Bay, ICW Hampton Roads To Key West, The Gulf Coast, The Bahamas
What's your plan once in the Great Lakes? Remember the sailing season is especially short up here in the Great Lakes. Boats just went in a few weeks ago and will be out in mid October or so.
Do you plan on putting the boat on the hard somewhere in the Lakes for the winter? I just mention this because getting there (espeically thought the St. Lawrence) will take quite some time and if you start in July, you make not have a whole lot of time...
You can run up the east coast to NYC. Then up the Hudson River to Albany NY and into the Erie canal. At Albany you remove the mast and carry it on a cradle on the boat thru the Erie to Buffalo NY. There you restep the mast and sail up Lake Erie and points north. Hundreds of sailboats head north in the spring & back south in the fall this way. I'd leave earlier if you can, in fact now is the time to depart if you want to maximize your cruising time on the lakes. Most people do the return trip in early September.
I'm looking at the same trip right now , nice coincidence. So can it be done without stepping the mast? It's a boat with a 75ft mast , 6 ft draft and I can keep 8kts so I would not mind a longer route and spare me stepping the mast .
I have already been to , America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association but extra tips or suggestions would be much appreciated!