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Old 29-04-2015, 08:00   #1
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Great Lakes

We are considering bringing our Flicka up to the Great Lakes for a summer tour. The plan is for summer 2016. We would put in at one point cruise until the end of the season and retrieve the boat where ever we end up.
We live in the SE and would like to try fresh water cruising for a season. Where is a good starting point? How much of the lakes should we realistically plan to see in a season?

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Old 29-04-2015, 08:42   #2
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Re: Great Lakes

Hi Tllee. Great plan. The Great Lakes are a vast area. Depending on how you cruise and what you want to experience, you could easily spend many seasons in one Lake or region.

For a real wilderness experience look at the north shore of Lake Superior. There are some wonderful island archipelagos within reach by launching out of Red Rock, Nipigon or Rossport. And of course the Apostles near Bayfield are a treasure. You could spend a whole season exploring these areas. If your ambition is to visit multiple Great Lakes though, you'd be hard-pressed. I know the Flicka is an amazing little vessel, but it's still small. I would be very cautious traveling Superior's length in something so small.

For a slightly tamer remote experience, but still amazing, I'd look at the North Channel (Lake Huron). You could easily spend a whole season exploring this area. But you could start there, then get into Georgian Bay. You could then take the Trent-Severn Waterway through to Lake Ontario. Alternatively you could get down to the bottom of Lake Huron and take the down-hill run through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers, passing through Lake St. Clair.

If a more urban experience is desired, then focusing on the lower Lakes is your best bet. You could drop in just about anywhere along Lake Erie or Ontario, and plan to circumnavigate either.

I've travelled through most of the Canadian areas of the Great Lakes. Happy to try and help if I can.

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Old 29-04-2015, 10:54   #3
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Re: Great Lakes

The problem with the northern part of the lakes is the season is short. My suggestion:
- Start near Chicago.
- Swing in and check out the city by boat.
- Then work your way up the Michigan side of the Lake. There are excelent ports every 20-30miles. The state marinas are very reasonably priced and most are based on a channel that feeds into a small lake, so you have the option to anchor out if desired.
- Try to arrive at the straights around mid June/Begining of July. Spend a month in the north channel.
- Late August, start working your way south on Lake Huron. Take your pick of sides. The Michigan side of the lake still has lots of state marinas but is less developed.
- Around September, get to Port Huron/Sarnia. Take a few nights to anchor out on Lake St.Clair.
- Then run thru Detroit (do stop at the marina downtown, it's safe and nicely located on the newly developed riverwalk)
- Then pop out onto Lake Erie and do Put-In-Bay and if so inclined Cedar Point.

This is very doable in a full summer. It gives a nice range of big city, tourist areas, remote areas, anchorages and marinas. Pretty much the full gamit. All while having plentiful ports to duck into if the weather is unfriendly.

There are lots of other routes and if you can lower your mast, the Erie Canal and Trent Severn are definetly worth considering.
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Old 29-04-2015, 11:40   #4
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Re: Great Lakes

Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
The problem with the northern part of the lakes is the season is short. My suggestion:
- Start near Chicago.
- Swing in and check out the city by boat.
- Then work your way up the Michigan side of the Lake. There are excelent ports every 20-30miles. The state marinas are very reasonably priced and most are based on a channel that feeds into a small lake, so you have the option to anchor out if desired....
I second this recommendation, though you could start your journey in Saugatuck or S. Haven in Michigan if you want to bypass Chicago.

This route, essentially around the mitten of Michigan, will give you an opportunity to experience all of the following:
  • a big city (Chicago)
  • some of the best dunes anywhere (Saugatuck, Sleeping Bear, etc.)
  • excellent anchorages and marinas nearly every 20 miles
  • Mid-lake islands (Manitous, Beaver archipelago, Mackinac, St. Helena, etc.)
  • a run under the Mighty Mac suspension bridge
  • beautiful north country wilderness in the North Channel
In addition to some of Valhalla's recommended locations, don't miss Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Beaver Island, Mackinac Island, Grand Traverse Bay, the North Channel (soooo many here you could spend the whole trip just in the NC!), Les Cheneaux Islands.

A Flicka would be perfect for the Les Cheneaux's and the North Channel with the trailerability, shallow draft and compact size. You'll be able to tuck yourself away in some rarely used gunkholes.
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Old 29-04-2015, 17:42   #5
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Re: Great Lakes

The above post is a great recommendation. Sailing around the mitten of Michigan. What a wonderful way to spend the summer!
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Old 29-04-2015, 17:48   #6
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Re: Great Lakes

Starting south and working your way up north is a good idea if you want to spend the entire season in the Lakes. Water temp off Milwaukee is 42 F right now. Ice is out earlier than last year. East side of Lake Michigan is a good route - all the way to the Manitou Islands and the Beaver Archipelago. Thru the Mackinaw Straights and from there thru the North Channel - that'd be my route.

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Old 29-04-2015, 18:34   #7
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Re: Great Lakes

Please do not miss the 1000 islands, lots of very safe anchorage and history, great diving as well
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Old 29-04-2015, 19:07   #8
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Re: Great Lakes

Lots of good advice above.

here is a great reference to Great Lakes ice and surface water temperatures.
Great Lakes Ice Page | Watts Up With That?

Many people spend their entire summer in the North Channel. It is rated in the top 10 cruising destinations on Earth. I can't over-recommend it. Recently, formerly un-sounded areas in the far north of the NC have been added to the electronics charts. This, and your small vessel size will get you into places where nobody goes.

Note that you can dock all day in Little Current at the public docks, connect to power, water & use the facilities free until about 9:00PM. This is to encourage you to spend money in town, restaurants, movies, provisions. Be sure to spend time in Baei Fine. Get any of the charter guides and a Great Lakes Waterway Guide. Spend time on Google Earth & research the photos. If you dive, there are many underwater dive sites in Georgian Bay.

Note that all of the Great Lakes are zero discharge zones. You will need to plan for this. We added an Air Head so that we could be free of the pump-outs.

Last season, we sailed to Marquette & Houghton/Hancock. You will find great micro-brews in almost every Michigan port. I recommed Lake Superior Brewing in Grand Marais. Marquett has at least 3. In Houghton, you can tie up to the parkway by the parking garage at the SE approach tothe swing bridge. This is free for as long as you want to stay. Up hill through the parking garage to the main street is a coffee shop with free internet, toilets & good food. As you enter the canal through the Keewanaw there are massive tie-up bollards in the concrete along the banks - more free tie-ups. You could cruise the lakes in the Keewanaw canal for at least a week. There are tours of the Iron & copper mines. If you choose to go far enough west you could see the Apostle Islands. As you head east from Marquette be sure to check out Grand Isle by Munising. There is a hiking trail around the island and up over the high bluffs facing west. Munising is a good provisioning point & safe harbor as is the southern bay of Grand Isle. Head east form here and plan to enjoy the sights of Pictured Rocks. Stay in Grand Marais as the next safe harbor. Your charts will show possible harbor at Little Lake. Unless it is recently dredged, it is normally silted in. If you have time and a passport, consider Batchawana Bay on the Canadian side. I don't know where to check in other than the Soo. You might investigate CanPass as a way to bypass the customs office. The Soo Locks are FREE. You woll probably be direced to the narrow locks on the US side. Your GL Waterway Guide is very helpful here. I might suggest that a Superior put-in is easier since you will be down-bound on the St Mary River. This is 50 miles of mostly motoring. A few places may have flow up to 2.5 knots in your favor. We went both ways & worked hard. In the SOO, spend the day for cheap at the marina adjacent to the museum ship, Valley Camp. See the musuem & the town. Go up the great big tower. On the Canadian side there is a bush plane museum. As you exit the St Mary, you will naturally be in the North Channel. A cruise here may take the remainder of the summer or you could run Georgian Bay and the Trent Severn (70 locks & a Marine railway).

Other points of interest might be Lake Charlevoix. Check out cruising on Indian River entering at Cheboygan

You should also check the events calender for the summer. There are local festivals and there may be a tall ships circuit.

Many of the harbors have wave ponds set by outer harbor arms & walls. (Muskegon & Ludington). These are great anchorages in all but terrible weather. Beware of parallel arm harbor entries facing into the wind (such as Grand Haven). If the seas are high, these entries are extremely dangerous and you will not be able to motor out. (PHOTO). This wave travels up to 2.5 miles up-river, making things very difficult.

If you choose to run into Grand Traverse Bay you will find many marinas but few transient boat accomdations. Northport is one, Clinch Park city marina in Traverse city is good bun not in a north blow. (rare) IF you got caught in this condition head for Bowers Harbor (protected from the north) The marina there is private but they will often accomodate you. Anchoring is tough in Bowers (rocky & deep) except in the NE corner you can find sand.
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Old 24-05-2015, 06:21   #9
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Re: Great Lakes

Fantastic replies and information. This will help a lot with planning.
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Old 24-05-2015, 18:21   #10
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Re: Great Lakes

You could start on the St Lawrence near Brockville and sail up through the thousand islands, through eastern Lake Ontario, across Western Lake Ontario. Across Lake Erie and up the rivers into Huron, then on up to the North Channel and southern Lake Superior. Lots of traveling for such a short waterline. I also have a Bruce Bingham designed boat.

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