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Old 02-11-2017, 18:31   #1
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Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Hi Great Lakes Sailors!

I just bought a boat today on the hard for the winter at St. Clair Shores, Michigan. It is a Nor'sea 27 and has a trailer in case I want to take her to launch in Wisconsin or another area.

I will be new to the lakes. Most of my sailing has been costal Southern California. I would like to start making plans to sail the Great Lakes next year. I am told most boats are launched in April.
I am currently working on Midway Island 28.12.7N 177.21.6W until Feb 2018 so I have a lot of free time to read.
We have very slow internet here. Download speeds a blistering 0.08Mb at 0300am when the other island residents are asleep. Slower when everyone is awake checking email.

Is there a hard paper cruising guide I could order from Amazon, or elsewhere to have shipped out and start making plans that is recommended.

Thank you to all who respond!
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Old 02-11-2017, 19:17   #2
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Richardson has a chart book for each of the great lakes

Ports Cruising guides has a guide book for each of the great lakes
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Old 02-11-2017, 19:49   #3
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

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Richardson has a chart book for each of the great lakes

Ports Cruising guides has a guide book for each of the great lakes
These are the two best. I’d also add Great Lakes Waterway Guide as a third option, although full disclosure: I am one of the Cruising Editors for this.

Where do you plan to cruise next season? If you plan to head north into Georgia Bay, the North Channel or Superior, there are also specific cruising guides for these areas as well.

April is a bit early for launch. Most boats don’t get in the water till May or even June. It’s certainly possible, but water will be cold, and weather can still be pretty crappy (it can also beautiful).
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Old 02-11-2017, 20:35   #4
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Thanks for the replies!
I will order the guides and start making plans. I really don't have any ideas as yet. Maybe start from St Claire Shores up Huron, sail Lake Michigan, then to Lake Superior later in July when weather is a bit warmer?

The guides will give me a start. Experts on this site are a blessing!

I am limited by time. I work 6 months on/off. I will be off from Feb to July then will have the boat stored just when the season is getting best.

So I know I can expect cold chilly days in April and May, maybe June.

The pictures of the Great Lakes areas are stunning! I love the idea of the Great Loop after I completely retire.

Then maybe Mexico or ?
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Old 03-11-2017, 02:52   #5
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Bonnie Dahl’s “Superior Way” used to be the go to guide to Superior.
https://www.amazon.ca/Bonnie-Dahls-S.../dp/0942235924

The Great Lakes Cruising Club’s (GLCC) “Harbour Reports” describe 1,100 ports and anchorages throughout the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Cruising Club
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Old 03-11-2017, 04:48   #6
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

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Originally Posted by Zugbug99 View Post
Thanks for the replies!
I will order the guides and start making plans. I really don't have any ideas as yet. Maybe start from St Claire Shores up Huron, sail Lake Michigan, then to Lake Superior later in July when weather is a bit warmer?

The guides will give me a start. Experts on this site are a blessing!

I am limited by time. I work 6 months on/off. I will be off from Feb to July then will have the boat stored just when the season is getting best.

So I know I can expect cold chilly days in April and May, maybe June.

The pictures of the Great Lakes areas are stunning! I love the idea of the Great Loop after I completely retire.

Then maybe Mexico or ?
Gord’s bang on with those suggestions.

That’s a lot of miles you’re talking, in quite a short range of months. If you’re talking about trailering to different areas, then it might be possible. But you won’t be able to sail all of that, especially in a small boat, in that short amount of time.

There could still be ice on some of the Lakes in April. I’m guessing Lake St. Clair freezes during most winters. Bays and shorelines can still have lots of ice in April on Superior and the upper Huron. Water will be cold everywhere, and Superior is cold all year round.

I realize you may not be the master of your own schedule, but you’re going to miss most of the good season by ending in July. Great Lakes sailing really runs from June (mid/end May unless you’re crazy) to around mid-October.

If I were you I’d plan to focus on a few smaller area, like Lake St. Clair and the east end of Lake Erie. With your trailer capabilities, I’d put the North Channel (northern L. Huron) high on the list. If Superior is a must, go up to Rossport and explore that archipelago, or the Apostle Islands, but not too early in the season.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:14   #7
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Well count me among the crazy since I'm in by mid April on Ontario. Dress for the occasion as it is brutally cold but the wind is steady and the clear cold air is bracing. There is a lesser known saying among Lakers that goes, "If you wait for good weather you will never go." Enjoy and welcome to one of the world's most amazing cruising grounds.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:18   #8
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

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Great Lakes sailing really runs from June (mid/end May unless you’re crazy) to around mid-October.

.
Sadly, this is the case.

I've launched first week of April, and two years ago we were still ice boating on 23" of ice the first week of April. Snow in April is not uncommon, and every few years we have snow in May...and that's Lake Ontario.

The lakes warm very slowly. Even June on the lake can be quite cool and require a winter coat.

If your cruising is limited until July, you might start on Ontario/ Erie and work your way to the colder lakes.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:32   #9
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Oh, and one other thing. If you have an inboard a good practice is to close the raw water seacock while at the dock and perhaps put an incandescent light in the engine space to keep it above freezing for early season. There are times when air temps drop well below freezing and a busted block can happen during such times.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:34   #10
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Thumbs up Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

We launched on March 28th this year, and we weren't the 1st boat in the water in our area. If there isn't any ice on the water, I say go for it. Our boat has heat as well as air, so much like at home if we are cold, we go inside.

We were supposed to pull on November 5th, but we had to pull on October 31st due to a surgery that I had.

The season can/will be what you make of it.

Hopefully in a couple of years we'll be able to live aboard full time somewhere all year long!

Good luck with your new venture!
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:53   #11
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

IMHO Bonney Dahls book on Superior is a good investment. Richardson chart books would be good if you are otherwise not inclined to get paper charts. The rest of the guides I have seen have not been useful enough to bother with. Active Captain and/or internet sources tend to be my go to.

I don't think your time frame is unreasonable but then again I am the first one up at the anchorage, the first one gone, and the last one to come in every night so I tend to cover more ground than most. That style is not for everyone.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:59   #12
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

Welcome to Great Lakes sailing - one of the most beautiful cruising areas of the world (for four months!). +1 for the expert advice above, as the cruising guides suggested are great. Also consider the Great Lake Cruising Club site, but the on-line school requires video speed internet connections - The Great Lakes Cruising Club

If you're new to the area and planning to sail in April / May, please read up on cold-weather survival. As the Scandinavian's say, "there's no bad weather, only poor clothing choices." Here's an excellent primer by Mario Vittone, ex-USCG rescue swimmer, from Soundings. All of his articles are good reading, but this one applies to our particular situation - https://www.soundingsonline.com/voices/hypothermia
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Old 03-11-2017, 06:33   #13
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

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As the Scandinavian's say, "there's no bad weather when you have a pilot house."
In my optimal world, a diving outfit is a pair of shorts. Add thongs (flipflops to Americans) to turn it into a sailing outfit.

Say what you like, but sailing Great Lakes in April sucks. I'd rather- and have- sail in December.
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Old 03-11-2017, 06:43   #14
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

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...Say what you like, but sailing Great Lakes in April sucks. I'd rather- and have- sail in December.
As someone who has sailed four of the five Lakes, and has spent over 15 years on Superior, the North Channel, and Lake Ontario, I fully concur.

The other thing to realize is that the northern Lakes are quite different than the southern Lakes. And the southern shores can be different than the northern sections.

These are large bodies of water covering big areas. Weather and climate varies considerably across the region. It’s hard to generalize.
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Old 03-11-2017, 08:23   #15
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Re: Great Lakes Cruising Guide Recommendations

The cruising guides (and charts) are both necessary and great.

As Mike said, conditions can vary greatly by location. For example, the high summer uplift of hot air on Lake Ontario will create a north wind on the southern shore and a south wind on the northern shore.

Local geography greatly affects weather, so it's quite common to have winds of 25 knots in some locations and 5 knots not far away. We had several trips this year when (luckily) WE were having a delightful sail and boats an hour ahead of us were becalmed.

It's also not uncommon to experience weather not expected nor even reported. A couple years ago we were crossing the lake and the forecast was fabulous. However, we got into two hours of heavy rain and 25 knot headwinds with the associated waves that weren't forecasted, weren't reported, and the rain didn't even show on the NWS radar!

The app WINDY is great for showing real-time wind conditions.

Also you'll want a weather app that shows radar. NOAA is typically useless, they'll report "70% chance of rain with chance of thunderstorms" virtually every day June-August without discerning if it's just pop-up storms or a line squall that is definitely going to kick some butt. You want to know what's coming.

As far as where to stop over, where to anchor, where to get good diesel, where to get services, where to eat: ask here.
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