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Old 09-07-2014, 16:22   #1
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Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

Is there a best or better time of the year to cross Lake Michigan from Muskegon area to Milwaukee to have good weather to get there and back in a week? Or am I just dreaming?
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Old 09-07-2014, 17:28   #2
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

November to May would be a bad time, so that narrows it down a bit

Seriously, though, it is only 70 miles, so any time during the summer months seems just fine for it. Thunderstorms rolling through would be bad, but you should easily be able to get a weather window for a day passage there and back.

Doing a beer run?

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Old 09-07-2014, 18:15   #3
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

Yeah Nov-May might be a bit cold and the ice a bit hard on the hull....I was just wondering if there was a better time of the year...sort of like no storms or very little storms, nice winds but not too big waves, you know, the perfect sailing weather for a newbie sailor

Its just something I want to do...

I do have the possibility of going with a friend, both of us where talking about taking both boats, this way when one of us screws up the other one will be there to laugh at the other...
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Old 09-07-2014, 20:07   #4
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

Might be good to wait until you understand what you could get into and then you could be prepared for the conditions. 70 miles is 10 to 20 hours of exposure. Lake Michigan is full of sunken ships much larger than your boat.

In other words the odds are no problem making it but if the weather blows up it could get grim. Very little reward with a potential huge downside for inexperienced sailors.

It will always be there for you to do in time.
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:42   #5
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

I was being serious. During the summer, you should be able to find a weather window that has good conditions for that trip. Bad weather at this time is generally strong thunderstorms that start in the plains and continue through. These are usually forecasted well in advance.

Your biggest challenge will be that the winds are typically westerly, so you will be sailing upwind to Wisconsin. Coming back should be more fun. Also, the winds tend to be light in the summer, so you may do a bit of motoring.

If you can maintain 3kts or greater, this is only a 15-24hr trip. An adventure for sure, but one in which you can relatively control the variables and risk.

I think you will have a great time and I'm jealous - one's first overnight "crossing" is an experience one can never attain again.

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Old 10-07-2014, 07:50   #6
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
I was being serious. During the summer, you should be able to find a weather window that has good conditions for that trip. Bad weather at this time is generally strong thunderstorms that start in the plains and continue through. These are usually forecasted well in advance.

Your biggest challenge will be that the winds are typically westerly, so you will be sailing upwind to Wisconsin. Coming back should be more fun. Also, the winds tend to be light in the summer, so you may do a bit of motoring.

If you can maintain 3kts or greater, this is only a 15-24hr trip. An adventure for sure, but one in which you can relatively control the variables and risk.

I think you will have a great time and I'm jealous - one's first overnight "crossing" is an experience one can never attain again.

Mark
Not quite so fast...chance of thunderstorms are forecast nearly every day of the summer up here. Unless it is a major system they are difficult to know in advance as the "chance of" becomes noise. So one has to go and have the capability and ability to deal with whatever happens.
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:59   #7
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

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Not quite so fast...chance of thunderstorms are forecast nearly every day of the summer up here. Unless it is a major system they are difficult to know in advance as the "chance of" becomes noise. So one has to go and have the capability and ability to deal with whatever happens.
OK, so a localized thunderstorm can happen at any time. This is true always, and shouldn't be a deterrent from going sailing. I agree that one must be prepared for this, but that isn't too difficult and is true regardless of experience level.

The weather I was talking about are those fronts that come charging in over an entire region with almost hurricane winds, hail, 20* temp drop, constant lightning, etc. Those happen frequently enough, but are generally well-forecasted.

I lived the first 28yrs of my life in Michigan sailing the lakes, so I'm not just arm-chairing this.

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Old 10-07-2014, 08:01   #8
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

There is a general trend to the weather on the Great Lakes which is that it tends to get more blustery the further you move through the summer season. I observe there is often a short reversal in late August to mid-September, when it can become like June again (without the fog), but this usually means the change of season is coming. Fall can be very blustery and unpredictable.

colemj is right that forecasts are good at predicting the big frontal stuff. But as any Great Lakes sailor knows, there is a high level of variability between forecast and local events. Thunderstorms are predicted every day -- everywhere. Local events can pop up very quickly, and it's not uncommon for forecasters to miss the fast moving fronts we often see. I can't count the number of times I've been in the midst of all hell breaking loose, and only THEN do we hear the weather alert.

A 70 mile ocean crossing is a piece of cake. A 70 miles Great Lakes crossing is far more challenging. LakeSuperior is correct. Be wise.
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Old 10-07-2014, 08:35   #9
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
OK, so a localized thunderstorm can happen at any time. This is true always, and shouldn't be a deterrent from going sailing. I agree that one must be prepared for this, but that isn't too difficult and is true regardless of experience level.

The weather I was talking about are those fronts that come charging in over an entire region with almost hurricane winds, hail, 20* temp drop, constant lightning, etc. Those happen frequently enough, but are generally well-forecasted.
Mark
Exactly, you reiterated both of my points!!
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Old 10-07-2014, 17:53   #10
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the year to cross?

Having sailed Lake Michigan for 30 years--a well found boat, a competent crew and a good weather window will ensure a successful passage. However, my problem is the one week window. As all Great Lakes sailors know, if you get caught with your pants down you'll be in for the ride of your life. Weather conditions change rapidly, seas build quickly and have a short fetch and are sharp faced. Wind direction can clock several times during a passage. If your purpose is the passage and not a mini-vacation, pick a good window to cross and if another develops the next day, take it. Now you've crossed Lake Michigan. Good luck, good sailing and a safe passage.
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Old 14-07-2014, 20:06   #11
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

I found this weather site very useful during a recent trip thru Lake Michigan.
http://www.wunderground.com/MAR/LM/847.html


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Old 15-07-2014, 07:13   #12
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

Mid summer is your best bet (spring and fall tend to have more wind). Obviously, it a weather prediction not a weather guarantee, so be prepared for what if.

You biggest issue is schedule. If you take a week off from work, it can put you in the position of wanting to go but the weather isn't cooperating. You could easily lose several days waiting for weather to get better or you make the mistake of "needing" to get back for work. There is no forcast I would trust a week out, so even if your departure date is flexible, the return is still a problem.

If it's a 1 week trip, I'm assuming you will be willing to crank up the engine rather than drift across at 2-3kts. Assuming you maintain 5-6kts, you should be able to do a daytime crossing.

But a night crossing could help with the weather. Frequently we get afternoon pop up thunderstorms and these are the hard to predict storms. They form when the sun heats things up and the energy has to go somewhere. By leaving late afternoon/early evening, you can wait until any pop ups have died off and as things cool off, more shouldn't form. By morning when the sun starts heating things up again, you are in port.
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Old 15-07-2014, 07:48   #13
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

If the goal is to cross and get back yes you can do it. But like others have said when you get across if the weather is good head back across. In a week you WILL get your ass kicked if you try to sail every day. Or if you wait until you have to be back the weather will turn to crap. On our week long vacations we usually get held in port by gale near gales one day and have to sail in small craft advisory conditions a couple days. Got gale conditions a couple times or the years. Yup we break the cardinal rule sail on a schedule. Bigger problem might be your 25 can't outrun the flies on windless days under motor. I got bit up years ago on my 25 lol. If you have autopilot hangout on the deck it helps. Or rig lines to the tiller up to the deck. It's a great trip especially at night.
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Old 15-07-2014, 11:55   #14
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

We find the gales last 2-3 days. Sailing on a schedule is a very bad idea. You will hate it if the lake kicks up at best and there is much worse of course from failures to losing the boat completely. A 25 can't cross the tops and it's a hellish ride. I did it on a 24 for my last 4 hours in a pop up storm and highly suggest you avoid it if at all possible.

There are many days the lake is glassy until 2-3 and then gets nasty. In my travels of the Great Lakes we always leave a little before sunrise and get to port by 3. We have a 5 knot rule of if we aren't sailing at 5 knots we motor sail.

My biggest mistake was not watching fronts. If 2 fronts approach expect a gale. I had a great marine forecast but failed to look at the fronts and got my butt kicked.

Be careful and enjoy! Deep woods off and a fly swatter are a must for the evil black flies that are 20+ miles offshore. Just know that deet will damage some cushions so cover with a towel or go forward to hide if you have auto helm.

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Old 15-07-2014, 12:51   #15
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Re: Is there a "Best" time of the Year to Cross?

70 miles, really? Isn't that one day during daylight, easy? Got to be what 16 hours of daylight up there this time of year? Leave a hour or two before sunrise and eat lunch on arrival. Plan to sail of course, but be prepared to motor the entire way, just in case you have to.

I've never sailed the Great Lakes, but can they be that much worse than say the Atlantic?

I'm a newbie sailor too and the family and I just came off of 600 miles in two weeks and a lot of vacation time, swimming etc in that. I am in a bigger boat admittedly.
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