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Old 14-06-2013, 20:49   #1
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Lake Superior transit complete

We finished our transit from Duluth/Superior via the south shore to the Solo Locks today.

Twas a very cold ride, but the biggest challenge was silted in harbors. I think the eastern part of the south shore will be effectively closed to all but the most "adventurous" sailors unless dredging efforts are picked up.

Post here if you want up to date information on south shore harbors.
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Old 17-02-2014, 16:54   #2
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

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Post here if you want up to date information on south shore harbors.
If I can reactivate this thread, I am most interested in your reports on the south shore harbors. I purchased a boat in the Keweenaw Peninsula that I need to move down to Muskegon in the Spring. We plan to do the Lake Superior leg as quickly as possible, then take it more comfortably from Mackinac Island down Lake Michigan. The more information I can gather about Superior's south shore and transiting the locks, the better.

Of course, I'm assuming the ice will melt sometime this Spring!

Thanks,

Steve
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Old 17-02-2014, 19:18   #3
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

Hi Steve,

Make contact with CruisersForum member "LakeSuperior". He lives on the Keeweenaw and is a good all round guy. He knows Lake Superior.

My information is about a yeat old, but here it is:

General stuff:
1. Watch the weather very carefully and stay aware. Fog can drop quickly and the wind can go from 0 to 40 in seconds with no obvious warning.
2. GPS, radar and AIS are valuable.
3. Everybody thinks they are the only boat on the lake so listen for power boaters when you are in the fog.
4. Be ready for the USCGS and CBP. They will check you out because they are bored and you are the only boat on the lake.
5. It can be a long way between harbors of refuge, better to motor that be a sailing purist and make an iffy harbor of refuge at night.
6. Remember, if you go overboard you are dead. Be extra careful.

Other issues I remember:
1. All dredging is behind schedule so assume marginal harbors are off limits.
2. Munising is a good stop. Great harbormaster. Docks are a little rough. Great anchorage south of the big island. Pay attention to the markers on the way in and out of the bay or you will rum aground.
2. The lights and fog horn at Grand Marais were not working (when we entered in thick fog...). The approach to the fuel dock is foul amd shoal to the North. Be very careful. Anchor out. Tying up to the dock is a bad idea.
3. No matter what the "locals" at Grans Marais tell you, the entrance to the Whitefish Point harbor of refuge is shoal. The is a 15' wide patch of deep water on the starboard side as you enter. Move to the center of the channel as young through the S bend. You really need calm conditions to read the water and safely enter this one. If you make it in, you must walk up the road to the shipwreck museum.
4. The current in the approach to the US locks is strong and the bulkheads are rough. Take it easy. Go slow. The lock operators are patient and they understand.
5. There is a good marina just east of locks. Expect CBP to check you out again.



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Old 18-02-2014, 08:43   #4
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

Michigan Harbours
DNR - Map of Michigan Harbors
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Old 18-02-2014, 19:11   #5
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

Thanks for the info.

I've read that the preferred locks to use are the Canadian ones if you are a private yacht. Is that true? In some respects, it seems it would be easier to use the American locks and avoid some of the border issues.

Steve
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Old 19-02-2014, 03:32   #6
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

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Thanks for the info.

I've read that the preferred locks to use are the Canadian ones if you are a private yacht. Is that true? In some respects, it seems it would be easier to use the American locks and avoid some of the border issues.

Steve
We used the US locks to avoid border issues because our boat is Australian registered. That said we were stopped by Lake CBP before entering the locks and River CBP after exiting the lock so I don't think it mattered.
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Old 19-02-2014, 07:35   #7
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

We plan to do the Lake Superior leg as quickly as possible,

That being the case you need not get tooconcerned as to available harbours other than plotting one or two as potential safe harbours in the event of problems. Not sure where you are on the Peninsula or your boat type but I would make it a straight shot from there down to the Soo, it's a long but easy run. If you leave at the crack of dawn, you will be in the Soo for supper. (breakfast if a sail boat). Like SeaChange said, be sure you have a good weather window and don't expect to see another boat the entire journey. I have never used the US locks so can't comment but the Canadian locks are stress free and used only for pleasure boats these days. The US locks handle all the commercial shipping. If you check in to Canada at the Soo you can check back into the US at Drummond Island at the mouth of the St Marys river. The officials on Drummond are the absolute best and recognize boaters as the life blood of the entire area. I might be wrong, so check yourself, but I think US boats can use the canadian locks without having to formally check in. The St Marys river is an easy cruise down into the top of Lake Huron then hang a right and your in Lake Michigan with countless interesting marinas scarcely 20mi apart lining both sides of the lake. The Wisconsin side has the scenery, the Michigan side has the quaint tourist traps. I'm assuming your from Lake Michigan so no need to say more.
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Old 19-02-2014, 07:54   #8
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

SVseachange's info is right on.

DO NOT underestimate how cold it will be and also how fast (and nasty) the weather can change. Most harbors are far apart so motoring is usually in the cards. Much of the time the wind will be too light for sailing (or right on the nose.)

Regarding the locks: use the Canadian locks. You do NOT have to clear into Canada to use them; just stay with the boat. It's easy. If you are nervous, call the lock master and proclaim that it's your first time. They'll take care of you.

The St. Mary's River has a current that will help. STAY IN THE CHANNEL in narrow sections. The channel is blasted out of rock in some sections. Watch for the ships and lakers. There WILL be enough room to get past.
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Old 19-02-2014, 08:31   #9
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

I sail Superior, but have never done the south shore stretch from the Keeweenaw to the Sault. Superior is not to be taken lightly, and Spring will not be the easiest time to travel. The distance is approx. 150 nm, and it will be cold. Storms can come up fast, and if it warms at all you'll run into serious fog.

All that said, Superior is a wonderful cruising area. There are lots of interesting spots along your route. Personally, I'd take my time doing the route. When will you be back?!?

As for locking through, the Canadian locks are much smaller, and geared toward recreational craft. The American locks mostly service industrial and commercial traffic (i.e. the big boats). You certainly can through either, but the Canadian side is a lot less intimidating, and very easy. Bring some work gloves and have some extra fenders to keep the boat off the wall.

BTW, I don't think you have to clear in to lock through as long as you stay on the boat, but do confirm this.
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Old 20-02-2014, 00:41   #10
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

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All that said, Superior is a wonderful cruising area. There are lots of interesting spots along your route. Personally, I'd take my time doing the route. When will you be back?!?
I second this. Lake Superior is absolutely stunning and very difficult to get to. If you have the time this may be your once in a lifetime opportunity to sail it. Not many get that opportunity.

I would bet only a few dozen or so sailboats complete an west to east crossing or circumnavigate the lake each year. If you do either you will be in a an exclusive club.

The most popular cruising area, the Apostle Islands, pales in comparison to the rest of the lake. People sail there because it is warm, safe and easy. The rest of the lake is cold, dangerous and difficult, but much safer than in the past with the advent of GPS, I think. Rewards are great.
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Old 23-02-2014, 19:21   #11
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

Thanks for all the comments. It sounds like the Canadian locks are the way to go. We will indeed be wary of the weather--it really is my biggest concern, especially this year!

I've spent some time kayaking and day sailing parts of the Superior southern shore, so I have a little familiarity with it. The boat we'll be moving south is classic plastic (Fuji 35), so we won't be moving fast by any stretch of the imagination. We draw about 5', and I do want to have a few "bail out" harbors available should things not go our way (either weather or mechanical).

We'll have a crew of three for the Superior portion, then just two of us after Mackinac Island. The Lake Michigan stretch will be more casual, and I am more familiar with it, especially south of Leland.

It looks like most of the marinas in the Great Lakes open May 15. Hoping to have a warm Spring.
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:51   #12
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

As you near the locks a yellow-black-yellow buoy marks the junction between the Canadian and American side. To get to the Canadian Lock, we kept the yellow-black-yellow buoy to our starboard side.
The Canadian Lock opens at about 0900, at least that was our experience one weekday last summer.
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Old 01-03-2014, 18:48   #13
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

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As you near the locks a yellow-black-yellow buoy marks the junction between the Canadian and American side. To get to the Canadian Lock, we kept the yellow-black-yellow buoy to our starboard side.
The Canadian Lock opens at about 0900, at least that was our experience one weekday last summer.
Did you get asked for passports or have to clear in?
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Old 01-03-2014, 22:11   #14
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

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Did you get asked for passports or have to clear in?
No, you won't need a passport or to clear in.
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Old 17-03-2014, 18:42   #15
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Re: Lake Superior transit complete

It is very easy to descend to Lake Huron from Lake Superior in the American locks at the Soo. I have done it in a 24-foot outboard. There is no turbulence and the boat stays calm.

We used the small Canadian lock to ascend. We did not have to formally enter Canada to use the lock. We just boated through. This was a few years ago. c.2005.

From my notes:

We hailed the Canadian Soo Lockmaster (callsign VDX23) on VHF-CH-14 and got clearance to enter the lock. About eight recreational boats came with us, and we were soon lifted the 17-feet to Lake Superior level at no charge and with no formalities other than our vessel registration number.

[Returning]

The MacArthur lock cycled up and released several small boats. The traffic signal went green and we motored in. Locking here is very simple. The lock attendants just toss you a long line, and tell you to hang on. Again there is no charge and no paperwork or formalities at all.

The lock cycled down in quite a hurry, and soon we were back at the lower St. Mary's River level, 17-feet below the level of Lake Superior. After a quick pit stop at the Marina in the Soo, we were back on our way south.

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July 4, 2005: THREE LAKES CRUISE - Moderated Discussion Areas
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