Grew up sailing on the Atlantic, and then moved up to Ontario
and sail on the Great Lakes
now. I don't think that the swells/waves on the Great Lakes
reach the size that they do on the ocean. This is not to diminish the severity of the storms on the lakes, but they just don't have the volume of water
and huge open spaces to build to the same extent as they do in the open seas.
I think that the biggest difference is the speed at which the sea-state changes. It takes many hours for the storms to build on the ocean, not so long here. Fog
comes in there a lot - more frequently than in Ontario
, but not as quickly. Here it can happen in as little as a half hour, and the wind
changes much more quickly, both velocity and direction.
When I first moved up here I was astonished to find that what we considered a fresh breeze was reason for a lot of Lake sailors to remain tied up at the slip - they tended to think I was nuts to go out in a "gale".
However, a lot of the boats here are not designed or built to handle much weather
. Huge difference in the level of maintenance
too - still can't get used to that. Find that people (in Ontario at least) look their boats over when they buy them, fix the most egregious problems, and then forget about them until the thing starts sinking underneath them
Do that when you're sailing on the ocean, and you won't be coming home.
So it can be a bit more challenging to sail here in that you no sooner finish reefing, than it's time to shake the sails
out again. And there are thunderstorms that happen rarely on the coast, but actual sea states don't get quite as bad as the larger bodies of water
Regarding the incidence of loss and wrecks, would hazard a guess that they might happen more on the sea, simply beacuse there are so many more ships out there. If that kind of thing is interesting, then a Google
on Sable Island "the graveyard of the Atlantic" will turn up some terrible tales of ships gone down and lives wasted.
I have noticed that the lake freighters have about half of the freeboard of the ocean ships - that might have something to do with them going down. And certainly the shorter wavelength would be an issue...