Every person I talk to about lake Erie says how dangerous it can be. They say that the weather can come out of no where and that because it is so shallow that it gets very rough very quick. Are there any indicators that we should look out for so that we can avoid squalls during 20 mile of exposed runs on the southern shore? Are there any weather indicators specific to lake erie that we should look out for?
While I sail mostly on Lakes Michigan and Huron, there are a lot of similarities except for your depth. Lower Lake Huron also has the depth issue.
NOAA is normally your most accurate weather predictor and is available online and on VHF. They are going to miss some storm cells, but those types of cells are normally passing through quickly. You just hunker down and wait them out. You may get wet, but that is not a bad thing on a hot summers day. Reduce sail, heave to, or just keep sailing dependent on the cell.
In most cases I find NOAA in the ball park. If they say it is going to storm and blow 25 with gusts to 50 you normally get it. If they say winds S at 5-10 it usually means you are motoring. Just watch the water and you should not get caught not knowing that a strom cell is passing through the area.
Respect any body of water and weather....but don't be afraid of it. Just prepare for it.
I have an iphone, and I fly in small aircraft to get to my worksites on Indian reservations. Before we take off, I download radarimages of the weather using the iphone. The doppler radar picks up all the serious weather that is dangerous. If I was sailing on Lake Erie, I would be downloading the doppler radar if I had any questions about what was happening. I would check it before making the twenty mile jump to the next destination.
I sail almost exclusively in Lake Erie. The weather can turn nasty quickly but normally a quick look at a Doppler radar will show you any approaching fronts. When we see a front coming we just drop and secure all the sails, wait 20 minutes for the storm to blow over, and then get right back out to sailing.
Although Lake Erie does have that reputation, so do most of the Great Lakes. Fear may not be the correct response, but reverence certainly is. The waters are powerful, and for those that do not recognize or prepare for that it could be a problem. But, those that realize things can go bad and have a plan, are in great shape. Enjoy your fear free sailing. By the way, check out the Great Lakes Sailing Group.
__________________ Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild airÖ
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yes indeed - I grew up on the west end of Lake Erie and have been punched in the face many times. However, I certainly was not the weather fanatic then that I am today. As another member mentioned technology has enabled us sailors to be very proactive in being safe and secure. Take advantage of it and be safe!!
Don't be afraid of Lake Erie but keep a healthy dose of respect in mind when going out. The problem you'll encounter when sailing the lake is not wave hieght but period. Since the lake is shallow you can easily have an 8 foot wave with a 4 second period. That is no fun in any ones book.
Have fun and watch the weather. The upside to sailing here is you'll learn how to drive a boat upwind in very short wave periods. If you can do that well you can sail anywhere.
These posts are good advice. I have sailed and run charters on Lake Erie for many years. Usually the Coast Guard will notify of nasty fronts on channel 16, but they have missed a few. Doppler radar is certainly the way to go if you have it on your phone and I check it regularly when conditions are ripe for bad weather.
I remember the first storm I got caught in on Erie...50 knot winds and 9 foot waves. We made a run for the harbor channel...bad mistake. The channel clogged up with a mass of boats and all seamanship went out the window. Then I had to dock in those winds. We made it without incident but from then on, I hunker down on the lake.
As posted already, the wave periods on Lake Erie cause for some uncomfortable waves. Having sailed in 14 footers in the VI and talking to people who sail the ocean and Lake Erie, everyone agrees that if you can sail Lake Erie you can sail just about anywhere.
It's like anything else to do with nature, you don't need to fear it but should respect it. That and good seamanship will see you through just about anything in my opinion.
When conditions are good for squalls, be prepared to get the sails down quickly and be ready to start the engine. Then ride them out. The more gusty they are the quicker they pass. Also have the anchor rigged for quick deployment in case you need to stop the drifting
I just ran the length of Lake Erie in a singlepassage on our way out to the sea. We had winds in the 20's and waves maybe 6-8 feet. The waves were of short period, and as a long term great lakes sailor I am somewhat used to it. We did not feel it was so bad that we had to run for shelter, and we carried on across the lake. What did give us trouble was the hundreds of fish nets in the western lake. We got caught in a maze of them. We started running only in the freighter channel to avoid them. We have an AIS, so we see the freighters ok. As an old term sailor I find it ironic that with the advent of AIS, safety is now in the freighter lane.