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Old 16-12-2019, 14:50   #1
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Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Any insights on this route would be appreciated! It'll be by and large a delivery, any rec sailing would focus on sailing, not sight seeing (this time!).

Looking at leaving in late April on a 40 ft. cat, 66' mast, 4ft draft, 23 ft beam. I'm assuming the Detroit River will give us headaches that time of year, but wondering if folks seasoned in these lakes (Erie/Huron/Michigan) have any insights.

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Old 17-12-2019, 07:59   #2
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Ice might still be a concern in late April. Prepare for winter conditions on the water even if the forecast looks nice on land. Heavy fog is likely. Bring full winter gear and good heater.

Expect up to 2kt current in the rivers, somewhat less if you stay outside the channel. Much stronger current under the bridge in Sarnia.

CHS now has sailing directions available for free download:

Canadian Hydrographic Service
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Old 18-12-2019, 08:00   #3
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

skalashn, thanks for the update! Sounds lovely. Due to the float plan... floating. It's looking more like early May, but it sounds likely to still be lovely around then.

Currently discussion the Erie crossing, whether it's better to favor the N or S shore. Hoping not a lot of floating debris in the Detroit... came across a ton in the canal headed north.
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Old 18-12-2019, 08:58   #4
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Hi you will not have any floating debris in either the Detroit or St Clair river.

Weather in early May is generally pretty decent and you will have lots of daylight. I prefer the Canadian side but Long Point is a pain.

Water will still be quite cold which will make any night passages very chilly.

When you get to the Blue Water bridges at Sarnia stay close to the Canadian shore, there is a back eddy there until you are right under the bridge. Current towards the American side can be as much as 6 knots!



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Old 18-12-2019, 11:28   #5
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

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Originally Posted by Gary Mc View Post
Hi you will not have any floating debris in either the Detroit or St Clair river.

Weather in early May is generally pretty decent and you will have lots of daylight. I prefer the Canadian side but Long Point is a pain.

Water will still be quite cold which will make any night passages very chilly.

When you get to the Blue Water bridges at Sarnia stay close to the Canadian shore, there is a back eddy there until you are right under the bridge. Current towards the American side can be as much as 6 knots!

Have Fun
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Old 18-12-2019, 13:56   #6
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Current under the international Blue Water Bridge will be intense at Sarina as you go into Lake Huron. If you can't do at least 6.5kt plus you will be in for a tough time. We saw a couple of cruising sailboats hugging the shore on the inside of the corner behind the red markers trying to avoid the worst of the current when we came through going the other way at 10+ knots just idling along. They hadn't even got to the worst of it yet and were barely making way before getting to the bridge.

I don't envy anyone that part of the trip in that direction. We are probably never going that way again luckily, and definitely not UP the Detroit and St. Claire Rivers! Was a blast surfing down them though, going from Chicago to The Erie Canal when we were heading to the East Coast as newbie cruisers.

That was quite a few thousand miles ago. The last time we were in the Great Lakes we just went into Lake Ontario via the Erie and Oswego Canals, and then floated downstream past the Thousand Islands to Montreal. I hate fighting major currents. We took the Chambly Canal from there back to Lake Champlain and back to the Hudson River before going down the East Coast to Florida for the winter.
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Old 18-12-2019, 14:06   #7
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Yeah, I'm sure the historically high water levels over the last few years in GL's isn't help much either.
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Old 19-12-2019, 05:44   #8
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Others have mentioned the currents, but I cannot emphasize enough how cold the water will be...bring lots of heavy clothing, you will need it. The air will be really chilly at most times, and the nights will be even more so.
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Old 19-12-2019, 06:23   #9
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

By “chilly” people mean expect snow in April, possibly through mid May.
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Old 19-12-2019, 06:46   #10
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

We crossed Lake Ontario in early May once and the water temperature in the middle of the lake was +0.5C. We had a diesel furnace that made a huge difference. I think I would be inclined to follow the American shore in Erie to stay in warmer conditions. Then go through the Bass islands to the river mouth.
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Old 23-12-2019, 06:31   #11
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackHeron View Post
Current under the international Blue Water Bridge will be intense at Sarina as you go into Lake Huron. If you can't do at least 6.5kt plus you will be in for a tough time. We saw a couple of cruising sailboats hugging the shore on the inside of the corner behind the red markers trying to avoid the worst of the current when we came through going the other way at 10+ knots just idling along. They hadn't even got to the worst of it yet and were barely making way before getting to the bridge.

I don't envy anyone that part of the trip in that direction. We are probably never going that way again luckily, and definitely not UP the Detroit and St. Claire Rivers! Was a blast surfing down them though, going from Chicago to The Erie Canal when we were heading to the East Coast as newbie cruisers.

That was quite a few thousand miles ago. The last time we were in the Great Lakes we just went into Lake Ontario via the Erie and Oswego Canals, and then floated downstream past the Thousand Islands to Montreal. I hate fighting major currents. We took the Chambly Canal from there back to Lake Champlain and back to the Hudson River before going down the East Coast to Florida for the winter.
Ohhh this's sounding lovely... 6.5 is right at our top end!!!
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Old 13-04-2020, 09:29   #12
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Re: Buffalo, NY to Chicago, spring 2020

OK! Looking for any additional insights now that we live in a COVID-19 world. Originally the concern travelling Buffalo to Chi was ice and temps and record high lake levels... I'm following marine lockdowns and most expire 4/30. Obviously these will be adjusted, predicated on how this spreads...

It doesn't matter whether any of these gov't precautions are appropriate / overdone / underdone, it's the headwind we have and we'll just need to adjust the sail accordingly.... Stay safe!
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