Great Moments, Great Lakes

Many sailors dream of voyages to tropic shores and swaying palms, but Great Lakes sailors need look no farther than their backyards for some of the world’s best cruising. The Great Lakes are great indeed, stretching over 1,100 miles from eastern Lake Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior. I’ve sailed these waters for much of my life, most recently aboard my Westsail 32 Antares. Each of
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

Many sailors dream of voyages to tropic shores and swaying palms, but Great Lakes sailors need look no farther than their backyards for some of the world’s best cruising. The Great Lakes are great indeed, stretching over 1,100 miles from eastern Lake Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior. I’ve sailed these waters for much of my life, most recently aboard my Westsail 32 Antares. Each of the five Great Lakes holds a favorite memory I will treasure for a lifetime:

Ontario: We’d just crossed Lake Ontario and had entered the first lock in the Welland Ship canal system, which lifts boats 327 feet and around Niagara Falls to Lake Erie. The towering gates slowly rumbled closed, a burst of bubbles signaled the lock was filling, and suddenly the full flood of Lake Erie surged in, tossing us like a chip. In a maelstrom of wild churning water we pushed frantically away from the rough walls, thankful for the stout straw bags that protected the hull. It took 11 hours in all to pass through the eight locks, a thrilling rite of passage.

Erie: The western end of Lake Erie is home to the Erie Islands, a rocky limestone archipelago that includes Put-In-Bay, Ohio, where a towering monument commemorates Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British at the Battle of Lake Erie. At 0430 one October I left the anchorage there under a full moon as a warm breeze blew from the south. I raised the sails and ghosted noiselessly out of the harbor, the engine untouched, the spell unbroken. The dark shadows of the islands gradually receded into the night as I set a course homeward for Detroit.

Huron: It was my third night out during a slow trip in light air with long hours of calm. At 0300, still about 30 miles out, the wind suddenly turned warm and filled with the fragrance of the north country, the smell of rocky, tree-lined shores and dark pine forests—the smell of adventure. I was almost there.

Michigan: About 20 miles west of the Straits of Mackinac, the long finger of Waugoshance Point juts out into Lake Michigan. Rounding it early one morning I ran slowly south on a light breeze. The depth shoaled to 25 feet and suddenly I could see boulders the size of automobiles slipping by in the crystal clear water under my boat. Hanging over the side, I gazed in fascination, spellbound by the clarity of this unique view into a watery world of tumbled rock and giant stone.

Superior: The biggest, coldest and most remote of the lakes, Superior is a world of untouched wilderness. One evening, after a boisterous day off Superior’s southeast coast, we sailed off the open lake into a harbor named Little Lake, a large pond surrounded by tall pines. The wind, finding its way over the dunes, seemed to say “Quitting already?” We kept sailing, chased by the playful, laughing wind so that it was almost dark before we finally dropped the hook.

Related

GG17-SAONA47-DX0796

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47

Here’s a riddle: What is less than 50ft long, has two hulls, three big cabins and four decks? Answer: The Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. In fact, it may even be five levels if you count the large engine rooms. This boat is a “space craft” in every sense of the word.DESIGN & ...read more

RichardBennettMIDNIGHT-RAMBLER3249x202

Storm Sails: Do you Need Them?

Many sailors embarking on ocean passages will take along the obligatory storm jib and trysail, with the vague idea that they may come in handy. Few sailors, however, have a real understanding of how and when to set them.It doesn’t help matters when we hear from seasoned sailors ...read more

IntheWater(1)

Boaters University Unveils Rescue Course

Boaters University has just announced its latest online course, Safety & Rescue at Sea, taught by Mario Vittone, whose name you might recognize from the pages of our sister publication, Soundings Magazine and his Lifelines blog.Mario Vittone is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rescue ...read more

IMG_20170920_132819

How to: Installing New Electronics

I had been sailing my Tayana 42, Eclipse, for a few years without any installed electronics on board. I’d gone pretty far up and down the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts with paper charts, the Navionics app on my Android phone, a hand-bearing compass and the ship’s compass. ...read more

02-Douglas-Adkins---Coriolis---Orcas-Island-KevinLightPhoto

A Phoenix-like Concordia

Cutting a fine wake on the cobalt-blue waters of West Sound on Orcas Island, Coriolis sparkles like a diamond. Her lovely silhouette is offset by emerald forests that frame the ocean, within spitting distance of the border with Canada. Seen up close, this Concordia yawl is a ...read more

IMG_1051

The Latest Boat Trends from Dusseldorf

The world’s biggest boat and watersports show, held in Düsseldorf on the banks of Germany’s Rhine River each January, is the place to scope out emerging trends in the boat design and building.What would be the new trends for 2018 and beyond? Hint—sophisticated electronics figure ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comGood ConnectionsI wish I’d had a dollar for every time I’ve cobbled together an electrical fitting with a “that’s good enough” shrug. An old shipwright once taught me that “good enough is not good enough” ...read more

tides2

Gear Test: Tides Marine Sailtrack

Gravity is an important force at work on a sailboat. It keeps the boat upright, it makes the anchor drop to the bottom, and it makes the mainsail slide neatly down the mast to be flaked and put away at the end of the day… until it doesn’t.In the case of dropping the mainsail, the ...read more