The advice given on this site is based upon individual or quoted experience, yours may differ.
The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.
We want to sail across the southern end of Lake Michigan in June 2018, two of my sailing friends and I, from Michigan City, IN to Chicago. We are all experienced small lake sailors but I have sailed a couple of times in my Catalina 250 WB from Ohio's north shore to the Lake Erie islands and back. It is roughly 38 miles to Chicago. I think we can do it without much trouble if the weather is good. I was wondering if other water ballast 250 owners have done this. I know that the manual says stay in "protected waters", but I have read on the forum that some C250 WB owners have sailed Lake Michigan without trouble. Arlyn Stewart said in one post that he has sailed 3500 miles on Lake Michigan in his and trusts it more than a C25 or 250 wing or swing keel. I would like to hear from others. Thanks.
I have no personal experience with sailing on Lake Michigan, but sailing/motoring 38 miles would involve about 8 hours at 5 knots on a direct course. That would require steady winds from the north or south to sail the fastest on a beam reach, or winds from the east to sail westward on broad reaches or on a downwind run.
On such a long, one-day trip, it is best to have a few marinas or other anchorages to head for when storms pop up. Lake Michigan has a reputation as a dangerous lake for boaters, due to rapid changes in the winds and sea state. You may want to identify marinas along the way on the south shoreline of the lake and plot your course to hug the shoreline.
I sail on a large bay and when thunderstorms are building up, I try to head in to a safe spot. Once I rode out the 6 foot waves and 50-75 kt winds of a thunderstorm downburst by stowing all canvas and drifting down wind for 20 minutes as the horizontal rain stung my face. The bay is quite shallow, and the winds that day had only a few miles of fetch to pile up the waves to about 6 feet. My C25 rode it out easily. Ten foot waves or breaking waves could capsize my boat, I think.
Lake Michigan is big, and it can quickly generate tall waves. So having a clear weather window seems to be essential to having a safe sailing trip on the Great Lakes.
Perhaps others can chime in, although I do not recall any Forum members describing their adventures along the southern parts of Lake Michigan.
JohnP 1978 C25 SR/FK "Gypsy" Mill Creek off the Magothy River, Chesapeake Bay Port Captain, northern Chesapeake Bay
Thank you, John, for your reply. Good advice. I would like to leave the sight of land for a while and get some experience in sailing in wind and waves. My concern for the direct route is that a storm will come up even though the forecast for the day doesn't predict it. I don't know, nor can I find, much info about how weather behaves on the Lake or if you can trust a forecast that gives you a good weather window for a day of sailing in open water. I don't want to be in jeopardy nor be unprepared but I also want to know if it is unwise to think that my C250 WB and I could handle what might pop up. Can a forecast that says blue skies, good wind, and smooth sailing be relied upon? What kind of weather would generate "tall waves" without warning or prediction? Is it risky to be out there when a pop up thunderstorm occurs? Or am I being too cautious? I don't want to be in a thunderstorm but just need to understand the risk of encountering one.
I sail my C250 WB in Lake Michigan in Little Bay de Noc from Escanaba. I have never taken it further than Green Bay over to Door County and Fayette. I feel pretty comfortable single handing it in most conditions. I mainly day sail. I suggest you go on a day when a nice south wind is forecasted. That is the prevailing wind direction on Lake Michigan. The waves will be much smaller at that end of the lake with a south wind. With a north wind waves have the entire length of the lake to build. I have pretty good luck using sailflow.com for wind forecasts. Make sure you can quickly and comfortably reef your sails, know how to heave-to and take plenty of gas.
Notice: The advice given on this site is based upon individual or quoted experience, yours may differ. The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.