Great Loop – Week 12 Lake Michigan

Helen, Gordon and a shy Luki

Helen, Gordon and a shy Luki

In the northeast of Lake Michigan is the Leelanau Peninsula where we spent a few days at Northport catching up with Gordon and Helen from the yacht ‘Mantra’. As the forecast was strong southerlies we decided to sail further into Grand Traverse Bay and anchor at Sutton’s Bay for a couple of nights. Gordon and Helen came to farewell us from the dock at Northport Marina, along with their friend’s dog Luki.

Hot weather and sandy beach...?

Hot weather and sandy beach…?

The weather was hot enough to go swimming and from the back of Blue Heeler we jumped into the clear, cold water then sunned ourselves on the warm teak.

Sutton’s Bay is pretty tourist village. Tying up our dinghy at the nearby marina we strolled through town looking at the shops, finally ending up at the supermarket for some supplies. Back on board with the weather well over 30degC we went for another swim. We know that thunderstorms will follow soon after hot weather.

Pretty Sutton's Bay

Pretty Sutton’s Bay

After a couple of days the weather changed to light and variable so we made our way north then west around the peninsula to motor-sail south along the west coast of Lake Michigan. Although we have good weather forecasting, each day can bring north winds, south winds, both of different speeds, making sailing a little tricky. Winds over 20knots can easily whip up confused seas making sailing a little uncomfortable (oh how I miss the trade winds and swells of the South Atlantic!).

Radar shows the extent of the rain that day

Radar shows the extent of the rain that day

South of Frankfort is Arcadia Lake. Travelling almost 70nm from Northport Harbour we arrived at the entrance to Arcadia Lake by 6pm. During the day fell fat rain; probably the heaviest and longest period of rain I’ve actually sailed in. Visibility was reduced to less than one mile.

The entry to Arcadia, like many on the western side of Lake Michigan, is a narrow channel open to the full force of westerly conditions. The channel was calm but outside Blue Heeler yawed back and forth into the choppy and rapidly shallowing water. At the entrance the depth showed as low as 0.4m before it started to increase. Anchored in the shallow lake we tucked into some home made soup and watched a movie while the cold rain fell outside.

The following day’s forecast was for north-westerly winds, tending northerly at around 10-15 knots. Perfect! We left the anchorage at 8am and motored out of the narrow channel. This time the depth sounder showed 0.2m under the keel! That’s about the span of my hand from thumb to middle finger! As we exited the shallows to deeper water, wave conditions were sloppy and confused, causing us to yaw and roll with 10-15knots directly from behind (it’s either on the nose or behind!).

A short way into the trip, and with updated weather information from the NOAA website, we agreed that we would not continue down the west coast and head across the lake to Milwaukee. Chicago is only 70nm from Milwaukee so we would be well placed to sail from there. A 30knot north wind was forecast for Friday and both of us really didn’t want to get stuck on the west coast for days as we want to reach Chicago soon.

Our course was changed to 220deg and the distance 98nm. ETA was 2am the following morning. Unfortunately we had little wind so we had to motor-sail the entire distance; I don’t mind so much as the alternative on the lakes is for 25-30knot winds and horribly bumpy water.

Lakeshore at Milwaukee

Lakeshore at Milwaukee

Rather than the usual three hour watches, we agreed we would stay up all night and have a good sleep on arrival. By 2.30am we had tied-up to one of the twelve or so floating docks at the Lakeshore Park in Milwaukee. Considering this is the most expensive place we’ve ever berthed (thanks to current exchange rates), for US$60 you get electricity, no water, no toilets, but three cleats on a dock covered in various shades and depths of goose-shit, making it look more like a painter’s palette than a dock. But for this fee we have immediate access to downtown Milwaukee. There is a registration post nearby where boaters can drop their dosh and register their boat. There are two other marinas – one is five kilometres south of the city, while another closer to us costs a little more. We don’t plan on being here too long so we accept what we have.

Putting our clocks back one hour as we crossed into Central time, I woke at 8am local time after five hours deep sleep. Milwaukee for perhaps a couple of happy days before we head down to Chicago!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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2 Responses to Great Loop – Week 12 Lake Michigan

  1. Kathy and Alan says:

    Yes Beloved Allegresse was sold last December and has gone to Paynese on Gippsland lakes. Nothing on the Great Lakes but also has lots of midgies along with great scenery. Your photos are a marvel it’s going to be hard to decide which ones to show in the slideshow at RBYC cruising group!!! Just back from lunch at Williamstown RYCV on Farr Fetched with lots of people after the RBYC committee elections. Travel well and don’t lose your accent– it’s water, not wadda!! Love, Alan and Kathy

    • Accent? I didn’t think I had one! I’m often asked to translate whatever Wayne says so I think his is stronger. If you want to show any of my photos at the RBYC cruising club, I can send better quality images if you’d prefer, as the ones on my blog are generally lower resolution for web. I’m glad Allegresse has a new home – my folks live on the lakes and it’s not a bad area to cruise. Take care. A

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