What's new

Can Lasers handle Lake Michigan?

jond908

New Member
I am an experienced life-long sailor. I have owned Sunfish, butterfly, catamaran, and windsurfers. However, I'm sick of the catamaran. I need a change. I'm thinking of getting a laser. What I want to know is, can a laser handle Lake Michigan on a rough day? Or should I get a more durable, perhaps less performance oriented boat?
 

Krycek

Member
I sail on Narragansett Bay all winter long. If a laser can handle Newport in Feb with 30knts out of the north, I think lake Michigan will be fine :D
 

jond908

New Member
Thanks, all. I had always thought so. But two things bothered me. One was the fact that Laser recommends this special trailer that supports the boat at the gunwales, not the hull. That suggests fragility. And then a friend said they are just for inland lakes. I simply didn't want to buy something that doesn't love to get in the waves and thrash around.
 

TonyB

Member
The gunwhales are the strongest part of the hull, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the hull isn't strong - it definitely is. You will break long before the boat does, guaranteed.
 

Barometer Soup

New Member
Although I am landlocked in Park City Utah, I hail from Michigan. The Laser is a great boat that can handle almost anything, but you should still keep a weather eye and sail with another boat nearby. I have seen conditions deteriorate on Lake Michigan so badly and so quickly that survivability on any small boat(power or sail) could be questionable. If you are on the Michgan side you will more likely be blown to shore in bad conditons, but if you are on the other side and get too far out in a big blow you are pretty much screwed. It isn't like salt water where there is some distance between the waves. If you are on a small boat on Lake Michigan and you get into trouble, you may not fare well. The same is true for any of the othe boats you listed. I have been out there on 40+ foot boats and we were not sure we would make the harbor. I would still absolutely reccomend that you buy a laser asap!

Barometer Soup
Pak City Sailing Association
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Good advice from Barometer Soup and the other correspondents.
In addition, do inspect your boat, if you are buying an old one, before going out in ominous weather.
 

Krycek

Member
Random question... as I havn't done much big freshwater sailing... What accounts for the differences in the swells between fresh and salt water? Is it due to the salinity of the water? Tides? Less aggressive bottom topography?
 

Barometer Soup

New Member
As I understand it, the salinity and other heavy mineral content makes salt water much more dense. That means that a gallon of salt water weighs more than a gallon of fresh water. Therefore gravity has less of an effect on it. The waves in fresh water can be closer together and the chop steeper. Your boat can pierce through fresh water more easily too. The Great Salt Lake in Utah is so dense that ripples don't form until it is really quite windy. Reading wind shifts is very difficult.

The Great Lakes(fresh water) often get "confused seas", with waves coming from different directions. This can be frustrating. Sometimes an inshore course can really be helpful, however the winds inshore often differ greatly from those further offshore.

I really do miss the great boating and the harbors in Michigan.

Barometer Soup
Park City Sailing Assocition
 

Rob B

Well-Known Member
Don't forget that Blackburn sailed the Bass Straights in a Laser! That place has destroyed many large 70+ foot boats.
 

ryan4sail

New Member
I am from Southern California and i sail my laser out in the open ocean where there is 35 knt winds and 15 ft waves and my boat is 20 years old...
 

jond908

New Member
TonyB:

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with it, I've never been to Australia. It just puts a big happy smile on my face that I'm getting feedback from Down Under. Very cool.
 

NielsH

New Member
I am an experienced life-long sailor. I have owned Sunfish, butterfly, catamaran, and windsurfers. However, I'm sick of the catamaran. I need a change. I'm thinking of getting a laser. What I want to know is, can a laser handle Lake Michigan on a rough day? Or should I get a more durable, perhaps less performance oriented boat?
Jon:

Sailing on Lake Michigan is a blast, come out for frostbiting in Belmont Harbor in Chicago Sunday mornings, or sail with the active fleet in Milwaukee, see you on the water
 

Barometer Soup

New Member
Jon,
We are all now wondering if you have found a suitable laser to purchase in your area, or if you will have to travel far to aquire one.

Barometer Soup
Park City Sailing Association
 

thieuster

Active Member
You don't want to sail 35 knots... just for fun. And certainly not on your one. We had it on two occasions during the WC Under 19 in Kiel last August. Verified (!) 38+ knots and 400 boats out on the water. Only one boat came back with its mast broken. All others stayed safe. Having said that, the conditions were gruesome!

The first storm (30 - 33 knots) hit the fleet between the 1st and 2nd race on the penultimate day of the event. The race was postponed and all boats had to huddle-up in the waiting area. Most RIBs were sent to the area 'below' the boats, so that no boat could 'escape' when capsized. The second storm hit the fleet later that day. Now with thunderstorms. One racing area got home in time, the other racing area didn't make it on time. Even stronger winds hit the remaining fleet (the 38+ knots). Sailors and RIB-crews had a busy time! My son described the whole situation later with: "I've sailed with my eyes closed as often as possible! The foam of the waves hit me like a hail-storm! Everything hurts in my face! But I wanted to keep on sailing as long as possible - just to prove myself that I can manage this boat under all circumstances!"

At the same time, we ashore were busy stopping boats on a trolley being blown into the water! One of my busiest sailing-related afternoons!
 

AlanD

Former ISAF Laser Measurer
Don't forget that Blackburn sailed the Bass Straights in a Laser! That place has destroyed many large 70+ foot boats.
On the right day, it can be a mill pond and the wrong day you can meet up with 50' waves and 70+knot winds. Blackburn chose a time of year when the conditions would be favourable and then gave himself from memory a 14 day weather period to do the crossing. The chances of him meeting up with the Bass Straight it's extreme were negligible. I'm not taking away from the feat, but there was a lot of planning involved to make it an easy but long day sailing, with minimal risk or chances of poor weather.
 

Thomas Johnson

New Member
One of the earlier correspondents offered important caution about quick-developing and severe conditions on Lake Michigan. Made me think of when I was caught in such a situation. It was the North American Youth Championship sailed out of Wilmette, IL held August 1973. The fleet was out before the afternoon races and a thunderstorm and squall blew in suddenly and within minutes winds were 25 knots+ with a very confused sea. Being from San Diego I was used to sailing off-shore in big swells, but I have never experienced anything like this. Fortunately, the wind blew on-shore and permitted a fast broad reach to the beach in a wild but exciting 3-4 minute ride. I have never moved so fast in a Laser. Upon reaching the shore there was no way to stop and I sailed the boat a full boat length onto the sand before it halted and tipped over. Fortunate none of the 50+ racers caught out were harmed in this episode, but down the lake a couple of miles a Lightening capsized and one of the crew drowned.
 

420ssuck

New Member
Random question... as I havn't done much big freshwater sailing... What accounts for the differences in the swells between fresh and salt water? Is it due to the salinity of the water? Tides? Less aggressive bottom topography?
Generally shallow water has larger waves that are closer togetherness. We don’t have current on the Great Lakes, which can also contribute to waves. If the current is against the wind, the apparent wind on the surface of the water is greater, and thus the waves are larger. However, on the US side of the lakes, when the wind blows from the north for a long time the water gets pushed south and can cause flooding, sort of like a current, but not effecting wave size. No relation to salt content
 
Top