Respect for Lake Erie

gbowdish - August 28, 2009

I left Mentor Harbor just after sunset the other night for an overnight sail to Put-In-Bay. The wind was light at first, less than 10 knots, so I motor-sailed for two hours.  At 2240 I turned the engine off, sailing close-hauled with a SW wind of 10 knots giving me 6.2 knots of boat speed.  By midnight, the genoa was reefed, and by 0020 I had put a reef in the main as well for an apparent wind of 20 knots. The wind was clocking around to the west, and I was only able to sail within 25 degrees of my desired course. By 0100 my log entry states "short and choppy seas" and the water depth was 77 feet. I wondered what the conditions were like in the shallower western part of the lake.  In four hours the water went from fairly calm to uncomfortable with just 15 knots of true wind! A little over 12 hours into my passage, I grew tired of tacking, so I furled the genoa and turned on the engine for the last 15 miles.  I was hoping to get a bit of a lee from the islands, but that didn't seem to be happening, and the log entry for 1100 states Shanti was "pounding into waves."  Finally at 1300 I motored into the relatively calm anchorage at Put-In-Bay. So far my impression of Lake Erie is that she can be just as unforgiving as any of the other Great Lakes. She certainly has gained my respect.


daj536's picture

I've been sailing on Lake Erie for 50 years and I've experienced what you did many times. She's a great lake to sail on, but one to be respected. I started racing centerboard dingies off Rocky River in 1960, and I've spent many Sunday afternoons on my side looking for help and waitng to bail a boat out! Good luck in your single handed racing challange from Toledo to Buffalo and return to Erie this weekend.

Dave Jeffries
Port Capt., Rocky River, Ohio

Joann Mead's picture

Yes, Erie can be a treacherous lake. We have been sailing it for a number of years and it can turn nasty quickly. We saw your boat in Mentor when we were there Aug. 19 but it looked all buttoned up. We took our time getting back to Sandusky from Mentor but did our share of pounding with the prevailing SW winds. We tried to stay close to shore which helped some. We stopped in Lorain for two nights hoping the lake would settle down but to no avail. But then, when Erie does lay down, it is fast.