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ContinuousWave: The Whaler GAM or General Area
Leland to North Manitou
|Author||Topic: Leland to North Manitou|
posted 06-05-2014 08:43 AM ET (US)
Boston Whaler owners have always impressed me as willing to go off-shore because of their confidence in their Whaler. Fair weather forecast from NOAA as an assumption, what are the thoughts with regard to traveling out to the Manitou Islands from Leland? My previous posts of course betray that I am considering the run in my 2006 Montauk 170.
posted 06-05-2014 09:15 AM ET (US)
Travel to the Manitou Island from Leland harbor will be no problem in a Montauk on any day when the winds and waves have Lake Michigan in a fairly moderate sea state. The wind will usually be from the West with perhaps a Southwest slant, giving you head seas on the way out, so you will know right away what the ride is going to be like.
To the North Manitou Shoal Light is about ten miles. Then on to South Manitou's fine natural harbor is another seven miles. If make a loop around South Manitou, and return, the total trip will be about 50-miles.
I'd start early in the day. Tthe winds tend to build up in the afternoon. If the seas do build, and they remain from the West, you have following seas for the return trip.
Waves can build quickly out there, so pick a good day. The Montauk can take more than you can.
For weather forecasting, I like to use the GRIB model data and overlay the wind vectors on my electronic chart in PolarView NS. I have also used the NOAA graphic forecast site. See:
and use the tabs for WAVE HEIGHT and WIND SPEED and DIRECTION.
posted 06-05-2014 09:27 AM ET (US)
Over the years I had taken our 1984 Montauk from Glen Arbor to the Manitous a number of times.
There has also been a number of people who have crossed from Michigan to Wisconsin in 17' and 18' Whalers. A short run out the islands should be nothing of great worry. Pick the right day and it is a breeze. On a choppy day you can get beat up a bit but it's do-able.
posted 06-05-2014 09:30 AM ET (US)
More on the weather: the winds tend to funnel through the slot between the mainland and the Manitou Islands, so often there will be more wind in that sector than in the open lake. I found a new NOAA weather site that really does a nice job of showing the wind speed predictions with nice detail. See
On the top of the map there is a time line slider. You can click on the play-arrows to move the time frame in one-hour increments over the next 24-hours. That is quite a nice presentation. The redraw speed can be a bit slow. It is a preview site so it may not be running on a big server.
posted 06-05-2014 09:50 AM ET (US)
Another thing to consider is with the Lakes being so cold this summer the hot moist air is going to cause a fair bit of foggy days. Over the years I have been caught in a few rolling fog clouds and banks that you pass in and out of as you are out on the lake. These mainly occur on shifting weather pattern days so, pick a day in the middle of a stable weather pattern if you can concerned about your crossing.
Here is a video of fog bank rolling in a few weeks ago in Platte Bay just south of the Manitou Islands.
posted 06-05-2014 12:43 PM ET (US)
That fog bank Jeff is linking to was so impressive it became a story on the CBC National News that evening.
Of the two Manitou Islands, I think South Manitou has a better natural harbor, and the shoreline has better scenery. It is hard to get to shore at the dock on South Manitou. There is not much space there and the dock height is very tall. The best option may be to anchor very close to shore, and put out a stern line to a second anchor on the beach, then wade in. The harbor is rather deep and you have to get close to the beach to get into shallow water.
There are some sights to see ashore, but I suspect you will probably need a National Park Day Pass fee to go onto the island. But there is plenty of nice scenery just cruising around. The dunes on the western side are very impressive.
I recall one trip we made out there a few years ago. We left Leland on a morning of dead calm seas. The Lake was like glass. We flew out to South Manitou at 30-MPH. By the time we had made a slow circumnavigation around the island and were heading back, the wind had come up, and we had a rather rough ride into head sea to get back to Leland.
I have not circumnavigated North Manitou yet. We did make a passage along its entire eastern shore last summer. That was another dead calm day. The race boat fleet of the Chicago-to-Mackinaw Yacht Race were all becalmed in the vicinity and trying to ghost along on a wisp of a breeze. You could have water skied all the way out and back on that day.
posted 06-05-2014 03:14 PM ET (US)
I have made this trip nearly every year for [over] 20 years. Tweleve to thirteen years on my 1991 Montauk, and nine years on a McKee 19. I fish, catch one salmon off Dominic's Point on North Manitou Island, then beach the boat for a family picnic on North Manitou. It's nearly deserted and pristine. Water is amazingly clear. Pick your days and it's a joy. Some interesting rides back with a following sea, that the Montauk handled easily.
posted 06-05-2014 09:04 PM ET (US)
Oh ya, one other thing. If you go out to the island do not set foot in them unless you have a National Parks pass. The Rangers hand out tickets like it's candy on Halloween to people who show up on the beach without a pass. I think the tickets are $150-$250. Any boat, raft or jetski on the beach they will go inspect.
posted 06-05-2014 09:20 PM ET (US)
Really appreciate all the insights folks!
We did a run around Grand Island in Lake Superior an down Pictured Rocks last summer (July when we had that heat wave). It was beautiful but we definitely experienced the fog factor!
I was/am a bit more unsure about the Manitous because, unlike Grand Island, they are not tucked nicely in close to shore. It sounds like the key for us will be picking the right day. We are staying at a cottage on Glen Lake for a week in July so I'm hoping that affords us the ability to be selective about the day(s) we play on the big lake.
I do have a marine radio aboard so that will help with reassurance for weather and in the case of any issues. Perhaps I'll also take along a portable GPS in case we encounter fog? Eventually I hope to upgrade my depth/fish finder to include GPS.
I've heard so many amazing things about the islands that I'd love to make even a short trip there. They certainly look amazing from the mainland.
The bit of looking I've done also shows that there are quite a few shipwrecks to view on this journey. Can anyone speak to the value of visiting the large (Francisco?) wreck off South Manitou? How about others?
posted 06-06-2014 08:09 AM ET (US)
I did this trip the first time in 11 foot rubber inflatable at the age of 12. Very easily doable but be careful the coast looks pretty similar coming back I would mark Leland Harbor with GPS before you leave especially if things turn snotty on the way back. Have not had a problem with the park pass issue in many many years of going out there.
Another nice trip is going out to South Fox Island as well. Beautiful beach on the south shore.
We've taken a trip in the 1979 Montauk 17 and our 2006 Montauk 170. Also I would make sure I had a marine radio with me.
posted 06-06-2014 08:11 AM ET (US)
PS make sure you stop at the cheese shanty and get sandwiches to bring along. Don't forget the smoked whitefish from Carlsons
posted 06-06-2014 10:18 AM ET (US)
Good information on the wreck of the FRANCISCO MORAZAN is found at
We have passed by the wreck several times. We have approached it once, for a closer look. It seems like a popular nesting spot for Cormorants, and the hull is stained with a lot of guano.
You might find interesting reading in this old thread in which a vast range of opinions are given about the legalities and otherwise standard procedures involved in approaching a wreck in a National Park:
posted 06-07-2014 01:02 PM ET (US)
A word of caution, if you go to South Manitou island don't even think about tying to an unmarked (or a marked) mooring buoy, it is probably a NPS or DNR buoy. Another bit of info, dogs are not allowed on the island, as it is a piping plover nesting area. As Jim H mentioned, the west side of the island has very impressive bluffs and sand dunes.
moabelite--let us know if you decide on a date for the Manitou adventure, we live in Leelanau County and would love to meet up with you.
posted 06-15-2014 11:02 PM ET (US)
[Lake Michigan] has been calm to glass smooth around Grand Haven for weeks. Not sure but my guess is once regular summer weather and normal atmospheric heating starts up, if ever, then snotty conditions later in the day, are likely. I think similar conditions up that way too.
posted 06-16-2014 06:32 PM ET (US)
Pete--Yesterday's marine forecast for northern Lake Michigan was:
--waves three to four feet, building to four to seven feet overnight
That went along with warnings of:
-- severe thunderstorms which might produce hail of half-inch or more.
There was so much wind, even in the protected harbor at Charlevoix, that a fiberglass stay in our sun awning was snapped in two by a gust. I guess the Lake has been saving it up for a few weeks.
Also, I forget to mention the surface water temperatures: about 45-degrees. We were at anchor in a nice sandy cove. Air temperature was about 75-degrees. Even in the shallow cove the surface water temperature was only 47-degrees. We had the anchor down for about an hour. When I hauled that big piece of steel in from sitting on the bottom it was cold as ice. No swimming this week. Maybe by September the Lake will warm up enough for a dip to cool off.
posted 06-16-2014 09:05 PM ET (US)
I know what you mean about being calm down near Grand Haven Pete - we ran north along the big lake recently and I think it was about the smoothest water I've ever enjoyed on the big lake. To your point Jim - cold water was also the reality of the day!
posted 06-16-2014 09:37 PM ET (US)
posted 07-08-2014 01:21 PM ET (US)
Looking at Thursday for a possible island run. Weather is definitely cool but the wave height is predicted to drop and be to be around zero (excellent NOAA link Jim - they have so many resources I swear you can use one part of their we page and never make it to another).
Planning to stop at the cheese shanty and Carlton's on our way to put in. National Parks pass is in hand and the mooring lines won't even think about a attaching to a buoy! :)
So far we've enjoyed some really nice days on Glen Lake and the Montauk doesn't mind sitting on her mooring buoy one bit.
Thanks again everyone!
posted 07-08-2014 01:26 PM ET (US)
Weather wind waves are always a factor on the water,,In any case its the man at the helm that makes the trip fun
posted 07-11-2014 08:20 AM ET (US)
Totally successful run yesterday!
Blue Bird day, calm seas, excellent food from Leland!!!
Made it to both islands but didn't go for the full trip around - next time.
The feedback here on CW made a huge impact on the run...so thanks.
While pulling out at the marina on our return I had a guy ask if we'd sell our boat :) I refered him to CW for the best listings of well loved rigs!
posted 07-11-2014 12:27 PM ET (US)
You chose well. Lots more lumps out there today.
Thats the beauty of a trailerable boat. Go where the boating is best.
posted 07-11-2014 12:51 PM ET (US)
Con you might be right with boating where boating is best, but my trip to Torch and Elk Lake up North here in Michigan in the middle of the summer isn't summery with low sixties forecast and in the 50ties during night time.
Welcome to MI and believe me the big lake will react to temperatures like that.
I'm glad you had a good run moabelite, when nice it is the greatest.
posted 07-17-2014 01:41 PM ET (US)
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 29, 2014, five campers, ages 18 to 19, four men and one woman, after having camped for several days on South Manitou Island and having run out of food, set off across the open water of Lake Michigan in small recreational kayaks, intending to paddle to the Michigan shore at Glen Haven, a distance of about eight miles to the Southeast. At the time of departure, the winds were said to be from the South gusting to 25-knots and seas were running from four to six feet. Water temperatures at the surface were in the range of 46 to 50-degree-F. A heading to Glen Haven from South Manitou put the kayakers into seas of very significant size and power. The kayakers split into two groups: a group of two aiming for Glen Haven and a second group of three just heading for shore, wherever the winds and waves might take them.
About 6 p.m. the group of three kayakers had the enormously good fortune to be sighted by a recreational sailboat, sailing in the Manitou Passage. The sailboat crew recognized the kayakers were in distress, and came about to offer assistance. When the sailboat reached the kayakers, two of the three kayaks had overturned in the waves. The three kayakers were taken aboard the sailboat. They were described as vomiting and shivering.
The sailboat crew made a cellular telephone call to authorities to alert them of the situation, reporting the three kayakers aboard the sailboat and two missing. The other two kayaks had not been seen in "over two hours" according to their companions. A local sheriff's marine department launched a rescue boat, which came on scene to escort the sailboat into Leland Harbor. At Leland, the three kayakers were transported to a local hospital.
The two missing kayakers were eventual sighted by a United States Coast Guard helicopter, about one mile offshore near Glen Arbor, as part of a search involving park rangers, Glen Lake Fire Department, and Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office personnel. They found one kayak and a second person in the water. A rescue swimmer was deployed. He assessed their condition as needing a rescue basket lift. One was shivering so badly that speech communication was not possible. The two people were hoisted aboard the helicopter and taken to shore. The Glen Lake Fire Department provided assistance in warming them, and neither was transported to a hospital.
The Leelanau County Sheriff said the five were "lucky to be alive." He added that attempting this crossing in the conditions that day was "beyond the point of being foolish."
(Compiled from many on-line reports from various sources.)
posted 07-17-2014 08:23 PM ET (US)
It is astounding to me that hungry backpackers could look out on lake conditions like that and think they'd be better off attempting a passage rather than waiting it out. Even with a marine radio, flares, cell phones, and a proper vessel, I find Michi-gami can make you feel incredibly small, even on the calmest of days. Their good fortune at being rescued by the sailboat captain can not be overstated.
posted 07-18-2014 11:48 PM ET (US)
The mainland shoreline in this area is composed of very tall sand dune bluffs. This seems to help funnel the wind through the Manitou Passage. That stretch can get very rough. With winds gusting 25-knots and seas four to six feet--and actually a couple reports said ten foot seas, but that is probably an exaggeration--the eight miles between South Manitou and the mainland shore would not be a pleasant ride even in a 25-foot Boston Whaler.
There is a ferry that services South Manitou to Leland. It would have been a lot smarter to put the kayaks on the ferry and pay for a ride back to shore.
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