Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it?

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Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it?

Postby kesslerbk » Tue Jan 25, 2022 4:34 pm

I'm close to buying a DS1 or DS2. Would it be asking too much of this boat to sail her in somewhat open water on Lake Michigan (from Ellison Bay to Washington Island, WI for instance - it's about a 5-mile trip. Or, from Washington Island to Summer Island - about 10 miles in somewhat open water where I know the seas can turn rough). Obviously, I would check the weather forecast before casting off and take all the recommended/required precautions. Also planning on having a gas outboard aboard. thank you!

here's a chart
https://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewe ... k8UGc6iH50
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby GreenLake » Wed Jan 26, 2022 2:06 am

I've sailed longer distances, but in waters that are a bit less open (although often with significant "fetch"). From the chart I see that Ellison Bay is exposed to the West and the shore bends East. That makes the shore you need to follow a lee shore in westerly or northerly winds. If you have several miles of fetch, the wave state may not be ideal if you had to sail into it. I've taken the DS down longer passages, but on waterways that were parallel to the wind, and with the heavier winds from behind (*). Sailing on the side where the islands would be screening you a bit might be the better routing, depending on conditions.

In moderate conditions you could probably do it. Assuming you've gained experience with the boat and have it set up for an expedition like that. Having a motor is good, but work it out so you can sail the course in all the conditions you are expecting. Don't simply assume that a motor will bail you out unconditionally - it's a bit like the Star Trek crew relying (too much) on the transporter beam: if it's temperamental or you end up in unsuitable conditions, like trying to bash into waves, too much trust in the motor can be dangerous.

One thing to do is to add more than one set of reef points. Perhaps even three. That way, if the wind comes up, you can either continue sailing, or use the heavily reefed sail to stabilize the boat under motor.

The name "porte de mortes passage" isn't very confidence inspiring. I'd want some good local knowledge before crossing that one.

I know somebody who owned a somewhat similar sized boat and towed it around the country to explore waterways from the Great Lakes, to the Gulf Coast or the Pacific NW. Properly handled and equipped, these boats are quite capable explorers, but you need to have the skills and the foresight to do good routing that takes the weather into account. You also will need a "Plan B", including overnighting on the island, if conditions prevent you from returning.

PS: (*) I've gone on a multi-day trip that was one-way, with the wind, and often go on an excursion about 9 miles each way, where the wind is on the nose going out, but lighter, and then builds for the return downwind. Another time, I abandoned a planned trip, when beating into the waves was no fun, and turned tail to go about 5-10 miles downwind. Lucky for me, the wind blew itself out, and I could return upwind later in less of a wave state. On some of the trips the boat was heavily ballasted (expedition gear + crew) and that turned out a plus.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby kesslerbk » Thu Jan 27, 2022 11:03 am

Thank you for your insightful reply (and putting some of it in Star Trek terms!)
bon voyage!
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby tomodda » Thu Jan 27, 2022 5:30 pm

Hi Kesslerbk!

Greenlake's analysis is spot-on - those waters are quite doable in a Daysailer, but be well-prepared. I've never been there, but have sailed Maine in small boats, so some similar considerations. The water is COLD. And the weather is highly changeable and can also be quite cold, even in summer. Have a plan for dealing with hypothermia. The Watertribe folks (of Everglades Challenge fame) have thought out quite a bit of what it takes to adventure in an open boat, check out here to begin with:

https://watertribe.com/Magazine/Y2002/M12/SteveIsaacWhenGodsPlay.aspx



Before venturing any further than Jackson Harbor (itself apparently quite lovely), I'd be asking myself questions like "How do I handle a 3-day blow when I'm stuck on the Michigan side?" or "How will I sleep aboard if the land is marked private, no trespassing?", "Am I ready to handle a breaking wave coming into the cockpit?", and even simply "How will I handle a night of hard driving rain?" All this is doable and has been handled in a Daysailer (and in open dinghies in general), but crossing over to Garden Peninsula is definitely something you'd only want to do after plenty of experience cruising around on the Door County Bayside first.

One last point, I have it on good authority (Wikipedia, naturally!) that Port Des Morts is named after a battle between the local First Nations tribes, not due to any particular nautical conditions. Nevertheless there are a lot of wrecks there, especially from the age of commercial sailing ships. Which brings me to my real point - deadly to SHIPS, no one even cares about boats like ours. The aids to navigation and the NOAA charts are all designed to protect ships in those waters and say next to nothing about hazards that affect the small boat skipper. Take, for example, Portage Bay on the Lakeside of the Garden Peninsula. Looks great on the chart, protected from all points of the compass (check out the shoals to the east, yup! well protected):

https://charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/14908.shtml

Only problem is that the bottom is flat, solid ledge, no holding at all. Check out this trip report:

https://www.argobuilder.com/sailing-from-door-county-to-the-up-michigan.html

Chart 14908 doesn't show the bottom characteristics for Portage Bay at all. Why not? Because no real ship is ever going to go in there, even though it's plenty of water for our Daysailers. Make sure to get local knowledge, and read any cruising guides you can find. Get a good charting app such as Navionics (sorry about the advertising!) which has user-generated notes about various anchorages. Anyway just remember that the Lakes are Great, our boats are small and plan accordingly.

Just not to be all gloom and doom, I'll note that I've sailed in heavy steep chop (4 foot breakers) with no problem. The DS just dances over it, you'll get some spray but nothing dangerous. Make sure that the boat has enough positive flotation in her for the worst case (capsize or swamping), otherwise just be sure to sail conservatively. Your proposed crossing looks like great fun, and I'm jealous that you're anywhere near those waters.

Fair winds!
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby kesslerbk » Fri Jan 28, 2022 5:01 pm

thank you for your well-thought-out reply! I'll keep you posted. so far I've looked at a used DS2 but it was a bit too beat up and she had been refit for a Laser rudder. I didn't 'get it' so I didn't get it!
bk
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby kesslerbk » Fri Jan 28, 2022 11:55 pm

thank you again for your insightful reply. I'm wondering now if a boat with a larger cabin and a 'swing keel' such as a Newport 16 or Gloucester 16 might be more suitable for the kind of cruising I'm wanting to do. O'Day Day Sailers are awfully graceful in appearance and Newport/Gloucester are squat little ducklings by comparison. But I'm wondering if a Daysailer might work most of the time but if the weather begins to challenge, I might be better off in one of these 'pocket yachts.'
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jan 31, 2022 3:11 am

kesslerbk wrote:thank you for your well-thought-out reply! I'll keep you posted. so far I've looked at a used DS2 but it was a bit too beat up and she had been refit for a Laser rudder. I didn't 'get it' so I didn't get it!
bk

Note that for expedition use, you might want to rebuild/beef up your rudder a bit anyway, so if that's the main deficiency think of it as not having to pay for something you won't use in the end.

It's also not a big deal to build your own.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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Re: Island hopping around Door County, WI - can DS handle it

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jan 31, 2022 3:28 am

kesslerbk wrote:...I'm wondering now if a boat with a larger cabin and a 'swing keel' such as a Newport 16 or Gloucester 16 might be more suitable for the kind of cruising I'm wanting to do. O'Day Day Sailers are awfully graceful in appearance and Newport/Gloucester are squat little ducklings by comparison. But I'm wondering if a Daysailer might work most of the time but if the weather begins to challenge, I might be better off in one of these 'pocket yachts.'


This question is perhaps not easy to answer without a direct comparison of the boats in the same sea state. As Tom noted, the DS is pretty wide in the stern so it tends to float over waves, including following waves. I got surprised by a freighter wake once which came from behind and we were lacking the wind to turn, so had to take it stern on. I was sure the boat was going to be swamped, but it just rose up and over. (Only time I've taken water so far is in places with very confused waves, think like a swimming pool, where waves come from all directions and can pile up in ways that are too narrow to lift the boat).

One main difference between boats is the size of the unreefed sails. The other is whether they have more cockpit, or more "cabin".

A somewhat underpowered boat might be much slower in light winds, but may not need to be reefed as early. The configuration of outside/inside space may make a difference depending on the types of excursions you plan on and whether and how you plan to overnight.

There are people who've sailed open 16' dinghies from Scotland to Norway and there's been someone who had a 16' boat with an enclosed cabin to take him across the Pacific from Japan to SF. So, it's not the size alone, but also some of the other characteristics.

Finally, it makes a bit of a difference whether you have a weighted centerboard or not. It won't quite be as stable as a real keel, but may add some stability. As would any inboard ballast in the form of gear, water, and other stuff for a longer trip.

For other boats roughly in that size range you might look at SCAMP or a WestWight Potter 15. Just for comparison. But with reasonable prep, skills and forecast, the type of sailing your suggested itinerary indicates should be well within what a DS can deliver.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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