Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Questions about how to get to the island and where to stay near points of departure.

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Dmerf
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Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Post by Dmerf »

I've not spend much time on the big lake and have a few questions if you all don't mind. I know I have to watch the weather and plan accordingly. I also need a few things in my boat (Fire ex., flares, etc) on the lake. What I don't know, is how easy it is to get to the island. I have GPS, so that's not the problem. If I left Grand Portage, could I easily make it to Windigo on a calm day?
I have an open bow, 17 ft Tracker with a 125 Hp motor. It would have two people and camping gear (not too loaded). Would I make it on a tank of gas? I know I could refuel in Windigo, so that's not a problem. I see that it is about 23 miles. I can travel loaded at about 30 mph.
Next question: How busy is it and would I find an open dock easily at a campsite? Is it really busy? I plan on camping, not staying in the lodge.

Thanks in advance for the help. Just want to try something new now that I have a larger boat. I just don't know what the lake is like as you get out further from shore.

johnhens
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Re: Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Post by johnhens »

Welcome to the Forums and IR!
Folks have done that trip in similar size boats and smaller (paddling canoes and/or kayaks). You need a VHF, preferably one with at least a 3' antenae (8' is better). You should be competant in using a compass for navigation if your GPS fails. The NOAA chart for IR is good to have, as it shows reefs, rock piles, channels ect. Smaller camp sites like Siskiwit only have a few shelters (the Greenstone park paper is a good source of campsites).
You probably want to carry extra parts for you motor (prop). How big is your tank?

Midwest Ed
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Re: Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Post by Midwest Ed »

I concur with all of John’s remarks and will add the following.

VHF marine radios are either handheld or secure mount in the vessel. Most marine radios have channels for the NOAA weather channels. Access to the weather broadcasts is very important. The hard mounted units typically have a transmit power of 25 watts and handhelds are typically 5 watts. The extra power gives a 25 watt unit a transmit range of about twice as far. VHF is line of sight so making contact through the land mass of the island is impossible. Antenna height can matter more than power.

I would add a Personal Locating Beacon device. They are around $300 and a cheaper substitute for the original EPRIBs that are larger and automatically activate when they hit the water. The true ones with GPS send your position to NOAA satellites and also transmit a homing beacon so you can found more easily.

The last item for peace of mind would be a flotation anti-exposure suit. These are expensive and most boaters bypass this item. Lake Superior can be cold but it’s not like the Bering Sea where rescue might be many hours (or more) away.

Another item to consider if you plan to do any exploring of the smaller bays and inlets would be a sonar module with forward looking ability. They can locate those shallow reefs but you still need to be going slowly. If you are sticking to the main marine channels (into and out of campgrounds) this would not be needed.

I would also have a floating dry bag on deck stocked with food, dry clothes and other obvious camping/survival items in case you had had to ditch close to land but far from a hiking trail.

If you live anywhere close to even a modest boating population, look up contact info for your closest Coast Guard Auxiliary. They will perform a free vessel inspection and potentially point out something you missed.

The amount of fuel needed depends on your gas mileage in the types of seas you are comfortable. Do you have enough experience with “big lake” waves to know how your mileage goes down and it will go down considerably as the wave height increases because you will have to run slower and most likely will no longer be on-plane. Also check for last minute Park Service announcements, especially near the end of the season, as fuel availability or it’s location or payment options can change.

Waiting for calm or good conditions as you indicated is best so obviously your schedule needs to be flexible. You may need to wait longer than expected especially later in the season. Weather in the Lake Superior region is one of the most unpredictable. Preparation and patience are the key words. Do not let a ruined schedule allow you to make a bad choice. Most negative outcomes happen not when some thing goes wrong but when a second and third thing piles on to an already bad situation created by the first failure of either bad judgment or unforeseen circumstances.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013

treeplanter
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Re: Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Post by treeplanter »

I really can’t contribute too much to this thread, but remember talking to several fisherman who regularly made the trip from the Keweenaw to Chippewa Harbor to go fishing. One guy got out of work, hopped in his boat, and made the few hour trip from Copper Harbor to Chippewa Harbor like he was driving to the nearest Seven Eleven to buy a Slurpee. If you do it enough, it’s just no big deal.

Midwest Ed
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Re: Personal Watercraft as Transportation

Post by Midwest Ed »

Back in June of 2000, 4 of us made the trip from Houghton to Rock Harbor in my friend's 24 foot boat. Here's a link to the journey. I agree treeplanter, when everything goes right it's no big deal. After spending some time in the Coast Guard Auxiliary I've noticed that, excluding the accidents due to alcohol, most tragedies occur when a rapid change in circumstances happens to boaters that are ill prepared. Fortunately it doesn't happen often but open water is far less forgiving than almost any land venture.

The fuel efficiency of my friend's boat we took to IR gets cut in half and the top speed drops to one third when the seas are rough. All boats are different of course.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013

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