ASA’s New Horizons – Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan

We have a new series called New Horizons, which  will take a look at the many cruising grounds and sweet sailing spots in the US and abroad. We’ve asked the folks from the vast network of ASA schools to help us out and give us the skinny on the cool places they call home. Nothing like getting the lowdown from a local. We all know the BVIs are great, but what about the places we haven’t heard of? This is going to be fun!

First up is Grand Traverse Bay / Lake Michigan. We asked Rod Call from Great Lakes Sailing Company in Michigan about sailing in the gorgeous waters of the north.

There are quite a few things that always come up when we talk about sailing in our neck of the woods,” said Call. “The water.Crystal clear. Green. You’d think you were in the Caribbean if it weren’t for the pine trees dotting the shoreline. Also, that it’s freshwater – or as we call it ‘unsalted Sailing’. You go for a swim…no need to rinse off. And, that it’s a mostly easy place to sail. The waters of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan are deep. And the shallows are green and crystal clear. So if you are near, or in, green water…you know to check your depth.

Call also touted how nice a cruising ground it is. Grand Traverse Bay is a bay of Lake Michigan that is 32 miles long and 10 miles wide, and quite deep in certain areas – up to 620 feet. There are small, quaint northern Michigan harbor towns along the route with updated marinas, unique shopping, dining, wine tasting, movies and great scenery. Making your way down the Bay you’ll find secluded anchorages and nice beaches. Suttons Bay, Bowers Harbor and Old Mission harbor are a few anchorages that are worth mentioning. Call says a local’s favorite is Ingall’s Bay or know locally as Snoloha’ Bay. It offers a sandy bottom for anchoring, teal green water and a nice beach for walking.

The sailing season in this part of the country runs from May – October. The weather is warmest and mostly predictable, not suprisingly in July and August but Call says September is great because the water is still warm, as are the days. In the evenings, as Fall begins to creep in, things begin to cool down – great for sleeping aboard. He says September winds are usually  good and the scenery is exceptional as the autumn colors  begin to fill in.

Chart-Grand Traverse Bay

As for the sailing itself Grand Traverse Bay is a relatively easy place to sail and not overly challenging.

There are certain areas where you do have to pay close attention to navigational hazards,” said Call. “But going back to the earlier point, the waters of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan are deep and the shallows are green and crystal clear, so if you are near, or in, green water, you know the depth is reducing.

We asked Call if there’s something about Grand Traverse Bay that he found particularly interesting – he said:

Did you know…you can fit all of the U.S. & British Virgin Islands into our cruising grounds here in Grand Traverse Bay and northern Lake Michigan?! Okay, so St Croix is not on here and the Virgin Islands run east and west, not north and south…but you get the point… Our cruising grounds are much bigger than people realize., with all kinds of great marinas, harbor towns, anchorages and beaches.

New Horizons Series:

Online Sailing Course