Newbie- Lake Michigan

Hello everybody, thanks in advance for reading this!

I am a newbie to the kayak scene, however im a college student that is involved in the crew team so paddling is not completely foreign. Heres my question, i just bought a voyager 111 from old town, and my ultimate goal is to paddle on lake Michigan, of course when my skill level permits it. but will this boat stand up, will i be able to take it out with out it capsizing or something like that, or do i need to get an even more expensive boat ?

thank you all so much.

Hmmmm… I and several others on
this board are old oarsmen. I don’t know about the Old Town craft you describe, but I have been on Lake Michigan, in an Old Town Tripper, and I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Your question brings the old Army answer, “It depends on the situation and the terrain.” Obviously on those days when Lake Michigan looks pretty smooth, and the forecast is for good conditions, you can cruise along the coast in any rec kayak, any canoe, a single scull, a whitewater kayak, whatever. If conditions get from easy up to average or even rather bad, you want to be in a true sea or touring kayak, with thigh braces, smaller cockpit, spray cover, bulkhead or float bag flotation in the boat, AND you want to be trained and experienced in self-rescue, bad water technique, launching and landing in surf, etc. AND you want to be going with a couple of more experienced touring/sea kayakers until you are pretty good.

So a true sea kayak, properly equipped, and a strong background of training and experience will give you relative freedom on Lake Michigan. If you have some other variety of craft, you need to adjust your expectations downward accordingly.

stay close to shore, get a skirt…

– Last Updated: Jun-03-07 10:44 AM EST –

...and keep an eye on the weather conditions. The Voyageur was designed primarily as a rec boat for smaller lakes and rivers, though it could be used on the Great Lakes with the above cautions. Because the boat doesn't have any bulkheads, I would outfit it with floatation bags in the bow and stern, even IF you're going to stay close to shore.

What you might discover, eventually, is that the efficiency limitatons of a 11 foot rec boat become more apparent on big water, and that you may find yourself wanting something more seaworthy and more efficient. At that point, you'll be in the market for a 16-18 foot touring boat. Maintain your Voyageur, and you'll probably do ok in the resale or trade-in market.

would like to add 14 foot options
Very thoughtful posting and reply and for many paddlers with your questions a 13.5-14 foot kayak might be the less expensive and easier to paddle route as long as you follow the good advice of G2 and get front and rear bulkheads and have a good sprayskirt and know how to use it safely. Chances are you’ll enjoy inland lakes and rivers a lot more for the visual changes they offer versus padding the shoreline of Lake Michigan which is ok but not as interesting for rubbernecking. My first kayak was bought with Lake Michigan solely in mind and after a few outings I found places I liked better and retired the 18 foot Valley.

Much agree with g2d

– Last Updated: Jun-03-07 9:29 PM EST –

I live a mile from Lake Mich and I can here it in winds of only 15. She's alive; if she's sleepy you can travel on her however you like but when she wakes up you'd better be prepared.

I used to paddle a Loon which is quite similar. I made a half-skirt for it just to keep out the majority of water. It was a nice kayak to paddle out to the Saugatuck pier head for fishing which involved a one mile shore paddle to get to. The Loon paddled along at 2kts quite easily but 3kts was nearly too much so the one mile trip was pretty good exercise.

One thing is that these large cockpit kayaks will keep you off the water in dangerous conditions due to getting swamped launching when the waves are too big. I think 1 1/2 footers were about the limit to getting off the beach using the half-skirt.

So my advice it to never paddle out of a waterway into the Lake. Always launch from the beach so you know what you're getting into.

Expense does not equal seaworthiness
When Lake Michigan is Rocking and Rolling you can play in the surf in a whitewater boat. A decent used boat for that purpose will cost you ~ $350. You will need to learn a bit before that.

Most importantly dress for the water temps, immersion gear is more important than your boat.

prepar for cold water frigid spots
Lake Michigan can be warm for a minute or even a day in one place or another but this is not a place to be foolish. Water temperatures can turn over quickly I learned when I used to swim in that lake often.

In any of the Great Lakea, caution is a wise thing to bring along. Know your limits, stay near shore, launch from the beaches, and keep an eye on the weather and waves.

well said