Solo Sail Across Lake Superior

Jeff Ilse bio photo By Jeff Ilse

It was early in the season (June 15) when I left, so that meant fog/cold on Lake Superior. I was in fog about 40 percent of the time while under way. The day I wanted to leave it was 40f and raining. I opted to stay at the dock and pack supplies away.

I may sound like I’m complaining, but especially when I’m alone and don’t have to be concerned for other’s comfort, I still enjoy my time afloat in adverse weather. I’m probably just describing it to make myself sound tough, which is pretty far from the truth. When it’s cold, I’m ususally hiding in my sleeping bag with the propane heater on full blast.

The solitary nature of solo sailing is nice, but I was working remotely at my job on non-sailing days, so I was in regular contact with other humans. I couldn’t do it without Verizon 4G.

I did it in 4 legs.

  • Duluth to Copper Harbor (176 nm)
  • Copper Harbor to Grand Marais, MI (90 nm) - tried for W.F. point, but wind shift made me redirect
  • Grand Marais to Whitefish Point (50 nm)
  • Whitefish Point to Sault Ste. Marie (35 nm)

I tend to prefer longer legs, so that I can spend more time hanging in favorite harbors keeping up with my job. I enjoy the sailing days immensely, but swinging on the hook is equally enjoyable to me. When I have to do lots of daily short hops, I have a hard time keeping up with business. All in all, the trip across Lake Superior was without major excitement, and filled with beautiful remote areas that you can only see by boat.

It was a great day to start out with a tail wind and beautiful skies

I started later in the day and had a great sunset

I had planned to sail all night, but the wind died and I was only a couple miles from Sand Island, so I pulled in and slept a few hours

Having AIS is handy. I was 20nm off shore and I knew an hour ahead of time that I was going to be right in the middle of these two giants. I adjusted 1/4 mile and was safely away from them.

Coming into Copper Harbor at the head of the Keweenaw Peninsula is never boring. This is just after sunrise and very little rest for a day and a half.

This was the strangest fog bank. I could see clearly in every direction for about half a mile and nothing past that. When this ship broke through, it seemed to come from nowhere. Once again, AIS was nice as I knew they were out there and was expecting them.

Grand Marais, MI is always a welcome rest with a well protected harbor and nothing else for 35nm in either direction.

Same goes for Whitefish point harbor of refuge. It's not far from where the Edmund Fitzgerald rests on the bottom. They were heading for the protection of this point when they went down.

The soo locks on the Canadian side. This is where I officially left Lake Superior for the St. Mary's river.