Lake Michigan Crossing

I ran a 33 foot Carver between Saugatuck Michigan and Winthrop Harbor Illinois this week to delivery it to it’s new owners. It was a beautiful day and the weather was predicted to be calm with waves on the lake at 1 foot or less. Of course this did not turn out to be the case but it still stayed nice enough to make the trip. As we got further out the waves went from 1 foot up to 3 and the wind veered around to blow out of the SSW making the chop come across the port bow at about a 3 degree angle. The ride was a little bouncy but manageable.

We did have a minor mishap about 30 miles from the Illinois side when the port engine faltered and lost RPM until it would no longer keep up with the starboard engine but a flip of the fuel tank selector set things straight and we continued on our way without another incident. I was a little worried about debris or water in the tanks given the history of the boat but there were accessible filters and I took the tools necessary to deal with them. Overall it was a great ride and we made it 30 minutes earlier than I expected.

I recently read several forum posts where people were asking different questions about crossing Lake Michigan. More than a couple of people were asking about making the trip in a single engine boat, some as small as 22 feet in length. Although a few people’s answers were in the “Go for it” category, about 99% of the responses echoed my own opinion.


Crossing Lake Michigan in a single engine boat, especially one less than 27 feet in length, is a sure-fire way to become the topic of a Gordon Lightfoot song. The chances of something going wrong are way too high, and the chances of someone rescuing you when they do go wrong are way too low. There is no room for error out there, I don’t care how many years of experience you have or how many oceans you have been on. The big lake is different. She’s more quick-tempered than the Atlantic and does not give back what she takes in. Even on calm days you can feel her watching, waiting for you to let your guard down so she can bite. She requires your respect and attention every minute.

More on this shortly…