Open Water Trips

Adventures in Open Water in Small Boats

Lake Michigan gets Ugly

I was out last week on the big lake. When I put in it was a little rough but nothing I haven't seen before. Anyone familiar with lake Michigan knows that the waves here are very unlike the ocean in that they are chppier and more confused. At put in on Kemmil Beach (Southern end of lake) the waves were 2-3 feet so I made for it through that getting a good ride out over these little breakers. Once out it was fairly itersting as there were whitecaps breaking as far as the eye could see. The wind was getting stiffer out of teh north and the waves started building once I was out about a 1/2 mile. On the lake - the waves can build up quickly - so I turned about and headed toward shore. Now the waves were likely 4-5 feet and tumbling. I was getting a good ride surfing them toward the beach but it was getting a bit challenging. I really didn't feel like dumping becasue righting myself in those conditions wouldn't have been easy. As I approached shore - I think the waves were 5-6 feet and breaking serverely. A rip broke out of the sandbar and pushed me out about 50 yards before letting go. This was a mess of churning whitewater and was quite difficult to get a feel for - Almost dumped then - but managed to keep my paddle bracing on the right side of the boat throughout. Once back in toward the beach, I paddled close to the breakline - but that was useless as the varying size of waves had the breakline all over the place - I got a big crusher on the back - but stayed upright - not sure how. Then,I decided to just go for it and paddled strong into the beach. I caught one that really carried me fast and it was a thrill to brace against it to keep the bow forward. Att eh last moment the wave moved caught the back and I was looking four or five feet almost straight up and down. I figured there was no way I would keep upright on this one - but I wasn't giving up yet. I jammed my paddle backwards into the wave to slow me and the bow came up and I was pushed right up on the beach. Nearly worn out - I hurried to get out ot eh kayak before the next one came and pulled me back in. Too late - it got me when I was nearly out and I dumped in about a foot of wash. laughing to myself - I grabbed the kayak with my left hand and dragged it up on the beach. My thoughts are - Don't kayak lake Michigan in waves like that - they could easily kill you. You have to be one crazy guy like me to even try. When I was up on the beach, a guy came up to me and said - man that was one wicked looking ride you were having out there. It must have looked pretty wild from shore as the kayak was popping up over the waves and through breakers.