In general, we had great weather for most of our Loop trip. The #1 Rule in boating is “Do Not Have A Schedule”! When you have a schedule, you feel obligated to go out when you are better off staying in port. Over our entire loop, we had three days where we wished we had stayed in port but didn’t and two where we went out but had the good sense to turn back and seek shelter.

Note: Don’t ever be afraid to turn back or change your plans and duck into a nearby port or anchorage if things get close to your comfort limits. Don’t wait until the last minute to run for cover. Thunderstorms and bad weather can sneak up on you, and it can get really bad, really quickly. When things begin to look bad, start by donning your life jacket (no one will see how dorky you look), then run for cover. That way, there WILL be a tomorrow. It CAN happen to you! It DID happen to us and many of our fellow boaters. Everyone has a story!

Our worst day was at the south end of Lake Michigan, where we had 4-6 foot waves for a couple of hours. Here, we were on a “schedule” and should not have been out in that weather. Our boat handled it just fine, the crew not so much!

You will experience some rough weather. We advise checking several weather sources and talking with the locals for local knowledge. In some areas a 20-knot wind, is not an issue, in others, you’ll wish you didn’t own a boat. Set your minimums and stick to them.

Another consideration is that just because you are in a marina doesn’t mean that you will be comfortable. We had several days/nights where we were in a marina, but because of the winds, the boat was rolling and banging against the docks, so it was not comfortable to be on the boat. In these cases, we quickly learned to “abandon ship!”. We would pack a bag and find a local hotel or B&B to stay at. It was safer, we got a good night’s sleep, and got to have an “off boat” night. (Very important to have from time to time). In one case in South Haven, Michigan, the local fire department ordered us off the boat for the night because of the waves coming into the marina. Remember, you are a “Pleasure Boater.” If it’s not Pleasant, you are doing something wrong!

On our second Loop, we followed our own advice and didn’t go out in rough weather. We did have a few bumpy days, but nothing like the 4-6 footers on our first Loop! It was much more enjoyable.

As for abandoning ship and sleeping ashore in bad weather, some boaters we traveled with were at a marina in Panama City, Florida. The area had high wind and tornado warnings, and many boaters decided to get off their boats and go to hotels for the night. It was fortunate for them that they did. A tornado went through the marina during the night. One boat was picked up, turned on it’s side, and slammed into the dock, tearing out fiberglass and shattering the windows. The boat was a total loss. Another boat at the same marina had the bimini and windscreen torn off. Fortunately, both boaters had gone ashore for the night, and no one was injured.

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