one awesome feature of the state of Michigan (distances according to Wikipedia) is that:
no point in Michigan is more than six miles (10 km) from an inland lake or more than 85 miles (137 km) from one of the Great Lakes.
with all that water around, there are plenty of opportunities to sail: there are yacht clubs galore established on many of the inland lakes, or spread out along the Great Lakes coastlines, as well as sailing clubs and teams at area high schools and colleges, and there is also the occasional sailing school where you could take sailing lessons if you choose.
several of Michigan’s colleges and universities have collegiate sailing teams that sail as members of the Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association, or the college might have just a sailing club, that often uses the facilities of a local yacht club nearby (Sail Michigan has a good list of both). in the lower part of Michigan, there is both Michigan State University in East Lansing (collegiate team and sailing club) and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (collegiate team and sailing club), as well as several other smaller colleges with teams and/or clubs. a few of Michigan’s high schools offer sailing as well, but it is not a huge list (again, Sail Michigan has a good list on their website).
most of the sailing schools in Michigan are situated near one of the Great Lakes, but in the Metro Detroit area, you can find the American Sailing Institute, which sails on Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark, as well as Stoney Creek Metropark and Lake St Clair.
you can also find community sailing in Michigan, as the Traverse Area Community Sailing has been operating up in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula for almost 20 years now. I had a chance to visit their facility about a year and a half ago, and was really impressed! I really wish that the Metro Detroit area had a similar community sailing system set up, as I think it’d be a great way to introduce more people to sailing.
Traverse City isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, though, and I’ve never taken any classes at the sailing schools or clubs around, so I have taught myself to sail by reading some books, and learning by trial and error out on the water.
so over the past few years, I have tried to take advantage of Michigan’s plethora of water, and sail on a variety of the nearby inland lakes (if I can find a public access point), as well as sailing on the Great Lakes when I get a chance.
I’ve sailed several times on Lake Michigan. two summers ago, I added Lake Huron on a trip up to Tawas Bay – the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”. and this last summer, I added another one of the Great Lakes to my list, as I sailed a couple times on Lake Erie.
this leaves me with only Lake Superior and Lake Ontario to round out all 5 Great Lakes, although the last 2 will probably be the hardest to cross of my list, as both will entail serious drive times just to get there.
not every sailing trip has been great though – I got stuck in weeds and then had to sail with dead carp floating around me at Kent Lake – with video evidence!
but the nice thing is that there will always be another lake not too far away that I can try the next time if I get too frustrated with the sailing on that lake.
probably one of my best sailing memories is spending a few days sailing on a couple lakes in Michigan’s northwest lower peninsula with my wife. we sailed twice on the East Bay near Traverse City, and then had an awesome sailing day on Crystal Lake – an absolutely amazing lake to sail on (and perhaps my favorite thus far of any lake I’ve sailed in Michigan).
but, I think a big key to some of my fondest sailing memories is sharing the trip with someone – often times one (or more) of my 3 young boys, or the 3-day trip with my wife (that’s about the only time I’ve been able to get her to sail with me on the Sunfish!), a friend from college, my siblings, even my father one time on Lake Michigan! here’s a video from a great day of sailing on Lake Michigan – it was a fairly calm day with light winds, and I was able to slowly sail back and forth along the coastline of Lake Michigan, giving short rides on the Sunfish to my kids, a few of their cousins, and even a few adults who wanted to give it a try!
so does Michigan offer this more specifically than any other state or exotic sailing island in a much more tropical climate? no, not really. but, for me, the best sailing place is one that I can get to easily, and enjoy the time out in the wind, on the water, and hopefully sharing that memory with someone as well. and Michigan has a lot of options for getting out on the water – sailing, swimming, kayaking or whatever water sport you choose, no matter where you are living right now.
so even though my boat of choice the Sunfish can get a little cramped with me and 2 kids riding along, or maybe ride a bit low in the water if I’m sailing with another adult, the fellowship of sailing with a friend, or the sheer joy I see on my kid’s face (or that of any other child I’ve had a chance to give a ride on the Sunfish) has been amazing. my 3 1/2 year old son has already asked me a few times this spring to take him sailing again. maybe this year or in the near future, I’ll work in racing other Sunfish – the Greater Detroit Sunfish Club is a local club option that seems like a great place to start.
this post is for the sailing blogfather Tillerman (at his blog Proper Course) who had requested that fellow bloggers write about the “Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.” as much as I would like to, I just don’t sail nearly as much some of the other bloggers, and not nearly as much or in as varied exotic places as Tillerman has been lucky to sail. that being said, the post above is my case: Michigan is a great place to sail.