Lake Superior Boating Guide:
Weather Tips

The weather can and does change suddenly on Lake Superior and it's no place for any vessel during a storm. If you suspect bad weather coming, head to the nearest protected harbor.

Weather Forecasts

Check the forecast before you head out and periodically during your cruise. Have a portable AM radio aboard for forecast purposes. Even if you can't receive a station, the static that comes with an approaching storm will serve as a warning. Ideally you should have a VHF-FM two-way marine radio, as there are continuous weather broadcasts on its weather channels. The Coast Guard also broadcasts specific storm warnings over marine radio. Cellular reception is spotty or non-existent along portions of the North Shore, so make sure to have a radio.

Bad weather on Lake Superior usually comes from the west or southwest.

Watch for lightning in addition to rough water. Remember, your boat will be the tallest point in the immediate area and could easily be hit.

Storms

If a storm hits and you are unable to reach shore, some emergency procedures to remember are:

  • Wear your life jacket.

  • Head for the closest shore.

  • Head into waves at an angle.

  • Reduce your speed to keep headway and lessen the pounding on the boat.

  • Seat all passengers as low and as close to the centerline of the boat as possible.

  • Keep the boat free from water by bailing or using a bilge pump.

  • If your motor fails, trail a sea anchor on a line from the bow to keep it headed into the waves. A bucket or a shirt with neck and sleeves knotted together will do in an emergency.

Fog

Not all weather-related boating hazards come with storms. Fog can be a silent threat to boaters and is not uncommon on the lake. (June is a particularly foggy month on Lake Superior.) Never set out in a heavy fog. It's important to have a good compass and charts on board and know how to use them.

In reduced visibility, being "seen" by the radar of larger vessels and avoiding a collision is important. To be seen, a small boat should use a radar reflector. You can buy one or make your own using aluminum foil or any other large metallic object.

Conditions of reduced visibility, fog, rain, snow or haze, are one of the greatest challenges you can face on Lake Superior. 

If possible, anchor until visibility improves. Put up your radar reflectors, be sure your anchor lights are on and watch and listen for other boats that might not see you.

 

Photo of a fog on the lake.
Fog is very common on Lake Superior.

 

See also:

Rough waves

Avoiding collisions

NOAA Great Lake Forecasts 

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