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Rhumb Line -- News from Great Lakes
August 28, 2020

Rhumb Line

a course that keeps a constant bearing

The Rhumb Line for Great Lakes Sailing is clear: to provide a comprehensive listing of ports around the Great Lakes basin and articles that cover a broad range of topics of interest to sailors.

The purpose of Rhumb Line is to keep you up-to-date with new additions to Great Lakes Sailing and articles of interest in a brief, easy-to-scan and concise manner. I value not only your interest but also your time.

August 2020

New at Great Lakes Sailing

1. The Store
2. Where There Is No Doctor
3. Updated Port Review
4. Interesting Great Lakes News Items
5. Canada-US Report: State of the Great Lakes
6. More Nautical Terminology

1. The Store

Great Lakes Sailing’s marine store is fully open and has been successfully processing orders. As we frequently use the United States Postal Service, some delays have been experienced but overall, the shipping process has worked well.

We are adding new products regularly. We have been able to source from major suppliers who carry or manufacture quality, name brand products. We price competitively compared to bricks & mortar stores and we are open 24/7.

The store can be accessed directly from the website. Just look over to the top of the navigation bar on the left of the screen until you see the button Store and click on it. You will be taken directly into the store.You can also access it here at The Store I hope you will drop and check us out.

2.Where There Is No Doctor

One of the best books for dealing with medical emergencies is Where There Is No Doctor. Written by a doctor, this was originally designed for aid workers and local people living in isolated rural communities in under-developed countries.

It is an outstanding practical guide to have on board - you don't have to be in Africa to be in a situation where you are totally on your own or have someone else totally dependent on you. The section on First Aid is excellent. It is available as a pdf and can be found on here - Resources

Its excellent companion volume is titled Where There Is No Dentist. It is also available as a pdf and can be found in the Resources

3. Updated Port Review

Fifty Point Conservation Area is located at the west end of Lake Ontario, between Burlington Bay 8 nm to the west and Port Dalhousie 16 nm east. It is probably the finest harbour between Hamilton and the Niagara River

The conservation area is a 197 acre/80 ha park with beaches, camping areas and a large, well-maintained marina. Owned by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, this is a very popular place to visit. For the longest time, services have been minimal.

However, as development has spread, new services have cropped up and the port review has been updated to reflect this.

This update was made possible by a reader of the website who took the time to jot a few notes and send them to me. It is simply not possible for me to stay on top of all changes that take place in each port. Major features and services do not change much but small things can and do – a pub changes its name, a restaurant closes or a new attraction opens.

If you live in or near one of these ports, perhaps you could take a few minutes and send me a note about any changes that you have noticed. I will ensure that each contributor gets full credit if they so wish.

I am also looking for other ways to recognize readers who help make the information on the site more accurate and up-to-day. I am certainly open to suggestions!

I can be reached either through the contact page on or at the bottom of the newsletter.

4. Interesting Great Lakes News Items

There are news items about every aspect of the Great Lakes being published every day and every month. Here are a few of the items that made the news in the past month or so.

a) Lake Water Temps

Lake Ontario broke a record this July for hottest surface water temperature ever recorded on the lake since 1995. 

Lake Ontario isn’t alone. All five of the Great Lakes’ surface water temperatures are still above their 1995-2020 averages as of Aug. 21,  according to NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch. 

According to air temperature predictions made by NOAA Weather Service, above normal air temperatures during the rest of August and September could potentially translate to continued high surface temperatures in the Great Lakes for the rest of summer. 

The most staggering increase of temperatures comes from Lake Ontario, which reached 76.93°F (24.96°C) on July 10. That is 9.72°F (5.4°C) above the average temperature for July 10 from 1995 to 2020 and is the warmest surface water temperature ever recorded on Lake Ontario, according to NOAA CoastWatch data.

The surface water temperature of Lake Ontario continues to remain above average, having hit 73.81°F (23.23°C) on Aug. 20.

These high water temperatures are mainly caused by persistent warm weather along with light winds.  “Climate change is clearly affecting the Great Lakes,” Andrea Vanderwoude, manager of the Great Lakes CoastWatch, reported. “This particular warming is consistent with the larger warming that is occurring.” 

b) A Divide in the Great Lakes – the Nearshore Shunt

With all of the other divisions we see happening around us, do we really need another one??? Alas its happening even in our lakes – a divide between the nearshore waters and offshore waters of each lake. (Offshore waters on the Great Lakes have been defined as waters over 66 ft (20 m) deep.)

Ever encounter sharp mussel shells underwater when you swim or sand that is becoming whiter from crushed shells or bad-smelling masses of algae washing up on the shore – these changes are features of the “nearshore shunt”. Ontario scientists are leaders in identifying and explaining this phenomenon.

Zebra and quagga mussels are invasive species that now dominate Great Lakes nearshore ecosystems. They blanket the bottom of the lakes in vast numbers across much of the Great Lakes. Zebra and quagga mussels are filter feeders that have clarified water in the nearshore areas of the Great Lakes. The increased clarity and filtering traps phosphorus coming into the lakes in the nearshore environments, preventing it from getting into deeper waters as much as it had before the mussel invasion.

The mussels created the divide we see today between nearshore and offshore areas of the Great Lakes — the nearshore areas struggle with excessive blooms of algae, while in the offshore areas there aren’t enough nutrients to support thriving fisheries.

The significance of the nearshore-offshore divide also varies from lake to lake. Lake Erie is the only lake where there are no concerns about low offshore productivity — the focus remains on cutting back on phosphorus to stop alga blooms.

Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, on the other hand, are dealing with the most damage to their fish populations from these low nutrient levels. In these lakes, the fisheries have noticed a decline in the prey fish populations — enough to impact how much predator fish they can stock in the lakes.

“Lake Huron was the earliest lake to show these kinds of trends and changes in the fish community and Lake Michigan is following that path,” said Robert Hecky, a scientist with the International Joint Commission’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Lake Superior’s data suggests that declining nutrients in the offshore could be a problem, but the issue is not as bad as in the other two lakes.

c) Eagle vs Drone

One of our favourite hidden anchorages up north is home to at least one nesting pair of bald eagles. Watching them soar overhead or swoop down for a catch is a breathtaking moment. They are also known to take birds in mid-air, such as gulls. Apparently, that was not enough for one bald eagle.

A bald eagle launched an aerial assault on a drone operated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy — known ironically in this case as EGLE — ripping off a propeller and sending the aircraft into Lake Michigan.

The attack happened July 21, when the drone was mapping shoreline erosion near Escanaba in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to document and help communities cope with high water levels.

Environmental quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King said he had completed about seven minutes of the mapping flight when satellite reception became spotty. King pressed a button to return the $950 drone to him and was viewing his video screen when the drone began to twirl. “It was like a really bad roller coaster ride,” said King, who looked up and saw the eagle flying away, apparently unhurt by its confrontation with technology.

d) Recovering Fish Populations

The variety of fish swimming in Chicago’s rivers have increased in recent decades, which authorities attribute to a decline in pollution, according to a sampling study released Monday by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

The report claims there are nearly 60 different types of fish swimming in the Chicago and Calumet rivers. There were fewer than 10 types of fish in the waterways in the 1980s, according to the Chicago Tribune. Carp is the most frequently found species in the rivers. Among other species netted by district biologists were bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass and yellow perch. Those fish are less tolerant of pollution than carp.

Shedd Aquarium research biologist Austin Happel says the more robust and diverse population of fish is an example of how the fight to cleaning rivers is paying off after decades when they were turned into industrialized sewage canals.

e) Canada – US Government Joint Report:

It is impossible to overstate the global importance of the Great Lakes. Many facts are well known. They contain one fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply and, as home to over 4,000 separate species, are one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. They provide a source of drinking water to tens of millions of Canadians and Americans.

The Great Lakes have always been at the heart of North America’s economy. They are vital to the economies of both Canada and the United States. Our lakes are a job-creation engine. If the Great Lakes Region (Ontario, Québec and the 8 Great Lakes States) were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest economy in the world (after the United States, China, and Japan – and ahead of Germany, Indian and the UK. It supports manufacturing, transportation, farming, tourism, recreation, energy production and other forms of economic growth. Lake Erie alone supports one of the world’s most valuable freshwater commercial fisheries as well as a popular sport fishery.

The Governments of Canada and the United States have released their 2019 State of the Great Lakes: Highlights Report, which provides an overview of the status and trends of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Overall, Great Lakes water quality is assessed as "fair and unchanging” The Report notes that, while progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes has occurred, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, challenges cited in the report including invasive species and excess nutrients that contribute to toxic and nuisance algae show that much work needs to be done.

In accordance with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the United States, with their many partners, have established a suite of 9 indicators of ecosystem health to assess the state of the Great Lakes. The assessment is made based on indicators such as drinking water, fish consumption, and beach closures. Over 180 government and non-government Great Lakes scientists and other experts worked to assemble available data and prepare the report.

The full report can be found here .

This chart gives a quick snapshot of how the Lakes are fairing with each of the nine criteria.

6) More Nautical Terminology

And to end on a more lighthearted note, here are some traditional sailing terms and where they originated.

After: an adjective meaning toward the stern. From the 16th century anglo-saxon word aefter. Often incorrectly contracted to aft.

Aft: an adverb meaning toward the stern. From the 15th century anglo-saxon word aeft.

Ahoy: a traditional hailing call, probably from the 13th century. Once a dreaded Viking battle cry and still used by Venetian gondoliers when approaching a blind corner on a canal.

Arrive: A sea term you say? Actually, yes. Came from the 16th century French who took it from the Latin word arripare meaning ‘to land’ or ‘to come ashore’.

Arse: Nautical, not physical!!. An old 17th century term for the fall-side of a block. Likely stemming from the Greek term orsa meaning ‘tail

Avast: An order to ‘hold up’ or ‘stop’ an action such as hauling. Likely comes from the 17th century Dutch bou’vest or Portuguese abasta meaning ‘enough’.

Thanks for reading Rhumb Line. Your opinions, thoughts and comments do matter. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me here at Rhumb Line or at Great Lakes Sailing.

If you like this newsletter, please do a friend and me a big favour and "pay it forward." If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe. You will find a subscribe button on most pages of the site.

In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you good health and everything that I would wish for myself and those I love.

Fair winds and following seas.

Michael Leahy, Publisher

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