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Rhumb Line -- News from Great Lakes
December 22, 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.

November 2020

New at Great Lakes Sailing

1. The Store
2. New Ports
3. Towing Insurance
4. Water Levels - Finally Some Relief?
5. Big Plans For The Soo Locks
6. The Great Lakes & National Geographic
7. The Romance of the Sea – Traditions, Customs and Sayings

1. The Store

Don’t forget to check out our online store. Great products at competitive prices. New items are added regularly.

The store can be accessed directly from the website. You can also access it here at The Store . I hope you will drop by and check us out. We have added some new items, particularly in the gift section – interesting, unique and definitely high quality. Some great gift ideas.

2. New Ports

a) Sandusky, OH

Sandusky derives its name from the Wyandot/Huron word saundustee meaning "water" or andusti "cold water". The area was known to the early French explorers since the early 1700's. It was a center of trading and fortifications since the 18th century: the English, French, and Americans all had trading posts and forts built on both the north and south sides of Sandusky Bay

Settlement really began to develop following the War of 1812. With the arrival of the railroads in the 1830’s, industrialization began in earnest. The City of Sandusky was also a well-known terminus of the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century African-American slaves in the United States to escape to free states and to Canada. The first slave to reach Sandusky arrived in 1820. And a sailor, one Capt. Shepherd, carried him across Lake Erie in a small sailboat to Fort Malden (Amherstburg ON today) and to freedom.

Through the 19th century, the city grew as a centre for paper-making. Today the tourism/recreation and healthcare industries are mainstays of the local economy. Nearby is Cedar Point, a major, century-old water and amusement park. Its associated marina is one of the largest on the Great Lakes. Click here to visit Sandusky.

b) Au Gres, MI

As you can tell from it's name, the roots of Au Gres lie with early French adventurers who explored this area in the 18th century. The name derives from the French expression for 'sandstone'. The first permanent settlement took place following the Civil War and the local economy was based on lumbering. Today, the economic foundation of Au Gres is tourism. Click here to visit Au Gres.

3. Tow Insurance - Do You Need It?

The subject of insurance can be tricky with lots of opportunities to ‘put your foot wrong’. However, responsible sailors know that sailing uninsured is a risky and dubious practice. For example, most marinas and yacht clubs require a minimum amount of liability coverage in order to use their facilities. If a boat carries a mortgage, most likely there is a requirement to carry certain types and amounts of insurance.

One question that comes up from time to time is whether it is advisable to purchase a towing policy or membership from some of the organizations that serve the boating community.

I recently put this question to my insurance broker. They stated quite directly that it was not necessary as the policy that I owned included a full towing policy. They also pointed out that there is a general principal in the insurance industry that a policy holder cannot collect on 2 policies for the same event. Therefore, I would be paying for something I could not use.

Could that be the case for you? The only way to find out is to contact your insurance broker and ask them directly.

4. Water Levels - Finally Some Relief?

There could be some good news in the offing regarding the very high water levels on the Great Lakes. High water levels have certainly had a direct impact on shoreline properties and many marinas and yacht clubs. However current measurement data is showing signs of a possible change in direction.

The Great Lakes typically experience a period of falling water levels from August to March. Late fall and early winter usually bring the sharpest fall in water levels.

Since early November, Lake Superior water levels have fallen 4 in/10 cm, putting the lake four in/10 cm lower than this time last year. Lake Michigan has dropped 2 in/5cm in the past month and is now 4 in/10 cm lower than this time last year. Lake Erie has dropped 1 in/2.5 cm in the past month, putting it 2 in/5 cm lower than this time last year. Lake Ontario’s water level has held steady over the past month but overall is 15 in/38 cm lower than December 2019.

From January 2021 to May 2021, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels are forecast to stay 7 to 8 in/18-20 cm below the monthly record high water levels obtained in those months of 2020. Lake Superior is expected to be 6 in/15 cm below record levels through May. Lake Erie will remain 8 to 10 in/20-25 cm below record levels this winter and spring. Lake Ontario is expected to be just a few inches above the long-term average water level through May.

5. Big Plans For The Soo Locks

If you have sailed between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, you will have seen the massive ‘Soo Locks’ from the best perspective – on board. These parallel locks carry both commercial and recreational traffic through the 4 U.S. locks and recreational traffic only through the Canadian lock. Most recreational sailors use the Canadian locks to avoid the huge commercial freighters.We sure did when we headed up into Superior a few years ago.

The combined locks are the busiest locking system in the world with well over 10,000 vessels being locked through annually. The largest of the locks is the Poe Lock, named after Army Gen. Orlando Poe, the engineer who designed the original Soo lock built in 1896. Only the Poe lock can hand the 1,000 foot giants of the Great Lakes freighter fleet.

Most people have little or no idea of the immense importance of these locks and the economic disaster that would befall North America if they failed.

Millions of tons of iron ore from mines in Minnesota and northern Michigan pass through the Poe lock to the steel mills dotting the lower Great Lakes and beyond. A gate failure at the Poe could result in a shutdown of up to 6 months.

Such a shutdown would be catastrophic. If such a closure occurred at the Poe during the March 25-Jan. 15 shipping season, for instance, as much as 75% of American steel output could be halted within two to six weeks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security stated that such a closure would result in an economic tidal wave sweeping across North America, costing over 10 million jobs and inflicting losses of over 1 trillion dollars.

No wonder then that there has been a major push over the past 3 decades to twin the lock. Finally, after 30 years since it was first proposed, work has begun to create a new parallel lock. Construction for this new lock has begun with the final phase planned for 2022.

Click here for more information about St. Lawrence Seaway and the Soo Locks.

6. The Great Lakes & National Geographic

We are all familiar with the yellow rectangle that is the signature logo of National Geographic. Known for their extremely well-researched and well-written articles accompanied by stunning photography, countless readers have been transported to the furthest corners of our globe – and beyond. For December 2020, the feature article is about our fabulous Great Lakes. Titled Saving The Great Lakes, it explores the challenges facing the Great Lakes and the massive impacts that are shaping the future of our Lakes. Check out the article in this month's issue.

7. The Romance of the Sea – Traditions, Customs and Sayings

One of the things that I have always enjoyed about sailing is how so much of what we say and do today is bound up in the customs and traditions of long ago.

Bowline Probably the most useful knot a sailor can know, the word comes from 2 sources: Icelandic bogr meaning bow and Old French boeline meaning sounding line.

Bear Meaning the direction of an object from a boat or to sail in a particular direction. The word comes from Old Norse beran meaning both senses of the word

Binnacle The stand on which a compass is mounted. In the 15th century, the more common term was bittacle. It comes from the French word babitacle which in turn came from the Latin word babitaculum meaning a place of habitation.

Bleed The Monkey Meaning to steal rum from the mess tub. Monkey was slang for the mess tub. The mess was a group within a ship’s company that lived and ate together. The word comes from Middle English mes which in turn came from the Latin word missum meaning that which is put on the table. Of course bleed was to take blood from a patient.

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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