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Rhumb Line -- News from Great Lakes
October 09, 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.

September 2020

New at Great Lakes Sailing

1. The Store
2. Port Update
3. Music for Great Lakes Sailors
4. Sailing Videos
5. Interesting Great Lakes News Item
6. How One Sailor Dealt With Covid Restrictions
7. Winter Decommissioning
8. More Nautical Terminology

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.

2. Port Update - Muskegon MI

Keeping a site as large as updated has become is a challenging task. Its true that rocks and harbours and navigation information are generally constant. However, things such as restaurants, grocery stores, tourist attractions etc. can and do change. This will be especially true as the effects of COVID-19 ripple through communities in the months to come.

If you have information that can update a particular port, by all means, send it in. I will ensure that the port information is updated and that you receive credit.

Thanks to Tom Hopper who provided the necessary information to update the report on Muskegon MI.

Muskegon harbor is effectively a lake with a channel cut through to Lake Michigan making it accessible to the Great Lakes. The lake is deep and completely protected. The channel is quite wide and dredged to a 26 ft/8 m depth. The outer harbor is a very good size and well-protected with two seawalls that extend about .5 nm out from the shoreline.

The city lies mostly along the southern shore of Muskegon Lake. Most of the marinas are found along this area as well. The north shore is more natural but the water depths are quite shallow.

Muskegon is the largest city on the east coast of Lake Michigan. Beginning as a fur trading and lumbering center, Muskegon built a strong industrial base in the 20th century. The city has invested heavily in its waterfront as tourism is an important part of its economy. With over 1,000 slips, this is a city that welcomes sailors.

Click here to visit Muskegon

3. Music for Great Lakes Sailors

Tastes in music vary widely. Everyone has their favourite songs and genres. As someone who loves the Great Lakes, there are a couple of songs that I think a Great Lakes sailor might appreciate.

The first is The Great Lakes Song written by Pat Dailey and Shel Silverstein (of “A Boy Named Sue” and "The Unicorn Song” fame) and sung by Dailey. Any song that begins with the line The Great Lakes are a diamond on the hand of North America sure has my attention. A beautiful version accompanied by terrific photographs can be found on Youtube. Click here for The Great Lakes Song

The second song is Red Right Returning written by Alex Bevan, a native of Cleveland OH. It too is sung by Pat Dailey. Here is a link to a Youtube video of Dailey performing Red Right Returning.

As a footnote, Pat Dailey has had a varied and successful career as a musician, ending up in Cleveland OH. In the summers, he can be found singing in Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

4. Sailing Videos

Like many of us, I have been known to pass a few minutes (ok ok - hours. Catherine is reading this too!) watching sailing videos on Youtube. I have long had a favourite series – the dozens of videos posted by Patrick Laine, a very skilled and accomplished bluewater sailor. A former US Navy fighter pilot, he lives in La Rochelle France and sails a Bavaria 40 up and down the west coast of Europe as far afield as Iceland. He offers an excellent commentary and takes time to explain not only what he is doing but also why. And he’s frank about any missteps. Click here for the video series from Patick Laine

However, close to home, another sailor has a series of videos about his adventures on the Great Lakes. What makes it better is that he is a fellow subscriber to Rhumb Line and reader of the website.

Lawrence Visnic lives near Cleveland OH and is a member of the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. He sails a Pearson 28. What I like about Lawrence’s videos is that he shows what one can accomplish on the Great Lakes.

That sense of accomplishment is written all over his face as he achieves one of his goals – sailing up into Lake Michigan. Does he look happy??!!

Is it necessary to be a solo sailor? Absolutely not. While I sailed solo for many years, I thoroughly enjoy sailing and exploring with my partner. The videos are straight-forward, accompanied with a commentary that makes it easy for a viewer to understand what is happening. Like Laine, Lawrence explains what he is doing, why, the decisions he has to make and is frank about things that just didn’t work out as planned.

For us, his videos also give us an excellent, accurate picture of what it is like out on the lakes. Click here for the videos produced by Lawrence Visnic

5. 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. Safety is always a concern on the water. Last year, 97 people drowned in the Great Lakes. This year we may be on track to exceed that number as fatalities stand at 94 as of Sept 30th. Indeed, as this is being written, units of the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, 424 Squadron Search and Rescue from CFB Trenton and police units are scouring the west end of Lake Ontario for a solo sailor from Oakville ON who is missing. His sailboat was found drifting off Rochester NY.

It is important to wear a life jacket and to cultivate a safety mindset. From personal experience last year, I can tell you that the simplest situation can turn deadly in a breathtakingly short period of time.

B. In September, judicial approval was granted to Enbridge Inc to fully resume operation of the Michigan Great Lakes oil pipeline after a partial shutdown this summer because of damage to a support structure. Better known as ‘Line 5’, the twinned pipeline lies beneath the Straits of Mackinac. This 65 year old pipeline has been the focus of controversy as groups have argued strenuously that it should be shut down due to the risk of an environmental catastrophe.

It is interesting to note that in the event of a leak, the emergency shutoff valves would take 3 minutes to close. During that time, approximately 360,000 barrels of crude oil would be released into the pristine waters of the Strait.

Enbridge is currently seeking a permit to construct a tunnel under the Strait in which to run the pipeline. In the course of the construction, it is seeking permission to release up to 5 million gallons per day of wastewater and chemical slurries into the Strait. Needless-to-say, the debate at the 1st of 2 hearings was ‘spirited’.

If you are not happy with the idea of possibly sailing through spoiled waters along a fouled coast, consider joining or supporting one of the many environment groups opposed to this. At the very least, write to your Governor or state elected officials. In Ontario, write to the Premier or your MPP.

C. According to the International Centre for Waterspout Research, the highest number of waterspouts ever recorded took place recently over the Great Lakes during a seven-day period. The majority of these occurred on Lake Erie. There were 232 waterspouts between Sept 28 and Oct 4. An incredible 82 occurred on Oct 1st alone.

6. Letters

In a previous issue, I asked for examples of how people have spent this past summer considering that the entire sailing season had been turned on its ear. I received a reply from Gary Hubley who owns a Gulfstar 36 trawler up on the North Channel.

I thought his letter captured so much of the essence of what many of us have had to deal with. His letter displays humour, thoughtful reflection and a generosity that springs from a shared response to a common threat facing us all. Here is his letter.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that after 18 months of daily work and rewarding labours, my house is finished !!! Changing the engine in my boat was good training for keeping my ADD brain on track. The COVID came just as I was losing steam to finish the house and I had actually decided to finish it next year. So I spent the lockdown working on finishing the house with occasional visits from Mom.

It was not lonely but definitely a quiet time that I enjoyed whilst many people suffered isolation. Mom was a Scottish war bride so I heard new stories of children going to the bunker with bombs dropping and single mothers keeping calm and being stoic in times of imminent danger. Wearing a mask seemed a tiny hardship. The solitude brought about morning appreciation time as a habit, not a novelty. 

Both my sons lost their jobs. Mom lives alone with a spartan social life. No one complains. We talk daily. Last year it was weekly. The new normal has mellowed my daily life but I feel younger and more grateful and compassionate. 

As we embark on yet another wave I extend my helping hand to all. I fill my days but my work is done so being helpful to others gives value to my time.

Stay safe

(Note: Lightly edited to remove personal identification details)

7. Winter Decommissioning

This is the time of the year when all good things must end (temporarily). Boats have to be hauled, systems need to be winterized and everything need to be made shipshape for a long cold slumber til next spring.

To help with the process, we have a detailed winter decommissioning checklist from BoatUS. Look in the Free Resources section of the website for the Decommissioning Checklist

8) More Nautical Terminology

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

Bluenose: the name given to men and vessels from Nova Scotia. Derived from either a) the effect of the North Atlantic weather on a sailor's face or b) the Nova Scotia Bluenose potato, considered by some to be the best there is.

Blue Peter: the merchant mariner's name for the International Signal Code "P" flag - a blue flag with a white rectangle in its centre. Flown in harbour from the masthead, it signaled for sailors to return to the ship as she was sailing that day. The origin of the name 'Peter' is uncertain but a reasonable guess is that its a corruption of the word 'repeater', having been also used at sea to request that another ship repeat its message.

Boatswain: pronounced "bos'n"; the leading petty officer on the deck of a merchant ship. On a Navy or Coast Guard ship, the position is called 'boatswain's mate'. Derived from the English word swain or Old English swan meaning attendant.

Bristol: neat, clean, well-turned-out, totally shipshape. The term comes from the days when Bristol England was a large and busy port. Ships from Bristol were renowned for how shipshape they were.

Burgee: a term for a triangular flag or pennant common with yacht clubs. In previous centuries, it was the name for the 'house' or 'owners' flag. Comes from the French word bourgeois which had an earlier meaning of owner or master.

Burgoo: several meanings for food on board a ship in the 17th and 18th centuries; could be oatmeal porridge or hard tack and molasses or stew. Regardless, it was pretty simple; derived from the Arabic word burgbul, a dish of wheat that was dried and then boiled.

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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