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Rhumb Line -- News from Great Lakes
May 14, 2019

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.

Spring 2019

New at Great Lakes Sailing

1. Update

2. New Ports

3. Spring Commissioning

4. Water Levels on the Great Lakes

5. New Border Crossing App

6. Dealing With Seasickness

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


Its been a number of months since I have written anything in Rhumb Line. The press of other obligations took me away and as time went on, it became harder to get caught up.

What I have decided to do is publish Rhumb Line on a quarterly basis. Same emphasis on short articles that appeal to Great Lakes sailors, just a longer time frame.


(a) Bruce Mines, ON

Bruce Mines was the site of the first ever commercially successful copper mine in Canada and the second in North America. The area was settled in 1846 by Cornish mine workers brought over to work the mines. Named after James Bruce, the Governor-General of Canada, the mines were successful through the 1870's when declining profits forced their closure. Briefly resurrected during WWI, the mines have been inactive for nearly a century.

Today, Bruce Mines is a busy community with a lot for to cruising sailor to see and enjoy. To visit this neat little port, click here.

(b) Kenosha, WI

For much of the 20th century, Kenosha was a manufacturing powerhouse, building millions of automobiles with such brands as Rambler, Nash, Hudson and American Motors Corporation (AMC). In fact, in 1902, Nash produced the first automobile that used a steering wheel instead of the usual tiller steering arrangement.

There is no shortage of fun things for a sailor to do in Kenosha so to find out more about this port, click here.

(c) Port Franks, ON

Port Franks is a village located on the east coast of Lake Huron, south of the popular harbour of Grand Bend. The village was established by the Canada Company in the late 1840's. It was moved to its present location at the mouth of the Ausable River in 1851.

Today, it is a quiet village and a perfect stop-over to spend a lazy day or two. To visit Port Franks, click here.


In boatyards all around the Great Lakes, days are filled with the sounds of sailors getting their boats ready for launch. There is a ritual that seems unvaried as the years spin by. Waxing, hauling bags of sails and kit, the slat of lines against masts as sails are mounted again, the rattle of chain as anchors are being positioned or checked, etc. And of course, the hum of conversation.

Following a thorough checklist as you prepare to launch your boat after a winter layup can help ensure you don't miss anything important. Here is a rather comprehensive checklist that hopefully covers most if not all of the items you need to address. And, when the hard work is done and you are ready to splash, take a moment to reflect on your hard work again this spring and maybe enjoy with a cold beer in the company of some good friends and fellow sailors.

On our Free Resources page, you will find a fairly comprehensive Spring Commissioning Checklist.



The news media has been full of articles this spring about high waters in the Great Lakes basin and flooding in many communities. Water levels are up everywhere

The recent wet conditions have caused water levels to climb and currently, water levels across the basin are 8 to 12 inches above last year’s water levels at this time. In the past month, most of the Great Lakes have seen rises in water level. The following are the increases by lake:

Lakes Superior: 5 inches /.13 metres
Lake Michigan: 3 inches / .08 metres
Lake Huron: 3 inches / .08 metres
Lake Ontario: 7 inches / .18 metres

Both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie are actually down 1 inch / .03 metres.

Translated into depth, this is what May looks like across the Great Lakes basin:

Lake Superior: 20 inches / .51 metres above chart datum
Lake Michigan: 44 inches / 1.12 metres above chart datum
Lake Huron: 44 inches / 1.12 metres above chart datum
Lake St. Clair: 58 inches / 1.47 metres above chart datum
Lake Erie: 63 inches / 1.60 metres above chart datum
Lake Ontario: 55 inches / 1.40 metres above chart datum

Projections from the US Army Corps of Engineers predicts that Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron will see a further increase in June by an additional 3-4 inches / .09 metres and Lake Ontario an additional 7 inches / .18 metres. Lakes St. Clair and Erie are projected to drop slightly by 1 inch / .03 metres.

There are government websites that monitor water levels continuously, 1 in Canada and the other in the United States.

Canada: Fisheries And Oceans Canada here. USA: NOAA here.


Within the past year, the United States Customs & Border Protection Agency has developed and distributed a new smartphone/tablet app. Boaters can use this as an alternative method for clearing into the United States.

The following information is from CBP’s official site. There is a link to the site below.

“As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) comprehensive effort to improve the security of our nation's borders while enhancing legitimate travel, CBP has launched the CBP Reporting Offsite Arrival – Mobile (ROAM) app.”

"The CBP ROAM app is a free mobile application that provides an option for pleasure boaters to report their U.S. entry to CBP via their personal smart device or a tablet located at local businesses to satisfy the above reporting requirements. In limited areas, travellers arriving in remote locations may also be eligible to use the CBP ROAM app. Contact your local POE to confirm arrival notifications via the CBP ROAM app are accepted. “The CBP ROAM app also qualifies as an Alternative Inspection System that satisfies the boat operator's legal requirement to report for face-to-face inspection in accordance with 8 CFR 235.1 with some exceptions....”

Without a doubt, this app can speed things along. However, I think it is also prudent to consider the security of this app, as you would any other app on your device. The website is silent about permissions but according to Google Play Store, it requires access to your camera, microphone, location, telephone and ability to “read the contents of your SD [memory] card”.

The link to the CBP description and access to the app can be found here.


For some people, seasickness or motion sickness is a curse that robs them of so much of the pleasure of sailing. While I have never suffered from this, I know others who have. So, I decided to see if there was a way to gather in 1 place some ideas and options that people could use to counter this debilitating condition.

The article can be found on our Free Resources page here.

6. 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.

Lanyard This word was originally spelled Land Yard. It meant a small piece of cord or string of a regulation length of 3 feet - in other words, a landsman's measure of 1 yard.

Euchre & Anchors In the card game Euchre, the jacks in the deck of cards are named for the main anchors carried on a ship - the right and left 'bowers'.

Ahoy This traditional sailor's greeting was originally a Viking battle cry.

Yankee the nickname YANKEE was first applied to Americans by merchants in Holland. Because of argumentative traits of certain American captains trading with the Netherlands, the Dutch called them 'yankees' or wranglers.

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.

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Fair winds and following seas.

Michael Leahy, Publisher

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