Category Archives: Sailing & Boating

Transom Charm – What’s In a Name

“The name selected for a boat may not seem like an important thing. But, considering the strong feelings many of us have for our boats; the fact that we put so much work, and sweat and money into them; the fact they are a big part of our memories of so many good times, with family, with friends; the fact that sometimes our very lives are in the safekeeping of our boat; most of us feel that selecting the right name for our boat is important.”- The Frugal Mariner

Three Great Sailing Movies

I’m a recreational sailer. I’ve been sailing on Saginaw Bay since I was a little kid. We started off sailing Snarks and Sunfish. In the early 1970’s my dad took advantage of a marketing campaign by Kool cigarettes where we could purchase a Snark with the white and green KOOL logo on the sail. We still have this old boat and manage to bring her our to play with from time to time. One of the things that irks me is the lack of movie entertainment that revolves around my favorate pass time. I’ve managed to collect a few examples here.

Wind (1992) – Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine, loses the Americas Cup, the worlds biggest sailing prize, to the Australians and decides to form his own syndicate to win it back. Matthew Modine as Will Parker, Jennifer Grey as Kate Bass and Cliff Robertson as Morgan Weld

All is Lost (2013) – What happens when a single handed sailer hits a shipping container in the Pacific damaging his boat only to be followed by a storm. Robert Redford plays an unnamed character who must face is mortaility and use his wits to survive.

Dead Calm (1989) –  A wacked out murderer comes aboard and tries to seduce a young woman after leaving her husband to die on a sinking ship  whose crew he’s just slaughtered. Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane.

A Look Back – 2012 Marina’s Scramble as Water Levels Dropped

We tend to focus on the here and now. However its great to step back and take a look at the recent past. Five years ago the entire Great Lakes was witness to low water levels not seen since 1964. Marina’s were dredging, boats were being damaged on shallow reefs not seen a generation and lake shipping was facing hard times.  There was serious concern on how far it would go and what would happen next.  Some credit the winter of 2014 with turning things around. With the lakes frozen over evaporation was minimized and the levels rebounded.  Here is a post from September 2012.

I got a voice mail early Monday morning from Hoy’s Saginaw Bay Marina in Caseville, “Mike, the wind was really blowing last night and we would like to get your sailboat out. It’s bouncing on the bottom.”  It was the last week in September and we usually try to squeeze one or two of the last day-sails in early October. However I had been monitoring the MichiganHuron lake levels an knew that we had a good chance of seeing a record low last seen in 1964. With a four foot draft we had already settled in the thick muck in our slip in August. I imagined our Catalina 27 hung fast and listing in the shallows. I called back, and Pete told me that they were looking to get all the sailboats out. I told him to go ahead and pull her out. I would see him on the weekend.

Low Water at Caseville Harbor

Pulling into the marina Melissa and I were shocked to see the boat yard full of boats on hard dock in late September. Over the week the Hoy’s crew managed to get all of the big Trawlers out and most of the “Sticks”. (Sailboats)  When we rolled in, there were two boats idling in what was left of the narrow channel waiting to be hauled out. We took a walk up toward the break wall of Caseville harbor and noticed the inner most red can channel buoy hard aground just outside the Huron Yacht Club. This is the mark where I drop our speed in order to not make a wake as we enter the inner harbor. We took shots around the break wall and back just outside the HYC which you can see here.

Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor
Channel Bouy Aground at Caseville Harbor

Caseville Harbor

The Official Account

The US Army Corps of Engineers noted that Lake Michigan-Huron is 12 inches lower than its level of a year ago. Lakes St. Clair, Erie, and Ontario are down 14, 15, and 10 inches, respectively, lower than their levels of a year ago. Over the next month, Lake Superior is forecast to drop another 1 inch from its current level, while Lake Michigan-Huron is expected to fall another 2 inches. The Corps noted that as of now Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron are below chart datum. They are in record low territory. At this point we are wondering if we will be able to get “Trillium” back into the water next Spring.

Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor
Low Water Make Narrow Channel At Caseville Harbor


Support the Coast Guard for the Great Lakes

Michigan is a great spot for a holiday break or vacation spot.  There are loads of things to do – something to keep the whole family busy. In summer, there’s endless water activities on the Lake and of course in winter there’s fun ice sports.

1000w_q95 (2)Michigan, stands at the centre of activities in the region and is the hub of the Great Lakes waterway system, the world’s largest fresh water source. Describing them as Lakes is possibly a gross understatement, as it does not give true perspective of the vastness of the Great Lakes, region. They are more inland seas than lakes.

The Great Lakes covers a water area more than 94,250 square miles and has a coastline shared with Canada of 10,900 miles. Michigan’s Great Lakes coast totals 3,288 mi, more coastline than any state but Alaska. The task of looking after such a large area is daunting. The amount of commerce carried by Great Lakes shipping exceeds $40B annually. The fishing economy stands at $10B. The US Coast Guard plays a vital role for each of the Great Lakes States and the national economy.

The entire Great Lakes region falls under the responsibility of the Ninth Coast Guard District and responsible for all Coast Guard operations throughout the five Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence Seaway and parts of the surrounding states including 6,700 miles of shoreline and 1,500 miles of the international border with Canada.  With over 6,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary men and women whose primary role is in in services in search and rescue, maritime safety and security, environmental protection, maritime law enforcement, aids to navigation and icebreaking.

To give you some idea of the extent of the Coast Guards responsibility one needs to consider that there are around 4.6 million registered craft in the Great Lakes.

There are 47 separate Coast Guard stations scattered across the Great Lakes in four HarborBeach1separate Sector areas; Buffalo, Detroit, Lake Michigan and Sault Saint Marie. The entire Upper Thumb is in the Detroit Command as far north as Tawas.

So just how does the Coast Guard protect the Great Lakes. Let’s have a look at some of the key areas of their mission:

  • Safety inspections are one of the disciplines that the Coast Guard uses to ensures safety on the Great Lakes. Every year, thousands of on-board inspections are carried out to ensure that craft and personnel comply with laid down safety standards. Unsafe craft and intoxication are amongst the major causes of concern.

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  • Search and rescue operations are carried out regularly and hundreds of lives are saved every year. The USGC reports that on a typical year they respond to over 20,000 distress calls. The responders are typically 19-24 years old and highly trained for the task. It is thanks to the brave men and women of the US Coast Guard that distress calls are responded to promptly and professionally.
  • 1000w_q95Navigational aids and systems – The Coast Guard is responsible for navigational aids such as light houses and buoys, ensuring that the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway are safe and clearly navigable. There are around 262 lighthouses within US waters, which will give some idea of the significance of the task at hand. An issue that seriously adds to the work load is the fact that many of the buoys are removed from the water during the winter season, because the ice would crush them if left in the water. These all need to be precisely repositioned in the warmer months. In the lower Great Lakes, the USCGC Hollyhock is a 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tender responsible for nearly 150 aids-to-navigation on the lower Great Lakes. Built in 2003 the Tender’s primary missions are aids-to-navigation, search and rescue, environmental protection and domestic ice-breaking.



  • Patrols & Border control – Regular water and reconnaissance patrols are done to keep a watchful eye out for possible problems. The Coast Guard Air Station Detroit is located on Selfridge Air National Guard base in the Northern suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. The Air Station covers the southern portion of Lake Huron, Lake St Clair, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Immigration checks can be conducted from this Air Station up to 100 miles away from our boarder with Canada.


The Great Lakes form such a vital cog in the socio-economic success of the region that it is heartening to know that the safety and wellbeing of both commercial and recreational activities are so well looked after by the Coast Guard. Recent budget proposal by the current administration look to cut $1.3B from the US Coast Guard. This would likely force closure of stations and retirement of assets used in search and rescue operations.

Images and information provided by the USCG.