Category Archives: Sailing & Boating

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.







Lowering the Mast of a Catalina 27

It was a bittersweet decision. We had to bring our sailboat home. Our plans for next year did not include the stress of putting our sailboat in only to use it a few times. We thought that we would put our Catalina 27 on our lot next to the cottage. This would save the cost of the boat yard and she would be more protected from the blistering winds of the harbor. The one problem was the mast. Since we bought her we have never lowered the mast. There are plenty of YouTube videos on single handedly un-stepping a mast from a trailerable sailboat. However I struggled finding reference material on the process for larger boats. Specifically a step by step guide that one could use as reference to lowering a mast. It just doesn’t exist. Hopefully you will find this a useful bit of information for your own boat. This assumes that you’re using a crane or a gin-pole and have at least one or two helpers.

Tools: Needle nose plyers, screwdriver, bungee cords, large zip ties and three foot pieces of line to lash the mast in place.

Deck prep – Measure and cut 2x4s for platforms for the bow pulpit (~24 inches) and across the stern pulpit. (~72 inches) Some larger sailboats have extensive cowling supports to hold their 500 lb. mast. The Catalina 27 standard rig mast tops off at about 300 lb. with all the attached rigging and lines so you have the option of using this method just has the trailerable Catalina 22’s can do. Mounting to the bow and stern pulpits so that the mast just rides above the cabin in all the clearance you need. You can rap the board in a towel if you don’t want to maar a painted mast.

Remove the boom including the gooseneck slide – With all the sails removed unshackle the topping lift and detach the boom gooseneck fitting from the mast. You may be tempted to leave the slide in place but go ahead and remove it and reattached to the end of the gooseneck. This will ensure that your hardware doesn’t get misplaced. Once removed you can secure the boom on the deck or move it down into the cabin.

Secure jib halyard, topping lift and main halyard to mast – If all your lines run back to the cockpit remove each line separately from any blocks and secure to the lowest mast cleat you have or clip each to a line that is run around the mast and is jammed into a low cleat or winch. Dress any tails of the three lines or wrap them up with zip ties.

Loosen turnbuckles and power lines – Loosen shroud turnbuckles and remove cotter pins but do not remove the clevis pins from the chain plate until the mast is secured with a lift line. Detach the power lines for the mast lights, VHF and Wind vane.

Secure lift line – If you’re using a crane or gin pole, wrap the lift line around your mast. Raise the line until the loop is tucked just under the spreaders. Be sure not to get wrapped up around the bow light. Once the line is under the spreaders tighten enough to remove any slack.

The uplifting moment of truth – Once the lift line is snug and secure around your mast loosen and gently remove the forestay or your furling drum. At the same time remove the backstay and all the shrouds. Walk all the rigging to the mast and bungee the mess around the mast. If you have a roller furling set it aside so it won’t get damaged or pinched. Remove the two bolts from the base of the mast. One everything is in place one person needs to ”hug” and guide the mast up and off the plate. Once off about an inch stop and ensure all the power lines are detached. Ours had a plug that was inside the mast that had to be separated.

Walk it back – Gently walk the bottom of the mast to your stern and place on the 2×4 you mounted on the pulpit. Make double sure that your roller furling system does not get pinched or twisted in the rigging. Make sure the spreaders don’t hit the top of cabin hatch.

Dress it up – Use zip ties to secure the rigging about every two feet along the mast. Make sure nothing is hanging off the sides or drooping into the cockpit. Lash the mast to the 2×4’s if you’re going to trailer or move the boat to its cradle.

While there are many ways to lower a mast, this offers those who have never had to drop theirs some insight of what to expect. It you have your own hints or special tips please comment. We appreciate your insight.