Sunday, April 21, 2013

Great Lakes & Inland Lakes Cold Water Safety for Spring 2013

Great Lakes & Inland Lakes Cold Water Safety for Spring 2013

Coast Guard Recommendations for Keeping Safe on the Water in Spring, Especially for Canoeists, Kayakers & Boaters:

Coast Guard Cmdr. Buzzella reminds boaters that spring water temperatures are deadly cold, despite warming air temperatures and is working with local media to help Michigan learn how to enjoy the lakes safely in warm weather. During the week of April 15th, the USCG Air Station Traverse City is working with the media to demonstrate cold water recommendations, gear and safety procedures. Additionally, during spring local media will be reporting area water temperatures.
"Warm air inspires us all to get outside. When being outside means getting on the water, boaters put themselves in danger when they don't prepare for cold water," says Cmdr. Buzzella. "Even experienced boaters mistake a warm day for safe water temperatures and can fall prey to hypothermia if they end up in the water." Cold water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature and as a result, the body core immediately begins to lose heat. Strong currents, like rivers or waves can increase the speed of the heat loss.

The U. S. Coast Guard helped to produce this video on and recommends the following advice for enjoying the Great Lakes and inland lakes this spring.

Know the Water Temperature

 Weather reports on 9&10 News and 7&4 News will report spring water temperatures as part of their daily broadcast.

 NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) also provides daily reports at

Dress for the Water Weather

 Wear a life jacket

 Wear cold water clothing appropriate for the water temperature: wet suits, dry suits, etc.

 Charles River Canoe & Kayak uses the following chart with the recommendation that some people need more protection from cold.


60°F and up                                    low                                              Clothing for the weather

55-59°F                                         moderate                                      Wetsuit or drysuit

45-54°F                                         high                                              Drysuit recommended

below 45°F                                    extreme                                        Drysuit

On average, water in Lake Michigan doesn't pass the 60 degree F mark until mid to late June. So paddlers should be looking at wetsuits or better all spring.

The well dressed cold water paddler.

Two Boats Are Better

 Many people don't put their boats in the water until June or July. In spring there are very few neighbors who are going to be able to use their boat to get to you, so it's better to have that second boat already with you. As fast as the Coast Guard is, it may take them 30 minutes to scramble a rescue team and get to you--if they know right where you are. And in cold water you might not have that much time.

 In 2011 32 Great Lakes water fatalities were paddle craft fatalities. When paddling, in cold water, one boater can help the other out of the cold water and to shore where medical personnel can assist.

Take the Search Out of Search & Rescue--Use an EPIRB or PLB (personal locator beacon)

 EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacons)  and PLB's signal maritime distress. An activated EPIRB or PLB broadcasts a repeating SOS signal with integrated GPS location from virtually any point on earth. The signal is received by COSPAS/SARSAT satellites which identifies the beacon's position within a few hundred yards in mere minutes. Make sure your EPIRB/PLB has been registered with NOAA and that the information is up to date.
 Flares, glow sticks, flashlights help rescue personal find your craft at night.

 Protect your cell phone with a waterproof dry sack and attach that to your life vest.

Always file a float plan with a responsible person ashore.  Tell them where your are going, what type of craft you are using, and when to expect you back.  Call this person upon your return so they do not worry and call for a search.

Rachel North of Suttons Bay, lost her brother, an experienced sailor, kayaker and canoeist, David Dickerson, on April 21st last year to hypothermia. He went canoeing on Omena Bay on a bright spring day where the temperature topped 50 degrees and the wind was 5 mph. "He was always the capable guy, with the exact right gear and experience to handle any situation. One might see him practice emptying a waterlogged canoe in Omena Bay by pushing down the bow, lifting the stern up until the water emptied out and he would flip in," says North.

North explains, "Whatever turned him out of his canoe that day put him in 41 degree water wearing his life jacket, shorts and a fleece. The coroner's report indicated that he had about 6 minutes before hypothermia set in. And all the equipment he needed to survive that accident was in his closet. And even though I've boated on these lakes all my life, I wouldn't have stopped him and said, 'Hey, go get your wetsuit.' Well with the Coast Guard's help, we're changing that."

Rachel North hopes that by telling her brother's story and sharing all that she's learned, more people will own and use the proper clothing and equipment for spring and fall boating. And more people will pay attention to the water temperature when they go boating.

"Be safe, enjoy the Great Lakes in spring and take lots of pictures," says North.

For more information, visit

Thanks to Rachel North for bringing this to the public's attention. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crew Hoist Training at Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

This morning Inland Seas' crew got some valuable training from the U. S. Coast Guard on how to handle a helicopter evacuation.  We trained right under the helicopter, which gave us an understanding of the noise and rotor blast that we could expect in an actual rescue. Hopefully we will never need to do this, but now we are much better prepared.

Final Briefing on the Flight Line

Our Dolphin Helicopter, 6527, taking off

Lowering the basket, trail line hanging below.

Our crew pulling in the trail line to guide the basket "on deck"

Our group with 6527 & USCG hanger in background
Our instructor, Lt. Chris Breuer
Thanks to Lt. Breuer, the crew of 6527, and all the USCG staff at Air Station Traverse City for this training.

--Tom Kelly, Master,  INLAND SEAS 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Secrets Under Lake Huron is Great Lakes Seminar Topic

On Monday April 15th at 7pm, the Inland Seas Education Association will host a seminar titled “Secrets Under Lake Huron”. 

ISEA is excited to present Dr. Guy Meadows, the Director of Great Lakes Initiatives at the Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Technological University . Dr. Meadows will be speaking of his research of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, an underwater limestone ridge that diagonally crosses Lake Huron. During the period 7,500-10,000 years ago, when lake levels were much lower, this ridge was exposed at the surface. This ridge may have been used by ancient hunters to create a "drive lane" to facilitate hunting of caribou. Dr. Meadows will discuss this underwater discovery and the evidence of early human occupation.

This seminar is free and open to the public. 

Happy Spring

April on the Inland Seas - Tough to bend on the sails in this weather.
Photo: Bob Hagerman

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Concrete Canoe Race Comes To Suttons Bay

Due to thick ice in the planned race site at Houghton, the American Society of Civil Engineers Student Concrete Canoe race was held in Suttons Bay on April 7 & 9.  Thanks to Gary Hoensheid for organizing the change in venue, to ISEA's Allen Wolf for driving the safety boat (our schooner's rescue boat) and setting the buoys, SBHS Principal Rittenhouse for providing signs and parking space, and the Village of Suttons Bay for the use of South Shore Park and other help. 

Michigan Tech won the race event and the overall competition.  Nice work MTU!  Click here for complete competition results.
MTU's Mattie Martin and her crew keep the event rolling.  Flexibility is key!

Opps!  U of M's bow broke off upon launch. 

Lawrence Tech's team prepares to launch their boat.  Team work!

The U of M team bringing their wounded boat into ISEA's Boat Shop for emergency repairs.

ISEA's Boat Shop provided a warm and dry place for the U of M team to make repairs.  They were back on the water the next day for the races.

ISEA Captain Allen Wolf and MTU's John setting buoys before the races.  Water temp: 37 degrees.

Many teams had tents.  MTU had a gas fire going!  Smart. 

First race of the day.

MTU's winning boat with female paddlers in the first race.

Everyone had a great time despite the cold.  We hope to see the concrete canoe racers again in Suttons Bay.  I have extended an invitation to for the teams join us on July 20th for the Classic Boat Show.  I promised warmer waters.

--Tom K. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pram Class Graduation Day

Today ISEA graduated ten students in its Pram Build and Sail Program.  These young students have been working in the ISEA Boat Shop since February to learn how to safely work with tools, how to work cooperatively, and how to have fun gaining new skills. 
Instructors are recognized for their dedication.  John M., Bill E., Terry S. , Mike C. , Sandy S. & Chuck D.
Not present were Sandy K., Larry W., Toni D., Scott M., & Paul M. 

Graduates with diplomas

Graduates with new life jackets provided by ISEA
Build and Sail graduates will attend TACS sailing school this summer to learn how to sail the boats they built.

Special thanks to Chuck Dickerson for his leadership in this program.

--Tom K. 

First Bloody Red Shrimp Record for Suttons Bay

The first sighting of a bloody red shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, was made today in a sample from an experimental plankton pump, set up to run overnight at the ISEA Schooner Dock in Suttons Bay.  This animal is an invasive species from the Black - Azov - Caspian Sea area of Eurasia.  It likely got to the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ships.  For more on Hemimysis ecology, look at the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species web site.

The plankton pump was in its first overnight test, starting on Friday afternoon, April 5, 2013.  The pump was at 0.84 meters depth on a rocky substrate. Unfortunately the battery did not have enough capacity to run the pump for 24 hours, so the next test will incorporate an inverter or battery charger to keep the battery voltage the same throughout the pumping period.  Despite the failure of this first test to give a quantitative result, we did find what we were looking for, the bloody red shrimp.  This zooplankton has been previously found in Muskegon Lake and Elk Rapids. 

After the plankton pump sampler is perfected we intend to sample a number of harbors in NW Michigan, and we will add this to the sampling gear of the Schoolship Inland Seas to sample ports visited this summer.

Hemimysis collected from Suttons Bay, April 5 - 6, 2013

Hemimysis tail section showing telson

Hemimysis showing characteristic twin spikes on the squared-off telson
More results will be posted on this blog as they become available.

-Thomas M. Kelly - ISEA Executive Director
-Graham P. Kelly - ISEA Student Intern

Friday, April 5, 2013

SB Student Intern Graham Kelly Launches Zooplankton Pump Sampler

ISEA's high school intern Graham Kelly initiated the first test of his zooplankton pump sampler at the ISEA schooner dock today.  The sampler consists of a submersible Rule bilge pump, hose, 153 micron plankton net, and car battery.  This first test will run overnight to determine the effectiveness of this method on night-active zooplankton (knowing that the numbers and species diversity is limited at this time of year).   Graham and his dad will return to the dock tomorrow to collect the sample. 

An earlier test showed that copepods can pass through the device intact. 
Graham with zooplankton pump sampler

Checking flow into net

Car battery, graduated cylinder (used to measure flow rate), volt meter

Pump, hose and net.  Battery is now covered by plastic box. 

We'll publish results as available. 

--Co-Investigator & Dad,   Tom K.