Sunday, March 16, 2014


Cutter ACACIA assisted ferry C. G. Richter on several occasions over
the years, usually following transit from homeport in Sturgeon Bay.
(photo date unknown, but thought to be from the late 1970s)
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

In the blog posted just before this one, I mentioned the navigation difficulties experienced by both large commercial vessels, and also the Coast Guard icebreakers.

The Acacia and similar buoy tenders of her class had multiple missions.  The age of this class buoy tender also revealed a need for cutters with better ice breaking capabilities, and this led the way to the "Bay" class vessels.  The Mobile Bay stationed in Sturgeon Bay, and the Biscayne Bay assigned to St. Ignace, Michigan, were two of the nine vessels that came off the ways in 1978 and 1979, at a time when commercial ore vessels hoped to ramp up winter operations.  The need for more regular supply of  raw materials at mills was married with a plan to execute year-around navigation (or nearly so) on the Great Lakes.

From reader Jim Legault I received an interesting observation from 1978 when he was crew aboard an ore boat on its last run of the season before layup.

[After I typically post a blog, I'll look at the revolving globe to see the origins of readers as they come online.  One morning, quite early, a red "ping" jumped out from the map.  The city was Merida, in the Yucatan, Mexico.   I knew it was Jim Legault, also up at an early hour.  Jim hadn't visited the Island for several years, and we rarely communicated during that time.  But it turns out he reads my blogs, keeping in touch through whatever I happen to post.]

Below is Jim's email received yesterday, reprinted with his permission.  He's an excellent photographer, and several decades ago he published a book on Great Lakes environmental changes, Reflections On A Tarnished Mirror.  In 1990 I relied on his advice and expertise to put together a photo history book, Over and Back.  Today, Jim uses many of his fine photos for websites he develops to advance eco-tourism marketing efforts in the Yukatan region.

    I have enjoyed your recent blogs about the Coast Guard helicopter mechanical problems, ice conditions, and the Roger Blough stuck in the ice.  The combination unlocked  a few frozen memories of sailing in the first extended sailing season on the Great Lakes in 1977-78. The federal Government agreed to pay the shipping companies for the damages incurred in the experiment. The shipping companies saw it as potential windfall to fix some of their tired old equipment.

I had just finished the work on Reflections in a Tarnished Mirror, was dead broke and needed some quick cash to catch up.  (Sailing turned out to be) a windfall for me, too.

I met the SS Crispin Oglebay in Escanaba about the 12th of January, and after a very slow trip through the Straits of Mackinaw with an ice breaker assist (The Mackinaw), we passed through Lake Huron fairly unobstructed.  After another slow trip in the rivers and Lake St Clair we joined a convoy (6 ships, I think) with ice breaker North Wind leading us into the western end of Lake Erie. Very slow going, but we kept going.  As the convoy approached Cleveland with the last loads of the year, we were stopped dead.

It took almost 9 days to make as many miles, with Cleveland in sight the whole time.  First, all alcohol was consumed [by some crew members], next all the ice cream, and finally, all the sugar, as the alcoholics tried to replace alcohol with sugar.  

For a time we anchored, as wind-rowed ice passed by on the port side driven by easterly strong winds. On our starboard side, solid ice, strong winds, no motion and the lights of Cleveland.  About day six, a Coast Guard helicopter landed midship and delivered milk, prime rib - and no alcohol, but more ice cream and  cigarettes.  The drunks talked about heading out on foot, and it wasn't the whiskey talking.

The reason we were trapped, I found out later, was that the ice was compressed against the Lake Erie shore by the strong winds. It was then a storm of the century arrived that wind shifted and the ice pressure was relieved. We tied up on the Cleveland lake front, the drunks took taxis to the Flats (an area of bars and clubs close by), and then the wind blew almost 100mph and the barometric pressure fell to 28.28 inches (the lowest non tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded up to that time in the inland US).

Here in the Yucatan the wind is warm (and from above, a slow moving ceiling fan).
I`ve been busy here doing photos for a project studying an endemic species of Hummingbird  (Mexican Sheartail, Doricha Eliza ) with a research University in Merida. They live only here in Yucatan in a narrow strip along the gulf coast, and there are a few in the State of Veracruz. The project was Funded by Nat. Geo. and there will at least be a few photos in a photo gallery on their website and they are likely use some of the video I shot in some way. 
Give my best to Mary Jo and the family. My sharpie is pretty close to launch-ready, so hopefully I will have a chance to spend a little time on the Island this summer.

Your blog is the only regular connection I maintain with Door County. I enjoy it. Thanks. 

These websites show examples of his photography in an area teeming with fish and wildlife.         A new website dedicated to birding in Rio Lagartos .        Website for Rio Lagartos Adventures (Diego Nunez)   

Jim added this information on the super-low recorded during that January storm he referred to in his email:

The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the Cleveland Superbomb,[1] was a historic winter storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes from Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978. The 28.28 inches (958 millibars) barometric pressure measurement recorded in Cleveland, Ohiowas the lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the mainland United States until theUpper Midwest Storm of October 26, 2010 (28.20" measured at 5:13PM CDT at Bigfork Municipal Airport, Bigfork, MN). The lowest central pressure for the 1978 blizzard was 28.05" (953 mb) measured in southern Ontario a few hours after the aforementioned record in Cleveland.[2] On rare occasions, extra-tropical cyclones with central pressures below 28 inches of mercury or about 95 kPa (950 mb) have been recorded in Wiscasset, Maine (27.9") and Newfoundland (27.76").[3]

 -  Dick Purinton 

1 comment:

guerdon said...

Thought you might find this interesting!