Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Now You See It...
Now You Don't
I spent many years sailing my 42 foot Hans Christian cutter on Lake Michigan. I visited many ports and did many single-handed crossings. On every one of these passages I had a complete set of charts aboard and studied each before going near shore or a new port. Still, that wasn't enough. I also utilized one of a sailor's most valuable source of navigational info: local knowledge.

No one knew the waters of a certain area better than those who lived and sailed them frequently. Lake levels varied considerably during those years, and local skippers were more than willing to let me know that over there the rocks will tear your bottom out. The charts, admittedly not updated, showed plenty of clearance over those rocks; but the lake was down, and my boat drew six feet of water.

Around Milwaukee, I have the local knowledge. I know where the hazards are hiding. I know how, when the wind blows from the NE, the lake gets deeper here at the southern end and rocks that were visible hide under a few inches of water. I know where a mild surge will play the "now you see it, now you don't" game with obstructions; and I stay the hell away from there.

If you are fortunate enough to have the time and means to pry new waters, I highly recommend you have a cup of coffee where the local skippers hang out. They love to tell stories (like mine, many are true) and willing to share information. The shortest distance between you and your next take out may be a straight line, but a straight line may not be the safest route.

Paddle safe...

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