News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lakeside Wooden Boat Show

What could be more enjoyable than spending the day around old wooden boats? Nothing, as I learned Sunday during my attendance at the Wooden Boat Show in Lakeside, Ohio. The weather could not have been more perfect, either, with sunny skies and a stiff breeze from the northeast that cooled things down just right. Mame Drackett, the tireless organizer of this popular annual event, is to be applauded for a well-organized, well-run show. I attend several different boat shows in the area but I the Lakeside show stands out for its homey, relaxed atmosphere.

This "Chautauqua on Lake Erie" is a real jewel, The onshore boats, which comprise the bulk of the exhibits, are nestled among huge shade trees overlooking the historic dock. These are mostly smaller boats, less than 20 feet in length, representing the most popular classic wooden boats, like Lyman and Chris Craft, but also a fair number of other makes and even a few you've probably never heard of. Mame and Bill Drackett can always be counted on to bring their own collection classic craft from the Sandusky Boat Works.

But enough talk. Let's look at some boats. The photographs below, and in successive posts, will I hope provide some flavor of what can only be described as a wonderful event. Enjoy the boats!

In-water boats arrive at the dock.
Lyman's lined up at the dock, old glory flying proudly in the sterns.
One of the many class boats on land was this 12' Thompson canvas over wood car-top boat.
This 1947 Chris Craft Express Cruiser was a show favorite
Rare Lyman 35' cabin cruiser

Monday, July 22, 2013

Test your knowledge about the War of 1812

Communities along the shores of Lake Erie are geared up to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, fought less than 15 miles from where I am writing this. Folks will be flocking from far and wide to see the veritable flotilla of tall ships as they converge at the western end of the lake for this grand celebration.

In the coming weeks I will be posting information about the events coming up during the Bicentennial festivities. Lake Erie is going to be in the national spotlight. You will want to be a part of it.

The Port Clinton News-Herald has posted this series of 20 questions to test your knowledge about this lesser-known yet important war in our history and so I thought I would share it with you.

Meanwhile, I urge everyone unfamiliar with the Battle of Lake Erie, or Oliver Hazard Perry, to take the time to become familiar with this fascinating part of our history. At the young age of 28, Perry courageously commanded a group of mostly green soldiers, sailors, and militiamen to victory. It was the first time in history an entire British fleet had been defeated. Following the victory, he scrawled on the back of an envelope the now famous words: "We have met the enemy and they are ours."Pretty cool stuff. Perry was an interesting man. I will write more about him in a later post as I delve into this most fascinating bit of local history.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lakeside Wooden Boat Show Tomorrow

A collaborative effort blending the craftsmanship of the Lakeside Wooden Boat Society (LWBS) and the artistic expression of the Lakeside Plein Air Art Festival will create one of Lakeside's most unique weekends of the Chautauqua season from July 19-21.

The Lakeside waterfront will transform into an outdoor showroom of classic wooden boats as these cruisers line the dock and the lawn of Hotel Lakeside at the annual Lakeside Wooden Boat Show from 12-5 p.m. Sunday, July 21.

More than 50 wooden boats, each classified based on the year of the model, will be featured.

The boats are categorized as historic (prior to 1918), antique (1919-1942), classic (1943-1975), early contemporary (1976-1984) and late contemporary (past 25 years). The sizes of the wooden boats range from 9' to 57'. If you would like to enter your boat, there is still time to register. For more information about registering your wooden boat, contact Mame Drackett at or (419) 798-2050 .

There will be many events throughout the day, including live entertainment, food and 30 plein air painters from across the Midwest. Lakesiders are invited to watch them paint. The term "en plein air" means painting "in the open air."

The artists will paint near Central Park at the Plein Air Paintout from 12-2:30 p.m. Children may paint on the Pavilion lawn from 1-3:30 p.m. for a fee of $2. This children's event is sponsored by the C. Kirk Rhein, Jr., Center for the Living Arts.

A Wet Paint Sale, held on the Pavilion lawn from 2:30-4:30 p.m., will display original paintings that were completed by the plein air artists in Lakeside.

I will be there with my trusty Nikon camera taking photos of the boats and will be posting them next week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saving the Port Clinton Lighthouse

For some sixty years a quaint little lighthouse, painted white with blue trim, has stood alongside the Portage River at Port Clinton, Ohio, a quiet reminder of the oft-forgot rich nautical history.

The Port Clinton Lighthouse, built in 1896, lies on private property at Brand's Marina, where its owner, Darrell Brand, had carefully preserved it since purchasing the marina from his predecessor, Dave Jeremy, some 30 years ago. It was Jeremy who, in 1952, was hired by the federal government to remove the structure from the end of the west breakwater pier after conversion to a plain electric light rendered the little lighthouse obsolete. With great foresight, Jeremy decided the light was worth preserving and placed in by the river.

A few years ago Brand decided he needed to take steps to ensure that the little lighthouse is permanently preserved so he began working with the mayor, Debbie Hymore-Tester, to transfer the light to the city so that it could be given a permanent home on the Lake Erie waterfront in the Waterworks Park. Soon after, the Port Clinton Lighthouse Conservancy was established to begin the process of restoration and provide an organizational structure for future fundraising that would be required to maintain the structure.

In December 2011 the Port Clinton City Council voted to accept the gift of the lighthouse as part of a "Phase II" plan to develop the Waterworks Park. However, the following month brought the election of a new mayor, Vince Leone, who had a different plan for the park and mothballed the Phase II plan. When he met with Brand in March of 2012, Leone refused to accept the lighthouse with "strings attached." Brand wanted an agreement with the city that guaranteed that if the city ever decided to sell, move, or use the lighthouse for some other purpose, it would revert to the Brand family. Brand also insisted that the lighthouse be placed on the Lake Erie waterfront.

Mayor Leone and the city administration have been working with a developer, Mike Rose of Washington Properties in Medina, Ohio, on a plan to develop the Waterworks Park. Current plans call for the construction of a fishing lodge complex that would include time-share condominium units and consume a 14.7 acre section of the existing park. After this plan was presented at a public meeting this past March, the Conservancy responded by submitting a comprehensive proposal explaining the economic and historic value of the lighthouse to the city and laying out a plan for placement that would not interfere with the proposed development. This was presented to the administration and council, and briefed to the public at the end of March.

Given the stalemate, the Conservancy then launched a grass roots campaign to educate the public on the issue, holding a series of public meetings and speaking to local civil groups. This led to a dialog opening up between the Conservancy and the City, but following a meeting with city officials in April the mayor told the group he was not willing to accept the lighthouse as long as there were strings attached.

Frustrated with the intransigence of city officials, and aware of the broad support for the lighthouse in the community, the Planning and Development Committee of the Port Clinton City Council met and voted to present a motion to the full council urging the city to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Conservancy to choose a waterfront location for the lighthouse and to develop a timeline for its placement. This motion received unanimous approval by the council at its meeting on May 28th, 2013.

The Conservancy hopes to work with the city administration to craft the MOU mandated by the council, resolve the impasse, and find a permanent home for this historic lighthouse.

In my next post I will give the history of the Port Clinton Lighthouse, and its predecessor light which was built in 1833.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thank you for supporting this blog

With well over 20,000 hits to date, it is clear that Lake Erie Winds has become a regular stopping place for many of you, and for that I offer my profound gratitude. I regret that my current work schedule does not allow me to post with more regularity.

Lake Erie is an incredible natural resource that is nonetheless beset with many challenges. I have tried to offer a small taste of what it means to live with this great body of water, brief glimpses of her history, and some passing insights into a few of the many challenges she faces. I feel fortunate if I have fulfilled but a fraction of these humble goals.

I will continue to post as time allows. I appreciate your comments and input. On occasion inappropriate comments are posted. These I will delete as they come to my attention. Thank you for being appropriate and respectful in your comments. In particular I want to thank those of you who have offered suggestions on future blog topics.

Thanks for viewing!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunset Sonata

Lake Erie is known for its breathtaking sunsets. Here are some photographs I took of sunsets during the past two weeks that I found particularly striking.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cold Water Burning: Gasland and the Fight Over Fracking

A man featured in the film Gasland shows Josh Fox how to light tap water.
This blog is about Lake Erie but sometimes a topic, although not directly related to our great lake, is nonetheless so important that it begs my attention. This is one.

Last evening I was invited to join some friends in a viewing of Gasland, a 2010 American documentary film written and directed by Josh Fox. Over the next two hours I nibbled popcorn and listened silently as Fox narrated this sad tale of industry greed government. By the end credits I felt drained but grateful that I had seen this informative and disturbing film. I also found myself wishing and hoping that a mostly disinterested public would forgo just one evening of Dancing with the Stars and American Idol to watch this important documentary.

In May 2008, Fox received a letter from a natural gas company offering to lease his family’s land in Milanville, Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas. Wanting to know what made the gas below ground so valuable that the company would offer such a such a sum and what the effects of drilling would mean for his community, Fox, a budding filmmaker, grabbed his camera and set out in search of information about natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale under large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. What he found there and in subsequent travels throughout much of the western United States led him to produce this documentary.

The film is well crafted, pulling the reader in with interview upon interview of ordinary folks whose lives have been affected by a relatively new method of extracting natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This is a process that involves pumping large quantities of water and a cocktail of sand and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart rock and release natural gas.

Courtesy The Denver Post

Most of the natural gas drilled in the U.S. uses hydraulic fracturing because it is the cheapest and easiest way to get it out of the ground. One of the reasons that it's so cheap is that there is virtually no environmental oversight. Why? As Fox reveals, in 2005, at the urging of -- you guessed it -- Vice President Dick Cheney, fracking fluids were exempted from the Clean Water Act, a tough set of rules designed to protect the country's water supply. Not surprisingly, Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, is one of the largest players in providing hydraulic fracturing services to gas companies.

An obvious concern, then, would be the chemical makeup of the fluid being pumped into the ground. The film demonstrates how some companies have been reluctant to disclose what's in their fracking fluid. Scientists and environmental advocates argue that without this information they can't properly investigate complaints of contamination. The companies argue that the makeup of some of the chemicals used are proprietary and should be exempt from disclosure. State law vary on what may be disclosed. Ohio law favors secrecy.

Gasland names some of the nastier chemicals, a list of which reads like a Who's Who of toxic waste. Fox's subjects recount in agonizing detail their alleged detrimental affects, ranging from pets and farm animals losing hair and falling ill to headaches and more severe symptoms in humans. One by one they told how, once the local gas well went in, the water supply became contaminated, undrinkable. In some cases the water was infused with gas that they could -- yes -- light it on fire, an unbelievable sight that is recreated several times in the course of the documentary.

Needless to say, the film is less than kind to the powerful gas industry, which has gone out of its way to convince the public that fracking is safe. Some would say, gone to extremes. NPR reported last fall that Penn­syl­va­nia gas drilling exec­u­tives had been taped saying their com­pa­nies use mil­i­tary tac­tics to counter drilling oppo­nents. Anadarko Petro­leum exec­u­tive Matt Carmichael was recorded saying,
"Down­load the U.S. Army Marine Corps Coun­terin­sur­gency Man­ual, because we are deal­ing with an insur­gency here."

If it's an insurgency, I don't see it gaining much ground beyond the expected advocacy of the environmental community. The Ohio Environmental Council is doing what it can, including calling for a moratorium on fracking in the state. But opposing a powerful industry will take the support of the mainstream populace. And right now when they're not looking for jobs that aren't there, they're watching Dancing with the Stars.

When the movie ended we spent some time discussing it. Weighing the implications. The arguments were all too familiar. America needs energy, but at what cost? Afterward I walked out into the chill night air. The rain and clouds were gone. Looking up, the stars seemed to dance in the heavens. Lake Erie shimmered. Across the water the lights of Port Clinton twinkled brightly along the shore. As it was after 11pm, I knew that on this cold night the residents of those homes and condos would be safely tucked in for the night, warmed mostly by the reassuring heat generated by natural gas.