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

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Living with the lake

Lake Erie has been crazy the last several days. Today news outlets were reporting 9 to 12 foot waves out in the open lake, fueled by high winds and accompanied by rain that sometimes seemed torrential.

Anyone seeing the lake in all its fury is surprised at its power, but for those of us who grew up nears its shores, its nothing new. We know the power of those waves and we've come to respect that power.

I observed a rather modest display of that power Saturday morning. I went outside to check on my brother-in-law's 21-foot Lyman tied up in the lagoon next to the house. The small L-shaped harbor opens up to the lake in such a way that a good northwest or north wind send waves barreling into the mouth almost unhindered. In case you don't know, two foot swells play havoc with floating docks and the boats that are tethered to them. I could hear the groan of metal as the steel docks strained against the lumbering Lake Erie swells.

As I scanned the docks that lined the seawall close to the lagoon entrance, I immediately noticed something amiss: one of the docks was inclined at an odd angle. I walked up to it and saw that one of two steel pins that hold the dock to the seawall had come loose and one side of the dock was swinging free, held only by the one remaining pin. The dock, and the floating jet-ski "dock" and jet-ski that sat atop it, were swinging wildly in the heaving water. The way the dock and its attachments were whipping around like a wounded snake, I feared the remaining pin would give way and the who mess would slam into other docks and boats, causing further damage.

We rounded up a few of the neighbors and they came to take a look. Various options were considered. I fetched a long rope from the garage and we tied one of the cleats on the dock to a cleat on the seawall, hoping that if the remaining pin failed, the dock wouldn't float away. Shortly thereafter, the dock rolled over on its side, allowing it to fold into an "L" shape. Once in that shape, the far end began to swing around toward the seawall. That gave me an idea. I returned to the garage and grabbed a long wooden boat hook and the next time the dock swung close enough, we were able to snag it with the hook and hold it close the seawall while one of the neighbors put a rope through a dock cleat. Once that was accomplished we were able tie it off to the seawall. That left it in the lee of the adjacent dock and, we believed, relatively secure for the time being.

Such is the power and, yes, beauty of the lake we call Erie. We often enjoy it. We sometimes curse it. But always we respect it.

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