The Gales Of November
Here it is the 2nd of November, 2013… Another Great Lakes Shipping Season winding down. But, it isn’t over yet! There is still a lot of Taconite, Coal, Limestone and Grain to be moved to where it is needed – before the Big Freeze comes in January. But will the weather cooperate or will the “Witch of November” come stealin’?
It is at this time of the Great Lakes Shipping Season that experienced Great Lakes Seamen take heed. Prudent Seamanship cannot be taken for granted. There is too much at stake. Our safety and well-being, even our very lives depend on good seamanship and wise decisions. If we haven’t up to this point – now we must certainly be alert with every move we make. For most of us our wives or husbands, our sons and our daughters and our parents and siblings too are anxiously waiting for us to come home.
The Good Ship And Crew Was A Bone To Be Chewed….
There are “obvious” dangers – when the Gales of November come slashing. Of course there have been shipwrecks resulting from sudden or unpredictable stormy weather on the Great Lakes. But there are also the dangers that are not so obvious.
There are ice covered decks and docks where great care must be taken to avoid serious injury and even death. How easy it would be to slip on an icy dock or deck into the water or fall into moving machinery? A fall into the cold Lake water could mean certain death, especially if nobody is aware of your plight.
Sometimes strong winds in port can make it virtually impossible to hold a ship to the dock. A cold quiet November night can quickly turn into a virtual nightmare if effective decisions are not made in a wise and timely manner. It is not uncommon for all hell to break lose as steel mooring cables break and winches aren’t strong enough to hold a Ship against a wind blowing it off the dock.
The Big Lake It’s Said Never Gives Up Its Dead
And then of course there is the chance of big storms with hurricane force winds that turn our beautiful Great Lakes into cold deadly bodies of water that have swallowed many sturdy vessels. Once one has entered into the icy cold water of any of the Great Lakes inadvertently – the likelihood of coming out alive is mighty slim.
In November – more than any other time, Great Lakes Captains keep a close eye on weather. They must decide when to make a run for it or when to hide. Obviously we can’t spend the entire month of November at anchor. But it is important that we aren’t caught by surprise on a course that leaves us at the mercy of a SuperStorm with hurricane force winds whipping up waves to heights of 30 plus feet. The interval between waves on the fresh-water Great Lakes are too close that even a well-built steel ship can take only “so much” pounding before it becomes “a bone to be chewed”.
So, am I being overly dramatic? I don’t know – we’ll see – “If the Witch of November comes stealin’.”