Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Boating skills, seamanship course offered

The Fond du Lac Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering a Boating Skills and Seamanship course to the public.

The one-and-a-half day program is presented 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4, with lunch provided and finishes 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday April 18, at the Fond du Lac Yacht Club, 705 Mohawk Ave, according to a release from the group.

Trained instructors, members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, will present the classes using official Coast Guard training aids. The classes cover boat handling, boating safety, marine equipment, trailering, navigational aids and legal compliance. A $35 fee is charged to cover the cost of books and materials.

A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Safe Boating course for youth will follow starting on April 14 presented by the same Coast Gua rd Auxiliary instructors.

Program registration and additional information on these courses may be obtained online at hhtp:// or by calling (920) 921-0045.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is a group of volunteers assisting the Coast Guard in carrying out its mission of promoting improved boating safety through public education and courtesy vessel safety examinations.


Navigation On St. Lawrence Seaway Set To Resume March 31

The 2009 navigation season on the Welland Canal and the Montreal/Lake Ontario sections of the St. Lawrence Seaway system will begin on March 31, according to a notice issued by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

The opening of the Welland Canada, Montreal and Lake Ontario sections has been set for 0800 hours (local time) on March 31.

Vessel transits will be subject to weather and ice conditions, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp said. Restrictions also may apply in some areas until lighted navigation aids have been installed.

The Sault Ste. Marie Locks and Canals and the United States Soo Locks will open March 25.

In the Montreal/Lake Ontario Section, the vessel draft will be 80.0 dm (26' 3") until the South Shore Canal is ice-free or April 15th, whichever occurs first, at which time, if water levels are favorable, the draft will be increased to 80.8 dm (26' 6") for all vessels. In addition, there will be zero tolerance for ship's draft in excess of 80.8 dm (26' 6").

Mariners are reminded that for ships loaded to a draft greater than 80.0 dm (26' 3"), speeds will be monitored carefully between St. Lambert Lock and St. Nicolas Island, the Management Corp., said.


E-B's marine buff's love for ships comes through in new book

Sometimes there is no substitute for old-fashioned luck.

Just ask Skip Gillham, the man who brings the editorial page feature, Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes to our readers each week.

The marine buff and chronicler of shipping history on the Great Lakes was out one day 10 years ago looking for a photo for a book he was writing.

As luck would have it, he spied two ships on the Welland Canal that fit his theme of nearly 200 years of shipbuilding in Niagara.

The ship closest to him was a War of 1812-era tall ship. Behind her was a modern cargo vessel. The juxtaposition of ships from different eras was perfect.

"That's not all," said Gillham. "They are both called theNiagara."

The tall ship was theUSS Niagara, an American vessel used to fight the British. The transport was theCSL Niagara,owned by Canada Steamship Lines.

The photo of the two vessels is on the cover of his new book,Shipbuilding in Niagara: 1828 to 2008, which is on sale at the St. Catharines Museum at Lock 3.

Gillham said the book, released last month, is an update of the thinner volume he wrote as part of a project for the Port Weller Dry Docks a decade ago.

"That was back in 1999," said Gillham. "It was a pretty small book at 24 pages. There were a lot more ships I wanted to include, so I've been expanding it until now it is twice the size it originally was."

Although not a mariner himself, Gillham developed a passion for ships from his father. He would take young Skip down to the waterfront to watch the ships.


Mercury in walleye, northern pike keeps rising, MPCA finds

The concentration of mercury in walleye and northern pike has shown an unexpected long-term rise in lakes throughout Minnesota, and scientists believe the problem has global causes and consequences.

A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study released Tuesday after being published last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology showed an unexpected rise in mercury concentrations in fish collected from 845 Minnesota lakes. The finding, from an analysis of records kept over 25 years, is a concern because methylmercury, the form of mercury that contaminates fish, is toxic to humans and wildlife.

The new finding, however, won't affect current fish-consumption guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Those guidelines are based on current data about mercury levels in fish, while the MPCA study showing the rise in those levels is a historic look at the data.

Under the DNR guidelines, men and women not planning to get pregnant can safely eat one meal a week of Minnesota-caught walleye and northern pike. Pregnant women, those who may become pregnant and children younger than 15 should eat only one meal a month of walleye shorter than 20 inches and northern pike shorter than 30 inches from most Minnesota lakes. It's recommended they don't eat fish larger than that.

A change in direction

At one time, methylmercury concentrations in fish were decreasing in Minnesota. Those levels in northern pike and walleye fell 37 percent from 1982 to 1992, after the state began limiting the use of mercury, said Sam Brungardt, MPCA spokesman.

But then mercury levels in fish began to fluctuate. From 1992 to 1996, mercury concentrations in northerns and walleye rose by 15 percent, he said.

MPCA scientist Bruce Monson, who conducted the analysis, said the source of the mercury probably isn't local because the trend is statewide. Scientists also have found an increase in mercury concentrations in coho and chinook salmon from Lake Ontario from 1999 through 2003.


Lake Michigan Fish Populations Threatened by Decline of Tiny Creature

The quick decline of a tiny shrimp-like species, known scientifically as Diporeia, is related to the aggressive population growth of non-native quagga mussels in the Great Lakes, say NOAA scientists. As invasive mussel numbers increase, food sources for Diporeia and many aquatic species have steadily and unilaterally declined.

A recent research study from NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory published this week in Freshwater Biology documents the recent decline of Diporeia and the explosive growth of quagga mussels in Lake Michigan. Over the past five years quagga mussels have displaced native Diporeia as the dominant bottom dwelling organism, leading to a major disruption in the lake’s food web.

“Quagga mussels have displaced other more energy-rich food sources and leave fish and other aquatic species with fewer food options,” said Tom Nalepa, NOAA research biologist. “The invasive mussels are low in calories and their shell has no nutritional value. Fish feeding on quagga mussels expend considerable energy crushing and passing the indigestible shell.”