Want to sound Great Lakes smart? Here’s a list of words, incorporating sport and scientific terms, we’ll add to daily. So that you don’t look clueless when, for instance, someone calls a boat a “salty.”
Nov. 8: Maritime: Another word meaning of or related to the sea. But this one you’ve actually heard of.
Nov. 6. Pelagic: Of or relating to the sea. Technically, not a Great Lakes word, since it refers to an ocean. But colloquially, it’s used to describe Great Lakes shorebirds.
Nov. 1. Seiche: Change in water level of a lake because of wind or atmospheric pressure. Winds across Lake Erie could mean a 10-foot difference between Toledo and Buffalo.
Oct. 31. Spoon: A type of fishing lure shaped like the bowl of a spoon, used to attract fish by reflecting light and moving randomly.
Oct. 30. Great Lakes Observing System: A network of federal, state, academic and private institutions that gather data about the lakes, including through 16 buoys in Lake Erie, as part of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System. You can find the info – and all sorts of cool data here.
Oct. 27. Dead zone: A low-oxygen zone in the central basin of Lake Erie, which alters the lake ecosystem from July to October because fish leave the area (up to 10,000 square kilometers) and other organisms die without enough oxygen. About 50 feet deep, the dead zone water is colder and has a low pH, which can cause the water to absorb manganese from the bottom of the lake, which is not harmful but can cause discoloration in Cleveland’s drinking water.
Oct. 26. Trawl: In fishing, dragging a net behind a boat to catch fish.
Oct. 25. Drive: In rowing, the part of the stroke that moves the boat. This happens while the oars are in the water, from the start (the catch) to the finish.
Oct. 24. Sinker: In fishing, a weight used at the end of a line, with a lure or hook, to make it sink faster or cast farther. Hence the term “hook, line and sinker.”
Oct. 23. Welland Canal: Ship canal in Ontario, Canada, that connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. It lets Great Lakes ships bypass Niagara Falls so they can reach the ocean.
Oct. 20. Keel: Long timber or steel structure along the bottom of a boat, supporting the rest of the framework and giving the boat stability. Inspired the phrase “even keel,” meaning balanced or level.
Oct. 19. Cleat: Metal object you tie a line around, on a boat or on the dock. (FYI: When you’re on a boat, a rope is called a line.)
Oct. 18. Schooner: Sailing ship with one or most masts, which covered the Great Lakes in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Oct. 17. Boom: The metal pole at the bottom of the mainsail of a sailboat, which holds the foot (bottom) of the sail. Watch your head if you accidentally jibe, since it could knock you out.
Oct. 16. Erie: The name is taken from erielhonan, the Iroquoian word for “long tail.” The lake is about 241 miles long and 57 miles wide.
Oct. 12. Detroit River: The biggest contributor to Lake Erie, ferrying about 80 percent of the water to Lake Erie from Lake St. Clair.
Oct. 11. Bowrider: A traditional speedboat, with a pointed bow that can cut through the waves. Popular for families and pleasure boaters.
Oct. 10. Scuttlebutt: Gossip. The modern definition came from an old maritime word for an open cask of water, which sailors would gather around and talk.
Oct. 9. Alee: Away from the wind. Opposite of windward, used in sailing.
Oct. 6. Shell: A long, narrow boat for racing. The boat has long oars and sliding seats, and it usually seats one, two, four or eight rowers.
Oct. 5. Round goby: A small fish that invaded Lake Erie in the 1990s and has since reproduced abundantly. As of 2005, there were about 10 million gobies in the western basin of Lake Erie. The gobies compete with small-mouth bass for food, but the good news is that Lake Erie watersnakes eat them!
Oct. 4. Jib: The smaller, front triangular sail of a sailboat. Not to be confused with jibe (to turn a sailboat when the wind is behind you).
Oct. 3. Stone Laboratory: A 6-acre island in Put-in-Bay Harbor, owned by Ohio State University, where students and biologists study Lake Erie and its inhabitants. There are dorms, classrooms, a cafeteria and even a decaying mansion on the property, which serves as an outpost for Ohio Sea Grant.
Oct. 2. Salty: An ocean-going boat that enters the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal. They’re smaller than lakers because they have to fit through the locks.
Sept. 29. Walleye: Lake Erie is known as the Walleye Capital of the World. But only sport fishermen can catch Walleye in Ohio waters. That’s about 450,000 anglers, half of whom target walleye, which can grow up to about 20 pounds. Thanks to big hatches, the Ohio Department of Fish and Wildlife expects good walleye fishing in Lake Erie for at least the next 15 years.
Sept. 28. Starboard: Right, when you’re on a boat. It’s associated with the color green. (For a helpful reminder, think Starbucks.) Left is called port, and it’s red (like port wine).
Sept. 27. Quagga mussels: They’re the new version of zebra mussels, cheekily named for an extinct subspecies of plains zebra. One of the most destructive invasive species in the Great Lakes, the quaggas have crowded out native species of mussels (and even the zebra mussels people have actually heard of), disrupted the fish food chain and cost millions of dollars a year to clear out of water intake pipes. And they’re not just a massive headache in the lakes here; they’re coating boating havens in the American southwest.
Sept. 26. Watershed: The land around a lake, in which rain, creeks and rivers run into the lake. Lake Erie is the smallest Great Lake, but has the largest watershed, encompassing all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana, . The watershed also is the most industrialized and agricultural of the five Great Lakes. About 12 million people live in the Lake Erie watershed, affecting the health of the lake. And fun fact: the divide between the Lake Erie and Ohio River watersheds runs right through Northeast Ohio.
Sept. 25. Stand-up paddle boarding: Also known as SUP, the fastest growing water sport in the world, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. You stand on a surfboard-like platform and paddle. You can race – or use the board to do yoga on the water. (It’s way harder.)
Sept. 24. Knot: A speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, or about 1.15 regular miles per hour. It’s used in meteorology and for the speed of a boat. (Not to be confused with the number of knots you need to learn to sail.)
Sept. 23. Bow: Rhymes with now. The front of a boat, not to be confused with the back, which is the stern.
Sept. 22. Laker: A giant freight ship, which never leaves the Great Lakes. About 95 percent of Great Lakes ship traffic is made up of lakers. (See some gorgeous ones here.)
Sept. 21. Harmful algal bloom: Shortened to HAB by the scientists that study the bloom, which grows in Lake Erie’s western basin each summer. The bloom is a mass of toxic bacteria dumped in by the Maumee River, which creates a green scum on the water surface and threatens Toledo’s drinking water.