Lake Carriers urge good seamanship for safe summer on Lake Erie

The Lake Carriers Association urges boaters to follow rules of the road to have a safe summer. (Scot Tish)

It’s summer boating season!

And the Lake Carriers Association — the Rocky River-based trade group that represents U.S. freighters on the Great Lakes — wants to keep all vessels safe on the water.

“If everybody follows the rules of the road, if you have good seamanship, we ought to have a safe summer,” Lake Carriers Vice President Glen Nekvasil said Wednesday at a Cuyahoga River Safety Task Force meeting.

The 1,000-foot freighters are almost as long as modern-day aircraft carriers and are capable of generating nearly 20,000 horsepower. Their bow thrusters can suck in water or capsize paddleboards. They can take more than a mile to stop.

“In rivers and harbors there is often little room for a laker to alter course,” said Jim Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “It is for that reason that the navigation rules always give the right of way to the larger and therefore less maneuverable vessel.”

To make this boating season safe, Lake Carriers’ Association offers the following safety tips.

    • Use VFH Channels 13 and 16 to monitor “security calls” from commercial vessels in the area, but do not contact freighters unless absolutely necessary.  Navigating a laker requires the Captain’s total concentration.
    • Avoid ship channels to the degree possible, and when necessary to cross them, do so as quickly as possible.
    • Know whistle signals: 5 or more blasts mean danger.
    • Be seen, especially at night.  Display your navigation lights and light your cabin and sails if needed for better visibility.  Great Lakes shipping is a 24/7 industry.
    • Always stay as far away as possible from a freighter’s bow and stern.  The wake and wash from propellers and thrusters can quickly destabilize small craft.
    • Do not moor your boat in a designated safety zone. (There are 10 on the Cuyahoga River.)
    • Do not tie up to another recreational vessel and “raft” out into the navigation channel.
    • Avoid clustering around a bridge when waiting for it to open for a commercial vessel.
    • Always wear a personal flotation device.

See more boating safety tips for cold water here.

The U.S. Great Lakes fleet annually carries 90 million tons of cargo, including iron ore, limestone, coal, cement, and other dry bulk materials such as grain and sand. This cargo sustains more than 103,000 jobs in the eight Great Lakes states and has an annual economic impact of more than $20 billion, according to the Lake Carriers. 

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