StoriesPlease Repeat And Verify What I Thought You Said Captain?

There's nothing better than tales from the lakes. I loved them as a boy and I stil do.
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Please Repeat And Verify What I Thought You Said Captain?

Postby admin » Tue May 02, 2017 6:54 am

The year was 1987 or possibly 1988. I relate this story because although I've made thousands of trips to the nets and back this was a unique day. I don't know why this one is still so vivid other than, as I said, it was unusual.

We were on the Chub nets in February with a stiff wind fron the North or NNE. The temps as you could have guessed were sub-zero or close to it. The lake rested beneath a Winter haze with visibility of maybe 1/4 mile at best.

The wind was stiff and we worked with a sense of ungency as we often did being 12 miles out in the Winter. As we were nearing the middle of the gang of nets we heard a security call from a downbound barge captain. Now, when you're the only boat in the middle of the lake in a Winter haze and you hear a security call from a tug and barge (they also state your loction so there's no doubt who they're talking to) your blood temperature drops several degrees. These things, especially when being pushed ahead of the tug have virtually no visibility. If one collides with you and they have a history of doing so. You have only a very small chance of survival.

Each man on board quickly runs to a door or porthole a vigilantly scans the area for a freighter that's possibly on a collision course with you. In this case there was no sign of him yet. The remainder of his call explained why he had given us the warning.

The captain sent word that he'd been running along the side an ice field stretching out some 40 miles long and 5 or more miles across. It was on the move to our location and we should plan for it's arrival in one to 1 and 1/2 hours. He said it was moving out of the Straits Of Mackinaw and in his estimation was upward of 4 feet thick.

Occasionally during the Winter if the conditions are right. The Straits Of Mackinaw will dump a glacier like ice pack into the lake and like a glacier it yields to nothing in it's path.

When dealing with an unstoppable moving force like that any man who's in charge of a vessel should avoid any contact or conflict with it if at all possible. That barge captain wasn't about to mix it up with it and neither were we.


We took it up a couple of notches from "sense of urgency" to "fever pitch." We cleared the last of the nets with the moving ice field coming into view. We turned and headed for home happy to have saved our nets and happy that a thoughful shipping captain alerted us to an enormous and potentially dangerous hazard.


"There's no better bilge pump than a scared man with a bucket"