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APRIL 1, 2001


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Great Lakes freighters must switch to Metric Time

April 1:
The United Nations announced today that all vessels sailing the Great Lakes must begin operating under Metric Time effective May 1.

UN officials said the switch will end confusion resulting from lakers operating on Eastern Time in the Central Time Zone. It also will give saltwater ships a time system consistent with that used in Europe, where Metric Time has been used for decades.

In the Metric Time System, time is measured in units of 10, with 100 metric seconds equaling a metric minute, 100 metric minutes equaling a metric hour and 10 metric hours equaling a day.

Great Lakes vessel operators are applauding the switch to the new time system. One company executive said converting to Metric Time will lengthen each day by approximately 30 conventional minutes, enabling lake freighters to make at least three additional trips each season.



Water-Skier to Ski Seaway

April 1:

Click to enlargeEsther Rivers, a professional bare foot water-skier from Grumpus, Mich., today announced plans to ski the length of the St. Lawrence Seaway behind the Boravian-flag saltie Muustsink.         

"This is something that no one has ever attempted," Rivers said. "It's an important step forward for the science of water-skiing and for humankind's exploratory spirit."      Rivers, shown here training in Menominee, will begin her expedition July 1 from Duluth and expects to finish July 17 in Montreal.   

Rivers said she will make no money off the project. However, the Esther Rivers Foundation will receive royalties from television specials, CDs, videotapes and gift book sets sold by the National Geography Society.

Report & picture by: Dick Lund


Boat Nerd Network unveils new NerdStar 1 satellite service

April 1:
The Boat Nerd Network announced today that it will begin offering live cable television coverage of Great Lakes shipping through its new NerdStar 1 satellite.

"NerdStar 1 enables us to automatically monitor all boats on the Great Lakes for real-time tracking of their movements and live broadcast of their every action," said Lance Boyle, director of sophistry for BNN. "Our viewers will be thrilled to watch every minute of their favorite vessel sailing the lakes, sitting at anchor or unloading cargo."

BNN officials recently purchased NerdStar 1 from the Russian space program for $137. Pentagon officials have expressed concern about the deal because the satellite previously was part of Russia's Surveillance and Orbital Bombardment System (SOBS) and is equipped to fire atomic weapons at targets anywhere in North America.

BNN officials played down the Pentagon's concerns. "The Russians gave us the launch codes but we've promised not to use them. In fact, I've already lost them," Boyle said. "Besides, atomic weapons in the hands of the entertainment industry are nothing to worry about. We're very responsible."

Since its inception two years ago, BNN has become one of the most popular of cable television's so-called niche networks. Promising "all boats all the time," the network now has nearly 20,000 subscribers throughout North America and more than 500,000 subscribers in Japan, where it has become a cult favorite.

"We've revolutionized cable television, and NerdStar 1 will enable us to remain on the industry's cutting edge," Boyle said.

In conjunction with the unveiling of its new satellite, BNN announced additions to its program lineup. New programs scheduled to air this summer include:

  • "Deckhand 24/7" -- Deckhands from various freighters will wear a live camera with audio feed around the clock. Viewers will be able to tune in any time of day or night to watch the week's featured deckhands opening hatches, painting, watching television or sleeping. BNN executives expect viewers to flock to this program to learn more about life on the lakes and to expand their vocabularies.

  • "Dog Watch with Zoltan Buggerall" -- One of BNN's growing stable of celebrity hosts, Zoltan Buggerall will randomly call sailors on their cell phones throughout the night to ask them questions about their jobs. Using a breezy style that's been called "the perfect blend of Mike Douglas and Howard Stern," Buggerall's program is expected to be the season's break-out hit.

  • "Iron Steward" -- North America's answer to Japan's cult hit "Iron Chef!" Stewards from various lakers will be chosen to compete against the top stewards on the lakes, known as the Iron Stewards. The Iron Stewards are known only by their mysterious stage names: Iron Steward Interlake, Iron Steward Lower Lakes, Iron Steward Oglebay Norton and Iron Steward GLF.

    In each contest, the challenger and the Iron Steward will face off in "Galley Stadium" with just one hour to prepare their best dishes using only the groceries deposited on deck at the Soo and keeping within their meal allowance of $2.47 per crew member. At the end of the hour, a panel of judges will sample the dishes, double-check the galley budget and declare a winner.  (Also available dubbed in Japanese.)

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Authorities bracing for trouble at Engineers’ Day

April 1:
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (BNN) -- Authorities are beefing up security for the Soo Locks' annual Engineers’ Day to avoid a repeat of last year's incidents involving a group known as the "Boatnerds."

Last June's gathering by dozens of Boatnerds caused chaos in this normally quiet Upper Peninsula city. Crews of passing freighters reported that they were blinded by Boatnerds simultaneously taking hundreds of flash photographs. Boatnerds also stopped passing cars and humiliated motorists by demanding that they recite the gross tonnage of various Great Lakes freighters before being allowed to proceed.

"Many people complained about the rowdiness that erupted every time a boat locked through," one official said. "It was worse than the soccer mobs in Europe. Gangs of Professional Boatnerds were roaming the streets and fighting over which boat was best."

Experts believe the Boatnerds are a new cult linked to the Internet. Members demonstrate an unnaturally strong interest in Great Lakes freighters and often refer to themselves using the name of their favorite boat.

Authorities say this year they will set up holding areas where unruly Boatnerds can be detained and "de-programmed" by being forced to watch endless videos about trains, stamp collecting and other hobbies.

"This Boatnerd business has moved beyond just a few people with pocket protectors and tape on their glasses," a government source said. "The Boatnerds clearly have become a threat to civilization as we know it."



NASA rocket transporter to carry lakers through shallow channels

April 1:
 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (BNN) -- Battling an ever-shrinking budget, NASA announced today that it will begin leasing one of its two massive rocket transporters to carry Great Lakes freighters through the Detroit River, where low water levels have wreaked havoc in recent years.

The transporters were originally built to carry giant Saturn V rockets from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to launch pads. Today they carry each Space Shuttle launch vehicle from the VAB to the launch pad at a speed of 1 mph.

Because only one transporter is now needed at the space center, NASA decided it could make money by leasing the other transporter to Great Lakes fleets to carry their lakers through areas plagued by low water.

Under the plan, the transporter will be stationed in the Livingston Channel. Vessels will be winched aboard the transporter, which will then carry the boats through the shallow areas and unload them in deeper water. Because of the transporter's huge caterpillar tracks, it should be able to easily move along the river bottom, NASA officials said.

A NASA spokesman said a team of experts from the agency's Mars Lander Program will be responsible for moving the transporter to the Great Lakes and putting it into operation.

The Mars Lander management group was reassigned in 1998 following the loss of NASA's Mars Lander as it approached the Red Planet. An investigation later revealed that a navigation error put the lander onto a course that caused it to burn up in the thin Martian atmosphere.

A NASA official said members of the Mars Lander staff have put the error behind them and are prepared to move on to their new assignment.

 "Our people have worked overtime to map out the best possible east-west passage through the Detroit River," he said. "We've already started the transporter on its way to Indiana, and we expect to be carrying vessels from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay by July 1."



Layoffs at Boatnerd web site

April 1:

Because of falling stock prices in the tech sector is cutting back from its staff of one. Neil Schultheiss has been laid off from his role as editor of the Boatnerd website. A new contract has been signed with Acme News Service, publisher of several supermarket tabloids, to operate the Boatnerd site. The site's new editor, Stu Mulligan, is an experienced newsman who spent more than 20 years working in the highly competitive supermarket tabloid "news" industry.
The change promises to provide an exciting change in content for Boatnerd. Here is a sample of the fascinating headlines that will soon appear on the web page:
"Alien spaceship mates with 1,000-footer!"

"Laker crew spots mermaid!"
"Said she looked like Madonna, although no one had time to see her face"
"Liz near death again!"
"Laker crews mount vigil"


Cybersteamer to Debut in 2001

April 1:

Grand River Navigators was unable to purchase all three vessel from UUS Great Lakes Fleet due to a problem with the paper work. An unnamed group of investors lead by founder Neil Schultheiss has reportedly purchased the Myron C. Taylor and plans to convert the steamer for passenger use and the carrying the occasional cargo.
"I thought it was an opportunity to start generating revenues from the web site, it seemed like the natural progression of the site with the increase in popularity of cruising on the Great Lakes", Schultheiss said.
In a deal that involved taking out a second mortgage on his house, Schultheiss plans to offer 3, 7 and 14 day cruises around the lakes. "We are also exploring the possibility of day cruises on our cybersteamer in selected ports", he added.
Crews will start converting some of the cargo holds into passenger quarters later this month. Though they plan to run the vessel with the appearance of a working freight, crews may have to modify the boom and unloading system to accommodate the pool and casino.


Cuyahoga Salting Icy Rivers

April 1:

Click to enlargeAn official of the U.S. Department of Ice and Rivers confirmed today that the Cuyahoga was pressed into service earlier this year to assist with Operation Coal Shovel: the US and Canadian Coast Guard's effort to maintain winter navigation on Lake Erie and connecting rivers.  

At the request of both coast guards, the Cuyahoga was fitted with an extended unloading boom and oversize salt spreader.  

Loading road salt at either Windsor or Goderich, the Cuyahoga made daily salting runs on the Detroit, Rouge and St. Clair rivers. The road salt was effective in softening this year's heavy ice cover on the lower rivers.  An officer on the ice breaker J. Fred Muggs, who wished to remain anonymous, was overheard saying, "The salt was a little rough on our new paint job, but we would have never busted through that ice in Livingstone Channel if the Cuyahoga hadn't  softened it up for us."   

Shipping companies are hoping to place several more boats in to the salt spreading service next winter.
Report & picture by: Tom Hynes


Today in Great Lakes History - April 1

On this day in 1911, the Great Lakes' first and only 1,000-foot straightdecker was launched in  Superior. However, the vessel went into long-term lay-up a short time later when its builder, Rufus  McGillicuddy, belatedly realized the vessel could not pass through the Soo Locks.

In 1970, descendants of shipbuilder Rufus McGillicuddy unveiled the 1,000-foot McGillicuddy Perambulator - a straightdecker with powered articulated legs that could "walk" around the Soo Locks. The vessel was scrapped a short time later when the builders realized the Poe Lock had  opened the previous year.


April Fools Return to BNN

April Fools page contributors: Tom Hynes, Dick Lund, Al Miller and Neil Schultheiss