6. Lake Erie

(1) Chart Datum, Lake Erie.-Depths and vertical clearances under overhead cables and bridges given in this chapter are referred to Low Water Datum, which for Lake Erie is an elevation 569.2 feet (173.5 meters) above mean water level at Rimouski, Quebec, on International Great Lakes Datum 1985 (IGLD 1985). (See Chart Datum, Great Lakes System, indexed as such, chapter 1.

Dimensions,Etc.
(2) Length, steamer track, Detroit River Lighthouse to Buffalo; 236 miles.
(3) Length (right line), clear of Point Pelee and Long Point; 241 miles.
(4) Breadth (right line), Ashtabula to Port Talbot; 57 MILES.
(5) Depth, maximum recorded by NOS; 210 feet.
(6) Water Surface of lake; 4,980 square miles(U.S.), 4,930 square miles (Canada).
(7) Entire drainage basin; 22,980 square miles (U.S.), 9,650 square miles (Canada).

(8) General description.- Lake Erie is the southeastern most and fourth largest of the five Great Lakes. With a greatest depth of 210 feet, it is the shallowest of the lakes and the only one with a floor above sea level. The deepest part of the lake at the East end, while the island region in the West part of the lake is the most shallow. The lake has an average depth of 62 feet. The lake is fed at the NW end by water from Lake Huron via St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River. The only natural outlet of the lake is at the NE end through the Niagara River and provides a navigable connection to Lake Ontario.

(9) The Waters of Lake Erie E of Long Point are part of the St. Lawrence Seaway under the navigational control of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, a corporate agency of the United States, and the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority of Canada. These agencies issue joint regulations covering vessels and and persons using the seaway. The regulations are codified in 33 CFR 401, and are also contained in the Seaway Handbook, published jointly by the agencies. A copy of the regulations is required to be kept on board every vessel transiting the Seaway. A Schedule of the Seaway tolls is contained in the handbook. (See St. Lawrence Seaway, chapter 3 and 33 CFR 401, chapter 2.)

(10) Extensive waterborne commerce is carried out between the ports on the lake as well as to and from the other lakes. the bulk of commerce on the lake radiates from the mouth of the Detroit River to the various ports on the lake, to the Niagara River, and to the Welland Canal. Most of the vessel traffic proceeds from the Detroit River through the N part of the island region and Pelee Passage. This is the most important channel of the lake. Vessels plying between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are restricted in size by the locks in the Welland Canal ; the maximum vessel dimensions are 730 feet overall length, 76 feet extreme breadth, and 26 feet draft.

(11) Vessel traffic control.- Lake Erie E of Long Point is sector 7 of the St. Lawrence Seaway vessel traffic control system. The objective of the system is to provide safe and efficient scheduling of vessel traffic, efficient search and rescue coverage, information regarding pilot requirements to the pilot dispatch centers, marine weather broadcasts, and information on vessel location to all interested parties. St. Catharines traffic control center controls traffic in Sector 7 through "Seaway Long Point," VHF-FM channel 11.

(12) Calling-in point,-Upbound and downbound vessels shall contact "Seaway Long Point" on VHF-FM channel 11 when approximately abeam of the E end of Long Point, Ont. After intial contact, downbound vessels shall guard VHF-FM channel 16.

(13) Complete information on the traffic control sectors and their respective calling-in points is contained in the Seaway Handbook.

(14) Vessel Traffic Service.-The Canadian Coast Gurad operates a Vessel Traffic Service in Canadian waters from Long Point in Lake Erie through the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers to De Tour Reef Light in Lake Huron. (See chapter 3 and the Annual Edition of Candian Notices to Mariners for complete information.)

(15) Fluctuations of water level.-The normal elevation of the lake surface varies irregulaly from year to year. During the course of each year, the furface is subject to a consistent seasonal rise and fall, the lowest stages prevailing during the winter and the highest during the summer.

(16) In addition to the normal seasonal fluctuations, oscillations of irregualr amount and duration are also produced by storms. Winds and barometric pressure changes that accompany squalls can produce flucturations that last from a few minutes to a few hours. At other times, strong winds of sustained speed and direction can produce fluctuations that last a few hours or day. These winds drive forward a greater volume of surface water than can be carried off by the lower return currents, thusraising the water level on the lee shore and lowering it on the windward shore. This type of fluctuation has has a very has a very pronounced effect on Lake Erie, because it is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and affords the least opportunity for the impelled uper water to return through lower return currents beneath the depth disturbed by storms. As a result, the water level in the harbors, particularly those at the ends of the lake, fluctuates markedly under the influence of the winds; the amount of fluctuation depends on the direction, strength, and duration of the wind. Fluctuations as great as 10 feet and lasting as long as 12 hours have been observed. September through April is the most likely period, particularly November, December, and January. At the E end of the lake, W winds pile up water in Buffalo Harbor and increase the depth in Niagara River, wile E winds drive the water out of Buffalo Harbor and decrease the flow and depths in Niagara River. The winds produce exactly the opposite effect at the W end of the lake; the greatest effects are at Sandusky, Toledo, and the mouth of Detroit River. Intermediate points are not subject to level changes as great at those at the ends of the lake. Along the S shore, flucturations caused by winds are generally less than 1 foot above or below normal; extreme fluctuations of about 2 feet above or below normal may occur.

(17) Water level information for the Buffalo area may be obtained by contacting Buffalo Coast Guard Group on VHF-FM channel 16; for the Toledo area by contacting Toledo Coast Gard Station, same channel; for the Gibralter area by contacting Detroit Coast Guard Group, same channel. The information is given in whole inches above or below chart datum.

(18) Weather.-Strong winds are mostly likely in autumn during the navigation season; November and December are the worst as gales blow 6 to 9 percent of the time. However, Lake Erie's maximum wind occurred in July, NNW at 87 knots. Reported by two vessels, these winds were triggered by an Independence Day (1969) squall lin. Gales, however, are encountered less than 1 percent of the time from May through September. Summer winds blow mainly out of the S through W, particularly SW. These directions are also favored during other seasons along with northwesterlies and northeasterlies.

(19) The shallowness and orientation of Lake Erie make it susceptible to SW and NE winds, which can quickly raise dangerous seas and, if persistent, create a dangerous surge problem at both ends of the lake. Rough seas are most frequent in autumn and in the E half of the lake. Waves of 10 feet or more can be expected up to 3 percent of the time in the E , while seas of 5 feet or more are encountered 30 percent of the time lakewide; extremes of 15 to 20 feet have been encountered.

(20) Poor visibility is mainly a spring and autumn navigational problem. Over open water, spring is the most prevalent fog season. Vibilities of less than 0.5 mile occur up to 5 percent of the time. Visiblities of 2 miles or less ocur 5 to 10 percent of he time during most of the navigation season. The shoreline is susceptible to both autumn radiation fogs and early spring advection fogs. Fog is more frequent along the N shore.

(21) Simcoe's visibilities drop to less than 0.5 mile on an average of 46 days annually compared to a range of 15 to 23 days as Buffalo, Erie, or Toledo.

(22) Thunderstorms are responsible for some of the strongest winds on the lake. They are generally a problem from April through September, but can occur at any time. Over the open lake, they occur 1 to 3 percent of the time with a peak during the summer months. They are most likely between sunset and sunrise. Onshore they most often occur during the late afternoon, on 25 to 30 days annually. During June, July and August, they blow on 5 to 10 days per month.

(23) Ice.-The W end of Lake Erie is very shallow and freezes rapidly, the time of occurrence depending heavily on the temperatures. The ice attains an average thickness of 7 inches and an average maximum thickness of 11 inches. In Maumee Bay, the ice forms a solid sheet about 12 to 18 inches thick. The track through the channel to Toledo remains open except for a 3-foot thickness of brash ice, a slush ice under the refrozen surface. In South Passage, the ice reaches a thickness of about 18 inches because of slight rafting and ridging. During severe winters, thicknesses to 24 inches and windrows 5 feet high have been observed. By mid-March, the ice in the W end of the lake starts to clear because of the temperatures and the prevailing W winds. The ice in this area is field ice and covers over an opened track.

(24) The central part of the lake remains open through January except for a few strips of thin ice. Growth is rapid in February, and high concentrations of thin ice develop by mid-month. By early March, medium-thickness lake ice predominates, with somewhat better conditions along the Canadian shore. Decay and clearing is rapid in mid-March, and the remaining pack is usually concentrated E of Long Point by the end of the month.

(25) In the E part of the lake, ice begins to form in early to mid-January and may reach a thickness of 8 to 12 inches by the end of the month. The solid ice increases to 16 to 20 inches thick by the end of February. In Buffalo Harbor, an average thickness of 9 inches and an average maximum thickness of 18 inches can occur. In the lake, the prevailing W winds usually jam and pack the ice to form considerable windrows. Extremely hard pressure ridges 3 to 4 feet thick are not uncommon in February and March. As the ice on the rest of the lake begins to break up, the winds force it into the E end of the lake, and it completely blocks the approach to Buffalo Harbor. The soft deteriorating ice forms mush ice about 3 to 6 feet deep, interspersed with pressure ridges 4 to 6 feet deep. The mush ice has been reported as much as 20 feet deep in places. Rafted ice fields 15 to 20 feet above the water level have occurred during severe winters; under these conditions, ice can persist through late May. (See Winter Navigation, chapter 3.)

(26) Submerged wellheads and pipelines.-Mariners are cautioned that oil and gas drilling towers are temporarily established in various parts of Canadian waters of Lake Erie. These towers have a quick flashing white light and an automatic fog signal that sounds one blast of 2 seconds duration followed by 18 seconds of silence.

(27) There are many submerged gas pipelines and wellheads in Canadian waters Lake Erie. Most of them are shown on the charts. Damage to these structures can be extremely hazardous because the natural gas if flammable, is under pressure, and contains toxic chemicals. Mariners are cautioned not to anchor in the vicinity of the submerged structures.

(28) Fish netting areas.-In parts of the Lake Erie that are intensivley fished, gill nets, impounding nets, and trap nets may create a hazard to navigation. The areas most intensively fished and the principal type of nets employed are shown in an inset on NOS chart 14820. However, fishing gear may be encountered at any location in the lake.

(29) Routes.-The Lake Carriers' Association and the Canadian Shipowners Association have recommended, for vessels enrolled in the associations, the following separation of routes for upbound and downbound traffic in Lake Erie.

(30) Downbound: Vessels leaving the Detroit River for ports E of Middle Ground Shoal shall continue on course 164 until 0.9 mile beyond East Outer Channel Light 1 E; thence 095 for 27 miles for Pelee Passage Traffic Lighted Buoy P; thence 122 for 8.5 miles pass one mile S of Southeast Shoal Light.
(31) Downbound vessels forPort Colborne or Buffalo, from point of departure, Southeast Shoal, shall lay a course of 071 for 135 miles to pass not more than 9 miles off long point; then steer 054 for 45 miles to Port Colborne or steer 063 for 60 miles to Buffalo.
(32) Upbound vessels from Port Colborne or Buffalo, to a point on the S shore, E of Marblehead, lay a course to pass not over 5 miles off Presque Isle Light. The course from Port Colborne is 228 for 62 miles, and the course from Buffalo is 236 for 77 miles.
(33)Upbound vessels for Southeast shoal from Port Colborne or Buffalo lay a course to pass not over 3 miles off Long Point. The course from Port Colborne is 241 for 44 miles, and the course from Buffalo is 248 for 60 miles; then steer 249 for 134 miles to a postion 1 mile S of Southeast Shoal.
(34) Upbound vessels for Detroit River Light departing from a position 1 mile S of Southeast Shoal Light shall steer 302 for 8.5 miles to a position 323 1.75 miles from Pelee Passage Light, then steer 275 for East Outer Channel Light 1E.
(35) For Toledo and Monroe, when 0.75 mile off Pelee Passage Light steer 272 to pass 1.5 miles N of Middle Sister Island Light, thence to destination.

(36) It is understood that masters may exercise discretion in depating from these courses when ice and weather conditions are such as to warrent it. The recommended courses are shown on chart 14820, Lake Erie.

(37) Pilotage.-The following waters of Lake Erie are Great Lakes designated waters: in the approach to Welland Canal within an arc drawn 1 mile to S of the outer light on the W breakwater at Port Colborne (Port Colborne Outer Light); W of a line on a bearing of about 026 from Sandusky Harbor Pierhead Light to Southeast Shoal Light; and within a radius of 1 mile E of Sandusky Harbor Pierhead Light. Registered vessels of the United States and foreign vessels in these waters are required to have in their service a United States or Canadian registered pilot. The remaining waters of Lake Erie are Great Lakes undesignated waters; the above vessels are required to have in their service a United States or Canadian registered pilot or other officer quailified for Great Lakes undesignated waters. Registered pilots for the Welland Canal are supplied by the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, Ltd., St. Catharines, and Lakes Pilots Association.(See appendix for addresses.) Pilot exchange points are 1 to 2 miles S of Port Colborne and just below the Ambassador Bridge on the Detroit River. The pilot boat in the Detroit River, J.W. WESTCOTT II, has a black hull encircled by an orange band and white cabin with the words "U.S. Mail in black letters. (See pilotage, chapter 3, and 46 CFR 401, chapter 2.)

(38) Principal Ports.- The principal ports on Lake Erie are Buffalo, N.Y.; Erie Pa.; and Conneaut, Ashtabula, Fairport Harbor, Cleveland, Lorain, Huron, Sandusky, and Toledo, Ohio. Companies at several of the ports make above-the-waterline repairs to deep draft vessels.

Sections 39-821 omitted


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