Already this spring, water levels on the combined Lake Huron - Lake Michigan body of water are near levels not seen since the 1980s. With water levels forecast to increase before this summer’s Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust, racers who are planning on docking on the Island should be prepared for challenging conditions.
Great Lakes water levels are continuously monitored and forecast by scientists at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the Army Corp of Engineers. Measured water levels for June 2019 are already more than one foot higher than a year ago! The forecast is for the water levels to continue to rise before our arrival on Mackinac in about a month.
The docks in Mackinac City Straits Harbor and in St. Ignace are largely unaffected by this rise, as they are floating docks. However, on the Island the docks used for docking are fixed docks and thus will present a greater challenge to racers and our docking team.
Chicago Yacht Club’s On-the-Water Director recently visited the Island to assess docking conditions. "Due to the water levels, there is less of an Island than there was last year!" joked Kehoe. Kehoe, working with various entities on the Island, has done what can be done to prepare for this situation, including working with the owners of the coal dock to raise the dock approximately 12-18" inches. However, the Michigan DNR, which owns the main marina on the Island, was unable to do the same, which will leave water levels close to the level of the docks if water level forecasts hold true.
Kehoe has some practical advice for those boats docking on the Island this year:
- Getting on and off boats adjacent to the dock will be more difficult than in prior years, as the waterline of the boat will be near dock level. Bring a step, or use a cooler or other appropriate way to climb on and off. Importantly, also think through how to get mobility-challenged individuals on and off their boats.
- Bring extra fenders! Rig them carefully. With the waterline so close to the dock level, the impact of seiches or waves into the harbor will be more significant.
- The wake from ferries will have a greater impact than at lower water levels. There is nothing we can do to get ferries to reduce the wake. We urge you to bring extra fenders, fender boards and other equipment to protect you from the dock and from other boats.
- Power lines on the dock in the main harbor may be under water and therefore power may be cut. If so, keep in mind that power may not be available at the main harbor.
- Because power lines may be under water, we urge you not to swim in the harbor. It has always been illegal, but with power lines in the water it could also be deadly. We will strictly enforce the no swimming rule and competitors whose crews are seen to be in the water in the marina will likely face discipline including not being invited to race in 2020. This is for your safety.
We will attempt to keep competitors in the know should other steps be needed.
We urge you to monitor your email and #CYCRTM social media for more information.