FROM THE BoatU.S. INSURANCE FILES BY BETH LEONARD
DANGER IN THE NEW SHALLOWS
With some inland lakes hitting unprecedented low water levels, boaters need to
take extra precautions to keep their boats’ bottoms clear of the bottom
A Great Lakes mooring that once sat several feet underwater lies exposed.
sunny weekends in the summer, hundreds of
powerboats raft up in two parallel lines, and
their crews wade, dance, drink, and party in
the shallow waters in between. More than
1,500 boats have participated in the annual
Muscamoot Bay Raft Off held in August every
year, often described as Mardi Gras on the
water. With charted depths of between three
and six feet, the Bay doesn’t have much water
at the best of times. But due to a warm winter
and the extended drought in the Midwest last
summer, the lake had even less than usual.
On that August night, the wind went from
blowing water into the bay to blowing it out,
lowering the depth still farther. In less than
an hour, boats that had been floating weren’t
“It was as if they were caught in a spiderweb,” Captain Will said. “I’d free them,
they’d go a couple of boat lengths, and
then they’d be aground again.” That night
on Lake St. Clair was just one example of
a wider problem that has become increasingly evident in the BoatU.S. claims files: A
lot of inland lakes are at or near historically
low water levels, which means a lot of boats
are finding the bottom in places where they
never have before.
ONESULTRYLATEAUGUSTEVENINGlastsummer,the TowBoatU.S. dispatchers started receiving phone calls asking for towing assis- tance on Lake St. Clair. At least four boats were aground, and others were experiencing engine problems after striking sub- merged objects. Captain William Leslie of TowBoatU.S. Lake St.
Clair headed out for Muscamoot Bay, a shallow part of the lake he knows all too well. But
this was not his normal dispatch. He would spend the next six hours freeing boats, some of
them multiple times.
Situated between the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, Lake St. Clair links Lake Huron and the
upper Great Lakes to Lake Erie and the lower Great Lakes. Muscamoot Bay lies on the north
side of the 22-mile-wide lake alongside the St. Clair River’s Middle Channel, and for Detroiters
and others with boats on Lake St. Clair, “the Moot” is the place to see and be seen. On hot,
WHERE HAS ALL
THE WATER GONE?
The variation in water level on any inland
lake over time is determined by simple addition and subtraction. Water enters the lake
as precipitation, runoff from surrounding
land, and inflow from other bodies of water.
It leaves the lake as evaporation, in outflow
to other bodies of water, or as diversions to
supply water for drinking, irrigation, or other
uses. The difference between what comes in
and what goes out determines the current
water level and how high or low it is relative