detroit experiences

The articles presented below decribe some of my experiences in Detroit.

June 17,2015

On June 17, 2015 I rode my bicycle to Belle Isle, and I also brought my camera and took photographs. When I rode across the Belle Isle bridge, I could see something in the water. It looked like a rowing scull, and there was a person in the water, and he was clinging to the side of the scull. A rowing scull is a long boat, with a narrow hull. The hull is narrow, to reduce water resistance, and there are two outriggers that extend from opposite sides of the hull, with an oarlock on the end of each outrigger. They are designed for athletes, who compete in races, and they are built for speed, they are not really designed to handle waves, or rough water. It was a windy day, and there was a light chop on the river. I suppose the guy who was in the rowing scull had turned over because of the rough water.   

The photo above shows the rowing scull, with a man clinging to the side of it. I took this photograph from the Belle Isle bridge. The yacht club is nearby.

After a few minutes, a boat from the yacht club came over.

So, it appeared that the man who fell out of the rowing scull was going to be rescued by the man in the other boat. I rode on to the island and spent several hours riding around the island. The part of the Detroit River between Belle Isle and the Detroit river front is called the Scott Middle Ground. When I was at the northern tip of the island, I saw a sailboat that was in the Scott Middle Ground. At the time the wind was blowing from north to south.

The photo above shows the sailboat in the Scott Middle Ground. It is rather easy for a sailboat to sail in the same direction as the wind, but if it's going to sail in the opposite direction, they have to use a technique called 'tacking'. When a sailboat tacks in to the wind, it has to travel at a sharp angle, then reverse direction, then tack in the opposite direction, and it has to keep repeating that process so it can work it's way upwind. This sailboat was stuck in the Scott Middle Ground, and so the boat's pilot was tacking back and forth, trying to head north, while the wind was pushing him towards the south. The current was also acting to push the boat towards the south. I once heard someone say that the current in the Detroit River is about eight miles per hour, in other words, if you toss a cork in the water, the cork will be carried downstream by the river's current at a speed of eight miles per hour. So the sailboat was fighting a wind that's blowing to the south at approximately ten to twenty miles per hour, and also fighting the current, that flows south at eight miles per hour.


The Scott Middle Ground is not very wide, and so, the boat's pilot didn't have much room for tacking. He would tack one way, and then he'd come too close to hitting the Detroit river bank, so he'd turn around and tack the other way, until he came too close to hitting Belle Isle, then turn around again, tacking back and forth. I stood there and watched him for several minutes before I left. If he had stopped tacking, the wind and current probably would have carried him south, until he hit the Belle Isle bridge.        

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© Anthony Ratkov