Thursday, October 23, 2008

The wave detector cometh

It would appear that the Meyers Beach area of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore will have a "real time wave detector" by next paddling season. A grant was applied for by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the amount of $29,995 was awarded back in early summer. The Park Service, Wisconsin Sea Grant and the Friends group are all pitching in on this project.

I confess to never have heard of a wave detector. When an internet search is performed, most of the entries talk about tsunami wave detectors. From the attached article, comments from the park, and a look at the press release from the Governors office announcing the grant awards, it looks like this would involve a buoy of some sort near the sea caves and a monitor, perhaps both at Meyers Beach and park HQ. The purpose of the system is scientific monitoring, perhaps similar to what we now see when we look at DISW3 on Devils Island, only with up to the second wave height info. I would hope, like the weather stations (especially the beloved buoy 45006), we Lake Superior junkies could access it on the net. The other stated purpose is to make inexperienced kayakers and other users more familiar with the conditions at the sea caves and help them make a more informed decision about whether or not to launch that day.

Whether that will work or not is the question I am trying to get my brain around. I have no idea what a real time wave detector goes for and I don't think they sell em at Midwest Mountaineering or REI. My guess is the 29 large awarded in the grant is seed money and that a bit more cash will be requred. While I believe it will most certainly 'work' to deliver the promised information, I'm not quite as confident that the information will be used by the general public to decide whether or not to paddle out to the caves. As many readers know, there have been two kayaking fatalities at the caves in the past few of years. Prudent and experienced paddlers in the area know that the launch at Meyers Beach is sheltered to a certain extent by Squaw Point and that once you get into the open lake with its 40 mile fetch from Duluth, things can get significantly nastier. Currently there is a NPS employee stationed at Meyers Beach during the busy paddling season, informing people about the paddle out to the caves. Would an automated wave detector reinforce what the park folks are telling people or would they likely go anyway? Also hard to tell. A few years back in June, I ran into a character with a 12' rented rec boat, no spray skirt, dressed in shorts and sandals. He watched me go over in the surf on my way in (dressed in wet suit, pfd, et al) and still insisted he was going to the caves. I persuaded him to change his plans by suggesting we continue the conversation while he stood knee deep in the lake. I think that feeling his lower legs go numb (and visualizing what it would feel like when he got crotch deep) made him decide that a more sheltered paddle really might be a good idea. We males, of course, are the worst offenders when it comes to bullheaded-ness and ignoring valuable advice....or directions.

I guess I need to see more info on the wave detector, what it can and can't do, and how it will be utilized before I formulate any opinion. I still like the idea of a ranger at the beach and despair about how stubborn, ignorant, unaware of their surroundings, and blissfully unconcerned some people are about their own well being. This ignoring of the obvious often puts others in danger when their sorry asses need to be rescued. I hope the wave detector is a success and I'll be interested to hear more about it. Meanwhile, I am off to the hunting camp, kayak on the roof, to hunt some more grouse, work on some deer stands, and paddle the mouth of the Brule River a bit. If the wave detector were in operation this weekend, here is the Sunday near shore forecast. Being a prudent and safe individual, I won't paddle but I sure wanna see it! Be sure to check buoy 45006 on Sunday!



Ranger Bob said...

On a practical note, I wonder how well this will work if it's supposed to be transmitting data to a mainland location. The sea caves are a notorious dead spot in the park's radio system, due to topographic factors that would almost certainly challenge the buoy's signal as well. Hope someone's taken this into consideration.

As far as the human behavior issues, well, that's a whole 'nother ball game.

We've both had our Meyers Beach moments- you with the guy standing in the cold water, me with the family of 4 who insisted on walking out on the ice after I told them point blank that it was no longer safe. "We'll be careful," the father said. (Struck me that going out when the ranger told you it was dangerous is textbook "not careful.") Good news is that when one of the kids did break through, it was in a shallow spot, and the price she paid for her father's stupidity was getting wet and miserable, not dead.

john fleming said...

This may be unrelated to this particular blog entry, and more related to the NOAA weather forecast at the end.

Have you had the Q-boat out in big waves? Specifically, I will be demoing a Q, but can't imagine that I will encounter very challenging conditions during a demo. I would really like to hear how the Q handles and tracks when the storms roll in 30 knots wind and 10 foot following seas. I would hate to end up ordering the boat, only to get my ass handed to me when it gets rough.

Any info you provide would be appreciated!