We’re underway, eight nautical miles or thereabouts into the solid white mass of what I’ve been assured is Lake Erie. But it might as well be 8 trillion nautical miles, and it might as well be Neptune, because from up here on the bridge of the USCG Morro Bay (WTGB 106), an icebreaking tug, the view is that of a deep-galactic wasteland.
Our speed right now is 0.0 knots, which for the uninitiated means we’re stopped, squatting in the ice like a hypothermic otter. It’s early February, and the Great Lakes are 88 percent covered in ice. Lake Erie, where we’re now stalled, is the smallest and shallowest of the lakes and has reached a staggering 96 percent coverage. “Knot,” by the way, is the maritime abbreviation for “Nautical Miles per hour.” The nautical mile is slightly longer than a standard land mile, measuring 2,000 yards compared to 1,670.
For the record, there is nothing visibly nautical about our current location.
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