Bound: A Father and Daughter Circumnavigate the
Greatest Lake in the World
By Carl Behrend
3—Early Sailing Adventures On Indian Lake
in the UP of MI
A couple of years after Naomi’s
birth I decided to move back to Manistique. My
high school friends and of course, my parents
and brother Butch lived there. Finding a small
house in the country to rent, we made the move.
It was fall and with winter coming I was able
to get some wood cut. We settled into our new
place with only a part-time job. I needed to find
other work. Cutting wood in the winter helped
supplement my meager income. It was backbreaking
work, especially for someone not familiar with
the trade. An experienced man felling trees could
drop them very accurately. I could not. This resulted
in much more time and effort being spent. It also
resulted in less money because we were paid by
the piece or “stick” of wood that
was cut and piled. The job was neither easy nor
profitable. But it helped keep us going.
A quarter-mile or so down the
street from my house lived Paul Johnson. Paul
was one of my high school chums and a cousin to
Steve Johnson, the sailor. Steve’s sailing
bug had already bitten Paul. He was a fledgling
sailor that first summer. I remember Paul’s
first sailboat. It was a 12-foot Snipe made of
plywood. The boat leaked terribly. Paul had tarred
the bottom, but the boat still leaked badly. When
he pulled the boat up to the shore he would lift
it up onto some concrete blocks. He did this so
the boat wouldn’t fill up with water when
he left it sitting for a few days. But Paul wanted
the bottom of the boat to remain wet so the moisture
would let the wood expand. Paul described it as
After my first winter working
in the woods I decided that lumberjacking was
definitely not the career choice for me. I decided
to do something else. Something I’d done
in the past. After I was out of high school I
had started a small painting business. I ran the
business for a couple of years before trying some
other trades. I still had a few ladders and small
tools. I strapped them onto my small station wagon.
I put an ad in the newspaper and I was back in
was on one of my painting jobs that I found a
boat for me. I was working for an elderly lady
named Mrs. Firring. She lived in Curtis in the
next county east. I discovered the small sailboat
in her barn. The boat was a 9- foot fiberglass
“Shell Lake” boat shaped like a pumpkin
seed. The boat was in “like new” condition.
It had a red top and a white bottom and one sail.
I thought the boat was beautiful. I asked Mrs.
Firring about it. She said that it had only been
used a few times. She said her husband had tipped
it over. That was the last time they had used
it. The boat had sat in the barn for about ten
I struggled during the conversation.
But finally, I mustered up enough courage to ask
her it she would sell it to me. Mrs. Firring told
me she would think about it. She said she’d
give me an answer the next day. The following
morning I came to work wondering if she would
sell the boat. If so, how much would she want
for it? Would I be able to afford it? I would
soon find out. I arrived at work and began painting
for the day. I waited for Mrs. Firring to come
outside. Every moment I painted I wondered what
she would say. Finally, she came out and cheerfully
bid me, “Good day.” We talked about
the progress I was making painting and the work
yet to be done. I couldn’t wait any longer.
So I asked her about the boat.
She started out telling me that
she still had the original purchase paperwork.
She said the boat had cost $900 when they bought
it ten years ago from the factory in Shell Lake,
Wisconsin. Then she told me she would sell the
boat for $125. That doesn’t sound like a
starving painter with a wife and three small children,
it was a big investment.
I told Mrs. Firring that I would
like to have the boat if she could take the money
from what she would owe me for painting. She said
she would. I nearly leaped for joy. After work
that evening we loaded the boat on top of my station
wagon. I tied it down. The boat looked very smart
on top of my wagon. A millionaire with a new yacht
couldn’t have been more proud.
I couldn’t wait to show
my new boat to Steve and Paul. So the first chance
I got I brought the boat to Indian Lake. Steve
Johnson lived with his parents on the shore there.
They lived near Arrowhead Point, the most beautiful
and most protected place on the lake.
seemed that every summer after I got that first
boat Arrowhead Point was like a magnet. The family
and I would spend many days learning to sail there.
The boat, although small, was quite roomy. In
addition to having a sail, the boat was equipped
with a new set of oars. Paul and Steve gave me
some general instructions. The rest I would learn
through observation and experimentation.
I remember times when I would
just sail alone, especially in rough weather.
I stayed mostly inside of the point to avoid large
waves. Indian Lake was a big lake that was about
5 miles across and 7 or 8 miles long. The lake
was known to whip up into huge waves rather suddenly.
So you had to be careful.
We often had picnics on the point.
That way the family could enjoy the day while
I would sail. I remember one experience in particular
when we all were in the boat. Sarah, Caleb, Naomi,Mary
and I were all in the 9-foot boat. The lake was
rather calm. We were about a half-mile from shore
sailing along very slowly with the combined weight
of all of us in the boat. I looked to the shore.
I saw something in the water about halfway between
us and the shore. I pointed it out to the others,
looking closer. We could make out the head of
a dog swimming toward us. It was our family pet
Sheba, a Norwegian elkhound. She had decided to
join us out in the boat.
were concerned for her safety swimming such a
long distance. So we called to her to encourage
her. She got nearer to the boat. Finally, she
got close enough so that I could reach over to
help her in. We were all overjoyed to have her
safe in the boat. But in our already overcrowded
boat we didn’t really need a wet dog. Of
course, the first thing she did was start shaking
off. We all laughed and screamed as the spray
That type of family fun was the
way many days were spent on Indian Lake. And with
those days, my knowledge of sailing increased.
This is the second of a series
of excerpts from Carl Behrend’s book Adventure
Bound. For more information on how to purchase
books, CD’s or to arrange bookings call
(906) 387-2331 or visit www.greatlakeslegends.com.