Adventure Bound: A Father and Daughter Circumnavigate the Greatest Lake in the World
By Carl Behrend

Chapter 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 “swelling.”

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 business.

Naomi exploring Lamb Island on the Canadian side of Lake Superior.It 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 years.

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.

Naomi and I taking it easy at Serendipity Gardens in Rossport, Ontario.It 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.

One of those rare times the lake is like glass. Naomi rides on the bow.We 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 showered us.

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



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