Bound: A Father and Daughter Circumnavigate the
Greatest Lake in the World
By Carl Behrend
I’ve noticed something about sailors. There
is a natural desire when one starts sailing to
own a bigger boat to sail on bigger seas and to
be the captain of your own ship. Paul Johnson
was going through this. The fledgling sailor was
always keeping his eyes open for what would become
his next boat.
I remember the first time I saw
the boat. It was a 26-foot plywood craft, overlaid
with fiberglass with a small cabin on it. The
story surrounding the boat’s creation is
that it had been built by some city police officers
from Gladstone, Michigan. They had reportedly
been sailing it out on Lake Michigan when a sudden
strong wind knocked the boat on its side, nearly
capsizing it. The experience frightened the owners
so much that the boat was never used again. The
mast and sails were sold. The boat sat on a makeshift
trailer in a vacant lot where it was left to decay.
Paul spotted the boat and asked about it. He was
able to buy it for $125. It seems that $125 was
the going price for the boats we could afford
within our circle of friends. Paul had hauled
it home and backed it into the woods behind his
house. That’s where I thought it would stay.
When Paul showed the boat to
me there was a hole in the bottom the size of
a coffee table. That was how we got into the boat,
by climbing a small ladder up through the hole
into what was supposed to be the cockpit of the
boat. Paul showed me the small cabin. It had a
bunk, a small desk and a dresser. It was nice
to see a boat with a cabin on it because in our
league of boat owners this was pretty high-class.
But there was no mast, nor sails, on the boat.
Considering the amount of work that might be needed
to ready the boat, I really never thought I’d
see it float, much less sail under its own power.
Paul later admitted that he wasn’t too sure
it hadn’t been for Steve’s boat building
enthusiasm the boat would still be in his backyard.
Steve would often be seen headed to Paul’s
house with a bunch of materials for the boat-building
project. I guess I should never underestimate
what a dreamer can do-especially when two dreamers
get working together on the same project. By the
end of summer, they had the hole patched. The
bottom had been coated in fiberglass and a large
concrete keel was added for ballast and stability.
The boat was finally ready to be launched. Although
it had no sails or mast, the boat was all fresh
and painted white. Steve used his artistic touch
to add some deep blue stripes along the length
of the boat. This work culminated in some blue
and gold scrollwork on the bow. The boat looked
quite nice. It was a far cry from the scrap that
I’d seen that spring in Paul’s backyard.
The following year, Steve and
Paul continued to work on the sailboat. Paul had
picked up a used 32-foot mast, boom and sails.
They fitted the items onto the boat with all the
stays and rigging. The finished product was a
beautiful 26-foot sloop. Her name was painted
attractively on her stern: The Valhalla. Steve
and Paul being of Scandinavian descent, named
the boat after the Viking heaven of Norse mythology.
And heaven is what it would be. That boat brought
years of friendship and pleasure to all of us.
It was about this time that Paul
got into an auto accident. He wrecked his car
and was convicted of drunken driving. Paul made
up his mind that he’d had enough drinking.
That was a good decision. I think that his wife
Janet was about ready to send him packing. But
from that day forward Paul put his energy, heart
and soul into his boat. As it turned out, The
Valhalla would be excellent therapy for him. It
also brought his family together and drew a lot
of other people to the sailing world.
The day came for launching The
Valhalla as a full-fledged sailboat. A group of
friends helped Paul step the mast, tighten the
rigging and launch the boat. She was the biggest
sailboat on Indian Lake. I’m sure Paul and
Steve were the proudest boat owners around. They
would keep the boat at Arrowhead Point.
Steve’s cousin Kevin Thorrell
was caretaker of the Old Arrowhead Inn. He had
made arrangements for Paul and Steve to keep The
Valhalla in a slip at the Old Arrowhead Inn dock.
That is probably the best spot to keep a boat
on the whole lake. It was quite common to find
Steve or Paul out sailing or tied up at the dock.
Often, Paul would sleep on the boat at night.
Arrowhead became the place to be. A certain group
of friends would be drawn there, year after year
for about ten years, while the boat was kept there.
There were cookouts, picnics and sailboat races.
And yes, Paul was quite the organizer. At one
point during those years there was a race held
every other Sunday afternoon.
The races were the kind that
involved whatever floated and had sails on it.
The wide-ranging boat collection was started racing
with a flag and the sound of a gun. The gun was
usually Paul’s shotgun. I think that those
were some of the best days of our lives. They
were not only good days for us, but for our families
and friends also. Ten years for a boat that I
thought would never float. I told Paul once that
the boat changed his life and the lives of his
family members for the better. I would like to
say it now for everyone who reads this book that
it also helped change my life and my children’s
lives for the better too. Thank you Steve and
Paul and Kevin. I hope that someday we may all
sail together in Valhalla for eternity.
CHAPTER 5--EARLY MEMORIES
- OF LAKE SUPERIOR
As far back in my mind as I can
remember, there is Lake Superior with its cool
breeze, the crashing of the waves along the shore
and the sound of gulls calling in the distance.
I remember there were two white
buildings. One was called “The Bungalow.”
It was a beautiful mansion with six white pillars.
The Bungalow was owned by famous auto giant Henry
Ford. The house overlooked Lake Superior. The
second building was located close by. This building
was the caretaker’s cottage and my grandparents’
home. My grandparents were Albert and Ingaborg
There was a white fence around
the neatly kept grounds where my grandfather worked
as a caretaker. There also was a beautiful flower
garden that he kept well. In the center of the
garden there was a pedestal made from round Lake
Superior stones joined together with mortar. On
top of the pedestal sat a faded brass sundial,
which was always a point of interest for my brothers,
my sisters and me.
I clearly remember driving to
and from Grandma’s house because it was
so interesting. To get there we had to drive through
a ghost town called Pequaming. I would sit up
on the edge of the car seat and look around with
wonder as we drove past boarded-up old buildings,
long overgrown and neglected.
As we passed the water tower
and the old schoolhouse, my mother would point
out each building. She would tell us who had lived
there before and what had been located in each
building. The Ford Motor Company had owned the
town site. The company had a large mill located
there for producing wooden parts for automobiles.
When Ford stopped using wooden parts, the mill
was closed down in 1942. This left Pequaming a
I was six years old when my grandfather
retired. He moved from the caretaker’s cottage
to a small house along the bay. The house was
located between Pequaming and L’Anse. It
was there that we really got a feel for what it
was like to live on the big lake. My grandfather
had just built a small house for his retirement
years. He had built a log cabin earlier in life
before he married Grandma. The new house was right
next to the cabin. So when we went to visit, all
eight of us kids would stay in the cabin. The
cabin was heated with a wood stove. In the kitchen,
there was a wood cook stove. Many cool Lake Superior
mornings were spent getting dressed near the wood
Before breakfast, my brother
Butch and I would get up and go down to the lakeshore.
It was always interesting to see the many faces
of the lake, with its cold, clear waters, so wild
and untamed. On calm days, we could skip rocks
on the water and walk along the rocky shore. On
stormy days, we would watch the awesome power
of the huge waves crashing into the beach.
Grandpa had a large garden up
on the hill overlooking the lake. He and Grandma
grew just about all of their own produce. Grandpa
had also built a large root cellar to keep vegetables
and jars of home-canned goods like wild blueberries
that we would use for our pancakes in the morning.
Grandma and Grandpa sure knew something about
Next door to my grandparents
was “the farm” which was owned by
my Uncle Oscar Westman and my Aunt Helvi. The
farm had been the homestead of my great-grandparents.
Uncle Oscar and Aunt Helvi still had a cow that
they would milk by hand. They also had chickens
and a pig. It wasn’t until years later that
they acquired electricity. There was an icehouse
down by the lake. There was a certain feeling
of serenity and a kind of self-reliance I felt
there along the lakeshore.
Across the driveway stood the
“old house,” a hand-hewn log house
that had belonged to my great-grandparents. They
say it’s the oldest house in Baraga County.
The house still stands there today. It was a wonderful
place for us kids. The house was like our own
private museum with all the interesting things
it contained. I remember seeing a loom for weaving
rugs, an old trunk filled with tanned animal hides,
an electric belt for curing arthritis and a wooden
long bow that my cousin Terry would challenge
us with to see if we were strong enough to string
it. There was also an old brass bed upstairs.
Sometimes my older brother Mike and my cousin
Terry would sleep there. In the morning, some
of us younger kids would go sneak up the stairs
to visit, only to be frightened to near death
by one of them leaping out at us unexpectedly,
covered with the old bear skin rug.
When we wanted fish from the
lake, my Uncle Oscar would “set the net.”
He would row out with the boat and place a fish
net into the water. Then, in the morning, he would
pull it up to see what kind of fish had been caught.
I remember on one occasion, my
uncle Oscar had won a large wooden rowboat in
town. When he brought it to the farm, he and my
grandfather fashioned a mast sail and rudder for
the boat. I remember its white painted hull and
wooden gunnels. I think my uncle had named the
boat Diane after his daughter.
On another of my most memorable
days on Lake Superior, my mother and dad took
all of us kids (there was eight of us) to visit
my Aunt Ann and Dr. Guy. They lived in a lighthouse.
Yes, a real lighthouse. It was the Sand Point
Lighthouse on Keweenaw Bay. The brick lighthouse
was built in 1878. It made a beautiful home and
an interesting place to visit. We all spent the
day on the beach. The kids all played in the water
so long they started to turn blue. After supper,
Dr. Guy took us up the stairs to the lantern room
of the lighthouse. Perhaps this is where my interest
in Great Lakes maritime history began. As he opened
the door to the catwalk outside I was filled with
awe and wonder. We were actually in the top of
a real lighthouse.
I also remember that my father
sometimes brought his 18-foot powerboat when we
went to visit at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.
There were days Dad would use the boat to pull
on water skis anyone who felt courageous enough
to brave the cold water. He would also take us
fishing. On one of the best trips, we fished near
Huron Bay. It was so awesome. The Huron Mountains
were in the background. And of course, there were
the Huron Islands. There is just something about
islands that is so fascinating. They invite your
curiosity to explore.
So off we went toward the islands.
They were barely visible at first. Then they seemed
to grow out of the horizon as we drew nearer.
This same fascination inspired by the islands
would lure me again years later when I sailed
to these same Huron Islands with my daughter Naomi.
There was a beautiful lighthouse on a towering
rocky peak of the island. My father docked the
boat in a small harbor and we made our way up
a gravel path to the lighthouse. The U.S. Coast
Guard still manned the lighthouse back then in
the 1960s. A lonely guardsman welcomed us by giving
us a personal tour of the light station and its
operations. It was the highlight of our day.
It was times like these that
make life worth living. Thank you Dad, for bringing
us there. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa, for choosing
to live there. Thank you God, for making Lake
Superior a part of my life and my heritage. These
are some of my early memories of the lake. They
are memories that would call me back; back to
the magical and beautiful lake called Superior.
Perhaps it was at this early age in my childhood
that my love for boats began. Maybe my Norwegian
and Swedish ancestry on my mother’s side
awakened some distant Viking heritage and love
of the sea.
My memories of Lake Superior
are like living pearls on a great necklace. I
have shared a few of these pearls. But before
I go on, there is one story that I must share.
Years had passed and Grandma and Grandpa were
now gone. My cousin Terry owned their house by
the lake. It was now the early 1970s. I was growing
from an adolescent into a man. As was true of
many young people during that time period, there
seemed to be a lack of direction in my life and
in the lives of my friends.
I made a few visits to Grand
Marais, a beautiful place about 45 miles east
of Munising on Superior’s shore. There are
great sand dunes there that stretch for miles.
The dunes are dotted with small patches of forest.
As you look out over the lake from these lofty
mounds, the water and the sun and sky seem to
open before you. Your soul seems to drift toward
the horizon. You can almost sense eternity.
I think I was 17 at the time.
I’m not sure where, but I read some place
that it was here on these Grand Sable Dunes that
Native American Indians would come to fast and
pray to the Great Spirit. I had also heard that
Jesus and some of his prophets had fasted and
prayed when they were seeking direction in their
lives. Somehow, I came to the conclusion that
I would have a buddy of mine drop me off at the
dunes. There I would fast and pray to the Great
Spirit. For four long and lonely days I camped
there on the dunes alone with nature. Alone with
nothing more than a tent and a sleeping bag, days
can seem very long when you don’t have meal
times to break things up. There’s also no
one to talk to. No one, that is, except yourself
It was springtime and the new
leaves swayed in the cool spring breezes. On the
fourth day I was feeling weak from hunger. I had
no water to drink so I became very thirsty. I
decided to go down to the lake to get some water.
The problem was there was a 500-foot drop to the
lake. In my weakened condition I struggled to
climb down to the water’s edge. The water
in the lake was cool and refreshing. But the hike
back to the top was exhausting. When I got back
to my camp I was so tired. I lay down outside
my tent on my belly. I had my head propped up
on my arms. I was facing a small campfire, too
tired to move.
I lay there awhile and was just
beginning to dose. All of a sudden, I heard a
noise that startled me. I looked up just in time
to see a deer jumping over my head and my campfire.
I turned to watch as the deer landed and turned
to face me. The animal was now about 10 yards
from my campsite. He stood there making gestures
toward me with his front hooves, almost playfully.
I spoke in a gentle voice. I asked him why he
had come. He stayed close by for some time. The
whole while I was watched with wonder. I could
hardly believe my eyes.
Finally, after awhile, the deer
disappeared into the forest leaving me to wonder.
I don’t think that anyone else could say
that they have ever seen anything like it. Some
years later, I spoke to a Native American medicine
man. He suggested that the experience was more
than just a natural occurrence. He said that the
deer was not acting like a normal deer. He said
that this was actually a “spirit deer.”
This deer was a sign to me that the Great Spirit
would guide me in life’s journey. The medicine
man told me my character was like that of the
deer. Gently, I would lead my family and friends
on their life’s journey. My understanding
of this experience is that I would be blessed.
And my life truly has been blessed. So it was
in both my childhood and as I became an adult,
the big lake spoke to me. It left an impression
on my soul that would never be erased.
This is the third 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.