Adventure Bound: A Father and Daughter
Circumnavigate the Greatest Lake in the World
By Carl Behrend
Morning came. Naomi and I
had slept under the stars in our sleeping bags.
We awoke to the lapping of the waves on the
shore. There is nothing I have ever experienced
like camping on the Lake Superior shore. We
crawled out of our sleeping bags and decided to
walk to the store to buy a couple of last minute
things we needed. We would be sailing into some
remote areas where it would be days, or weeks,
before we’d have any chance of re-supplying.
We had been invited to eat
breakfast with the folks we had met the night
before. So on our way back to the boat, we
stopped by their campsite. But we found them
still asleep. Naomi and I decided it was time to
get moving. The southwest wind continued to blow
as it had the day before, pushing us past the
old Grand Marais, Michigan Coast Guard Station.
I knew the building well. My son Caleb and I had
repainted it the summer before. While working
there, we learned many stories of the courage
and valor of the lifesaving crews.
|Escaping a thunder storm in one of our
hastily built shelters with a hot cup of
mocha and a small fire.
As Naomi and I sailed by
the Grand Marais Harbor entrance and headed
east, I recalled the story of the Parker for
her. They say the ship was pounded by a
southwest wind back in 1907. The old wooden
steamer began to sink while it was heading for
shore. The captain blew the ship’s whistle,
which alerted the Grand Marais lifesaving crew.
After a tiring 50-minute row, the lifesavers
reached the vessel.
Not able to carry all 17 of
her crewmen, the Parker’s yawl was launched and
eight of her crew followed. The ship sank soon
afterward. After several hours of rowing against
the wind and waves, the two boats neared the
harbor. Two tugs picked up the tired rowers and
towed them in to shore.
Naomi and I sailed east.
The southwest wind was quite strong and seemed
to be getting stronger. We sailed past the spot
where Caleb and I had stopped to repair the
damaged jib the year before. Naomi and I made
good time. When we reached the Two-hearted
River, we decided to pull in and take a little
break. As we were eating lunch, I noticed a
sailboat about a half-mile offshore. The
occupants of the boat seemed to be having
difficulty. It looked as though they had lowered
the sail and were trying to start their motor.
But they were stuck in the high wind and waves.
As I was watching them, their situation seemed
to be getting worse. I ran over to the boat and
got my radio. I had a small hand-held unit. I
turned it on. I watched the boaters for a few
more minutes. Then I heard the harbormaster of
the Little Lake Marina trying to reach the
sailboat on the radio. The marina was located a
mile or two away from us. I spoke to the
harbormaster briefly and told him I had been
watching the boaters too. He said he could go
out and assist them in his Boston whaler
powerboat, which is a very seaworthy craft.
The harbormaster had been
trying to contact the boat for a while. But
there had been no response. We watched the
boaters for a while longer. Apparently, they got
their motor working and started making some
headway going west.
I was standing at the very
spot where one of the old lifesaving stations
along the Shipwreck Coast had been standing in
1875. There were four stations in all. They were
located at Vermilion Point, Crisp Point,
Two-hearted River and Muskallonge Lake at Deer
Park. How many times had the brave men here
witnessed ships in distress? In the early days
of shipping on the lake, there were so many
shipwrecks along this coast that these four
manned lifesaving stations were built about 10
miles apart. History has largely forgotten these
“storm warriors,” which was the nickname given
these members of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. A
24-hour beach patrol would walk the shore
continuously. They would meet between stations
and exchange a token, proving they had made
their rounds. If they should see a ship too
close to shore, or in danger, they would light a
flare to warn them of danger or to acknowledge
their distress. How many times had they launched
their surfboats to row through breaking waves to
rescue ship’s crews? I felt their awesome
responsibility for a few minutes while I stood
Today was not a good
day for me. It was one of those days where
nothing goes right. The windbreaker Daddy got me
blew off the boat, which perturbed me greatly
because I really, really liked it. The flies
were terrible and ate me up. And when we finally
made camp I lost my glasses. So I’m really in a
bad mood. I need to pray about this because I
don’t want to be like the children of Israel
As far as progress
goes, we did pretty good. We ate breakfast at
the diner in Grand Marais. It was a really cool
restaurant and I had some French toast. We
pulled out of Grand Marais about 10 a.m. and got
to Whitefish Point about sunset. On our first
stretch, the waves and wind were erratic and
puffy. But then after we stopped at the mouth of
the Two-Hearted River, things calmed down a
The wind blew more
steady and the waves turned into huge rollers.
It was a long boring stretch between Grand
Marais, Michigan and Whitefish Point.
When Naomi and I finished
our lunch, we set sail again. By now, the waves
were 4 to 5 feet high. The winds were quite
strong. So we had reefed the mainsail. Naomi and
I launched the boat, sailing past Little Lake
toward Whitefish Point. With the lake getting
rougher, we tried to stay a bit closer to land.
Unfortunately, we had trouble on the other side
of Little Lake. We were trying to make it around
a small point of land when our rudders hit
bottom. This caused them to kick up, making it
very difficult to steer.
In the heavy seas and
strong winds, all I could do was run the boat up
onto the shore. Fortunately, this is one of the
best features of a catamaran-the ability to
beach. With some difficulty, we pulled the boat
up. There we were on a narrow strip of beach
right near the pounding surf. We did not want to
stay there. We set our sails to tack into the
wind and decided to launch out into the
breakers. If we got caught sideways in these
waves, the boat would surely be pounded to
pieces. Would we make it back to deep water? Or,
would this be the end of our trip?
The wind caught our sail
and pulled us through the breakers and finally
into deep water where I could lock my rudders
down. We cleared the point and we were on our
way. We made good time with following seas,
stayed farther out from shore and we had no more
problems that day.
Crips Point Lighthouse
was a welcome sight with its lone tower,
contrasting boldly against the dark sky.
We sailed past the old Vermilion Point
Lifesaving Station and on to Whitefish Point. As
we got closer to Whitefish Bay, we could see the
lighthouse tower reflecting in the evening sun.
The winds were dying down and the waves were
beginning to calm. We could now relax a bit.
With Whitefish Point now in
sight and the seas running a bit more calmly, I
was able to tell Naomi of another interesting
“It happened right out
there,” I said, pointing. “About a mile and a
half offshore, it was the strange story of a
shipwreck, believe it or not.”
The crew all got off in the
lifeboats and the captain went down with his
ship. But the captain was the only one who
“How could that be,” Naomi
Well it happened like this,
there was another November storm in 1919. The
186-foot wooden steamer-the Myron-was towing
another ship called the Miztec. But the pounding
of the waves caused the ship to leak badly.
Hoping to make it around the point, Captain Neal
of the Myron dropped his towline and ran for
shelter. But the ship was in serious trouble. A
passing ore carrier called the Adriatic,
noticing the ship was in trouble, pulled
alongside to protect her as the Myron
desperately tried to reach safety.
The Vermilion Point Coast
Guard sailors also noticed the ship’s plight and
launched their lifeboat through the terrible
surf. Only a mile and a half form the point, the
little ship gave up. As the Myron began to sink,
her crew climbed into the lifeboats. But Captain
Neal decided to go down with his beloved ship.
Meanwhile, the men in the
lifeboats were in a desperate situation. The
deckload of lumber now awash in the pounding
seas hammered the lifeboats. The Adriatic made
several attempts to rescue. But when the big
ship began to hit bottom, the captain retreated
her to deeper water.
Another ship, the 520-foot
H.P. McIntosh actually drew close enough to
throw lifelines to the survivors. But weakened
by the freezing cold, they were unable to save
themselves. The captain of the McIntosh, fearing
for his own ship and crew, had to pull away. The
Coast Guard crew, likewise, was unable to
penetrate the pounding debris. All 16 crewmen
Meanwhile, Captain Neal had
gone down with his ship. But as the ship sank,
the pilothouse popped off and Captain Neal
climbed onto the roof of what had become a
makeshift raft. For 20 miserable long hours he
drifted in the storm.
The next day, the captain
of the W.C. Franz spotted a body on some
wreckage. He turned his ship to pick up the
body. To his surprise, he saw the body move.
Captain Neal was rescued, barely alive. His body
was some 20 miles from the wreck, but he
recovered and was actually the only member of
the ship’s crew who survived.
“Wow! That’s a great
story,” Naomi said.
We sailed for the shore and
pulled the boat up onto the beach near the
lighthouse. Naomi and I unloaded our gear and
set up camp. It was a beautiful evening. The sun
setting over the big lake and the distant
mountains on the Canadian shore left a lasting
impression of the awesome beauty of Lake
We stopped twice today
after the Two-Heart before reaching here.
Hopefully, God will bless again tomorrow. It was
another beautiful red sunset again tonight and
there was a freighter inching its way across the
horizon. We had macaroni and cheese for supper.
This is the
sixth 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.