|The 'Sleeping Giant' seen from Thunder Bay. Note the silhouette of head and arms crossed over chest, feet at far right.|
|This is the sauna we found tucked away on an island|
By the summer of 2011, we had been sailing the west end o Lake Superior for 9 years and were now on our second sailboat, SweetWater. We were eager to sail to Canada for our two week vacation. We knew from previous sailing trips that sailing as far as
|Lake Superior depth just south of Isle Royale|
We thought that sailing the North Shore of Lake Superior would likely be the closest to wilderness sailing that we would ever embark upon. We would be beyond cell phone reception much of the time. There are very few opportunities to buy groceries or
|One of many lighthouses on the western shore of Lake Superior|
We chose the last week of July and the first week of August for our adventure, as those weeks had proven themselves to be the most reliable for finding good weather on cold Lake Superior. We were right. The weather was wonderful for the entire time. We sailed
|Approaching the breakwater, Grand Marais, MN|
|Voyageur/native canoe near the Witching Tree|
We anchored in about 20' feet of water using our Bruce anchor and put out 50 feet of chain and another 70 feet of rope. As would
|Amy Brooks and Dale Hedtke, friends who sail on Ranger|
|SweetWater "boat breakfast"|
Eventually, we were motivated to pull anchor and head out toward the next destination which was Thompson Island. As much as we enjoyed this anchorage, we anticipated another kind of special experience at Thompson Island. We had been told that Thompson
Island had been "developed" by various Canadian sailors over the years. It was a naturally occurring well protected inlet with deep water. We had heard that the Canadians, without any government support or organizational backing, had built structures there, including a boardwalk sort of dock somehow clinging to a sheer cliff face which would be where we would tie up. There was supposedly a sauna there, built only with whatever materials persistent sailors had carried with them on their sailboats to the site. And even a steep set of steps one could climb with the aid of ropes attached to trees. The climb would reward one with seating at the edge of the cliff and an overlook of the entire site. Armed with this information, we anticipated another wonderful evening with our friends and other sailors that we would encounter there.
When we pull up anchor, my husband goes to the bow while I handle the helm. He gives me hand signals to direct me to slowly move the boat over the anchor, break it free and then he manually pulls it up. An electric windlass would have made the process much easier, but this routine was certainly effective. When SweetWater was directly over the anchor, my husband gave his full attention to hoisting the anchor. The anchor did not want to come up. "It's heavier than it should be. It's not wedged in rock or anything--I can feel it move, but it just doesn't want to come." He put every bit of energy into raising the anchor and yelled to me, "Ardys, come up here." "Oh no....." Instead of our anchor, we saw what
would be called 'slash' by Lake Superiorites. One end of an extremely long log was visible at the waterline--the other end apparently still resting on the bottom of the lake at a 45 degree angle, some 30-40 feet away from the boat. The log was quite securely lodged within the crook of the anchor. SweetWater was effectively attached to the floor of the lake.
"What do we do now?" We knew immediately that the simplest solution would be quite costly--cutting the rode where the chain attached to the rope. We would lose not only a 35# anchor but 50' of chain rode. Our remaining anchor was more of a lunch hook and had never been used as a primary anchor. Without this anchor that had now become one with the log, we may be forced to abandon the remainder of our sailing vacation. The Captain - "We could call to Ranger, but even if they are close enough to hear our transmission, what are they going to do about this?" More ruminating between us. He - "We are on our own here." She - "Eventually someone else will come here to anchor." (Ya, maybe today, maybe next week). He - "And when they do--again, what are they going to do about it?" Together - "If only we had a chainsaw." A chainsaw!
"Maybe a Canadian with a chainsaw will come here to anchor," I said. "Do you think they really all carry chainsaws," he questioned. I thought back to one of anchorage mates from the night before. A person can hope, right? This is
where my wiseness in marrying my husband becomes evident. He lassoed the end of the log and put that line on a winch. He then raised the log, which theoretically would leave the anchor free to come loose. Theoretically, is the key word in that sentence. The anchor was firmly dug into that log. We cast about to find something on the boat that was heavy enough that we could use as a sledge hammer to break the anchor away from the log. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sad to say, besides NOT bringing a chainsaw, neither did we carry a sledge hammer onboard. What kind of sailors were we anyhow....sailing into the wilderness without power tools or major destructive equipment? After some casting about, my husband settled upon the boat pole and used it to push at the log and anchor until ultimately the anchor was jogged free so that it could be pulled aboard. Now to get rid of the wooden "anchor" that was holding the boat in place. We DID have heavy duty knives for cutting away rigging onboard. And with that we were loose. Note to self: Chainsaw--bring a chainsaw when we sail the Canadian shore.