Adventure 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 either.

From left to right: Carl, Paul Johnson, Steve Johnson with The Vallhalla after another sailing season. Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson. If 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.


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 Westman.

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 ghost town.

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 stove.

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 living.

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.

Henry Ford's house at Pequaming, Michigan on the shore of Lake Superior where my Grandfather was a caretaker.

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 and God.

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