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


After what seemed to be an eternity of following our compass through the fog, we finally spotted the Canadian shoreline. Like a giant peeking over the top of a fence, the mountaintops of Corbeil Point welcomed us through the fog. By this time, the waters had calmed and were nearly as smooth as glass. We motored on using the outboard. We checked our speed and our progress on our handheld GPS unit.

With the dangerous open water crossing behind us, and the beauty of the Canadian shore drifting past at 5 ˝ miles per hour, I now truly began to relax and enjoy the trip. A feeling of elation enveloped us. The warm sunlight melted away the fog. The beauty of the massive granite rock mountains reaching down to the deep, clear waters of Lake Superior soothed all thoughts of any storms on the lake, past or future. They were momentarily forgotten.

Canada was immediately beautiful and has not ceased to awe me yet. We stopped at a little fishery out of Batchawana Bay. The lake stayed flat all day. But we motored to the Montreal River. We saw a lot of loons and a lot of awesome scenery.

Across Batchawana Bay and on toward Coppermine Point, we glided across the calm waters, taking in the unfolding beauty all around us. Coppermine Point, on a calm day, is a reminder that not all shipwrecks on the Great Lakes were caused by collisions or heavy seas. Sometimes, fire would destroy vessels on the lakes.

A spectacular fire off Coppermine Point, on the night of June 26, 1907 claimed the 26-year-old wooden Canadian steamer Batchawana, just a few miles from Batchawana Bay. Down bound with a load of iron ore from Fort William to the Algoma Steel Company in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., the 209-foot, 674-ton vessel somehow caught fire. The ship was quickly engulfed in flames. The crew took to the lifeboats and was saved. But their ship had made her last trip.

Rounding Coppermine Point, we looked out on the lake and saw the form of a fish tug out in the distance. As we traveled on, we could see that both of us were headed in the same direction. I smiled and turned to Naomi.

I pointed to the fish tug and said, “It looks like we’ll be having fresh fish for supper tonight.”

“Can you do that? Buy fish right off their boat?”

“Of course. The fishermen can eliminate the middleman. We can get fresh fish.”

So both of our boats cruised toward the small harbor, which was protected by some rocky islands. The tug reached the harbor ahead of us. They had already tied up and unloaded. The harbor was rather quiet when we pulled up the boat. It was nice to stretch our legs a little. It was already early afternoon.

We made our way into the fish house and were greeted by a woman behind a counter. We told her about our trip and that we would like to buy some fish. She weighed some trout and smoked whitefish. She packed it in ice and a cardboard box. We strapped the fish onto our boat, shoved off and we were on our way.

Later that fall at Whitefish Point, one of the fishermen from the tug was at the Edmund Fitzgerald memorial service. The service is held each Nov. 10 as a reminder of the terrible storm that sank the great freighter and her crew. The fisherman told those gathered how on the night of the storm, the water along the shore here was 5 feet higher than normal. He also said that a lot of wreckage from the Fitzgerald was washed ashore near his fishery, including a lifeboat from the Fitzgerald.

Naomi and I continued west along the rocky Canadian coast. It was one of the best days of my life. We motored along at top speeds of 6 mph. over waters that looked just like glass. The water was so clear and pure we could see the boulders and crevices below us to 30 feet deep. Naomi lay sprawled out on one of the bows of the boat, while I leaned back against the side stays and took in the warmth of the sun. There are not many days like this on Lake Superior. So when they come along, enjoy them.

Up until this point, I still had doubts about the trip. I kept asking myself questions. Am I crazy taking this much time off work? Is it foolhardy to attempt such a voyage? Will we make it all the way around this time? But when the weather is fine and the awesome beauty of the rugged shoreline is drifting by you have no doubts. The answer is yes, yes, yes, and more than yes-this was the right thing to do. It was the trip of a lifetime. There would be days ahead when I would ask myself these questions again. But for today, we just sat back and enjoyed ourselves.

By late afternoon, we were approaching the mouth of the Montreal River. So we pulled up at the mouth in front of a small resort. Our 2 ˝-gallon supply of gasoline was getting rather low from running our motor all day. We walked up to the resort. It consisted of a few small cabins. We found the office and went inside.

The office served as a small store for the visitors at the resort. The manager was a friendly Canadian who said he was filling in for his brother who was away. When we asked about gasoline, he said they didn’t have gas. But he said there was a place a few miles up the road. He said he would give us a ride over there and back. So we enjoyed the conversation as well as the ride. This was the kind of nice people we met along our way. They made the trip more enjoyable.

Back at the river mouth, we launched the boat. We could see Montreal Island in the distance. The golden sun of late afternoon made everything around appear even more beautiful. Setting our course for the island, we planned to camp there that night.

The lake was as smooth as glass again. The light reflecting from its surface looked like mother of pearl. This was a rare day indeed. So unlike the day in May 1924 when the up bound steamer Orinoco, with the barge Chieftain in tow, encountered 60 mph. winds and sub-freezing temperatures. The ship began leaking badly. Captain Anthony Lawrence ordered the towline dropped. Later, he ordered 19 of his men into the lifeboats while he and two others remained on board in an attempt to nurse the vessel to shore. As the crew in the lifeboats struggled to reach Montreal Island, they watched their 295-foot ship plunge to the bottom of the lake. The brave captain, the chief engineer and the wheelman all went down with the ship. The men in the lifeboats were having a desperate struggle to survive. Two of the men died of exposure. Fortunately, the tug Gargantua happened to be in the area. The tug picked up the 17 men who had survived. They were alive, in part, due to the heroism of the three who had gone down with the ship. The Gargantua was able to make it to the lee of Montreal Island and anchor safely.

There is a resort we stopped at on the Montreal River. I called Mommy. We bought some food, got some gas. Then we headed out to Montreal Island.

This is the seventh of a series of excerpts from Carl Behrend’s book Adventure Bound. For more
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