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


You don’t just put your 16-foot sailboat into Lake Superior one day and say, “I think I’ll sail around Lake Superior today.”

It wasn’t long after my divorce that I bought a house near Munising-a small town on the shores of Munising Bay-that I would launch my sailboat in Lake Superior. At the time, I actually had two catamaran sailboats. One was a 16-foot Hobie Cat. The second boat was a 15-foot Sol Cat. I kept the Hobie Cat down on Indian Lake where I still sailed with Steve and the Indian Lake Yacht Club. I kept the Sol Cat on Lake Superior.
Many days were spent sailing on Munising Bay. The water of Lake Superior, although it’s cold, has an almost irresistible attraction. The water is clear and seemingly alive with an invigorating energy all its own. It wasn’t long and I was spending most of my time sailing on the lake. It just so happened that my girlfriend’s brother Jimmers was into racing Hobie Cats. That winter he invited me to go with him to Mexico and work as a crew for him in the Hobie Cat midwinter’s west races. Actually, he had invited his sister Cindy. But she declined. So as a noble gesture, I volunteered.

Off to Mexico we went. When we arrived, we set up camp at a campground on the beach at San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez. There were hundreds of boats. Altogether, I think there were 215. Their brightly colored sails were lined up along the beach. It was quite a spectacle. We set up our boat and we were ready to race.
The next morning, the races began. Jimmer was a pretty good sailor and I learned a lot of new tricks from him. We placed 8th, 4th and 1st. We probably would have gotten a trophy, but the last race was cancelled due to problems with the race committee’s boat. Although I enjoyed the races, I really rather would have spent more time exploring the coastline of the Baja Peninsula. The serenity was awesome. There were huge mountains and beautiful desert meeting the shoreline. They invited me to explore. But alas, we only sailed circles in a bay congested with boats and people. I was a country boy and it was in my heart to explore. So I did rent a small 3-wheeled all-terrain vehicle and did some exploring. But I really thought it would be nicer to explore by sea.

My son Caleb on our first attempt around the Lake at Vermillion life saving station.

The next summer, Jimmers was planning on coming up to Munising with his boat. He said he found a good deal on a Hobie 16 that was in good shape. So I sold both my Hobie 16 and my Sol Cat 15-footer and bought the newer Hobie. Jimmers made a set of “wings” which were like two benches on each side of the boat. They were made from aluminum tubing with canvas stretched over the top for seats. These wings greatly increased the usefulness and comfort of the catamaran. That summer, we spent about two weeks sailing together. But, the highlight of the summer was a sailboat trip along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Grand Marais.

It was a beautiful summer day. We sailed out of Munising at about 9 a.m. We had two Hobie Cats. Jimmers and my son Caleb were on one boat. My second wife Cindy and I were on the other. We left the shelter of the harbor. We ventured out into the open waters of Lake Superior. This was a dream come true to be traveling on Lake Superior’s “Shipwreck Coast.” We were riding along some of the most awesome scenery in the world. We were on 16-foot boats powered only by wind. All I can say is the experience was indescribable. Our boats seemed dwarfed by the giant rocky cliffs.

We passed Grand Island-that great island of beauty and adventure. We moved along the massive rock cliffs of Pictured Rocks. The winds were light as we sailed past Miners Castle and Miners Beach. But as we rounded Portal Rock, the breeze freshened. We took off like a rocket. The only difficulty we had was as we passed Au Sable Point Lighthouse. Terrific offshore winds coming off the Grand Sable Dunes rocked our boats. The winds almost caused us to capsize. But we sailed on.

One thing I learned about sailing with Jimmers is that you’re always in a race. So when Cindy and I reached Grand Marais about 15 minutes ahead of Jimmers and Caleb, I think he gained respect for me as a sailor. We were having dinner at the restaurant by 1 p.m. We covered the 40 or so miles in only four hours. Not bad. Traveling at 10 mph for a sailboat was quite impressive. We finished lunch and headed out to our boats only to find a thunderstorm moving in. Securing the sailboats, we crawled under them for protection from the rain and wind. Then we all took about an hour-long nap while we waited out the storm.

The weather quickly improved and we were soon on our way back to Munising. As we started out the weather only gave us light winds. So travel was slow at times. But, about the time we reached Miners Castle, a sudden gale blew in from the northwest. In an instant we were in huge waves. Jimmers and Caleb were ahead of us this time. They were also farther out at sea. Rather than getting beat up in the huge waves, Cindy and I opted to land the boat at Miners Beach.

One advantage of the catamaran is that with the wind pushing on the sails we were shoved right through the treacherous breakers onto the beach. Landing in a conventional boat would have been very dangerous. The Hobie Cat’s shallow draft made the twin hulls seem like a pair of sled runners that helped make landing possible in heavy seas. We pulled the boat far up on land, grabbed the sails and our life jackets and bummed a ride home with some tourists. Our hair was wild and our faces wind-whipped. But we were beaming with smiles as we recounted the tale of our journey to our hosts.

When we returned to Munising, we waited on the dock at Cindy’s parents’ place. We had lost sight of Jimmers and Caleb. We were concerned that they may be in danger. It was getting dark and we could see no sign of them. Finally, we heard them answer our shouts. We were soon all reunited on the shoreline, happy that all of us had survived the storm.

It was the success of that day’s journey that was the beginning of an idea. I began to think that if a person were to pack right, why couldn’t they make a journey around all of Lake Superior? What a trip that would be! I would love to pilot a 16-foot sailboat around the lake that has claimed hundreds of ships, including the mighty Edmund Fitzgerald. To be able to pull the boat up out of the water and camp on the most beautiful and rugged shoreline in the world would be great. Imagine. What a trip that would be!

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