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.
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 there.

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 (complaining).

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 little.

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 story.

“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 survived.

“How could that be,” Naomi asked?

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 perished.

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 Superior.

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. Yummy.

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