Thanks to fellow WoodyBoaters Bob and Kristi for sending us in part one of a fun adventure touring and learning about Lake Superior. As you can see this has taken some time to put together and we now get to be late to work, cause you are reading a fun and great report. And now without further adoooo!
Woody Boating on Lake Superior Bob and Kristi Rosenquist
We purchased our 1987, 24 foot Skiff Craft last year with the intention of exploring the Mississippi river and the great Lakes. This year we have made two trips to Lake Superior and had delightful weather both times.
The first outing was a quick two day trip on Memorial weekend – the official start of summer. We had been watching the Minnesota weather really closely trying to decide whether to start baling hay or go boating. These two endeavors frequently collide, but the horses need to eat. My wife and I identified a possible one- day window – the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend – to take a cruise on Lake Superior. We drove a stitch over 200 miles and were launched in the Duluth Harbor by 10:30 Saturday morning. Though it is in the middle of North America, Duluth Harbor is an international shipping port reached by ocean going vessels through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the chain of Great Lakes.
The day was glorious – very warm for this time of year and with a light wind. Three years ago there was still ice floating in the harbor on Memorial Day.
Lake Superior has a reputation that should be respected but not feared. Pick your weather and remember the point of pleasure boating is pleasure. As we headed into the main part of the lake through the Superior entry – the ship’s canal on the Wisconsin side of the harbor – the Coast Guard issued a call on channel 16 to any vessel near Michigan Island (part of the Apostle Islands) to assist a vessel taking on water. Lake Superior’s water temperature is around 48 to 50 degrees so this is a very serious situation. As we cleared the harbor we felt the full lake effect on the ambient air temperature as we managed to get sunburn while mostly covered up with sweatshirts and jackets.
On the eastern end of Duluth, we had a nice view of the Congdon family’s Glensheen Mansion where infamous double murders occurred in 1977. The mansion’s boat-house is in the foreground.
A cruise up the North Shore is truly unique. The sand dunes of Minnesota Point are quickly replaced with rock and few harbors of refuge. This trip to Knife River was just 20 miles of the more than 1700 miles of shoreline.
Making our approach to Knife River Marina. We are in about 130 feet of water. However there are rock shoals between the small island and the harbor entrance – a reminder to mariners to pay attention to charts and to be prepared for finding the harbor entrance in the frequent fog that rolls in off the lake.
This Google Earth picture show quite clearly the unforgiven nature of the rock shoals in line with the Knife River harbor entrance. Satellite imagery and navigation have certainly added a great deal of safety to commercial and pleasure boating.
Some of the crew seemed less mutinous after a stop at the Great Lake’s Candy Kitchen in Knife River.
North Shore of Lake Superior between Knife River and Duluth, Minnesota.. May 27, 2017.
Returning thru the ship’s canal under the iconic Duluth lift bridge.
My wife Kristi had an interesting conversation with a retired German sea captain in Monaco several years ago. First, it was interesting to find someone who not only knew where Minnesota was, but had been to Duluth many times. His routine shipping route was Rotterdam, Netherlands to Duluth, Minnesota to Kobe, Japan and back. One time, rather than his usual shortest route from the Sault St. Marie lock to the port of Duluth, he had made a stop in Thunder Bay, Canada and was sailing along the North Shore during peak autumn color. In all his travels around the world, he said that was the most beautiful scenery he had ever seen.
However, the Captain also said that on another occasion, Lake Superior was the place where he had nearly sunk his ship because he did not respect the notorious autumn gales. When going out to sea, the normal procedure was to concrete shut the opening in the bow for the ship’s anchor chain until they reach port on the other side of whatever ocean they are sailing. Thinking of Lake Superior as a “lake” and less dangerous than an “ocean”, he had failed to seal the opening. He didn’t sink, but he never under-estimated the big lake again.
A ship’s spurling pipe is the pipe passing through the bow section of a ship that the anchor chain passes through. Most often the sealing is achieved by putting cement on a steel plate fitting more or less around the chain, and protecting the whole with a piece of canvas.
View of the North Shore from McQuade small craft harbor. May 28, 2017.
Sunday morning greeted us with different side of Lake Superior. Rain, wind and rock.
July 18, 2017 and once again we were headed north to Lake Superior. This time we headed to the Apostle Islands near Bayfield Wisconsin. Most of the islands are part of the Apostle Islands National Park.
We launched the boat in at the Legendary Waters Resort and Casino and Marina at Red Cliff where we were also staying the first night. The Marina staff were very helpful. We had driven thru thunderstorms on the way through Wisconsin, but by early evening the clouds cleared out and we decided to visit Stockton Island and have dinner on the boat.
Moored on the National Park Service dock at Stockton Island.
Stockton Island beach – wild, but calm and tranquil.
The water was so calm that it seemed more like one of the hundreds of small inland lakes in the area rather than one of the largest lakes on the planet. On the way back to Red Cliff marina, the lake began forming mist in the evening sun.
Off the south side of Stockton Island.
The disappearing rock of Basswood Island. Depending on the line of sight the rock sometimes appears to be attached to the island, but from this angle it clearly is not.
Day two started with a magnificent sunrise. We headed out sightseeing around the islands.
Our first stop was Raspberry Island lighthouse. We were told we could not use the Park Service dock due to problems with the new dock. We overcame the dock setback by beaching on the south-east side of Raspberry Island on a sand spit. That is one of the handy attributes of an IO or outboard.
After a tour of the light house we headed for Devil’s Island for look at the sea caves.
We then skirted between the mainland of Wisconsin and York, Sand and Eagle Islands to arrive at our second night’s destination.
We stayed in Cornucopia, Wisconsin at Siskiwit Bay Marina and Fo’c’sle Inn – a lovely Bed and Breakfast. It is a family business that is beginning its second generation. Dave and Mary Beth and their son Will made us feel right at home.
One of Dave’s go to boats: 1935 40 foot tug built in Duluth MN, by Duluth Marine Iron and shipbuilders.
Dave’s other boat a 1957 Century Resorter that he and son Will just finished restoring. Dave told me he had a wooden 36 foot ketch when he purchased the marina over thirty years ago. He said, “I thought I would have more time to sail her if I lived up here and owned a marina.”
I asked, “You really thought that?”
Dave replied, “Yeah, the ketch is gone and I’m wiser now.”
The day ended in Cornucopia harbor as it began – in a spectacular show. Sunset on Siskiwit Bay, Lake Superior.
The next morning we were sad to leave the wonderful room with a deck overlooking the marina and great food. Mary Beth’s gourmet breakfast was a super way to start the day. We look forward to visiting again.
We are planning our next Lake Superior adventure in August –weather permitting.