Dec 21, 2016
This story comes to us from Chelsea Ellard, aged 12 of Thunder Bay Ontario.
On this past September long weekend, our family travelled in our 30” Bayliner Command Bridge from Thunder Bay, ON Canada to Grand Portage Bay MN USA, enjoying the last warm days of summer. We anchored off a sand point in front of Grand Portage, which was a beautiful spot. We even found an eagle’s feather! As we looked toward shore, we tried to figure out where the actual portage trail was. What a difficult journey that must have been. Later that day, we went ashore and enjoyed the hospitality of Grand Portage. Thank you; we had a great time and will be back!
A picture of a similar boat that Ian carved and sent out to sea the same day
The next morning, we decided it was time to move back up the north shore, so we slowly motored up the coastline until we came to a sheltered bay. We anchored to make breakfast and take in the scenery. We hoped the wind wouldn’t blow up too much as we wanted to take our little zodiac we dubbed “Treasure Hunter” and go ashore to the islands. This is a hobby that we enjoy as a family, walking the beaches looking for treasures and learning about the diversity of each little island or section of mainland.
Even though I grew up boating on Lake Superior just like my Dad, I always learn something every time we go ashore. In fact, my Dad met his new partner on an island! We were on one of our favourite islands with our powerboat and she was there with her Tartan 33 sailboat. This island is called Thompson Island and has been one of our favourite destination for years.
But back to our story of going ashore with our dingy. We landed Treasure Hunter on a tiny little island, which was not much bigger than a swimming pool, but this island seemed to want visitors as it would not normally have any due to its small size. This little island is within a group of islands known as The Susies, located at N 47 degrees 58.718 W 89 degrees 35.287. Immediately we saw it! There upon the rocks was the most beautiful little schooner! The sailboat had been carved by hand, with a lot of effort and care into the creation of the boat.
Thompson Island, Lake Superior
I decided that we should try and find the owner, before setting it back onto Lake Superior. I wanted to tell them just how far the boat had come. This was a very special sailboat indeed! I put my story on Facebook and our local newspapers helped so much, both in Canada and the United States and guess what?! I found the owner of the little sailboat! OMG! After only a week of seeking the creator of the sailboat, I received an email from Ian, a 25 year old man from southern Minnesota, who lives many hours from where I do. He even sent me a picture of what the boat looked like before he sent it out to sea. I was so excited!
This is what he told me:
“I made it in camp at the Grand Portage National Monument during the recent rendezvous reenactment in August. When I was younger I had tried making little sailboats, with little success. So this year I was sitting in camp, and I decided to try to make one that works. I grabbed a piece of firewood, a rock from the beach, some birch bark, and a piece of string and after about a couple hours I had a boat.
That evening, after the
sun set, the wind shifted and there was a slight breeze blowing out onto the lake. So I set my boat in the water off the end of the dock at Grand Portage and watched it float out into the night.
That weekend I made three boats and sent them all out to sea the same way, I think your boat was the second. I didn't expect to ever see or hear anything of my little boats again. You can do with the boat what you wish.”
I believe Ian was just as excited as I, especially to hear that his boat had sailed so far! The discovery of this boat and the search for its owner reminds me of the book, Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. I highly recommend reading this classic story.
Now that I have found the creator of the boat, my Dad and I are going to replace the missing sails and then send her back out to sea. I do hope that if anyone finds the boat again, or either of the other two boats that Ian carved, that they share their story as it is an important tale. Through this amazing experience, I learned just how connected we all are in this world, even borders cannot separate us. A very special thank you to Ian for his talents and letting me know about his little boat’s voyage.