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Apostle Islands 2000 - Our First Big Adventure

by Cary Johnson and Heath Johnson

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Sunday, June 4th, 2000

by Heath

Saturday evening was pretty calm with a nice sunset to watch as we relaxed off of Madeline Island. However, the weather changed overnight and the wind started picking up. By morning, the wind again switched direction so that it was blowing us in towards shore although we were still fairly well protected in the bay. We heated water for coffee and hot chocolate and started heating some more for the thermos when the propane ran out. We switched to the alcohol stove to heat more and that died too. Good thing it was the last day. The weather looked OK but it was a little windy so we decided to just sail with the genoa. As we got out of the bay into the north channel the wind was quickly building. We furled in the genoa a bit so that about 1/3 was out and we were moving along pretty smoothly. The wind and waves kept building until we were bouncing up and down in 6-8 foot waves. We had never been in waves this big before and it was a little disconcerting to have the boat so easily tossed about. Steering became hard work requiring quick reactions and heavy concentration to keep us on course and to keep us from getting broadsided by the waves. The wind just kept getting stronger and we furled in the genoa some more until just a tiny bit of it was out, less than 1/4 and we were still being pushed over by the wind. With the rudders all the way over Dad still couldn't keep the boat pointed as the wind was just too strong and the waves were pushing us around too much. I decided to start the engine and give just a little bit of power and this finally allowed Dad to keep the boat pointed in the right direction. I was pretty nervous about running out of gas so we kept it at a fairly low throttle setting. Dad was squeezing the lifelines so hard that that he could have probably drawn blood from them. It took us about an hour to inch our way across the bay into the public marina, sweating the whole time that we were going to run out of gas and meet our fate smashed up against the rocks in the west channel of Bayfield Bay. With a sigh of relief we finally turned the corner into the protected marina and out of the wind. We pulled up to the boat ramp with just ounces of gas left in the tank and tied up to the dock finally cut the engine. We made it back!

The drive back to to Mille Lacs was uneventful except for high winds on the road and as we turned in to the house, Mom was waiting by the window and came running out to us. She had been waiting by the window anxious for us to come back and to hear about our stories. What a great trip - we'll have to do it again.

Cary and Heath

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