Madeline Island by Sail

The lagoon at the Madeline Island Town Park.

When last we met, Russ, Captain Dave and I were on our way from Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin on our way to Madeline Island. This particular island isn’t part of the national lakeshore because it is inhabited. But the island is near the Lakeshore and offers many opportunities for natural fun.

Our trip to Madeline Island was not as speedy as our trip to Stockton. The wind was slight, and we only made a top speed of 2 knots, far from the 9 knots we made on our way previously. We had to tack several times (zigzag) to reach our destination, but at least the sun was out.

We anchored in Big Bay, which is home to both a town park and a Wisconsin State Park. Many impressive homes lined the shoreline. Seeing how they had protected their shoreline against erosion was interesting. Lake Superior’s water levels have been at record highs the past few years, and the toll that’s taken is obvious along the island’s edges.

A few homeowners have cleared all the trees and vegetation down the water line on their properties, leaving just an expanse of green lawn. This does not seem like a very wise idea in terms of erosion control. For my work with Wisconsin Sea Grant, I write stories about this issue, so I know a bit of whereof I speak.

After we reached Big Bay in the afternoon, we clambered aboard Tinkerbell the dinghy and rowed ashore. The state park offers a boardwalk that parallels the beach and it morphs into the town park, which also sports a boardwalk to a lagoon. We hiked 3-1/2 miles along the shore, visited several times by a buck who also was taking an evening stroll.

A beach teepee on Big Bay, Madeline Island.

Some enterprising person or persons had built a structure out of driftwood on the beach. What are these things called – beach teepees? Enlighten me, please, if you will.

That night we were rocked to sleep on Lake Superior’s swells. It reminded me of slumbering in the cradle as a child. I kept thinking that someone should market a rocking bed for adults – there could be money to be made!

When we weighed anchor the next day, we saw a large vessel with strange implements sticking out of it coming our way. Later, we were able to discern with binoculars that it was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Explorer research ship. They steamed into the bay, pushing a huge bow wave, and then stopped abruptly. We were too far away at this point to see what they were doing, but I would guess they were either checking some fishing nets that were in the bay or taking water samples for research.

I’ve written about the Lake Explorer for work several times, but this was the first time I’d seen it out on the water in action – an impressive sight!

Remember when I said (in the previous post) that Russ and I had forgotten much of our sailing skills during the pandemic? Russ has a background in sailing so remembered much more than I did. He usually handled the anchor and navigated while we were under sail. I was good at steering the Neverland when it was motoring. Capn Dave had been very patient with us the first two days of our trip, but not so much this third day.

I felt like we made up for it on our fourth (and last) day of the trip when we successfully navigated the Neverland into the Port Superior Marina without mishap. Capn Dave seemed rather pleased with that. Maybe he’ll invite us back sometime? At least we didn’t run the boat aground. He doesn’t invite those people back. 😊

There’s a saying that it pays to be “brave enough to totally suck at something new.” Sailing is like that for me. It takes a certain amount of hutzpah to try something for which you have no background. Once we docked the boat and Capn Dave took time to show me how to secure the line to a dock cleat, I felt a bit more worthy.

Once we returned home, I kept feeling like I was still on the boat, especially when I was in the shower (an enclosed space complete with the sound of water). I just learned today that the term for that is “landsickness” or “disembarkment syndrome.” It’s where you still feel the rocking of the boat even after you’ve been off it for several days. According to the Wiktionary, it most often afflicts women between the ages of 30 and 60 (which I fit). It’s the reverse of sea sickness, and is something that sailors and passengers experience when going ashore after a long voyage. I’ve felt the same thing since my 20s, so it must just be part of my makeup. Or maybe it means I’m supposed to be at sea most of the time.

Does a case of landsickness mean I’m a real sailor? I don’t think so. I don’t feel like a real sailor yet. I don’t think I could handle a sailboat all by myself. I still don’t know the names of all the lines and sails on the boat. But I’m getting there, slowly.

Let this trip be a lesson in not being afraid to try something relatively new. If there’s something you want to try, go for it! Life is too short to sit on shore, wishing you could be at sea.

2 thoughts on “Madeline Island by Sail

    • Yes, it was quite jarring to see these huge homes atop hills that were totally grass, no trees. They better hope the lake levels keep their downward trend, otherwise, I don’t think their lawns will last, even with rip rap at the bottom.

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