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.

Bikes Before the Storm

“Bikes Before the Storm,” taken at Joni’s Beach on Madeline Island in Lake Superior.

A photo I took last summer earned an honorable mention in a national “Coastal Love” contest organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management. The images chosen celebrate America’s coastlines – both salt and freshwater.

Sailboats moor off the beach and I suspect the bikes were there for boaters to use to get around town after they row ashore in their dinghies. I was on the beach for a sunrise shoot, but as you can see, the sun was not cooperating.

Getting photo honors is a first for me, so I’m pretty psyched. You can see the other winners here: https://coast.noaa.gov/about/photo-contest/.

To see more of my photos, visit my photo collection page.

“Doing” Madeline Island in an Hour – a Photo Story

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Say you have an awful terrible job like mine (smile) that requires travel to a picturesque lakeside (as in Lake Superior) town (as in Bayfield, Wis.) for a meeting. Let’s say that after the Bayfield meeting your coworker has another meeting that requires travel by car ferry to a nearby island. He invites you to use the car while he’s in his meeting so you can tool around the island and take scenic photos for the various publications produced by your organization.

Bayfield, Wis.

Bayfield, Wis.

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Let’s say you only have an hour to spend on the island before your coworker’s meeting is done and you have to ferry back to the mainland. Where would you go on the island? Why, you would go where the ferry worker recommends, that’s where!

I recently meandered over to Madeline Island on the south shore of Lake Superior under such circumstances. Without prompting, the lady selling ferry tickets pointed to a sand spit in Big Bay State Park on a map and said, “If I was going to Madeline Island today, that’s where I’d head.”

I recently meandered over to Madeline Island on the south shore of Lake Superior under such circumstances. Without prompting, the lady selling ferry tickets pointed to a sand spit in Big Bay State Park on a map and said, “If I was going to Madeline Island today, that’s where I’d head.”

I figured she knew what she was talking about. While my coworker was in his meeting in the quaint town of LaPointe on the island, I drove to the park which, like any good cheap hotel, included an option to just pay for an hour. I located the trail to the sandspit and enjoyed a short hike through a verdant ferny forest...

I figured she knew what she was talking about. While my coworker was in his meeting in the quaint town of LaPointe on the island, I drove to the park which, like any good cheap hotel, included an option to just pay for an hour. I located the trail to the sandspit and enjoyed a short hike through a verdant ferny forest…

...that gave way to a grove of white pines just before the beach.

…that gave way to a grove of white pines just before the beach.

Dozens of swimmers enjoyed the cool waters of Lake Superior.

Dozens of swimmers enjoyed the cool waters of Lake Superior.

 I had just enough time to take off my sandals and wade in.

I had just enough time to take off my sandals and wade in.

Then I departed and looked for a scenic overlook I noticed near the park entrance. The view was all right, but the beach was better.

Then I departed and looked for a scenic overlook I noticed near the park entrance. The view was all right, but the beach was better.

By now, I had fifteen minutes left to drive back to LaPointe. Once in town, I had time to snap photos of a few local landmarks before rejoining my coworker and heading for the ferry back to Bayfield.

By now, I had fifteen minutes left to drive back to LaPointe. Once in town, I had time to snap photos of a few local landmarks before rejoining my coworker and heading for the ferry back to Bayfield.

I think I’m in love. Seriously. I will return someday when I have enough time to do Madeline Island justice. Much more awaits.

I think I’m in love. Seriously. I will return someday when I have enough time to do Madeline Island justice. Much more awaits.