An Island called Beaver

There are disasters, problems and blessings. Any life worth living is an admixture of these. So much life in a couple of days.

First my current position. At a power enabled table in Danny Donegals Pub, Beaver Island, sipping a Oberon Beaver style, with a slice of orange. Short on paper money I am trying to stretch my $10 minimum so I can sit here for a couple of hours to charge batteries and copy memory cards. Started with an O’Hara’s Stout so I really don’t need another beer, but it’s a sacrifice I’ve got to make for the good of the project. Pam the bartender has got to be here until midnight so I coaxed her to switch off the hokey dance contest on TV and put on some music she likes – Tom Petty. She’s cleaning up and I’m making this movie.

I busted out of the anchor at Charlevoix at 8:30 am. The skipper of Pool Party yelled out as I passed,

“Where ya headed?”

“The U… P…” I shouted back.

He put his hand to his ear and I shouted again, but then one of his fishing lines tugged and he was no longer interested in my answer. The reason he didn’t hear me was because my answer was silly, I wasn’t headed for the the UP that morning, I was going for Beaver Island. I left him and grumbling cement plant behind me. It’s owned by the Brazilians I’ve since found out.


A cement plant that looks and sounds like what I imagine a nuclear reactor would.

Looking back at the compass, I noticed the needle had fallen off it’s pivot and the entire bezel was gone. This is the same bezel that had been frozen in place at the start of the trip. It would have taken some serious force to pop that bezel off, so there must have been a minor explosion from internal pressure, perhaps due to the dramatic temperature changes – from this morning’s 40 degree chill to the warmth of direct sunlight. There was a strong chemical smell from whatever liquid had been in there. I stuffed the remains into the pack. I’d have to rely on the new GPS enabled iPhone now.


Silva compass features handy exploding bezel

I skated north on southish winds for the better part of the day, coming in site of Beaver and watching her resolve from dark blobs into an actual island. The wind reports called for the blow to fade around 1:00 pm, so rather than take a lazy northerly course straight to the island, I decided to make faster vectors to the NE and NW to get close quickly. If I could get within a couple of miles of the island before the wind puttered out, I was probably good.

I made it to the southern tip and proceeded up the east coast by about 2:00 pm. The wind was indeed changing but I was within 1000 ft of shore, so I decided to anchor and take a swim. It was a perfect sandy bottom at about 30 feet of depth. The sun was shining and the water brisk, lovely. There were a couple of cottages visible on the beach with long stretches of sand between them. Why not land and reconnoiter?

The shore was unusual – polished gravel shoals or jettys running parallel to shore, sheltering deeper pools that lapped sandy beaches. The ducks and gulls watched with increasing annoyance as I approached their spots.

I pulled up Hello World and explored.  There were many signs of thriving wildlife and bright orange ribbons tied to trees as if marking a trail – the juxtaposition was kinda depressing.  I followed the ribbons and came to Donna’s Place, an empty cottage often rented, judging by the sign on the door. I headed back to the boat and made ready to launch, firing up the poopinator and debating my next move. Farther north was St James Bay and likely a decent cell signal. That seemed the best course of action.

I pushed off and moved north on an easy south wind. Sure enough, a big cell tower showed up just before St James Bay. I surprised Gretchen and then my parents by calling and reporting my location. I could imagine Gretchen telling her husband James – “Dan Kelly’s on Beaver Island!” This is the same James who bet me a dollar I couldn’t start an engine with the power of my mind. He also scared the dickens out of my dad by ranting on about how dangerous the big lake was just before I launched. Of course it’s dangerous, but my dad is already shitting bricks, he doesn’t need the husband of my producer getting him even more wound up. Actually, maybe it was good for him. It certainly made for a sweet moment – lightly tossing off my arrival at Beaver to my parents and thinking about how that might further open James to the possibilities of the universe. Gotta pay him back for all the awesome saunas he hosts!

At around 5:00pm I nosed into the bay and found the public beach just where Gretchen said it would be. My approach felt like some kind of necromancy, a perfect curving course right up to the beach that required no tacking. I was greeted by Jim, local grocery store owner. We chatted for a bit and he handed me a beer. My kind of place, Beaver Island. I asked the locals about camping under Hello World. “It’s probably illegal but no one will bother you,” was the response. Awesome.


Public beach on Beaver Island

That evening I called Gretchen’s people to schedule interviews. I ate a greasy double dinner at the Shamrock and told the Hungarian waitress that I loved her – in her native tongue. I was just kidding, I didn’t really love her but that’s the only phrase my grandmother was able to pass on to me. She was startled, the waitress that is. Afterwards we both fell back into our respective roles and nothing much else happened. I had friendly conversations with my table neighbors, charged batteries and copied files.

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