The Wind Blew Me Home – Chapter 1

Photo by Ritch Branstrom

So Long Stonington Peninsula - Photo by Ritch Branstrom

There I was in Wisconsin waters, having just passed between Washington Island and the Door Peninsula. Twenty eight miles in 3 hours, a decent trek for one day. I’d left Ritch and Hello World’s caretakers, Bunny and Ed at noon near the limestone cliffs of the Stonington Peninsula and caught a brisk wind south. A delightful ride, save for my nearly frozen feet. Too much strolling around in the Little Bay Du Noc preparing to launch. Also, a bit of confusion along the way about which shimmering mirage was actually Washington Island. Too much western slide and I could sucked into the funnel of Green Bay.

I’d just tip toed over the shoal between Plum Island and a tiny mainland town not shown on my charts, when it happened. The wind kicked in with a magical tingle, the tiller gave a little jump and Hello World swept away from Wisconsin, back out into the open waters of Lake Michigan!

Not finding any stuck linkages in the rudders or snagged sail lines, I concluded that mystic powers were at work. Based on the SE course, the next landfall would be Point Betsie, 44 miles away! 3:00 pm was a little late to start Big Lake crossing, but the wind was a friendly NW ish at 8 knots (7 mph), the sun was shining, there was plenty of food and what the fuck.

It was a steady ride. An hour or two later I could discern a shimmering shadow on the horizon, a very prominent point or an island. Point Betsie could not be sticking out that much! Perhaps this was an enchanted island, impossible to chart and reachable only by a special boat such as the very one I was not quite sailing.


The shadow to the SE grew and darkened to a silhouette, while the sun sank towards the horizon. Time slowed and all events extended into infinity, the island (for certainly it was an island) forever getting closer, the sun ever dropping towards the waters edge… but neither did the island arrive nor the sun set. I successfully took pictures of this state of events, establishing hard evidence that reality is variable. Sailboats sailing themselves is one thing, but a deactivation of the spacetime continuum? C’mon!

Eventually the island got close enough to be identified – North Manitou! There were the great sandy bluffs north of Crescent City.  Still the sun sank ever closer to the horizon without touching it, let alone pass behind it. I could see the potholes and blowouts to the north of the island. I wondered how I could safely land without lights to guide me in, for North Manitou is a maintained in a state of wilderness, no houses and no fires. That’s when the full miracle manifested. I noticed a nearly full moon hanging over the island. When the sun passed, the moon would guide me in.


I gobbled some vegetarian heat fuel in preparation for the final approach – raisins, sesame butter and mild cheddar, all mixed up. Now that our destination was obvious, I was back in control. The wind was getting more intense now and I was on the wire, that is to say I was harnessed up and attached to the trapeze, counterbalancing the push of the wind by standing out away from the boat. A grand sight for any late season campers equipped with magnification – Hello World dashing toward them through the swells, sails ablaze with orange sunset sailed by a mad shaman, standing back and flipping perpetually overboard, sheet in one hand and tiller in the other. A grand site from my angle, no doubt!


I had switched on my little nav light for some pretense at legality, but it’s light blinded me and I missed Crescent City by 100 yards. We crashed up on wide sandy beach, clunking a few rocks at the very end. I jumped off, waded to the bow and immediately fell into the surf, the sheet line wrapped around my legs. It was now about 9 pm and I was chilled and shaky. Hello World was banging up and down in the surf, I had to get her unloaded and properly beached. I dragged packs off her in the moonlight, dropped sails and after an hour or so, had her safely up. I struggled into the camp pack and followed what I thought was a wash up the bluff, but turned out to be a trail to a idyllic campsite. Popped the tent, climbed in and fell into a coma.

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