For those who like to skip to the last page of a book to find out how everything ends, we’re fine, the boat is fine, the rescue at sea was not us. More on that later.
We are always looking for new adventures and to experience things that are not only unique to the areas that we are visiting, but out of the box and our own comfort zone. While in Michigan this summer, I knew that we would be able to get amazing fresh fish from Lake Superior and during menu planning one week I convinced Michelle that we should buy some and plan on fish tacos. Then we discovered that we couldn’t find a fresh fish market within a reasonable drive. A few nights later, probably after a bottle of wine, I say “would you ever consider doing a fishing charter?” The next thing I know, we have computers open and are researching options in the area around the Keweenaw peninsula. Captain Brian at Sand Point Charters tells us that we will definitely be coming home with some lake trout and probably even some salmon but he has one question. Do we want the bigger or smaller boat? What’s the difference Michelle asks. The big boat has a toilet. One credit card deposit later and we are on our way to a big boat and the most expensive fish tacos that I have ever eaten!
The Fishin’ Mission is a comfortable 30′ yacht with plenty of room, lots of gear, and of course, a head (that’s boat talk for toilet).
Captain Brian Helminen piloted us out onto the water and told us about his background and family (he and his wife have raised 15 children!). After boating through Lac La Belle and out onto Lake Superior, he begins the arduous task of teaching us both about Great Lakes fishing. Now don’t get me wrong, we have both been fishing before, but it’s been a while, and never with this much gear. We learned about dipsy divers, lure, setting depth, and many other things that have since left my memory.
By the time we have six lines out, I notice that one is moving. It was on Michelle’s side, so time for her to get to work!
After some initial squeamishness, Michelle does pose for the official first fish picture. It was a small lake trout, barely big enough to keep, but we did just in case it was the only thing we caught. Eventually, we threw this one back in favor of the larger ones we had pulled in.
Fishing was going quite well. Every time we got a line out, after a few minutes something got a hit. On the radio, Captain Brian hears an SOS call from a sailboat that had run into some rocks a few miles away. He notifies the Coast Guard that we are in the area but he is concerned that we would not have enough fuel to get to the distressed boat, perform a rescue, and get back to our dock. They put him on standby in case we are needed to help out.
Over the next hour and a half or so, we brought in seven more fish including this one, our largest lake trout. We also got two Koho salmon.
Everything was going well and we decide that we were only going to keep salmon from this point forward. Captain Brian has been monitoring the situation with the Mother Superior, the stranded boat. Turns out that there are no other boats in the area and the Coast Guard has decided to not send out a rescue boat (I didn’t know that was an option).
Captain Brian explains that it is the responsibility of any boat to help out another boat in distress. He has recalculated our fuel and we should have no problem reaching the boat, pulling her free, and making it back. We are underway, with about 15 minutes to get to the other boat. Along the, Captain Brian needs to get ropes ready to pull the sailboat off the rocks. He looks Michelle in the eyes and says “You are the Captain now!”
We get to Manitou Island and find the Mother Superior. The captain did not know that there were rocks under the surface that were not on the charts and his rutter snagged on them. There was no damage but his engines could not help them break free.
Once we get close enough, I am supposed to throw this rope to the other boat so that it can be tied off and we will pull them free. ME, throw the rope, on a bobbing boat!
Yes, please replay that, because that throw was that good! Once they were freed, it was time to head back to get our fish cleaned and packed up. But first, the captain wanted to show us a couple of tourist attractions since we were on a section of the Lake that we had not planned to visit. Manitou Island is known for this quartz vein that runs down the cliff face and into the water. It is a local favorite swimming hole (we opted out, the water temp was in the 50’s).
We also went past Gull Rock with its 1967 lighthouse. The small building is actually an outhouse with a flush toilet. Built above the rocks, each time a wave crashes in, the toilet is automatically cleaned. The island was recently acquired by a preservation society who hopes to restore it.
As we returned to Lac La Belle, Captain Brian gave us a little history of the area. There were copper mines along the lake but to get the ore out to Lake Superior, a channel was dredged out in the 1860s. That is the channel we rode through in the time-lapse below. It was a beautiful ride as the sun began to set and my mind drifted to fish tacos.
Once back at the lake house, our haul was laid out to be cleaned. Thankfully Captain Brian took care of that too!
After an hour drive back to the campground, it was late and we were hungry. Dinner became cheese and crackers while I cooked a little fish. A tablespoon of butter and some garlic powder in a frying pan and add scraps of salmon and trout cheeks fresh out of Lake Superior.
We did get fish tacos the next night and they were delicious! Maybe I’ll post that recipe sometime.
Have you ever had a misadventure on a boat or an excursion that didn’t go as planned? Tell us about it in the comments below.