Night Crossing on Lake Superior


August 2-3, 2019. The Mainship Many Moons is crossing Lake Superior tonight, bound for Isle Royal on its maiden voyage. When we leave North Portage Entry on the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 50 miles of open water awaits us before we arrive at Chippewa Harbor. Our hope is to arrive there around sunrise, with enough visibility to dock, since the moon will be absent tonight. A speedboat can make this crossing in a few hours. It will take us a lot longer in our trawler. Our auto-pilot isn’t working well so we know that we will do some zig-zagging, especially without a horizon to guide us. The seas are calm and the boat rocks gently as its diesel engine chugs reliably. As I watch the sun set, there is no land in sight and no boat either. I know the lack of horizon on a moonless night will play havoc with my perception, and I must put all my trust in the equipment. This is a disorienting realization. The touchy helm reacts to each tiny motion, just as my inner compass reacts to each worry.

I’m irritated with myself for worrying in the midst of adventure. Don’t I always love adventure? But this is different somehow. I’ve been on a lot of boats (and ships), but never under these conditions. I suppose it’s the feeling of being out of control…adrift, as it were!…relying on others and on equipment. It occurs to me that I’d much rather rely on myself. And I can’t do that here, because I don’t know this boat or this route.

As I watch the sun set and the water ripple in its beam, I get the message, “Peace, Be Still!”…but I don’t feel peace. Not yet. I will relax when we’re safely docked. For now, all of my senses are on alert. I expect they’ll remain on alert all night. If not at the helm, I expect to keep my eyes glued to the old-fashioned radar. It’s nothing like the radar on Navy ships, but I hope it will announce any large floating logs. Which happen a lot in the Great Lakes.

Oops. There I go again. Another worry. Peace! Be Still!

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