Black River boat trip recalls 300-mile lake adventure


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Fort Gratiot Lighthouse

This morning we launched our 14-foot aluminum boat for its inaugural voyage of the year. The 25-horse Merc rumbled to life on the third pull, and Nicholas pointed Little Tobe’s bow south toward the Blue Water Bridges.

Blue skies, flat water, and a rising temperature on shore. But I knew from experience how chilly it can be on the lake in mid-May, so I wore my winter parka and did not regret it. En route I photographed the newly restored Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on Lake Huron and the oldest surviving lighthouse in Michigan. It is to reopen May 19 for public viewing and climbing.

Purpose of the one-hour trip? To apply some carpeting to soften the pilings of the Black River well that soon will be occupied by our larger boat.

Our first boat trip together was 30 years ago this week when Nicholas and I had known each other for about a year. I’ll never forget the conversation that led up to it.

“I have a theory about small-boat handling on a large body of water,” Nicholas said as we gazed out on the frozen lake one February Sunday

“And that is?” I asked.

“If you adjust the speed and direction of the boat, you can ride the waves like a duck,” he said. “Did you ever see a duck tip over in a heavy sea?”

No, I said. “There, you have it,” he replied. And on a Sunday morning, May 16, we ventured forth to prove his theory.

From his parents’ beach in North Lakeport. we headed out across the foggy lake in Nicholas’ fully loaded 14-foot aluminum boat, the same one that ferried us this morning. About 25 miles later, we were within waving distance of the opposite shore, north of Kettle Point in Ontario.

On Wednesday morning, we arrived in Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, had breakfast and turned toward home. By Thursday night, we were standing again on the shore in North Lakeport.

This dry summary omits the adventure part: camping on beaches at night; dodging storm cells; rocky shores; sudden shoals; ice floes; snakes; miles of hatching insects; bathing in Lake Huron; dense fog; unfavorable winds; fishing nets, and the unforgettable birthday surprise.

Ask Captain Adventure to flesh out the story. Suffice it to say, we rode the waves like a duck.

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