Storm Approaches
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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

The (Almost ) Daily Harbor Journal.

Winter Storm Approaches

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

May, 2000

Thursday, May 18th. It's July 4th, 2100. My grandchildren's grandchildren, some perhaps with their own grandchildren, gather with a thousand neighbors at the Eagle Harbor School to unearth the time capsule we of the millennium year buried at the rededication of the School House on July 2nd, 2000. There is some confusion as the record of its location has been lost (something's never change), but local legend suggests it exists. With the aid of a ground scanner they soon find our little box, pry it open and gaze with childlike wonder and adult disbelief at our record of life in Eagle Harbor in that long ago time.

What will they find? That's a source of much good humored Harborite discussion as our Year 2000 Time Capsule committee, led by Frank Carlton, ponders and frets.

As I emptied my Cheerios box this morning, out popped the premium, a US Mint Director Certified First Minted Year 2000 Penny, one of "just" ten million minted. Wow, I thought, here's sometime for the time capsule, not as much for the date, as for the fact that it, a penny, will certainly be long gone by year 2100. Few of those gathered about the capsule will believe we still had coin and paper currency as late as year 2000. I have other such "long disappeared" candidates - a vehicle steering wheel (replaced by a joystick); my computer keyboard (voice or eyeball activated); an election ballot; a snow scoop; a denture; my nitro pills; the stock exchange; a cord phone. My list is endless.

None of these, of course, are appropriate items for an Eagle Harbor time capsule. Most will find their way into other collections of junk from the last Millennium, nor do they speak of the uniqueness of our place and people. Therein lies the dilemma of our time capsule committee. What should we place in our little Eagle Harbor box that says, "This is who we are, what we experience, what we believe, what we enjoy, what we ponder, what we hold to be true and important."

"Things" might help tell this story. A pasty plate, a township ballot, the latest "hot" lake trout lure, a Harbor Inn menu, a Popeye Run T-shirt, a Historical Society brochure, a "bug suit", a few toy size replicas of our toys (4 wheeler, PWC, snowmobile, etc), a "Save Bete Grise Beach" bumper sticker, perhaps even a "snow stick". There are lots of possibilities in the "things" category.

For sure some photos. Old Harbor photos fascinate us - ours would certainly cause a few chuckles in 2100. Probably black and white for best preservation. A beach fire gathering, the pumpkins on the store steps, July 4th paraders, the new fire truck, a township meeting, a Saint Peter's Church gathering, our toys in action, Rich's "two headed deer' mount, the breakfast gang at the Shoreline, morning walkers, a "typical" Harbor car (four wheel drive pickup with plow), and, of course, some scenes about town.

These "things" and photose, however, are merely clues to our lives. They speak of us, not for us. For that we must write. Oral histories, web sites, VCRs, etc. would be cool, but who can foresee what leading edge communication technologies of our time will survive. Probably none. The written word on paper, while perhaps considered quaint in another 100 years, will most likely still stimulate the mind. I'm told that properly treated, our documents will still be legible after a hundred years of burial. But would they be interesting, and as importantly, speak of the truths and hopes our "things" and photos can only hint at?

They might. It's certainly worth considering. A possible format would be for each who wish to participate to write a short letter to "Year 2100 Eagle Harbor Neighbor", sharing who we are, how we feel about our time at the Harbor, and conveying our hopes for the future of this place and its people. Perhaps making a copy to pass along to our own family and their descendents. A bit melodramatic you think! Perhaps, but our "time capsule" of "things" and fading photos will probably need some "interpretation" to truly speak of our time and people, and who better than us to do so. We, nor anyone who knew us, are not likely to be among the capsule unearthers. Our letters could be our proxies.

Well, the Capsule Committee wisely did not seek my advice, so this little Cheerios premium prompted mind work is probably just for fun - itself a candidate for things of our time best and easily forgotten. If, however, your day, perhaps like mine also luckily started with another of the "just" ten million Year 2000 First Mint pennies, or something similiar, has caused you to think about Eagle Harbor time capsule content, perhaps you should send a note to Frank and his committee. I'll send this.

Wednesday may 10th. "Pa(w)n-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan. This is United States Coast Guard, This is United States Coast Guard." All who sail the Big Lake share a rush of adrenaline when this message leaps from the ship's radio. It generally means that someone on the lake is in distress and needs assistance, or, as is now the case, a vessel has been reported overdue. At about 2 am this morning my scanner came alive with a "Pan-Pan" from Group Sault St. Marie. "The 27 foot sailing vessel Mistrial, white hull with red bottom, en route from Duluth to Thunder Bay with three people on board, an adult and two children is reported overdue. All vessels in the vicinity are requested to keep a sharp lookout and report any sightings to the nearest Coast Guard unit" I know the boat and its skipper. We shared a remote Canadian shore anchorage a few summers ago.

My guess, certainly my hope, is that the skipper, kids and boat are safely holed up in some indentation or island along the rocky north shore nursing some gear or electrical failure and thus unable to respond to the hours of radio and surface search that would normally precede the resort to a "pan-pan". It is, however, early May, not a good time to be out on the lake in such a small vessel with shorthanded crew. The north shore is not very forgiving and offers few places of refuge. The winds have been moderate overnight, but were fairly strong yesterday. There was a lot of fog.

I ponder this event as I prepare for my late May through June cruise from Peregrine's winter roost in Mackinaw City to her homeport, Eagle Harbor. I have not yet signed on crew (few folks have this much time to bob around on a boat), but fleeting thoughts about single-handed sailing are pushed aside as I think of the fate of my Canadian friend. I'm not quite as self-sufficient afloat now as I was a few years ago (or thought I was), and as my Superior cruising log grows larger, my respect for the lake increases. It is no place for the unprepared or the unwary. My assets: a sound boat, years of experience, state-of-the art navigation gear, and the time freedom to be able to hole up for days if need be; are of little consequence to a lake whose whims and rocky shores and shoals have claimed thousands of boats and countless sailors over the past century and one-half.

Many of these lost boats and sailors were on the lake at times and in conditions that would give pause to any sailor. Vessels, both sail and steam, ill constructed and ill-prepared for the rigors of the big lake would test the fierce storms of early and late winter to serve the mines above primitive ports like Eagle Harbor. In many years, the big bell at the harbor wharf would announce the arrival of the much-anticipated first unbound boat before the end of March. The lake sailor's safety depended on his skill at detecting changing weather by visual clues, finding his way through the lake's dense fog by listening for the sounds of shore and waves breaking over reefs, and his skill in navigating with erratic compasses, inaccurate charts, and coastal pilot books full of sketchy channel and harbor information collected and handed down by earlier seafarers. No VHF radio, radar, chart plotters, GPS, satellite weather forecasts, cellular phones, and electronic wind, depth and log instruments for these sailors. What they lacked in boats and gear they more than made up for with perseverance, skill and savvy; but they, like the sailors of this day, paid a heavy price for even momentary lapses in judgement, and for any lack of respect for the vigor and uncertainty of the Sweetwater Sea.

A Harbor Web reader recently sent me this thoughtful message about my upcoming sail. I'll tack it on Peregrine's bulkhead.

"Gentle and warm winds in your face, soft waves to lull you into relaxation, a keen eye to watch the ever changing temper of the lake and the good sense to head for safe harbor when she changes for the worst."

Mistrial just reported in. As I had hoped, they holed up at an island between Grand Portage and Thunder Bay. Not sure why, but the news brings much relief. Nonetheless, a good "mind set" refresher course for this sailor.

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May, 2000
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