The third annual Gales Storm Gathering finally geared up after a bluebird day on Friday. Friday was OK though, as we pushed the edging envelope in preparation for some more active water and I had the pleasure of attending a navigation class put on by John Carmody. John seemed a bit disappointed in the lack of tides, unlike his native Maine, but as usual I learned a bunch in both the morning and afternoon session. Our crew from Olstone passed on the Legendary Waters chow and attended the almost mandatory Friday fish fry that Wisconsin is known for. In retrospect it was a good choice and we hit the sack early in preparation for what Lake Superior had promised for the next morning, small craft warnings and gale force gusts.
Since we did not get near Legendary Waters the night before we had to rely on MrEngineerGear to sign us up. We gave him a strong C+ in communication and were able to fill in the gap when Mr. Kochevar's administrative assistant, Mr. Castillo, texted us with precise launch info and timing. We were patiently awaiting guidance at the Village Inn in Cornie; more on that later. We launched from Bark Slough, a spot mentioned more than once in this space, and headed out the Bark River and into the big lake. There is a shoulder on the east side, the Roman Point side, where nasty, bouncy, wavy fun has been had at in the past and that is where we headed. Suddenly the fairly boring edging and 360 turns that Joe K had us practicing on the flat water became anything but boring in the clapotis and bumpy water off the shoulder. One of those lightbulb moments; push the edging on flat water and more edge will occur when you really need it on active water. Simple but when you see it and do it, like most instruction, it tends to sink in. Head position, stuff happening under the deck, and paddle movement suddenly click if you did your time on flat water. Meanwhile RoundtheLakeRick, his official new blog name after completing his ten year, two week at a time circumnavigation of Gitchee Gumee, had felt a bit ill that morning. No, I had nothing to do with it nor did the food or adult beverages. He was just a bit off and decided to kick back that morning. He quickly rallied and decided that he needed to get on the water and launched and headed up Bark Point in the eastern lee toward the tip. He reported that when he stuck his nose around the point the 20-25 knot SW wind with fetch all the way from Duluth had made the water way too much fun for a guy out solo. Back on the other side of the bay we had started to play with some rock gardening. Gel coat was deposited and the BadHatter, a man who totally disdains the plastic bottom of his Prijon, would have been proud of the abuse that many of the roto molded hulls took as we squeezed through openings and limboed under cave passages. The weather God's had indeed given us a nice day of paddling.
When the days fun ended, eight of us including three instructors posing as students, our Illinois contingent of RLRick and BearBoxSteve, MrEngineerGear, and WrongWayKennedy (sorry buddy, you never should have told me that BWCA story), and two paddling luminaries from Rutabaga in Madtown, headed to the Village Inn and ordered a pitcher of South Shore Nut Brown and began to dissect the day. I would have paid to have FivePieceRoy stroll in for the paddle discussion. Some post Whistlestop marathoners rehydrating, what appeared to be a bachelorette party was staging, and before we knew what was happening a party had erupted in the Village Inn. When the bar buys you a pitcher you know you're having fun. Some fresh Whitefish sandwiches, a large pitcher of water, and we were off for Legendary Waters and the presentations.
When we arrived at the casino I was cornered by one Mr. B. Castillo who asked me what I thought of a Saxon Harbor to Little Girl Point paddle to conclude Sunday's session. I thought it was brilliant and before we could say 'do they have Nut Brown here?' the majority of Gales attendees had signed up for the adventure. The next morning we headed to sunny Saxon Harbor, back road of course, and launched at the marina with brilliant sunny skies and a lake with a bit of west wind chop and less than 2' waves. It was an uneventful paddle with some mini surfing off the mouth of the Montreal River on the Wisconsin/Michigan border and some fun at the waterfall below the power dam. Some folks headed to Little Girl for a shuttle back to Saxon Harbor and others turned around and paddled back. Handshakes, hugs, and another Gales was in the books.
For the third year in a row the fall winds cooperated somewhat with some 'Goldilocks' conditions to play in on Saturday; not too big and not too small, just right for many of the attendees. Coaching was superb, the 'herd of cats' syndrome was in play at times, and the camaraderie of paddlers was at it's usual fine level. The local connection definitely helped shape the venue and find the active water. I also have to give kudos to the Village Inn. In addition to an excellent tap selection they have gone a step beyond with their solid and imaginative menu. You also can't beat fish that was hauled out of the lake hours earlier. Legendary Waters was a great spot to concentrate people, the meeting and motel rooms were decent, and the launch area worked very well. My fear when the fancy new casino went in was that kayaks would no longer be welcome. Instead they left the beach intact and even allow us to shower after a long Apostles trip as part of the launch fee. I did hear some complaints about calorie intake but the prudent kayaker always throws in extra chow. The shutdown screwed many people from distant states and countries out of seeing highlights of this beautiful park, with the Oak Spit, mainland and Sand Island caves, and Balancing Rock off Basswood being just a few of the spots that people missed out on. Remember who shut it down next fall folks, and make em' pay. Many of us are looking forward to a return to Marquette next year and if I remember half of what I learned through the deer hunting and ski seasons, I will be happy. Thanks to all for sharing another great weekend on the water.