Storm Approaches
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The 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)

Awakening Storm

October 22, 1999.

It's early morn, not yet 4 a.m. The Wonderdog dozes soundly on a hearth still warm from last evening's fire. She will soon drag her weary bones to the shelter of the big farm table as yesterday's doom and gloom Wall Street Journal responds to my fire setting prowess and startles dry cedar kindling into a crackling, spark sputtering blaze. (A few years ago a spark settled on Abby's hindquarters - she now scampers at the first pop.) As soon as the quick burning and hot cedar rouses the oak logs from their several decade long wait for this moment of fiery fulfillment, Abby will return to the hearth, stretching her back to the soothing heat of bright red coals and flickering yellow flame.

Roused from a restless sleep by the howl and camp buffeting winds of a late night, mid-October Lake Superior gale, I look out into the dark night while savoring hot oatmeal and sipping hardy, tummy warming, "Norwegian bachelor" coffee. I listen to the wind have its way with now almost bare trees, the woodpile tarp, and the flag atop the new, as yet untested, flagpole. The noise of building waves beating on the nearby rocky shore begins to penetrate into my space, now obscuring all but the howl of wind gusts strong enough to shake the camp. My Internet links promise the season's first snow later in the day, and speak of storm force northwest winds, nearly 50 knots, and eighteen to twenty-four foot waves for our big lake mariners to battle.

The prospect of the season's first great storm stirs my blood, yet I sense the anxiousness that must be present in the wheelhouses and crew quarters of the many working ships I encountered in my summer sailing jaunts about the lake. I suspect the upbound are scurrying for safety at anchor in Bete Grise, in the lee of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The downbound are likely altering their courses to the north, hoping for calmer seas in areas not as exposed to waves building in the long fetches of the middle lake. It's good to be ashore.

I await the dawn and the prospect of watching storm waves crash over the offshore reefs and end their long march across the rapidly cooling lake in thunderous bursts of flying spray as they smash into our rocky outcrop. The more vigorous will roll on into the harbor, and in long sweeps of rolling white foam, ricochet off the hard south shore and sweep back across the harbor to wash high onto the soft sand of the normally protected harbor's west beach. The by then toasted Wonderdog and I will venture out to savor the tempest, perhaps gathering a few pictures for an addition to the long neglected "Harbor Walkabout" page of the Harbor Web.

Indeed, much of the Harbor Web has gone unattended of late. This rambling is the first entry in my public journal since an account of a stay at Keweenaw Memorial last spring. The storm brewing about the camp has seemingly awakened a writing instinct set aside for a summer of wonderful sailing. Lake storms, like the awesomely beautiful fall days that have been our lot of late, are just a few of the ways the natural world, so omnipresent in this remote and rugged big lake outpost, influences, almost dictates, the thoughts and activities of those of us fortunate enough to be in this splendid place. The storm says, "Listen and watch - feel my fury". I do, and feel compelled to share its story with the world beyond the storm's sphere.

Lights are beginning to flicker. I better click the "Save" key, and upload this brief entry to the Internet link before all is lost. Abby, sensing the building storm, is now tucked between my feet. More later.

It's now mid afternoon. The wind is almost due north and gusting to over 40 knots. Giant rollers churn through the Harbor entry and vent their fury on the rocks fronting the cottages along the south shore. Spray hurdles the rocky bulwark and envelops the now vacant and fortunately boarded up Finch, Rowe, and Johnson summer camps. Cedar Beach, the Kinnikinick Lodge shoreline, and Bob and Alice Black's dock are smothered in breaking waves. It's quite a sight!

The water surface off the swimming beach is the scene of a fierce struggle between waves rolling northwesterly towards the beach from the rebound off the south shore, and water pushed southward by the strong northerly gusts. The encounters are often violent, sending shoots of spray into the air, only to be immediately smacked down along the surface by the dominating wind. The whole area churns as if coming to a boil.

Our Houghton and Tech correspondent, Sue Adams, reports the sound of lakers tooting their horns seeking passage through the Lift Bridge as they travel the seldom used Portage Canal route to avoid the high winds and big waves off the Keweenaw. She also reports the incredible news of two Tech students stranded in the lighthouse on tiny Gull Island and calling for rescue after kayaking to that desolate and always treacherous off Keweenaw Point island only yesterday - a day dominated by reports of the approaching storm! Fortunately they had a cell phone, apparently now standard equipment for college students, and were able to contact the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard plans to rescue them by helicopter when the wind settles down. Hopefully their saga will end safely. One would also hope their story might also instill greater respect for the big lake among all, young and old alike, who contemplate such foolishness.

The pooch and I have just staggered through the wind up to the lighthouse lake overlook deck to witness and bath in the fury of the storm. She unwillingly, but obediently; me for the sheer joy of it. The noise of waves smashing across the outlying reefs and onto the rocky shore is incredible, much I suppose like the roaring, almost thundering sound tornado witnesses report. Picture taking was impossible as a body bent over to lessen the wind force and both arms wrapped about step and deck rails were necessary to stay afoot. The low slung, four footed, but lightweight Wonderdog got knocked over in a wild gust as we gazed from atop the deck through the spray out across the turbulent lake. Fortunately, she had the sense to stay down, squirming on her belly to the safety of the stairs. Not having her good sense, I darn near toppled over the rear deck rail in a futile attempt to stand up and capture the scene on film for the enjoyment of our Harbor Web viewers. We quickly retreated to the comfort of our cozy camp, Abby racing ahead, abandoning her "he's no friend of mine" master to the whims of a gusting tail wind.

Now once again around the warm hearth, we await what the storm will bring this evening and in the coming night. The eagerly awaited first measurable snow, at least up the hill (where our snowfall-forecast contest measuring stick is), seems a distinct possibility. Abby seems either exhausted or oblivious to it all, but I am exhilarated. It is, at least for me, truly an awakening storm.

The Harbor Journal Archive.

Hospital Lessons
Tax Break
Ready For A Change
A Little Therapy
A "Thumping" Adventure
Good News
Tree Trimming
A Day To Hunker In
An Ode To Departing Snow
Storm Watch
Snow Squalls And Saffron
A Not So Good Day
Peregrine To Pequaming
A Fall Hike
Sensing The Mood Of The Lake
Travelling With The Guardians Of The Night
A Sail Around Keweenaw
Pig Roast Day 1998
The Fourth Of July 1998

The Weather Journal Archive.

The Week of April 5, 1998
The Week of March 22, 1998
The Week of March 15, 1998
The Week of March 8, 1998
The Week of March 1, 1998
The Week of February 8, 1998
The Week of February 1, 1998
The Week of January 18, 1998
The Week of January 11, 1998
The Week of January 4, 1998
The Week of December 28th
The Week of December 14th
The Week of December 7th
The Week of November 16th
The Week of November 9th
The Week of October 19th
The Week of October 12th
The Week of October 5th
The Week of September 28th
The Week of June 1st
The Week of May 18th
The Week of May 11th
The Week of May 4th
The Week of April 27th
The Week of March 23rd
The Week of March 16th
The Week of March 9th

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