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The Passage Home
© Michael OReilly
(First published in Superior Outdoors, 2007)

“Connor! Go!” Yells Mike, as he fights with the helm, trying desperately to avoid being broached by the 3+ meter wave.

“No!!” Screams Ann, who is working the tangled jib sheets, and also happens to be Connor’s Aunt. Ann flashes through a future where she is explaining to her older sister why she led her son to a watery grave.

But the good ship Elysian is in peril. Conner is the only one in a position to act. “Yes! Connor, go!!” Mike yells again. And so Connor goes.

Leaping out of the safety of the cockpit, he crawls his way to the foredeck of the flailing sailboat. The lines that control our foresail have snagged on the dinghy, and we are stuck in the middle of a tack. We are being violently tossed and turned by the rough seas off the Slate Islands. Our little sailing vessel is in imminent danger of becoming very wet indeed.

Our journey on the great inland sea of Lake Superior was all an adventure should be. Tremendous joy, beauty, and tranquility, interspersed with the occasional challenge, and a few truly terrifying moments. In short, it was amazing.

The voyage began with a decision to move to the City of Thunder Bay. Ann and I had been living in the small town of Marathon for the previous eight years, and had recently purchased a 34-foot ketch. The sailboat, a 30 year old double-master, was located in Georgian Bay’s North Channel near Blind River. We’d been sailing those gentle and beautiful waters for the previous couple of years.

The move to Thunder Bay not only meant shifting home, but also moving the sailboat. The route would take us from Serpent Harbour in the North Channel, up through the mighty St. Mary’s River, through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and then along the Canadian coast of Lake Superior.

… and so on