Early Morning Musings

15th day of April, a day of waiting.  Warm with a bright sun.  I moved the boat to the Bolder Park wall on the northeast side of the harbor to get more exposure to people.  Thanks Harley for the use of your dock while I waited for the ice to move on. 

0358, on the 16th day of April, 2009 the Cap’n Lem is moored portside to the wall at the northwest end of Grand Marais, MN.  My eyes open.  I get up.  Sleep on the boat is not hard.  It is sound, restful and delicious, but when my eyes open, I have to get up no matter what time of morning.  It is as much a part of me at this age as my long gray hair and my driftwood face.

So what does a sailor do at 4 o’clock in the morning tied to the wharf?  Well, this sailor drinks coffee, (Folgers Instant: the finest kind) writes in his log and reads.

My fascination with the shipwrecks of the Great Getchee Gummee grows with each crossing.  I know so little about this inland sea but I’m learning and my respect grows and grows.  I read words like “lost with all hands”, “a strange disappearance” “vanished”, and “a heart breaking disaster” and they melt from the pages into my imagination.  Steel ships, wooden ships, sail, steam or motor.  It doesn’t matter.  When the Lake was angry with wind and snow, men and women died.  I’m reminded to caution myself once again of the sea’s magnificent indifference and how it hasn’t the capacity to care whether I live on its surface or die under its waves.  After all, it is merely water.  Water, the great giver and sustainer and taker of life. It is inanimate.  It only seems to have the personality my imagination gives to it.  It only seems to direct its anger at man.  But in the end analysis, it is only water doing what waters do.  And me?  I’m an intruder testing my wits and cunning against cold and moody nature.  On the Lake or the ocean, the only thing separation me from a watery death is the integrity of the hull of the wonderful little ship I call the Cap’n Lem.  (Take care of your boat, Tommy.  Take care of your boat!)

Read enough, write enough and dawn will come.  The imagination that puts me at the helm of the LEAFIELD as it vanishes in the Great Storm of November 9th 1913 west of Isle Royale gives way to the reality of light and a calm beautiful day, one more day for the ice to melt, one more day to prepare.


There are worse things than the danger of shipwreck and drowning to me.  The danger of doing nothing, of giving up and letting dreams die.  These things scare me more than anything the sea has to offer. It would be living death to sit by the fireplace safe and warm thinking of what I might have done.  So at age 63 I set sail aboard the Cap’n Lem. After all I’m younger now than I will ever be again.  So “Come on Lake!  Come on Ocean!  You’re a brute for sure, but you are a dumb brute and I will trick you into allowing me across for I am a Master Mariner and I have honed my craft for 43 years just to get ready for this day.”  (Yet, in my heart I know I will ever remain a sea fearing man.)




13 Responses to “Early Morning Musings”

  1. Bumbazer says:

    “Is it in the nature of all of us, or is it my own peculiar make-up which brings, when the wind blows, that queer feeling, mingled longing and dread? A thousand invisible fingers seem to be pulling me, trying to draw me away from the four walls where I have every comfort, into the open where I shall have to use my wits and my strength to fool the sea in its treacherous moods, to take advantage of fair winds and to fight when I am fairly caught – for a man is a fool to think he can conquer nature.”

    Alone in the Caribbean
    Frederic A. Fenger
    Check out our book review section. http://teambumbazer.com

  2. Donna says:

    Cap’n T,
    Joining your journey and wishing you wind at your back.
    Got this site from a fabulous tall ship cook-ie. I was transient
    On The Lady Washington and have loved the sea mystery, and power.
    Tiny was crew on that tall as well. Capable crewmembers, Tiny and Tina,
    I was well taken care of and properly introduced to the wonders of the sea.
    Tina now goes to MI to work on a ship with a wood stove (Lol) no microwave.
    I will transient if possible in July – after her practice at biscuits. Be well.
    I’m with you and send my best. Donna

  3. Gayla Sue says:

    I SO enjoy reading your blog and seeing your pictures, Tommy. I’m also so proud of being ‘kin’ to you, and knowing you’re living your dreams. Keep in touch.

    Love you,
    Gayla & Johnny

  4. Paul Marti says:

    Captain Tommy, A fellow Cape Dory sailor passed the link to your blog on to me, and I am glad he did. The challenge and adventures that await you are truly incredible. I greatly admire your spirit of adventure and look forward to following your passage. I live along your route and my boat is on Michigan’s Lake Saint Clair. When you pass this way I’d be delighted to sail out a home cooked meal to you (my wife’s the cook and a mighty fine one I might add) and share a bit of grog. Best of luck and fair winds. Paul Marti

  5. Kari Thoresen says:

    Yay Forgers Instant! That stuff will beat Starbucks hands down anyday… or night! ;o) I love your personal twist on the old adage ” To save yourself, save your ship” HOLDFAST Tommy!

  6. Hello Captain,

    I have begun to follow your journey. You have an amazing adventure ahead of you.

    In many ways we seem to be cut from the same cloth. Grew up in Minnesota, so I know of the places of which you speak quite well. Two Harbors and Grand Maris are beautiful. I also hiked Isle Royal end to end a couple years back. I also moved to Seattle in 2001 so I also know of Port Angeles. I also have a passion for sailing and I have sailed many places in the Midwest and Puget Sound.

    I am currently one of 43 people stationed at the South Pole, Antarctica for the winter of 2009. The current temperature is -83F and the windchill is -122.3F and it has been dark for 27 days now. So I understand what draws you to the cold and foreboding places of the earth. I too am bloging my experience while at the South Pole at http://www.freezedriedengineer.wordpress.com. It is funny to think how far away we will be from each other, yet being of like mine.

    I wish you the best of luck in your adventure. Enjoy the bloging.


  7. Elcorin says:

    Ugh, I liked! So clear and positively.

  8. Nancy Gurney says:

    Hello again my Fellow Grandparent! It was wonderful of you to take the time to call all of us today. I have wanted to tell you what a beautiful job you are doing with your writing. You are articulate and expressive. I can envision where you are by your descriptions so the pictures are just an added layer. Comparing your face to driftwood is unique Tommy. It seems exactly correct for a sailor’s face to be a ocean formed piece of art.

    Sequim had a truly Spring day …. the Elk herd was out behind my place here. They are a bit smug being the huge brown pets of Sequim.

    I am faithfully following your journey and proud to be part of your family, love, Nancy

  9. Frank Gadberry says:

    My hat is off to you Sir! I can dream the dream but I don’t think I could walk the walk. I live in Oklahoma, and I just got my first boat a year ago. I go out alot here with the winters being mild, anyway I just wanted to send you this old verse I stumbled on, you may have read it all ready but I love it and maybe it will bring a smile to your face some lonely day.
    The Worried Skipper

    “I hates to think of dyin’,” says the skipper to the mate;
    “Starvation, shipwrecks, heart disease, I loathe to contemplate.
    I hates to think of vanities And all the crimes they lead to.”
    “Then,” says the mate,
    With looks sedate,
    “Ye doesn’t really need to.”

    “It fills me breast with sorrer,” says the skipper with a sigh,
    “To conjer up the happy days what careless has slipped by.
    I hates to contemplate the day I ups and left me Mary.”
    “Then,” says the mate,
    “Why contemplate,
    If it ain’t necessary?”

    “Suppose that this here vessel,” says the skipper with a groan,
    “Should lose ‘er bearin’s, run away, and hump upon a stone.
    Suppose she’d shiver and go down, when save ourselves we couldn’t.”
    The mate replies,
    “Oh, blow me eyes!
    Suppose ag’in, she shouldn’t?”

    “The chances is agin’ us,” says the skipper in dismay;
    “If fate don’t kill us out and out, it gits us all some day.
    So many perish of old age, the death rate must be fearful.”
    “Well,” says the mate
    “At any rate,
    we might as well die cheerful.”

    “I read in them statistic books,” the nervous skipper cries,
    “That every minute by the clock some feller up and dies;
    I wonder what disease they gits that kills in such a hurry.”
    The mate he winks
    and says “I thinks
    they mostly dies of worry.”

    “Of certain things,” the skipper sighs, “me conscience won’t be rid,
    And all the wicked things I done I sure should not have did.
    The wrinkles on me inmost soul compel me oft to shiver.”
    “Yer soul’s first rate,”
    Observes the mate,
    “The trouble’s with yer liver.”

    WRITTEN BY Wallace Irwin, a poet and playwrite, and journalist who was born in 1875, and died in 1959. He wrote quite a few other poems including “A NAUTICAL EXTRAVAGANCE”.

    Frank Gadberry

    Wagoner, OK 74467-7516

  10. Bill says:

    Folgers??? Instant!!!??? Oh, Tommy! You’ve gone and frostbitten your tastebuds! =)
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  11. tommy says:

    Thank you, I hope others enjoy it as I did, tommy

  12. Lark Dalton says:

    Tommy, Wow, incredible to see your adventure a reality so soon from the day we packed up the now “Cap’n Lem”. Best of everything on your journey! It all sounds so amazing so far. I will be here taking it with you on screen. Lark

  13. Frank Gadberry says:

    “Tommy, if you want to make God laugh,… just tell Him your plans.” It doesn’t get any better than that!