Lost on Lake Superior: One Girl’s Quest to Find the Origins of a Wooden Boat

Can you help to solve this mystery?

By Chelsea Ellard (age 11)

During this past September long weekend, our family travelled by boat from Thunder Bay to Grand Portage Bay, MN, enjoying the last warm days of summer. We anchored off Grand Portage island which was a beautiful spot. We even found an eagle’s feather! As we looked toward shore, we tried to figure out where the historical portage trail was. What a difficult journey that must have been.  Later that day, we went ashore and enjoyed the hospitality of Grand Portage – we had a great time and will be back!

The next morning, we decided it was time to move back up the north shore, so we slowly motored up the coastline until we came to a sheltered bay within the Susie Islands. We anchored to make breakfast and take in the scenery. We hoped the wind wouldn’t blow up too much as we wanted to take our little zodiac we dubbed “Treasure Hunter” and go ashore to the islands.  This is a hobby that we enjoy as a family, walking the beaches looking for treasures and learning about the diversity of each little island or section of mainland. Even though I grew up boating on Lake Superior just like my Dad, I always learn something every time we go ashore.

We landed Treasure Hunter on a little island, which was not much bigger than a swimming pool, but this island seemed to want visitors as it would not normally have any due to its small size.

img_0249Immediately we saw it!  There upon the rocks was the most beautiful little schooner. The sailboat had been carved by hand, with a lot of effort and care into the creation of the boat.

My Dad reminded me of the the book Paddle to the Sea, which has a similar storyline to us finding this little boat. I decided that we should try and find the owner, before setting it back onto Lake Superior. I wanted to tell them just how far the boat had come. This was a very special sailboat indeed!

This island is located within a group of islands known as The Susies. The island is situated at N 47 degrees 58.718 W 89 degrees 35.287, which is near the USA border between Grand Portage, MN and the Pigeon River border crossing.

The sailboat was hand carved with very distinct designs carved on the hull, a rock for a keel and birchbark for sails. But where did it sail from? Who carved this beautiful little vessel? Wherever it originated, it must have travelled many miles as The Susies are a considerable distance to any port.

Can you help solve the mystery?

If you have any information, please contact Chelsea at g.ellard63@gmail.com.