After catching no fish, we had a quick lunch at Timber Charlie’s and headed to Big Manistique Lake, our lake. After all, our cabin sat directly on the water. It came with a boat and outboard motor for our use. Why not take advantage of it and pull some fish out of our own back yard?
As we took the cover off the boat and started untying it from the dock, we noticed the wind picking up. We didn’t lower the motor at first because we didn’t want to scrape the propeller on the bottom. We pushed off, and began to row out deeper into the lake. The boat rocked in the choppy water as the wind increased dramatically. We got farther away from shore. The farther out we got, the more the waves bounced our boat around like a cork. We could really feel the wind. The sky grew dark. Water slapped the side of the boat and sprayed all over us. I honestly thought we were in danger of sinking. There was no question in either of our minds that we had to turn the boat around and return to shore.
The wind was blowing away from land, so we had to overcome that obstacle. We needed the strength of both men. Jack and I sat in the middle seat by the oarlocks. He took one oar with both hands; I took the other. We pulled with everything we had. The wind was blowing us out into deeper and choppier water. At first our rowing efforts were chaotic. We managed to turn the boat around so the prow faced shore, but making any kind of headway was almost impossible. If Jack’s oar reached the water before mine, we turned to the left. If mine reached first, we’d lurch to the right. If he pulled harder than I did, we’d veer off track. The same would happen if I pulled harder. We wasted precious time lurching left and right, as the wind blew us farther out into the lake.
Finally, we got into a coordinated rhythm. We called out the cadence: one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. At one, our oars hit the water together. At two, we’d pull at the exact same strength. At three our oars came out of the water, and at four, we’d re-load, pushing the oars back before starting all over. Amazingly, we started to make progress. The bow began to slice through the rolling water. We kept a steady course toward shore, and slowly, we could feel the motion of the boat moving in the right direction. We counted out our cadence. Our hands were sore. Our backs and arms ached. A few glances over my shoulder and I could see the shore getting closer. We kept rowing. Finally we reached the dock. We jumped out, tied up the boat and staggered to the grass where we collapsed. I don’t know how long we lay there on the grass. I hadn’t felt that sore and exhausted in years. But it was a good kind of exhaustion … the kind that comes from successfully defeating adversity. Eventually we got up, went in the cottage and cleaned up for dinner.
We decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal at a local inn right there in Curtis. Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn is a charming, white building with a wrap-around porch, sitting on a bluff overlooking Big Lake Manistique. The place has a cozy country decor with a huge stone fireplace and spectacular views of the lake. We ordered New York strip steaks and a bottle of wine. We talked about politics, religion … all the things you’re not supposed to talk about, but we discussed it all easily. We made several stunning observations about the close relationship between quantum physics and spirituality. We talked about our day and our heroic self-rescue on the lake. After several glasses of wine, it became clear to us that we had saved our lives. If it were not for our incredible athletic ability, our strength, cool headedness, and coordination, we would have surely drowned. The next day we were going home, and we were forced to talk about details like returning the rental car and mailing our newly bought fishing rods home. That conversation stood out in marked contrast to the escapist world I had been living in for the past three days. As I sat there, I realized I hadn’t thought about my business or any of the cares of everyday life back home since arriving.
In 1928 Alexander Fleming went looking for some used Petri dishes he had piled up in his lab. Instead, he discovered penicillin. That happens sometimes. You go looking for one thing and by accident discover something else you were not even looking for … something far better. Jack and I went to Northern Michigan looking for fish. We found something else instead. So the question remains. Can you go on a fishing adventure where you catch no fish and still have it be a successful trip? My answer … absolutely.