In Our Times in Hemingway Country

August 11, 2010

Pos: 45 00.6’N x 088 56.9’W
Wx: NE Force 2-3, numerous squalls about
Motoring sailing under fores’l and stays’l at 1400 RPM

Pride of Baltimore IIis Southbound through the Manitou Passage, between the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear Dunes in the “pinky-finger” section of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. According to the Chippewa Legend, a mother bear and her cubs fled a forest fire in Wisconsin and swam for the safety of the Michigan Shore. The gigantic dune rising 470′ above Lake Michigan just quarter of a mile in from the shore, is meant to be the mother bear, sleeping on the coast and waiting for her cubs, the Manitou Islands, to swim in. It is a beautiful landscape, even on an overcast and squally day.

And the crew have seen some landscapes lately. We are fresh from an overnight stay in Boyne City, Michigan, clear away at the East end of Lake Charlevoix, itself an inland Lake accessed by a man-made channel in from Lake Michigan. The passage along the lake reads like an atlas of Earnest Hemingway’s “Nick Adams” stories – East Jordan, Horton Bay, Charlevoix. This is the country where the famous macho writer spent much of his youth.

It is also the current country of long-time Pride friends, the Kidds. Jack Kidd was one of the first Sales Reps to fully sense the benefit of using Pride for corporate hospitality.  In 1981, he started using the first Pride for dockside receptions. The Maryland based company he worked for, Tate Access Flooring,  had offices in most of the ports that Pride visited.  Jack took care of the crew too – whether they were in Michigan, Baltimore or another port where the company was doing business.  In the mid-eighties Jack became a board member.  He retired to Michigan shortly after the construction of Pride II was completed.  But his tradition of taking care of the crew had been started and whenever the ship was in the Great Lakes he invited the crew for some Rest and Relaxation at the family cottage on Walloon Lake.  Though Jack passed away in 2003, his sons, Jack Junior and Wally, along with their wives Doris and Margie, have continued the standing offer of hospitality.  

 As Walloon Lake is one of Michigan’s splendid inland lakes, a dock nearby and transportation overland has always presented a logistical challenge. Typically, Pride IIwould secure alongside in Charlevoix, and the Kidds would ferry the crew 15 miles away to the cottage. I did this in 2008, the last time Pride II was on the Lakes. But just this spring brand new docks with length and depth to accommodate Pride II opened up in Boyne City, a mere 4 miles away from the cottage. So early Tuesday morning, we made for the far end of the lake and secured.

As an added bonus, our little sister, Lynx, was in the area and an invitation was extended to them as well. As you know, when I am not in command of Pride II, I take command of Lynx, and the two crews have been getting to know each other quite well since the boats were first together in Lunenburg two months ago. Currently, former Pride II Captain John Bebe-Center is in command of Lynx. John brought the Pride II crew to the Kidd’s cottage back in 2006 and so is no stranger to the family.

Coming in and securing unannounced to anyone but the Kidds and the harbormaster just before 9am, Pride IIcreated quite a stir, and all through the morning as people clustered on the dock. Lynx came in and rafted alongside us at 1030, putting her bow at our stern to create a dramatic “X” of raked masts and braced yards. According to the crew members assigned to keep the duty watch aboard, there was non-stop curiosity throughout the day. It would continue Wednesday morning, when seven people even elected to sign-up for a last minute one-way sail to Charlevoix, 12 miles away. But most of us missed the crowds and were carried away to the relative bliss of Walloon Lake. At noon, the waves of Lynx and Pride II sailors began departing to the cottage.

Set back from the lake 150 yards on a bluff, the cottage offers two paths that sweep through pines, birches and maples down to a grassy flat just before a strip of beach on the lake. In 2008, the crew played an epic game of whiffle ball on this flat, while in other years it has looked like a nursery at nap time for all the sleeping sailors. A dock juts into the clear emerald water with a pontoon boat, sunfish, and canoe for exploring the lake. Family dogs chase tennis balls and swim until they are utterly exhausted. On Tuesday, there was scarcely a cloud in the clear northern air and the afternoon breeze chopped the surface of the lake to glitter. The crew set about doing everything there was to do – sailing, paddling, swimming – or simply did nothing at all and soaked in the respite from tours and watches.

And then there was food. And more food. Delicious salads and side dishes, marinated hot-dogs and bratwursts, massive combinations of ground beef and cheese! We eat quite well aboard Pride II– we always seem to enlist a cook who knows how to prepare fabulous meals on a very tight budget – and so were not hurting for flavor or quantity, but boy did we stuff ourselves. The feast slowed the activities, and allowed the crew some time to visit and admire the cottage. It is a simple, cozy place – single story with brown cedar shingles – but the careful eye will note the breath and depth of Pride memorabilia. Artwork and pictures, a half-hull model, a magnet on the fridge from the early days of the old boat. All testament to longstanding involvement with Pride and the support the Kidds have given to help keep us sailing.

A day at the Kidd Cottage is what R & R was meant to be – immediately refreshing and without complications. Any Pride II crew member, or guest crew (and this year Lynx crew too) is instant family. The setting, too, of a Northern Lakeside in summer is a relaxing one. Maybe not instantly so:  Plenty of us are a bit more worn out today from all the swimming, paddling and dog chasing than if we’d been underway. But as a battery recharge for a bunch of sailors who have been putting on their best show for the tens of thousands of visitors Pride II has seen, and working the boat from port to port in diligent and professional fashion, a day at the cottage will go far, farther than a good nights sleep or an extra day off. It will serve as a reminder highlighting that what we do in sailing Pride II is held in extremely high regard by one outstandingly generous family.

By sunset, most of the crew had left the cottage. Some were tired and off to their bunks, others were interested in what nightlife in a Northern Michigan town might have to offer. A few of us lingered while day faded. I took the canoe out for a paddle in the fading light. Just after sunset in the middle of the lake, I turned back. And for a few minutes I stopped paddling. The breeze had faded to calm and there was still light enough to see the colorful sails of the moored sunfish along the beaches. I was alone, on the water with no orders to give and no reports to hear. Now that was a good way to finish out my R& R.

From Hemingway Country,
Jamie Trost and the exceedingly grateful crew of Pride II


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