Voice of Bruck News Service

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Taming Lake Superior


The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they called 'Gitchee Gumee'…"

The chilling words of Gordon Lightfoot's eulogy to the lost crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald seep into my consciousness whenever the Father of Bruck starts talking about sailing.

In the event that you get invited to sail with the FOB, my recommendation is that you repectfully decline. Or try to change the subject. Or fake appendicitis, whatever it takes, just don't go! If you are in need of sage advice, interesting conversation, help with plumbing, or would like to relax to a few nice classical pieces and standards played expressively on the piano, he's your go-to guy. But if you have a bad jones for a sailboat ride, I recommend exploring other options. Don't say I didn't warn you! If inextricable circumstances somehow compel you against my advice, do be sure to wear a lifejacket. A helmet and wet suit wouldn't be a bad idea either.

"The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead…"

There is something deep in man's spirit, some primordial instinct, that causes us on occasion to throw caution to the wind and take unwarranted and illogical risks. Take Steve Fossett, the "millionaire adventurer" whose plane crashed and apparently is now missing somewhere in the Nevada mountains or desert. Or John Denver in his ultralight. Or the lawn chair balloonist. Or people who cheat on their significant other. Or participants in "Xtreme" sports. I don't think I'd be too presumptuous to ask, what disproportionately risky behaviors have you indulged in lately? Well, the FOB's personal Mt. Everest seems to be sailing his 16' sloop in a full gale on Lake Superior.

I enjoy a good sail as much as the next guy, even more so, but here's my personal protocol for when to sail, vs. that of the FOB:

Windsock hanging limp:
Bruck: take the kids tubing
FOB: head into town for some racquetball

Windsock at 45 degree angle:
Bruck: good day for sailing
FOB: good day to putter around in the backyard

Windsock horizontal:
Bruck: sailing could be a little dicey
FOB: let's raise the sail in case the wind picks up

Windsock long since torn off, soaring over the the next county; support post bending in the wind:
Bruck: nailing plywood over the front windows
FOB: who's up for a little boat ride?

I succumbed to the above temptation a few years ago. I will concede that it was a pretty exciting ride, right up until the rudder broke off. The rudder is a key element in the locomotion of a sailboat. It's not so much like the steering wheel of a car, the loss of which would render it inoperable but not necessarily produce a catastrophe. It's more like losing a wing from an airplane - you're going down. And we did. No injuries, TG, but the boat wasn't so fortunate. It did a lateral 360, breaking the mast on the lake floor, snapping and ripping out cables in the process. Water pressure ripped the sail and broke some lines, and about the only part that didn't need repair or replacement was the tiller. We held onto the wreckage and drifted in for a bit until a guy on shore noticed us and gave us a ride in on his jet ski. We collected the remains of the boat the next day.

"When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin' fellas, it's too rough ta feed ya…"

One inauspicious summer day prior to that, coincidentally Father's Day, the FOB took his young friend Jared out for a sail. Jared is, or at least was, in the US Coast Guard, and was embarking on his first sailboat ride. They were just getting started on a three-mile run from the marina at the Bay Mills Casino to the cabin on the shore near Brimley, MI, when a gust from behind caught them off-guard and tipped them over. Jared suggested swimming to shore, but the FOB correctly averred that someone would come out and help them out. A pontoon boat came along and taxied the wet sailors the rest of the way to the cabin. Young Jared probably also knew that they would be picked up anon; we suspect that his interest in swimming back was to avoid the humiliation of being rescued by his fellow sailors in the Coast Guard. Although it was his first ride, young Jared was not daunted by the experience; he went on to get his own sailboat, and learn to drive it.

"At seven p.m. the main hatchway caved in, he said fellas, it's been good ta know ya…"

On another occasion, this past summer, the FOB and his friend Steve went out for a little afternoon sail, captured in the pic above, taken from the shore by young Ben, nephew of Bruck. In this instance, it was neither mechanical failure nor imperfect helmsmanship that caused the capsize, but adverse conditions. The FOB claims that his craft was bowled over by a 90 foot wave, but we suspect he was exaggerating - it was probably more like 40 or 50 feet. Actually it would not be entirely accurate to say that both the FOB and Steve were capsized; Steve had actually gone overboard beforehand. Fortunately, there were no injuries or lawsuits; the only casualties were the FOB's ugly hat and sunglasses (not to worry - he has plenty more!).

"They might have split up or they might have capsized; They may have broke deep and took water…"

Just a couple of weeks ago marked the occasion of the fourth keel inversion that the FOB is admitting to. On a relatively calm day, he took his grandson's friend Jeff out for a ride. He handed Jeff the tiller (we're not sure to what extent Jeff knew what to do with it), and promptly went over. Again, fortunately, no injuries nor damage, and they were able to pull the boat to shore, drain some water, and sail the rest of the way back. Unfortunately for Jeff, this was immediately before his ride back to Detroit, which he then had to take in wet clothes. He was still damp when he arrived home after the 6-hour car ride, prompting his mother to ask, "What happened, did you fall in the lake?"

So, dear FOB, since your birthday's coming up, and we always ask what do you buy for a man who has everything, I found the perfect gift for you on e-bay: magnetic Chinese Checkers. That way, next time you and your friends are looking for something to do outdoors in a full gale, you now have a safer option!

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