Journal Entry Written 8/24/16 on Lake Pepin:
10am: Lake Pepin couldn’t be calmer and more serene for us. We left early this AM and only had to row about ten minutes before we set the sail. Since then we have been running with the wind at a consistent 4 knots. It is so incredible being in our little boat, sailing along with such perfect conditions. The contrast from the Lake Pepin we experienced 2 days ago makes me grin. I am sitting on my life jacket and seat cushion in the bilge while Kyle sits leaned against the stern behind me. He is on the tiller and because we are running the main sheet doesn’t need constant tending. All I hear is the rushing of water on Solvi’s blue hull- the sound changing a bit in the gusts- getting a little louder. Every once in a while I hear a train horn in the distance to my right.
12pm: To my left is Erickson Point. A tall tree covered rock face all along the shore. Deep green trees carry half way up the rock face, but then it gets too steep and their roots can’t hang on. That’s where I can actually see the light brown and colored rock that forms a cliff. It’s so close I can see the texture, I can feel it when I close my eyes and imagine. And then right at the top of the cliff I see the deep green trees again- growing tall and proud at the top due to the direct sunlight. They must be so happy.
2pm: Clouds cover the sky in an array of gray hues. Different shades, shapes, and sizes, but it is light enough that the sun lets us know she is near by shall we need her. I am lying on the bench. I hear Kyle playing the harmonica while using the weight of his body to steer the boat. A sea gull flies above the boat while the harmonic sounds fill the air. Glorious.
Laying down gives me a different perspective. I can’t see what’s in front or behind, only above. We pass the clouds, or do they pass us? The boat bobs and flows so smoothly in the water. I observe her tan bark sail with traditional brown lines pulled tight. Bronze blocks hand made by Kyle. They take me back in time. Another sail boat passes in front of us as we make our way down the lake. The harmonica gets more intense and it’s though I can feel it’s vibrations in my chest. Everything around us, all the energy is so strong and positive. These are the days we live for. This day right here is why I am happy to spend 7 days in the mud with so many spiders. It’s the most glorious day. Everything I see has so much meaning. I watch as the waves flow together with one another. Their movement entrances me as I watch them rise and fall. The waves are flowing with us, so every once in a while Solvi’s hull causes some bubbles and I watch as they flow past.
I contemplate every part of the boat and I feel I know it so intimately. The physical labor of every surface being sanded- I feel it in my shoulders and hands for just a moment- a small reminder. I see all the staple holes in the wood and I can feel the cool steel of the staple remover in my hand. I see the rope move through the blocks and I am brought back to the day Kyle built them from bronze. I see small “mistakes” in our panels and I know exactly what caused them. I smile because they are a trophy of our hard work. We are intimate with every inch of this boat and it makes it so special.
6pm: After finishing the crossing of Lake Pepin we were quickly welcomed back into the smaller riverway of the Mississippi by the current. It was awesome. The wind was still behind us, but now we had the current so we were making anywhere from 5-7 knots depending on the conditions. We completed 30 miles in six hours and only rowed a total of 10 minutes. It was amazing. We took turns napping on the benches and Kyle played his harmonica. As soon as we left the open waters of Lake Pepin the river changed. The water is clear- like we can see the sandy bottom- and yes, I said SAND! Not mud. All the islands are sandy. We could have kept going because the conditions were so good, but we saw the perfect sandy island with flowers, grass, trees, a fire pit, and we just had to stop. Within minutes everything was out of the boat and sprawled in every direction drying in the fabulous sunshiny breeze. We swam, played frisbee, made a fire, did yoga on our large beautiful cotton sheet. We looked for pebbles in the sand and walked the island. The change in environment was so extreme that we were giddy with excitement. Sunshine, sandy beaches, clear water, and the most amazing day of sailing. It really makes me appreciate the last 6 days of mud and rain because otherwise today wouldn’t have seemed so special. It won’t last forever and that’s okay- for now- in this moment we will soak in every ounce.
Yesterday we did 20 miles, mostly under oar but did get some sailing in. We had to go through 2 locks, but they couldn’t have gone smoother. Both times we were the only boat in the lock and both times they didn’t have us hold on to the side. We were allowed to just float in the middle. It was pretty comical at first being in this huge lock in our little boat floating in the middle. We enjoyed conversation with the nice gentlemen who ran the locks and then continued on our way. The day seemed to go quickly, but around 3pm after 20 miles we were ready to stop for the day. We found a sandy island and pulled Solvi up on shore. We are currently on day 11 and the days are beginning to blend together. It’s a refreshing feeling never really knowing what day of the week it is and relying on the sun for the time. Kyle and I both have gotten in the circadian rhythm and I am so thankful for that. It is a rare thing these days, going to bed when the sun sets and waking when it rises. But my body is all for it. As soon as the sun sets I start yawning and am ready for sleep. When it rises in the morning, I am up and ready to go. I do not find myself tired or groggy throughout the day. It’s great! I will share another entry from my journal that was written last night:
As we brush our teeth together over the dwindling flames of our fire, Kyle with toothpaste smeared on his lips and beard, birds flutter above back and forth as though they can’t make up their mind of where to go. I can hear their wings and then a couple chirps. The sun is setting bringing pastel colors over the river and bluffs below it. The water has a pink tint, bringing the texture the ruffles create on the water to my attention. Stillness fills the air as I observe the last smoke steam from the burning embers within the rock fire pit. The orchestra of buzzing mosquitos and the singing of crickets fills the still air. Small pink clouds smeared across the pale blue sky is the last thing I see before getting in our mosquitos free tent. But 30 minutes later I make an observation! I look through the tent vestibule and realize that over a short period of time the sky has changed, but in the most interesting of ways. The pink smeared clouds I mentioned before are now blue. And they aren’t on a pale blue sky like they were before, the sky behind them has become pink. A pale pink, very similar to the color the clouds had been just 20 minutes ago. I make a mental note to myself to observe what happens during the 30 minutes I wasn’t watching. Why and how did the pink clouds turn blue and the blue sky turn pink? Or is it really so simple as the universe is playful? It makes me think of Alan Watt’s talk on “purposelessness”. There is no purpose. There doesn’t need to be some scientific reason we can label with fancy words and processes. Maybe there is no purpose for such a beautiful phenomenon as the sun set.
This morning started out wonderful. I sat on my damp camp chair from the morning dew and listened to the water in the pot in front of me as our stove brought it to a gentle boil. I knew within minutes the water would be raging all about and it would be time to pour the water into our French Press. I smiled in anticipation of the familiar coffee aroma that is released as the boiling water douses the finely ground beans. The sun was rising behind me and the birds were singing their morning songs. I thought to myself: Today is a good day. And I was right! Today has been a good day. We got a late start this morning, leaving around 10am. Within the hour we arrived at Lock and Dam 5A. After hailing the lock master on the radio we were informed that we would have to wait 2 hours for a northbound barge and tug to pass through the lock. Fortunately there was a sandy area near by so we pulled up on the beach and relaxed in the boat for a while. Once it was our turn to go through the lock we rowed as fast as we could to keep up with the other power boats going through. Even while rowing really fast and concentrating on making it to the lock in time, I still smiled as I observed the huge barge and tug pass by on our right. We see them daily, and daily I am still fascinated with their size and design. Quickly after leaving the lock we arrived in Winona. We first visited Dick’s Marina where we were greeted by a very nice gentleman on a house boat. He waved and welcomed us to the town. Thank you for that, it was awesome to have such a friendly face. We then headed to the town dock to walk into town. Unfortunately when we arrived at the town dock we found it completely under water. We didn’t feel safe tying Solvi to it as if a wake came we might hit the cement which was under the water. Fortunately we met a very nice man named Aaron who owns a tour boat company in Winona. He offered for us to tie Solvi to his dock and even said he’d keep an eye on her while he was there. Because of Aaron’s kindness we are currently sitting in a restaurant in downtown Winona. (If you’re ever in the area take a tour: http://www.winonatourboat.com) We just had a big appetizer and are about to eat cheesy pizza. This meal though, we need to thank our kind friend Katy for. It is amazing sitting down and eating a warm meal that wasn’t cooked on a camp stove. Thank you Katy, your generosity will be remembered!
We are almost into the second week of our journey south and as I have said many times before, we just couldn’t be more thrilled. We will be leaving Winona this evening to continue south and as always, can’t wait to see what the next few days will bring. Onward 🙂
7 thoughts on “Smooth sailing, Sandy beaches, and Town exploring!”
Enjoyed telling the beginning of your story in the Star Tribune. We encouraged readers to follow your blog. Hoping they do. Safe travels! Tony Kennedy’s editor, Bob Timmons
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As of this moment (19:08 on 8/26) you have 68 tows moving between you and Lock 25. Assume roughly half are N/B. Expect lock delays. The traffic will get heavier once you reach the mid-Miss (Lock 10 and south).
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Amazing, Danielle! I love reading this! You two are amazing.
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I”m following you, thanks to Star Trib!
I’m a wander-lust-wanta-be and while you’re soaking up the sunshine, I’m soaking up you guys and your blog! Good writing! Good sailing!
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Love reading your scenic descriptions. A sneak preview of your coming book!
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Do we get to see a picture of the meal Can’t wait to send your box tomorrow nothing too exciting Food from bill Jackson, nuts and wine and some weird shots and of course cookies
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I highly recommend playing/camping on McMillan Island, just before lock 10. It’s a sand island made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s made from the sand that gets dredged up from the main channel. Sometimes they’ll pipe the sand away to build wing dams, and then the island looks like a sand doughnut, with a pond in the middle. But most of the time it’s a huge hill of sand, ready for jumping and sliding!
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