Previously published in Small Craft Advisor, Nov/Dec 2001 Issue No. 12
Blueberry photos courtesy of Howard Rice.

David Hume Blueberry. Photo courtesy of Howard Rice In his book, Blueberry, David Hume said, "Even a short cruise can take you far away from home." In 1988, five years before the book, he'd launched Blueberry --- the two ton, twenty foot, two foot ten inch deep gaff sloop he'd co-designed with Phil Bolger --- taking seven summers to build her.

Globe boating Howard Rice came here in Michigan in July 2008. He was in the States for his summer's break from the western Pacific, and brought dinner and Hume's book in exchange for coffee, rum, room and bed, and a catch up gam too much to email.

David Hume Blueberry. Photo courtesy of Howard Rice Hume sold Blueberry, the boat, to Howard last winter. In late spring and early summer Howard had cruised her along the New England coast, so this year's stories had a much different protaganist boat. We were up past 3 am. By 7:30 am Howard was heading out for chores before flying to China the following morning.

Hume's sentence invites a question. Is getting away better than getting there?

When son Dural, now forty three, was nine, we rented a cabin for a week on a chain of lakes, less than twenty miles from home.

The eight lakes, from a few score acres to several hundred, are mostly on the Huron River, connected by sections of it from a hundred yards long to a mile or so. But in our eight foot dinghy, Grin, depending on wind and up or down current, gaining each lake could be an accomplishment, part of a voyage.

Bufflehead in the distance, salt marsh Once we ran out a lake and downstream around a tight bend. We continued, then tacked back to the bend and found we couldn't push the dagger board deep enough to beat back against the current, and it was too shallow to row. When we stepped out to walk her up, our feet crunched on a shell bar on the inside of the bend. Freshwater clams. Their white glittering dazzled us.

One afternoon, during a solid thunder shower on a little island --- our upwind destination for the day --- we shared a gazebo shelter with two water skiing couples off a varnished Chris Craft. I've not been to the Swiss lakes of calendars, but this had the feel of my imaginings, complete with a mountain-like thunderstorm, beautiful people, and a gleaming Riva speedboat.

* * *

Bufflehead, salt marsh Pine Needle (my 18' 6" by 30 inch sailing canoe drawn for sleeping aboard) and I daysailed a loop from our house on the Clinton River, two miles down to twenty mile wide Lake St Clair. It's the smallest Great Lake, about the size and depth of Lake Okeechobee. We reached seven miles on an easy northwesterly across Anchor Bay, to a half acre of tall bulrushes, and poled into their privacy. Out of the breeze, I snacked and read, then poled out and close reached a half dozen miles to New Baltimore in the upper corner of the Bay and Lake---less than a half hour from home by car.

I paddled into and through the municipal marina and beached near a few kids splashing while moms chatted. Walking about the quiet --- from this side -- little town, I found its century old bakery and good, new cookies. Coming from the Lake, I'd missed the clotted traffic of the main intersection with its narrow lanes, re-patched buckling pavement, and anxious left turners.

* * *

On a map K. and I saw a marsh roughly fifteen miles by three, Wild Fowl Bay on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, the inside of the "Thumb" of Michigan's mitt, a two hour drive. Spare hardwoods rose over a few islands edging Wild Fowl Bay. Around them, golden rushes at the end of a dry summer's day looked like beaches from the seats of our kayaks, but there wasn't a grain of sand. We were off a sea in a lagoon ringed by beaches, but the beaches were dried marsh grass and the sea was freshwater.

Sailing Canoe Bufflehead, salt marsh Although these places were close to home, they were new to us, and they had qualities distinct from the memory they brought. They weren't only reminders of somewhere else --- they added beans and meat to "away."

For cartoppers and other boats a backyard jaunt can be like getting off any boat on an outbound leg, whether ferry in Alaska, trimaran in Bermuda, or tramp freighter anchored in the Far East, a short launch ride to further worlds away.

Is just away enough? I leave the question with you.

Charlie Campbell, a sailing canoe friend from New Hampshire and former Air Force cargo plane pilot who's been all over the world said, "I take Wigeon ten minutes down the road, shove her into the lake and presto change-o, I'm in a different galaxy."

~ HH

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