Morgan first heard about Lake Pepin from a tugboat captain who worked on the river all his life (this was not mentioned in our post “Words of Advice,” but it really should have been). He told her she should just get a boat to tow Zeebee across Pepin. We also read about the lake on various Mississippi blogs. It was often mentioned as the “most dangerous part of the Upper Mississippi” or “no joke.” This is why we spent much of yesterday docked and hanging out for another night at Muddy Waters getting free dinner and drinks with Jim Toner and his buddy Joey and all the nice people of Prescott, Wisconsin. My friend Rebecca, who was visiting from Nebraska and who keeps popping up at the places we dock after having her own land-based adventures, joined us again as we waited out the tornado warnings with conversation, even though there were no tornadoes, and as we waited out the hail warnings, even though there were clear blue and pink skies. The next morning we felt pretty confident about the forecast. I saw a low-lying cumuloniumbus on the horizon but shrugged it off. I figured it was yesterday’s storm clearing. Also — mistake #2: we didn’t gas up before heading out. And we were a day behind and trying to make up time.
We killed a huge *&%#ing spider with a 2×4 from Home Depot in our shanty boat, docked at St. Paul Yacht Club, while a thunderstorm proceeded in the background the other night. The 2×4 was a leftover from one of our many last minute projects to get Michi Zeebee ship shape to go down river – a ladder to reach our steering on top of the cabin (thank you Nina), mosquito netting in the cabin (thank you Rebecca), a bimini to protect us from the sun (thank you Diane), printed charts (thank you Dan), a bilge pump to keep us from sinking (thank you Dale), a pole for pulling in the classic tradition of shanty boats (thank you Danny), and reinforcement to the combing (thank you again Nina…can’t thank Nina enough) in an attempt to keep water out from the barge wakes that folks kept talking about around the yard.
First thing’s first: we are not the first. We are following a long historical line of adventurers, workers, escapees, romantics, knuckleheads, and fortune-seekers, everyone from farmers in the early days of Westward expansion, to heroes of alternative living, the Hubbards, a couple who lived on the river in a shanty boat for more than a decade. The artist SWOON and her flotilla of river rats put in (we found out to our glee) at the very same yacht club where we put in, the St. Paul Yacht Club in Minnesota. So did a Russian man who made his vessel out of a bunch of soda bottles and chain link fence. According to one of the people who run the yacht club this soda bottle pioneer was stopped by the coast guard, and despite the fact that his craft was registered, he was indefinitely dry-docked because his boat was bleeding soda bottles up and down the river. He apparently tried to argue that it was okay because he had a ready supply of extra bottles to replace each one that drifted away in his wake.
Anyway. We hope we’re a little more equipped than that. A close look at our vessel, for those who have done the trip or built similar shanty-style vessels usually yields supportive responses, encouragement, even admiration. We’ve even heard from one or two people that we’ve inspired them to take a trip of their own.
In which Morgan and Emily get published in a Maine magazine and prepare to go down the big muddy this July
Thank you to Maine Boats Homes and Harbor Magazine for including us in their Spring issue! Read more about the design of Michi Zeebee in an online version of the article here: http://maineboats.com/print/issue-146/artistic-flatboat
In which Emily and Morgan catch up on everything that has happened since the end of the summer; apologize for their prolonged absence; and speak of future plans.
The summer came crashing to a close, much more quickly than we would have liked. Morgan went back to her job as a consultant (her employer graciously gave her a hiatus to work on this project), and Emily started teaching again at RISD, though their connection to the Apprenticeshop continues, as Emily also decided to officially enroll as an apprentice boatbuilder at the shop! The commute from Rhode Island to Rockland is a little rough, but the combination of learning and teaching opportunities is rare and worth it. She’s been learning to build curvy hulls with rocker and length, though her heart is still with Michi Zeebee.
Zeebee was moved to Freeport for winter storage, and despite a brief scare with mildew, she’s been resting safely. We started working on her again last week, prepping her interior and beginning to lay the decking. We’ve also started a third round of fundraising, designed some patterns for the boat’s exterior, and set up more events on the river. Things are rolling again! Expect more regular updates soon! We promise!
In which Emily and Morgan learn to sail, get motorcycle licenses, witness a meteor shower, sing “Mariner’s Revenge”, build and paint boat, and are infinitely grateful to The Apprenticeshop and to everyone who supported them with Michi Zeebee this summer
We built a boat this summer. We also did some sailing, exploring, and other things, but mainly we built a boat. In the mix of working we collected some of our most memorable moments from the summer to share with you all. Here it is in bits and pieces – our summer in Rockland – building a boat:
In which Morgan and Emily meet the crew of a traditional Hawaiian boat circumnavigating the globe without modern instrumentation; construct the frame for the hull of their Mississippi-bound vessel; get eaten by the unusually vicious coastal Maine mosquito; go for a brisk sail on the Atlantic; and are still generally welcomed by the generous and kind people of one of the oldest boat building schools in the country, despite a broken coffee cup.
This week we found ourselves looking up more than usual–at the moon, which was full, brighter and larger than the dock lights below; at the stars Arcturus and Sirius as the crew of the Hawaiian vessel Hokule’a led an informal lecture on the ways of navigation without a compass, a clock, or a sextant; at the jib on our first sail of the season as it luffed in preparation for a tack; at two of the Apprenticeshop’s apprentices late at night in the shop as they finished up work in the balcony above us as we made (poor) attempts to serenade them by singing off-key and shuffling our feet; and, more often than usual, at the sky, which seems to burst into a regatta of sailing clouds all its own every other evening here.