I have several posts in the near future to make, so bear with me if they’re a bit on the short side. The first of which is the condensed version of the Lake Pepin Messabout adventure!
After months of planning, acquiring equipment, and general boating obsession, it was time to leave for the trip. I had been back on American soil for 5 days, and the jet lag had mostly subsided. (New Zealand Trip post coming soon!) All the gear needed for the next five days was packed into Serenity, and by early afternoon my dear friend Mindy delivered us to Hastings to begin the trip.
The new and improved route.
Getting to the boat launch and loading up serenity was kind of intimidating. The weather looked a tad ominous, and the river in that area is BIG. Not as big as it gets later on, but after looking at all 8 feet of Serenity, and across 1200 feet of Mississippi, the ideas of what this trip might all be about became very real. Big Muddy and I were going to form a bond over the next several days.
Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.
Serenity and I launched without an issue, and with a wave back to Mindy, we started our trek towards Lake Pepin. I was only a few hundred yards into the trip when I encountered the first obsticle: the water was high and the measurements I had for the bridges were off. I passed under the Hastings Rail Bridge with about 2 inches to spare instead of the 4 feet I was expecting! Within three hours of being dropped off, the skies had turned darker, and rain was threatening. I donned my foul weather gear and waited, as luck would have it I didn’t wait long. The rains started slow, and eventually whipped the surface of the river into a froth. All the while I maintained course down river, sopping up as much of the rain as I could with my bailing sponge, and squeezing it overboard.
Thankfully, the first of the rains only lasted for an hour or so, giving me a much needed break for a snack. As I began to make my way towards a beach, I heard my sail start making an incredible noise. Upon looking up at the head of the sail, it was pretty clear what the trouble was: The ties that held the sail to the top of the mast had given way and would require a repair. “This trip is starting out AWESOME!” I thought.
Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?
As previously mentioned, this trip had been fixated upon for months, and there were very few things that could befall it that would cripple me on the water. After a quick stop for repairs and a snack, it was back to the river sailing onward until darkness began to fall. There was almost no wind, and a good 4 miles between our position, and the campsite. It pained me to do it, but I decided to put in the trolling motor and make a break for it. I made it into the slough upstream of Lock and Dam #3 just as the sun was setting. Supposedly, there is a campsite there, but I never found it. I ended up hiding Serenity in some trees, and hauling my camping gear about a half mile up the road where I found a peaceful field to try to get some rest. A quick meal, a change into not soggy clothes, and I drifted into almost sleep. As it turned out, I had set up my camp about 100 feet from the railroad tracks, which was trafficked every 30 minutes for the rest of the night.
The next day was as uneventful as the previous day was eventful. I woke up early, ate breakfast, and got Serenity pointed into the lock. It was a bit harrowing, as there are no indicators as to where the intercom for the Lockmaster is. Fighting currents with the trolling motor pointed in reverse to slow my entrance, I finally found the pull-chain WAY into the lock. The Lockmaster looked at me like I was completely insane, and asked if my boat was Coast Guard Approved. I said I didn’t know, but it was registered with the state. I’m not sure either of those things mattered, and he opened up the lock for me. The waters are so high that time of year that I only dropped about four inches during the lock process. Once on the other side, and safely out of the eddy area, I pulled the trolling motor, and set the sails with the goal of hitting Frontenac Park.
I passed through Red Wing and the most exciting thing during that leg of the trip was colliding with a navigation buoy in full view of a fisherman. Wait… That’s embarrassing, not exciting. There was more sailing, and as luck would have it, I ended up making a lot of distance on that second day. So much, that I passed Frontenac and made it all the way into Hok-Si-La by later afternoon. A full day ahead of schedule!
The rest of the Messabout was a lot of hanging out, telling lies with other boatbuilders, relaxing, and sailing. My favorite vessel by far was the one-of-a-kind Arcebus. Captain Greg took a couple of us out for a ride on a fairly choppy and rough day, and we managed to get a top speed of 7.25 mph, which on a sailing vessel of that size is damned good.
My favorite moment came after the Messabout had completed, and while I missed this little guy and his dad, I’m glad I managed to inspire them. Hopefully, I’ll see them next year at the Messabout!
I hope they do!
Also, Google photos made a pretty sweet “story” about it… Which you can view HERE.