Friday, July 27, 2007

Author photo, a contest, and more!

Behold, one of a tiny handful of decent pictures of me currently in existence. My wife Amy took it on the beach at my parents' house in Leamington, Ontario, last spring and it's looking like it will appear on the back cover or inside flap of the Lake Erie book, which is still slated to come out next May. Fittingly, that's old Erie you see in the background, doing her best impression of a lovely, tranquil swimming pool.

Work on the manuscript continues apace. Jacket/catalogue copy and my bio are largely finished, and there are some good leads on cover images. I've even submitted a few of my own shots in an effort to help things along, such as this menacing nineteenth-cenury cannon from the ramparts of Fort Malden in Amherstburg.

Which brings me to the title.

There was some concern that "Incredible Tales of Lake Erie" might be a little too, well, superficial for a book with so much historical content in it. So, I've been asked to make some alternate suggestions. That's where I hope you might help. Below is a partial, and by no means comprehensive, list of ideas that I baked up this morning. Do me a favour -- have a look, pick the one you like best, and let me know. Or suggest another -- you could end up seeing your favourite one in print! (Sadly, that's the only prize my meagre contest budget will allow.) You can post your thoughts here. Thanks!

True Stories of Lake Erie

Lake Erie: The Human Experience

Breaking Waves: Stories of Struggle and Survival on Lake Erie

Shifting Shoals: True Stories of Adventure on Lake Erie

Survival and Sacrifice: Tales of Adventure on Lake Erie

Legends of the Lake: True Stories of Adventure on Lake Erie

Soldiers, Sailors, and Settlers: True Tales of Adventure on Lake Erie

Waves of Change: Stories from Lake Erie's Past

Waves of Change: Tales of Adventure from Lake Erie's Past

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kayak porn

Here's a little something to get you (and me) through the workday, big fella. It's nothing more than a glamour shot of my faithful steed, in full expedition mode, no less (you can tell by the chart case and spare paddle adorning her luscious deck). It was taken a couple weeks ago at another of those magical places on the Great Lakes that my wife and I love to hunt down, Foster Island.

Foster is one of the 30,000 islands that line Georgian Bay's eastern shore. It's easy to get to -- just stay on highway 69 for an hour or so past Parry Sound until you get to a little hideaway called Britt, which is directly across the channel from another small put-in called Byng Inlet. The lumber trade once ruled these two tiny cross-harbour rivals, but no more. Now both scratch out a meagre living serving the small, but slowly growing, tourist trade.

We usually put in at a little private campground called Georgian Bay Cottages, which is at the very end of a tooth-rattling gravel road that leads out of Britt. From here, we paddle west, then south for about four hours in all until we reach the splendid isolation that is the Norgate Inlet, in which stand countless beautiful and desolate granite islands, the largest of which is Foster Island. The bottom here is lined with long, rocky shelves, called the Magnetawan Ledges, that keep the powerboaters away, the cottages to a minimum, and allow the wildlife to run, well, wild. I've seen it all down here ... mink, deer, turtles -- you name it. (Ironically, we spent this past Canada Day watching beavers swim up and down a small canal beside our campsite.)

In other paddlecraft news, my dearest wife, in a fit of capitalistic pique, has sold her vessel of ten years:

And ordered herself an ultra-swanky Impex Force Cat 4 which, at only 20 inches wide, is reportedly a rocket on the water. Hers looks a lot like this, but with a red deck, to match her PFD, I suspect.

Delivery is expected on or near August 1. Should be a pretty fun day, whenever it comes.

Now I'll just have to try and find a way to keep up.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Pelee perspective

As I've noted many times before on this blog, Pelee Island is a place near and dear to my heart.

Why? Hard to explain, really. But what I have observed is that there seem to be two separate and distinct schools of thought on the place: There are those who think this little, backward, out-of-the-way little island is the most deadly boring place on earth. These are the people who step off the ferry, the MV Jiimaan, and begin counting the minutes until they can get back on and return to civilization (and are usually waiting at the dock a full hour or more before their scheduled sailing home).

Then there is the other group, the people who truly see the magic inherent in Canada's southernmost community. The people who know that if you just sit still for long enough and pay attention, you will see something, either created by man or by nature, that you will not soon forget.

So in a bit of a salute to the latter bunch, here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few Pelee moments from a hot weekend in early July.

I always wondered where Uncle Kevin lived. It appears to be at the corner of East Shore and Cooper, the former a barely driveable dirt trail and the latter constructed of something that almost passes as chipped stone. He wasn't home, so we were robbed of our chance to ask if there is an Auntie Kevin.

My wife Amy ponders her potential future home, an only partially dilapidated converted schoolhouse at the Island's south end. It's actually for sale, if you're interested. Check out under Pelee Island. But watch out for this scary turkey tree in the front yard:

At least I think they're turkeys. Could be vultures. What do I look like, an ornithologist?

As Amy said when we saw, this, "There's a fine example of reduce, reuse, recycle, Pelee style." Well maybe not so much reduce, but points for the other two.

Pelee is littered with buildings like this, where some brazen capitalist thought they had finally found the bulletproof way to turn the island into a viable resort community. But then, mainly owing to sometimes unpredictable ferry service and a tiny economic base of about eighty year-round residents, it all goes to pot. This looks like maybe a stillborn inn or some other type of recreation spot. Whatever it is, it's been sitting here slowly deteriorating on Pelee's south end for at least ten years. But if you look closely, you can see that the stickers are still on the windows.

And if you slip through the surprisingly unlocked front door and have a peek inside, it looks like the workers just put down their tools and stepped out for a smoke five minutes ago.

I guess it's not hard to tell which school of thought I belong to.

For more on Pelee Island, click here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ghost ship update

Tuesday's London Free Press reports that later this summer two teams of divers, one Canadian and one American, will set off into Lake Erie's sandy depths to try and solve one of the the lake's most closely guarded secrets -- the fate of the long-lost car ferry Marquette & Bessemer No. 2.

A summary: On the night of December 9, 1909, the ferry set off from Conneaut, Ohio for Port Stanley, Ontario, loaded with rail cars. She never got there; about halfway across the lake, the Marquette & Bessemer No. 2 ran into a raging seventy-knot gale. Unable to find shelter, the ferry was eventually swamped, it is thought, and went to the bottom, killing her entire crew of thirty-six.

What's frustrated divers ever since is the fact that the Marquette & Bessmer No. 2, a 350-foot monstrosity, has never been found. Even though she's not particularly valuable (although a myth persists that $50,000 was put into her safe just before she sailed), the archaeological community would love to know where a ship that big could possibly hide in such a shallow lake.

It's a question that, it's hoped, a little international rivalry might help solve.

To read the full London Free Press story, click here.