Big water doesn’t have to be salty to be worthy of respect. The Great Lakes are pretty big, and Lake Superior is the biggest and definitely the baddest. Marlin Bree was cruising Superior in the summer of 1999 when he encountered the green storm, so called because of the unusual color of the sky and memorable because of its 72-knot winds. With a dose of luck, Bree survived the storm in good shape and proceeded with his cruise.
The green storm actually takes up a fairly small part of his newest book as this 66-year-old solo sailor and his 22-year-old homebuilt wooden sloop, Persistence, potter about the islands off the Canadian shore of Superior.
The author sprinkles his book with historical accounts of Lake Superior disasters. Most of these involve commercial shipping, but there are some stories like the Gunilda, a pre-World War I, 195-foot private yacht, that came to disaster because of incredibly bad judgment and too little fear. Along the way, he meets local characters, friendly ports, and favorite anchorages. These show the lake’s less-forbidding side to encourage recreational sailors.
Marlin Bree has an interesting attitude toward boat outfitting. He carries not one but two matched 5-hp outboards, just in case one fails. He also likes to back up in threes with three compasses (in addition to his GPS) and three types of coffee.
In this book this sailor spends almost no time talking about rigging and trimming but spends a lot of time under a dodger, comfortably punching coordinates into his GPS and steering through the autopilot remote.
Nothing makes him happier than tying up and discovering a sauna on an otherwise deserted island. He talks about the interesting fellow cruisers he encounters on the way and waxes poetic about their boats. One of these is the Orenda, a 40-foot wooden-hulled beauty originally built for Gordon Lightfoot. It was Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, that, ironically, did much to create popular awareness of the potential for peril on Lake Superior.
The book contains 17 pages of notes to expand on the author’s observations, along with several maps, pictures, and drawings. It is recommended for anyone planning a cruise in the area or just looking for a sailing-read when confined to the harbor.
Wake of the Green Storm by Marlin Bree (Marlor Press, 2001; 223 pages)