Chicago, Lake Michigan - 1978
© Kathy Doore for Labyrinthina.com
“Early summer 1978, a perfect night for a sail with 7-10 knot winds, flat seas,
and as it was mid-week, we had the lake to ourselves,...”
I was aboard one of three classic wooden sailboats, part of an active racing crew that competed every Sunday and practiced maneuvers several times a week. Around dusk on this sultry hot summer's eve, we set sail for what should have been an idyllic cruise. As fate would have it, the Gods had something different in mind.
Not an hour out of port and quite unexpectedly, a dense fog rapidly descended upon us. Visibility dropped to zero. We became disoriented and feared we'd crash into one another. The winds were erratic, filling the mainsail from two opposing directions. A phenomenon no one had ever experienced before this evening. I leaned over the rail and looked at the surface of the Lake. It was calm with little movement. Strangely, a few seconds later as I righted myself, I found I was extremely cold. In fact, I was freezing.
I turned toward the helm to ask my crewmates if they were cold too, and to my utter astonishment they were no longer standing next to me. One moment we had been packed in the tiny cockpit like sardines, and the very next instant I was alone at the helm. Dumfounded, I called out and located them standing up on the aft deck, where it was several degrees warmer. They seemed perplexed, and urged me to join them. That's when I noticed that no one was steering the boat.
The Captain raised his arms high over his head, gleefully wiggling his hands and fingers in the air, and stated he hadn't been steering for the past ten minutes. Yet, not one minute before, I was certain he had been standing next to me at the helm. Draped in dense fog, the vessel began a curious, aquatic dance. Slowly, but deliberately, she turned on her axis completing three, perfect, 360-degree pirouettes, without ever crossing the wind. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the fog vanished. To our utter astonishment, we saw the other two boats all within a few hundred yards of each other, rotating in exactly the same manner. A moment later, we regained control of the vessel and pulled out of the vortex. In unison, all three boats turned and headed for port.
Sailing home over a placid, absolutely smooth, glass-like sea beneath the newly-risen full moon, I found myself enfolded in the tangible presence of my recently deceased father. My crewmates too seemed lost in an inexplicable rapture. The only sound, an occasional splash on the rail.
We noticed the lead boat enter the anchorage. It had once belonged to our Captain and we knew it well. As we approached the tiny inlet we found our old mooring empty, our sister-ship nowhere in sight. All was quiet. We scanned the horizon for mast movement to no avail. We were the only vessel underway. We couldn't imagine where they could have gone. In fact, there was no place they could go. We set out in search of them carefully navigating under sail, in and out of the moorings our fleet called home.
Circling around a few minutes later we were shocked to find that our sister-ship was not only tied up, with sails stowed, but rowing ashore! An impossibility in such a short span of time. Nothing added up. Time either stood still, or sped up.
After the third boat arrived, everyone met on shore. This usually boisterous group seemed dazed and wanted nothing more than to go home, and go to sleep. I looked at my watch. It was now after midnight. It seemed we'd been out for no more than three or four hours, instead of nearly six. As the weeks passed, I realized we couldn't account for a good portion of the evening.
The following Sunday as we readied ourselves for the big race, I brought up the unusual events from our extraordinary sail. To my utter astonishment no one would talk about it. Worse yet, they behaved as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. The vortical winds alone would have given them fodder for years. It became evident that I was the only one in full recall.
Our Captain has since passed away, and I've lost contact with the old sailing gang. However, I've told the story many times, calling it my “Lake Michigan Triangle Story". Years later, I would learn of a book by Jay Gourley written about the mysterious appearances and disappearances of boats and airplanes in the Great Lakes.
Over the years I've come to realize that the events of that night may very well have been for my benefit, another in a series of extraordinary moments earmarking this remarkable journey of life.
- Kathy Doore
CLICK VIDEO: Watch “William Shatner's ‘Weird or What’ Lake Michigan Fog”
Season 2, Episode 6, October 2011, HISTORY TV
A Mysterious Fog
The Lake Michigan Triangle originally featured on Discovery Kids ‘Great Lakes Mystery Hunters’ included the addition of a whirlpool turning the vessel. At no time did we observe a whirlpool. The sea was perfectly flat, clear as glass and mirror-like. We were enveloped in a strange fog that quickly enfolded all three vessels turning them in unison. When the fog abruptly lifted we were able to pull out of the vortex yet continued to experience unusual anomalies, and time distortion. Had we entered a parallel reality re-emerging into present time when we finally moored our boat in the harbor?
Buoys & Ghouls Chicago Ghost Ships
There is a triangle in Lake Michigan between Chicago, Manitowoc
and Ludington that is similar to the Bermuda Triangle, where
there are repeated episodes of planes and boats disappearing
and sometimes reappearing. People report seeing ghost ships,
and boaters have picked up people from the water who say
their ship sunk, and then the people disappear!
In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy
The Great Lakes Triangle
Rebirth of a Classic Square Meter Yacht
The Chicago Belmont Fleet
A similar, beautiful meter boat from Sweden, with stunning, graceful lines . . .
untold man-hours are necessary to keep these classics bright!
Here's to the great passion of sailing a fine wooden yacht!
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