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Home » Adventures » Apostle Islands » Devils Island

Getting Stuck Far Out

Route I paddled this day About 12 miles

Route I paddled this day
About 12 miles

I had a very lazy morning, but upon finally emerging from tent I discovered the delay was inconsequential as a blanket of fog inundated York Island . The far side of the beach, only a couple hundred yards away, was hidden and Devils Island’s lighthouse could not shine through the cover. I was not about to shoot a bearing and head into dense fog towards an unseen island. Even if I had exceptional navigation skills, that would be an unnecessary and stupid risk. So I was stuck at York for an indeterminate time. Hopefully my stay would not be extended as this small rock did not provide many exploratory options.

At least the fog brought clam air, as the crashing waves from the prior evening that could have also marooned me dropped to nil, and a flat sheet of glass extended from the sand. I sat around camp at the beach, reading and waiting for the weather to clear. Eventually it began to lift as more of the shoreline poked through the low clouds. My litmus test to shove off was visibility of neighboring Bear Island, so at least I would always see a land mass while on the water. When that rock was finally clearly distinguishable I shoved off and bid land ado.

Donned in all the  protective gear needed to face the unforgiving lake

Donned in all the protective gear needed to face the unforgiving lake

My scheduled campsite was on Otter Island, but paddling straight there would have been too easy. I instead first took a detour to Devils Island’s sea caves and lighthouse. My course went along the west edge of Bear Island, allowing me to island hop out there. The seas were not flat but not overtly rough either, and I rolled with them. As I approached the north end of Bear though more fog rolled in and my destination slipped into smoke like Skull Island hiding the great ape.

This new weather disconcerted me as navigating blind seemed like a poor choice, and even more so since the fog could disguise worse weather approaching unseen. The waves were still manageable, but a system blowing in with the clouds would cause many problems. I took a hiatus on the leeward side of Bear Island to evaluate my options. I was nearly ready to abort my side trip to Devils Island and go straight to Otter when the thick fog seemed to blow off. The path was still not completely clear, but I could at least see the island and convinced myself naively to go ahead with my initial plans.

El Diablo

While crossing to Devils Island the fog came and went, and the island actually disappeared from view a few times. The rock was never gone for long, and I put the odds at completely missing the island very low, but seeing nothing but water and a wall of mist in a 14.5 kayak on Lake Superior caused a few butterflies in my stomach. The unknown beyond the clouds made the ordeal more ominous. I kept steady though, figuring the less time spent in the channel the less the likelihood of encountering bad weather. These waves at present still demanded my respect and attention. They unnerved me at times, forcing me to constantly stay alert, but I managed through them.

The outside of the sea caves on Devils Island

The outside of the sea caves on Devils Island

Upon reaching Devils Island I conceded to the weather by opting against circumnavigate the island and remained on the leeward side to avoid the wind. On the east side paddling once again became a joy as Devils Island blocked the weather leaving perfectly still water. I quickly progressed to the sea caves while enjoying the rocky coast. I again had fun exploring the caverns and their intricate wonders.

I found a spot to park my boat near the old lighthouse dock and turned land lover to explore the lighthouse. I had little precious time for this endeavor due to my late start caused by the morning fog. I also still needed to reach Otter Island before dark. The buildings on Devils Island were all locked tight too, but I could peer through the keeper’s house and lighthouse structures.

Change of Plans

After returning to my boat I paddled back down the side of Devils Island and pondered the crossing towards Otter. The morning fog was completely gone, but the wind had increased causing small occasional white caps across the lake. Even as I emerged just past the protective tip of Devils Island I encountered very strong wind and waves. A gale warning was not quite posted, but it was still more than I wanted to deal with, especially with the waves attacking me from the side.

Boathouse in Devils Island’s harbor

Boathouse in Devils Island’s harbor

As a result I quickly implemented the backup plan which had been in the back of my head all day: camp at Devils Island and hope conditions became better in the morning. I still had to get to that dock though, which was through unprotected water. Even this very short paddle was a challenge. The seas were several feet tall, and I had to hit just the right angle to glide safely into the harbor without smashing into its protective walls. Finally reaching the stillness in the wharf was a giant relief, and I knew I made the right choice not to try for Otter Island.

I camped at a nice site on the hill above the marina and watched the waves crash against the rocks as the sun set below the horizon. After darkness reigned supreme, I used some leftover wood to make a campfire and enjoyed the dancing flames.