Posts Tagged 'arcadia'

my 1st sunfish (a new picture)

well, technically this wasn’t ever actually my Sunfish – but it is the 1st one I’ve ever sailed on.  the photo is of Ryan, the younger brother of my roommate Sean, from when I worked as a staff member at Camp Arcadia.  Sean was the 1st person to introduce me to the Sunfish (15 years ago!).


pier jumping with the boys

during our family vacation to Camp Arcadia this summer, my brother-in-law and I took our boys down to the south pier for the traditional jumping off the pier into the waters of Lake Michigan.  a few of the boys had jumped before, but this was the first time for some of the younger ones.

it was later in the evening, and the water temperature this year in Lake Michigan was just a tad on the cold side.  I wore my shorty wetsuit, and was the 1st to jump in.  I had them throw me a life jacket, and then I just floated the rest of the time down there with my GoPro Hero video camera to capture the action as each boy took turns jumping off the pier.

I thought it’d be a quick process, but it turned out that I had to help each boy get up and onto the ladder, as the water level in the lake is low enough that the 1st ladder run is probably 12 to 18 inches above the water level, and none of the boys had the upper body strength to pull themselves out of the water and start climbing the ladder.  I would swim away from the pier, one of the boys would jump into the water, and then I’d swim back in with them and help them climb out of the water, and then repeat as required!  I’m glad I put the wetsuit on, though, as I ended up floating down there in the cold water for maybe 15 minutes.

if you recall, this is the same pier that Dave and I jumped off a few weeks later, but with disastrous results – as the waves were way too big for us to have jumped, and the current was way too strong to swim against.  Dave wrote his thoughts about that near-death experience he and I both faced in this blog post: underestimating the power of the waves.


underestimating the power of the waves

[this is a guest post from my brother-in-law Dave.  he put into words what we both experienced.]

I pride myself in making good decisions. This last weekend I made a bad one. And it nearly cost me everything.

I tell this story despite the fact that it smashes the image I like to portray — of someone who makes the right decision as often as possible. Someone who takes risks – yes – but calculated ones. Someone who weighs the pros and the cons and always makes the right choice. I tell this story so that others — including my 4 sons — might learn from it.

Many of my brothers-in-law and I have a Northern Michigan tradition every September. Golfing, hanging out, eating, playing, sitting around drinking and talking. Among other things, it always includes a jump off the local pier into the waters of Lake Michigan.

We’ve been doing it for at least 15 years. We’ve jumped in cold water and warm water, calm water and wavy water, during the morning, afternoon and evening. Many times, many variables… never a problem.

So it seemed like a normal thing on Saturday morning, as we climbed across the rocks to get to the pier, intent on introducing a new group of friends to our annual tradition. We had spent the car ride and the walk there discussing the thrill and the excitement of the ~10-foot drop to the water below.

When we all made it out to the pier, we spent some time looking around as the sun glistened off the 3-4 foot waves seemingly bouncing their way out of the north horizon and to the shore. Every once in a while, a wave would crash the pier and spray itself up and on to the concrete. But Thad [that's me, my2fish] and myself had done this before. We knew what we were doing.

We discussed the plan. Jump off the northwest corner, float about a bit, ride the wave back to the ladder, time it to grab the ladder and climb out. Like we had done many times before.

About 6 guys watched as first Thad jumped and 10 seconds later, I followed. As I was in the air, I noticed a rather large wave passing under me. I realized I was going to land on the backside of it, so I braced for a shallower area of water. I was right. As I hit the water, I almost immediately touched the bottom of the lake.

[the video shows us walking out on the giant boulders to the pier, and the waves crashing on the rocks and the pier.  the video shows us jumping into the water, but I had turned the camera off immediately after that.]

[Dave's story continues...]

The water was on the warmer side and I calculated quickly in my head that it was probably about 8-foot deep where I landed, about 5 or so feet lower than it usually is on calm days. That was my first indication that this was like no other jump we had done before.

After coming up and floating for 10 seconds or so, I saw Thad farther out than I expected him to be. So I turned to look at the ladder and realized two things: I also was further out then I expected and — more scary — I was almost even with the ladder. My eyes met with Thad’s and I realized that he had already realized that same thing.

Thad was already swimming to the ladder so I turned to do the same. That’s when the second thing happened that make me realize that things were not normal. Thad’s arm crashed into me as he passed me on my right (south). That threw me for a little loop and I decided I better get to the ladder as soon as I could. So I swam. And swam. And swam. When I looked up, I had hardly made any progress toward the ladder. So I swam harder. Although I’m a pretty decent swimmer, I was getting tired. And so, apparently, was Thad.

After what seemed like a few minutes of all-out swimming, both Thad and I were a few feet away, bobbing up and down as the waves moved under us. Thad’s brother-in-law, Clint [the Snark sailor], had realized something was wrong and had climbed down the ladder and was stretching out his arm to grab on to. My mind felt a moment of relief at this sight because I knew Clint was strong and if I got a hold of him, I’d be able to get out.

So, I timed it. And my right hand grabbed his arm, just like they do in the movies. And as I grabbed the ladder with my left hand, I looked to my right and saw Thad lunging for Clint’s arm as well. Our eyes met again and his eyes seemed to match the beating of my heart. He grabbed Clint’s arm and got his left hand on the ladder next to me.

Just then the water dropped out from under me and I realized two things: I would only have one chance to pull myself up the now-5-foot-space to get on the ladder and I better do it quick because a big wave was seconds behind me.

I was right on both accounts. As I used the last of my strength to heave myself up the ladder, a huge wave crashed into me, turning me sideways and throwing me against the exposed wall of the pier.

I have no idea how long I was under water. Probably only 6-8 seconds or so but to my tired and bruised body, it felt like I was in a washing machine for 20 seconds. I hadn’t had a chance to get a good breathe, so when I finally came up, I was gasping for air, and getting a mixture of water and air in my mouth.

Later, Clint would tell me that one second he had us both and the next second we were gone. Washed away. He had no idea where we were. After the wave came through, he scanned the bottom of the lake, saying to himself that he would try to save the first one of us he saw and that the other one would have to fend for himself. But he saw neither of us.

It took me a few seconds to realize I could breathe again. What a luxury. I took full advantage, pulling in as much air as I could while I tried to tread water. I heard a faint yell from above, “more waves!”, and all of a sudden I was under water again. Disoriented. Flailing. Thinking to myself: “Am I really going to be one of those guys? Is this really the way it is going to end?”

I decided it ought not to end this way. So I continued to struggle, catching air as often as my dead-tired limbs could get my head out of the water, realizing that my best shot was to get behind the break wall and  get on to the huge rocks.

As I felt like giving up, my foot made contact with something slippery. I pressed down and it pressed back… the first solid footing I had found myself on since I jumped off the pier however many minutes ago that was.

As I stood up to breathe in as much air as I could, I heard the voices above again, shouting: “You can’t stay there! Waves!”

I finally had the ability to speak and yelled, “I have to breathe!”

And, again, Lake Michigan proved them right, pummeling me yet again with a wall of water. At least now I was only pushed into the rocks. As painful as that was, I was grateful to be above water… breathing. The last wave had moved me a little further down the wall of rocks and I found myself standing in front of another good-sized rock when the next warning yell came from above, “big wave!”

I instinctively gave the rock in front of me a bear hug, took a deep breath, and held on with what was left of my strength.

Later, the guys above told me that I disappeared under that next wave. When it receded, they didn’t know where to look for me next. By the grace of God, I was still there, bear-hugging the hell out of that rock. So I gained a little energy back and the waves got a little smaller. And I took a step up the rocks toward the pier. And I gained a little more energy back. And I took another step. Before I knew it, I was high enough on the rocks where I could lie down without fear of the waves doing any more damage.

So, after taking a look around and seeing Thad 15 feet down the rock line — not on the rocks yet but at least above water and apparently safe — I lied there for a few minutes, grateful. That is where I said my first prayer of the whole incident. One of thankfulness.

I noticed my bloody feet and legs but didn’t really feel the pain. It would be 48 hours until the deep bruises on my knees surfaced. It was 72 hours until the dozen bruises up and down my right side appeared. As I was making my way down the rock line, I passed the rock where Thad had laid down after getting out of the water. The pool of blood scared me anew. Thad’s feet were shredded and he was rinsing them off in the lake.

picture of Dave’s feet – cuts from we assume zebra mussels on the rocks

We made eye contact once again… this time with a sense of relief buried behind the steeled intensity acknowledging what had just occurred.

As we made our way back to our car, we asked ourselves how had we gotten so complacent that we allowed ourselves to be in that much danger. The answer, of course, is found in the question itself and provides a warning to all of us. Which danger in your life — whether physical, mental or even spiritual — have you become complacent to? If you answer that question and acknowledge that answer by changing how you approach that danger, than our struggles in Lake Michigan on a Saturday in September 2012 will have been worth it. Please do.

wreck of the Minnehaha

the wreck of the Minnehaha can be seen quite well right along the shoreline of Lake Michigan near Arcadia, Michigan. the ship was wrecked during a storm in early October in 1893, while carrying 58,000 bushels of corn.

this is a picture from this evening.

strangely, when I was here 3 weeks ago, there was almost no part of it visible. it is amazing to see how the action of the waves moves and displaces sand up and down the beach.


et ego in Arcadia – Monday

here is a summary of the second main day from our week vacation up at Camp Arcadia. on the weekdays during the Family Weeks at Camp Arcadia, each morning has a short Bible study for the adults, and classes for the children – split up into manageable age groups for the Camp staff – basically like a vacation Bible school, with some sports and games mixed in as well for the kids classes.  after Monday morning’s classes, my boys immediately wanted to head over to the archery range.

the Camp has a neat little archery range set up out in the woods: there is about 5 or 6 straw mats with paper bulls-eye targets attached to them, and then old garden hose spiked down to the ground to set different shooting distances.  the Camp has a varied selection of recurve wooden bows with different pull weights, so the kids (or adults) can choose a bow that they can shoot.  an instructor helps the kids get ready, and uses a whistle to give out commands – all in all, pretty well planned out.  my boys loved it, and went back to the archery range several more times the rest of the week.

after lunch, my brother-in-law and I went sailing again.  this time, the wind had picked up a bit – my Wind Meter app on my iPhone said it was about 13 knots. the waters of Lake Michigan were still fairly calm, though, so not too big of waves with the decent wind.  sailing was great, as we could move pretty quickly across the water.   it was a bit cooler and cloudy that day, so the rest of the kids were busy with other stuff around Camp, so it was just my brother-in-law and I messing about on the water.

I sailed for a while in my Sunfish, and he was in his Snark sailboat, and then we switched boats for a while as well.  here’s a screenshot from the video from my GoPro camera – my brother-in-law is sailing my Sunfish, and I’m horsing around in his Snark sailboat in the background… trying to keep my body completely flat stretched out across the 2 sides of the boats without my butt sitting down in the boat.

after sailing I took my 2 older boys and 2 of their cousins out into the woods for the Capture the Flag game. the game is held out in the back woods of the Camp’s property, where you can see rows and rows of pine trees,  planted by Michigan’s Civilian Conservation Corps that was created by Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

the Camp staff used blue or red paint to decorate the faces of the 2 teams, Braveheart style – all 4 of my crew were on the red team.

later on that evening, we had some time just milling around on the beach and the playgrounds.

Monday evening’s main event is the Square Dance, held out on the tennis courts.  the Camp staff instructs everyone on the steps for whatever dance we are doing, and calls out most of the steps during each song as well.  it helps that many campers have done these same dances for years – and it’s usually a good mix of experienced “pro’s” and the 1st-timers as well, plus always a bunch of children having fun learning the square dances, too.

there are some silly ones – the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey, but also the Virginia Reel and the Two-Step as well.  they save the best 2 songs for last – the Amos Moses and the Prima Donna (but I’m not sure of the dance names).  I got this pretty cute video of my youngest son and one of his cousins dancing together while the rest of the campers were dancing to the Virginia Reel.

if you missed the post from Sunday at Camp, you can read it here.  more days to follow.

et ego in Arcadia – Sunday

here’s the first day from our week vacation up at Camp Arcadia.  most of the post will be about Sunday’s activities, but technically the family week vacations up at Camp Arcadia are usually Saturday afternoon to the following Saturday afternoon.  the first day thus usually involves some frantic last-minute packing to get on the road ASAP, then a roughly 4-hour drive to get up to camp. here’s my Sunfish rigged up for the road, with a couple of the boys’ bikes riding along with my Sunfish PVC dolly.

after the long drive to Camp, the rest of Saturday is spent settling into the cottage, eating our first dinner at camp, and then watching the Talent Show by the Camp staff – mostly introductions, a few legitimate talent exhibits like singing or playing an instrument, and a mix of silly skits.

Sunday starts with a buffet breakfast, and then a short walk out of Camp and into the small town of Arcadia to Trinity Lutheran Church, a great historic church at 130+ years old.  it’s been a family tradition while driving into Arcadia on Saturday afternoon to see who can be the first to spot the steeple poking above the trees.

after the church service, we walked back to our cottage, and I started getting my Sunfish ready to take to the beach.  I used my Sunfish PVC dolly to roll it down some sidewalks and then the sand to the beach, and lugged all the extra gear down on a 2nd trip, and then headed to the dining room to have some of the buffet lunch before heading out to sail.  my youngest son (4 yrs old) was pretty geeked as usual to sail – he had his little sailing outfit on and everything, and was hanging around trying to help get it ready to sail.

it was a cooler day, and the water temperature was pretty cold, so I had a few layers on to make sure I stayed warm if I was to fall out or tip over.  on a day like this, I like to wear my Ronstan long sleeve rashguard underneath my shorty wetsuit.  and this year my new piece of gear is some NRS wetsocks from REI.  I really like all 3 of these pieces of gear – the wetsocks are a nice addition, as I have to wade in the water a bit to get the final rigging done, and then get the Sunfish started sailing.  the only disadvantage is that I can often get pretty warm if it is sunny and I’m not getting splashed with water (or falling out of the boat!).

the wind was fairly calm out of the south/southwest that afternoon, and the water was pretty flat, so it was a nice and easy sail across the Lake Michigan water.  on my first tack back towards shore, I could see my 11-yr old son T2 wading out in the water towards me, so I swung close and picked him up (and then gave him my life jacket because he didn’t bring one with him!).

while sailing with him, I sat to one side, and gave him both the tiller extension and the mainsheet – so he was in full control of the sailboat.  it was neat to see him learning how little adjustments to one or the other would affect the course we were sailing.  he also LOVED to hook his feet under the hiking strap, and lean so far back that his head touched the water!

after sailing with him for a little bit, I then gave rides on the Sunfish to both of my other sons, as well as several of my nephews, and a little girl who had been watching from the beach.  my oldest son T2 had switched over to the stand-up paddleboard that the camp owns – he spent a TON of time out on that, and was able to stand and paddle way out into Lake Michigan, often with one of his cousins riding along.  I only have this picture of him kneeling on it, but most of the time he was standing up.

while we were sailing, other members of my family took out the ocean kayaks, the rowboat, and the stand-up paddleboard – both adults and kids taking turns on each of them.  all in all, a great afternoon of messing about on the waters of Lake Michigan.  a couple of the kids took turning burying themselves in the warm sand on the beach.

then, they all joined together to bury their newest uncle and decorate him with beach toys.

I did end up missing the wine tasting that afternoon that was presented by Left Foot Charley, a local winery that is run by a previous staff member from Camp Arcadia.  after the awesome afternoon on the beach, it was time for dinner on the patio – amazing pulled pork sandwiches.

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