Paul Fenn

Don’t Forget to Unplug Before Leaving the Dock

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A beautiful view of the unspoiled Apostle Islands located on the western end of Lake Superior.

This past summer my wife Kim and I chartered a 40 foot sailboat on Lake Superior and cruised through the unspoiled and mostly deserted Apostle Islands with our three kids, Will, Mollie, and Graham. We had never sailed in this area before and although eager to experience all that the islands had to offer, we were also nervous that our kids, ages 10, 9 and 6 would get bored with no on-shore activities to entertain them. This is rather a pathetic statement I know, but let’s face it, kids today and even us adults have come to expect being entertained in one fashion or another every minute of every waking day. Because of this, and because we didn’t want our vacation ruined by cranky kids whining about their being nothing to do, we literally left the dock with three laptop computers, one Itouch, one Ipad, an Android smart phone, my old Blackberry, and plenty of movies to watch. The one thing that we forgot to bring however was a 12 volt/ 110 volt inverter. In short, we had no way to charge all that we had brought so once the batteries ran out, we’re talking game over.

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Our beautiful Jeanneau 409 that we chartered from Superior Charters out of Bayfield, WI

We had a smoking good sail the first day before dropping the hook (that’s nautical lingo for anchor) just off the beach of Stockton Island. The day slipped away into a clear, beautiful, star-lit night and after dinner Kim and I sat in the cockpit sipping our wine and taking it all in. Our kids on the other hand sat down below fighting over which movie they would watch, where they would watch it, and who would hold the computer. We spent two nights in Stockton Island before sailing onto Raspberry Island about 12 miles to the west. One of the great things about sailing in the Apostle’s is that the islands are close together making for quick passages between harbors. We set our anchor in a well-protected cove just off the sandspit in about 15 feet of clean, clear-blue water. It was a sweet spot for sure and we made the most of it by swimming and diving off the back of the boat. But once the sun went down, there were all three of my kids once again glued to the screen of the Ipad, the last remaining device with any juice left. Then a funny and unexpected thing happened almost immediately after the Ipad gasped its final breath and the light faded from its screen. Will appeared in the cockpit with a deck of cards in his hand and said “anyone interested in playing a game of Michigan Rummy?”

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My oldest son Will discovered this great spot to jump into the water from. The water was cool and deep. We all had a blast jumping off!

From that point forward the trip took on a whole new feel, a real feel, one without beeps, clicks, electronic tones, or video games. From that point forward we spent our time combing the shore for cool looking stones and driftwood. At night we made fires on the beach, told stories and sang songs. We played cards, board games and read books. We did all those things that families used to do before the invasion of portable, hand-held electronics. No one was fighting that they couldn’t see or couldn’t hear. No one was arguing over which movie to watch or who would hold the computer. All that was gone.

We spent several more days on the boat cruising from one island to the next. They were all beautiful, unique and for the most part deserted. And while there was no commercial entertainment to be found, we never lacked for being entertained. It was all there just as it was for our parents and grandparents, simple entertainment but oh so much better than what we have today.

My youngest Graham and  me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!
My youngest Graham and me building a fire on the beach of Bear Island. We had the place all to ourselves!

After we got home, we called our cable company and disconnected our TV. We still have the internet and the kids still play too many video games when we’re not looking but there’s also more chess and scrabble being played; there’s more music flowing through the house, more family conversations and a few more fires burning in the fireplace at night; all good things.

Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island
Mollie, Graham and Will climb on the Wishing Tree on Bear Island

This Christmas, Santa brought us a new tent and we’ve started looking at the idea of buying an Airstream trailer and doing a little camping. We’re not sure exactly where we’ll go but one thing is for sure, when we do go, we’ll be sure to unplug, leave the electronics behind and experience all that life has to offer, for real.

On we go…

P.S. Interested in exploring the Apostle Islands for yourself? Contact Superior Charters at www.superiorcharters.com. They have a great fleet of Jeanneau sailboats to choose from and are a treat to deal with.

8 thoughts on “Don’t Forget to Unplug Before Leaving the Dock”

  1. Hi Paul,

    What a fabulous story. When we lived on board Dragonsinger, our Jeanneau 43DS, in the Mediterranean from 2001-2003 home schooling our three kids, we had to make special trips to Internet cafes to be connected. While we have since become as connected as most, we still have that experience to go back to. Our three children survived just fine, thank you very much, with little to no access to media, music, or the Internet while we travelled the Med.

    Every time that I get back on a sailboat, especially in a place with little or not connectivity, I have a transformational experience. Life slows down, even more so than usual on a sailboat, as I disconnect from our artificially “fast” world.

    Unlike you, I haven’t had the gumption to pull the cable TV plug. Kudos to you and your family for doing so. And thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Cheers,

    David

    p.s. For interested readers, you can learn about our two-year Mediterranean adventure at:

    http://www.davidgreer.ca/cruise/

    1. Dave, thanks for your comments. I remember very well when you pulled the plug, flew to Erurope and took delivery of you ney boat to cruise the Med. in. What a great adventure you gave to your family and to yourself. On we go!

  2. I spend a fair amount of time surfing for information. Don’t do social networks so much, but as much as the internet provides me with endless theories, models and factoids, I can appreciate walking away from it and doing stuff…real stuff with real people. Bravo for 86-ing the cable, and put it on your list to forget battery chargers the next time the family spends time together.

    1. Thanks Kevin for your comments. We all spend hours of our life on-line these days which is understandable. I think where we are getting into trouble is with our children who are being given Ipads and cell phones almost before they know how to ride a bike. Call me old fashion but for me there is a lot more to life than waht can be found on an Ipad. Hope I’m right but I guess time will tell!

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