BWCA WWYD #18 - Lost in the night Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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distinguished member (330)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 08:19AM  
This happened to us years back. I'm curious to the groups thoughts.

Last weekend in Sept., myself and one other individual paddled into Winchell from Brule for a long weekend. We entered on Thursday afternoon to a beautiful evening...Sun was shining, lakes were calm and was the perfect start to a long weekend of relaxing and chasing lakers. The rest of the evening was relaxing around camp, a nice fire for the steaks, some scotch and cigars.

Sometime during the first night, the wind picked up and it was just howling. We awoke to a snow storm and crazy wind. During the next day (Friday) the snow turned to rain/sleet. The wind blew all day, straight down winchell, whitecaps with froth coming off the top of the waves - crazy wind. We were wind bound all day. Saturday rolls around and it's the same thing, we briefly tried to go out and do some fishing, no chance, nearly swamped and immediatley returned to camp.

Two days now of rain, strong winds, snow and sleet. Tommorrow was our planned departure and discussions were started about if this wind keeps up how are we going to get out of here? We decide, we'll just have to wait it out, no way we're risking it, water is way too cold this time of year.

Sunday morning - no rain, no snow, but crazy wind. We don't pack our gear as we don't know if we're going to be leaving. White caps all day and no indication of the wind letting up. Sunday mid day, misting and crazy wind. We cook dinner, eat and the sun peaks though the clouds and there's a sudden strange calm. We look at each other, look at the sun and estimate we have less than 30 minutes to sunset.

We decide to go for it. We pack as quickly as possible and just pour the coals to her to get back to the EP. We hit Brule, it's now completely black out, no sun, no moon, sky is completely clouded and the wind has switched directions and is blowing strong again. Quick discussion, about snagging that first campsite near the portage on that point...nope, we decide to make the paddle across Brule.

Tucking around the islands as best we can, we make it across the lake, paddle into the bay and the EP is no where to be found?

In our haste to leave camp, we realize, maps are packed away somewhere but we have no idea where, flashlight is packed away somewhere, but again, no idea where. Ok - we're idiots, now what? We know Brule and the route to winchell pretty well. I remember in my mind the location of the islands, I remember the map...I'm convinced we're in the small bay further east and we need to paddle the shoreline to the west to find the EP. Bow paddler is convinced the EP is just further back in the bay. I don't want to paddle further into the bay as it looks like I can see deadheads up there and don't feel like hitting one and dumping. Bow paddler states "I'm not paddling out of this bay and back into the wind". I respond with, "I'm not paddling into those deadheads up there and dumping". In all our trips together prior and since, this is the only time we've had real we sit floating, in the safety of the bay and can't agree on what to do.

What would you do?

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Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(13897)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
04/21/2021 09:29AM  
You are up the creek, without a paddle my friend. Since you asked what would you do I’ll take a stab at it. First of all my maps and compass stay safely in my pack at the top flap in a case to protect them. Then I navigate with my Garmin Montana 650T. This year I will also be bringing a Garmin InReach Explorer + that also has a GPS. So if I were shooting across the lake I would have already taken a bearing and have marked a waypoint that is the portage. The Garmin InReach would be a back up in case of my main GPS failure or battery loss. Then just follow the yellow brick road to the exit.

Now for your situation. You are really in a pickle here. Lost at night, bad weather. If it were daylight you could get out your maps and try to figure out we’re you are. You could find two or three known points and triangulate your location. But you are in the dark, can’t see anything, lost, cold, mad. All bad things when making a huge move like this. Even if you had a GPS it would be risky at night. Go to shore, pitch a tent and wait for daylight or better traveling weather.
distinguished member(2475)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 11:48AM  
If the bay is calm I would do what my paddle partner wants and just take it slow. That way once we explore that option we can then follow the shore line like you want to do. Yes there is dead heads, but if it is calm and you take it slow you won't dump. If he is right then he will be the hero! If he is wrong then he will listen to you to try the shore.

But I would also have my cellphone strapped to my pfd (to take pics) and I would take out the flash light on my phone if my little flashlight that is strapped to my pfd isn't working. So we would have some kind of light to help us out.
04/21/2021 12:55PM  
I would seek out the closest shore line, secure the canoe best as I can and wait out the night on shore if possible. If waiting it out is not in the cards then I would at least use the protection of the shore to carefully dig out map, compass and flashlight and reluctantly continue looking for the EP.

While duck hunting I start out in the dark and many times come back in the dark , without a GOOD light and a compass and knowing your bearing you are putting yourself in danger when on the water and it is pure luck if you find your way. Rain, fog? best to admit your lost and be smart and stay safe. Spending the night sleeping in your canoe is really not all that bad.
04/21/2021 01:25PM  
I’ve done a few trips paddling in the dark, even with good flashlights it’s scary. It’s possible with the weather you described that you were beginning to experience hypothermia, this can result in poor decisions.
in this situation I would not have attempted to cross brule lake. I would have Bush camped at the portage. It may be breaking the rules but I am certain the authorities would prefer that rather than a body rescue operation.
Boy Scouts drilled it into me that if you are lost, stop. You’re lost in a bay. Brule lake is not the place to be. Pull your canoe ashore, Make a camp and wait for daylight.
distinguished member (423)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 02:24PM  
At the point where you are both certain the EP is in opposite directions.... I would head to shore and find a place to drink a hot beverage. Warm ourselves up, take the time to find a map and flashlight. We may figure and agree on our a next paddle destination and try again to leave... if we do, I wouldn’t leave the shoreline wherever we went.... more likely though, we would need to make a LNT camp best we can. Wait for a bit of light in the morning. Depending on conditions that could include setting up the tent, or just huddling under a tarp with sleeping bags.

Good scenario to think about. Thanks for posting.
distinguished member(704)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 03:52PM  

Sort of lost, cold water, strong wind, pitch black! Discretion is the better part of valor! I paddle to shore, wait till daylight and live to paddle another day!
distinguished member(7307)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
04/21/2021 05:33PM  
I agree with most of all y'all: Paddle pronto to the nearest shore and pitch a tent.
04/21/2021 05:36PM  
First of all my maps and head lamp would be totally accessible. If needed I take out my phone that so many insist is blasphemy and hit my Garmin Earthmate app to see exactly where I'm at.
distinguished member (330)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 05:48PM  
I won't leave this one hanging long. There's only a few viable options and they've been covered in my opinion. So here's what happened.

This was probably our 5th trip together and we started in 1999, so early 2000's and pretty early on in our tenure and experience level, but we're both mid 20's and felt we had the world by the balls and had it all figured out and like I said this has been the only time tempers flared in what's now over 20+ years of tripping together.

We're at a stalemate, bow paddler refusing to paddle back out around the point and myself refusing to paddle into the back of the bay. I recommend to get the maps out and see if we can figure it out. We've narrowed the map down to being in the bow paddlers pack, his response...I have no idea where it is and i'm not dumping all my $hit out to figure it out. What's it going to show us anyways...we don't know where we are. He's blaming me as I'm in the stern and the one controlling the direction of the boat...and he's right. In my mind, I followed the islands and points on Brule and brought us to right here. A few tense, but still fairly cordial words are exchanged and I say..."Fine, forget the map, let's just go to shore and we'll figure it out in the morning. Bow paddler..."I think a see a bit of a clearing right over there" We turn the canoe, take a stroke or two and I hear "Ha". I'm like "What". Bow paddler, "There's the landing!"

So we had managed to cross Brule in the wind, the complete darkness and paddle to where we are floating right in front of the EP landing, only it was so black out that night, neither of us could see it. We laughed, we landed, we dug out the map and flashlight, had a shot or two of scotch, relived the paddle across Brule now with the map in hand, pointing out the islands and points used for reference as we crossed and enjoyed the fact that we sat there argueing about where the landing was all while floating about 30 yards from it.

distinguished member(1026)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 06:37PM  
Would have been hilarious if you had camped and then seen how close you were when you woke up in the morning.
distinguished member(892)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 07:42PM  
Like others have said, I'd find the shore and get as comfortable as I can. You're not doing yourself any good wandering about trying to find a portage that you both believe is in different directions. What you need is warmth, nourishment, rest, and perspective. Regrouping in the morning is your best bet. Even if it is still blowing, at least you can gain some idea of location based on terrain association.

distinguished member(1750)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/21/2021 10:44PM  
I'd paddle to any shore that's not too steep and scratch out a tent site best I can. Sleep.
04/21/2021 11:01PM  
Find the car keys and hit the horn. I doubt if there's enough range though. Tough situation. If you had your maps, you could watch for camp fires, and get an idea where campsites are, and help figure out where you're at.
04/21/2021 11:10PM  
analyzer: "Find the car keys and hit the horn. I doubt if there's enough range though. Tough situation. If you had your maps, you could watch for camp fires, and get an idea where campsites are, and help figure out where you're at."

now that I've read the rest of the story, hitting the car keys, wasn't so far fetched. Sounds like you were darn near at the landing. Funny how the darkness plays tricks on your eyes.
04/22/2021 10:09AM  
As I was reading the part about deadheads, I was thinking about that rock near the landing at the Brule EP. I always say that going a little further and making sure you are in the wrong place before moving on is a good idea. Nothing worse than having to backtrack after you mistakenly thought you were in the wrong location.

I also think that dealing with sunken logs and rocks is safer than rough water in the dark. Going slow in a sheltered area is at least an option. You could hit something in rough water too, but chances are that you are going to be moving faster and paddling hard if you did. At least you know it is a risk in this situation and can take the proper steps to be safe. Then even if the EP was not in that bay, you would be more fully aware of your situation and able to make a better decision about taking on the waves or camping on shore.
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