For me, perhaps the most cherished Up North Wisconsin experience is sailing little boats on North Sand Lake in Burnett County and, more specifically, sailing the Penguin—a 11.5-foot wooden dinghy that my father bought used in the 1950s.
Penguins were designed by Philip Rhodes, the famous yacht designer. They handle beautifully, can be sailed close to the wind, and heel up for some excitement. When I was a kid, sailing the length of the lake in the Penguin was a daring, all-afternoon nautical adventure. I would provision myself with a can of 7-Up and a handful of Oreos.
Now, 40+ years on, I live in Massachusetts but have spent summer vacation “at the cottage,” as my family calls it, more often than not. The Penguin is in need of repair. And sandy bottomed North Sand Lake— so much smaller and tamer than the watery expanse of my nostalgia.
But the sound a little wooden boat makes in the water—that is not a memory.
And if the sun is out and catching the boat’s white sail—that still happens.
And if it’s midweek, when the jet skis are catching their breath and the lake is empty except for the loons (of course you must mention the loons!), the here and now is not so bad, not so bad at all!
In fact, it is really quite wonderful—much to my relief.