Northern Wilds Magazine
Along the Shore

Mystery of the lost sailboat solved

Chelsea Ellard with a sailboat she found on Lake Superior. | SUBMITTED

In mid-September, Northern Wilds shared the story of Chelsea Ellard, an 11-year-old from Thunder Bay, who needed help solving a mystery.

Chelsea found a wooden three masted schooner marooned on a small island on Lake Superior. The island is located within a group of islands known as The Susies, located near the U.S. border between Grand Portage and Pigeon River Border Crossing. The sailboat was hand carved with distinct designs carved on the hull, a rock for a keel and birchbark for sails.

Chelsea was curious – where did it sail from? Who carved this beautiful vessel? Northern Wilds, and other media organizations, jumped in to help. We put out a call on social media, asking for information.

Less than 3 weeks later, Chelsea got her answer from Ian, a 25-year-old from southern Minnesota. Here’s what he said:

“I made it in camp at the Grand Portage National Monument during the recent rendezvous reenactment in August. When I was younger I had tried making little sailboats, with little success. So this year I was sitting in camp, and I decided to try to make one that works. I grabbed a piece of firewood, a rock from the beach, some birch bark, and a piece of string and after about a couple hours I had a boat.

Another sailboat that was carved and sent to sea by Ian. | SUBMITTED
Another sailboat that was carved and sent to sea by Ian. | SUBMITTED

That evening, after the sun set, the wind shifted and there was a slight breeze blowing out onto the lake. So I set my boat in the water off the end of the dock at Grand Portage and watched it float out into the night.

That weekend I made three boats and sent them all out to sea the same way, I think your boat was the second. I didn’t expect to ever see or hear anything of my little boats again.  You can do with the boat what you wish.”

Chelsea said that Ian was excited to hear that his boat sailed so far! Now that she found the boat’s creator, she and her dad are going to replace the missing sails and send it back to sea. She hopes that if anyone finds the boat again, or either of the other two boats that Ian carved, they share their story.

“Through this amazing experience, I learned just how connected we all are in this world, even borders cannot separate us.  A very special thank you to Ian for his talents and letting me know about his little boat’s voyage!” said Chelsea.

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