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Boats return to Saxon Harbor


Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

DESPITE THE marina's destruction in the flooding of the July 2016 storm two boats are docked at Saxon Harbor Monday. The boats were two of four sailed up to the Northwoods from Ohio, where they had been purchased to replace boats lost in the storm.


SAXON, Wis. - While the marina at Saxon Harbor isn't expected to re-open until May 2019, following its destruction during the rain and flooding of the July 2016 storm, a pair of boats were docked there Monday.

The two boats - owned by Mark Zarzyski and Shane Wyzlick - were part of a group of four boats that were purchased in Ohio and sailed through the Sault Ste. Marie locks to the Northwoods.

Zarzyski and Wyzlick - along with the other owners, Charlie Maslanka and Odberg "Poody" Standal - lost their previous boats in the July storm that destroyed the harbor.

The journey, which took eight days and covered roughly 700 to 800 miles, went from Lake Erie up the Detroit River and through Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron before entering Lake Superior through the locks.

Sixteen people took part in the journey - several for the first time - encountering everything from rough waters in Lake Erie and fog in Lake Superior to minor mechanical issues.

"It was quite a journey. You always say, 'I've got to do that, I've got to do that.' Well yeah, until you do it," Zarzyski said, laughing. "It's nerve-wracking."

The group sailed anywhere from 40 to 180 miles a day, with the schedule determined by both weather and the availability of gas.

"Everything is weather related," Henry Gilbertson, who also made the journey, said.

"It's a planned thing, but plans are subject to change - daily," Zarzyski said, laughing.

Zarzyski picked up his boat - a 32-foot Marienette he'd been watching on Craigslist since shortly after the storm - in Cleveland, before traveling to Sandusky, Ohio to meet up with the other three boats.

Zarzyski said the trip was a "bucket list" item for him, but he'd be willing to try it again if he could go as a crew member on another boat instead of captaining his own.

Wyzlick also would attempt the journey again, but not anytime soon.

"I'd do it again, but it would be a couple years down the road," he said laughing. "I wouldn't want to turn around and leave tomorrow."

"I was on my third deployment in the Navy before I was 20. I was more nervous on this trip than my Navy deployments," Wyzlick said.

The group hit a particularly rough patch on the first day, when the shallowness of Lake Erie and what Gilbertson estimated to be 50-mph winds kicked up some of the biggest waves the boats experienced.

"(The waves) just hit you from all sides. The boat was cavitating - I don't know how many times I cavitated, where you can hear the props come out of the water," Wyzlick said. "We're just so, so, so lucky nobody had any issues or snapped a shaft, because that's what can happen in a situation like that."

While he was one of the first-timers on the trip, he said it was some of the roughest waters the more experienced hands had experienced.

"The Lord was on our side. It wasn't the best weather, but I tell you what, we made her," Wyzlick said. "Now we just need a harbor to put them in."

The group would experience more choppy waters a few days later, hitting six to eight-foot waves on Lake Huron.

Luckily, the best day of weather came when the group had to go through the locks.

Wyzlick partially credited Kelly Thurow for the idea of the journey, as Thurow had previously bought a boat in Iowa and sailed it up the Mississippi to Hudson, Wis., before trucking it back to the area.

With the boats back in the Northwoods, the owners must find places to put them until Saxon Harbor is rebuilt.

Neither Wyzlick or Zarzyski plan to do much boating this summer, although both said they would likely take their boats to Ashland's marina if they do put them in the water.

"I'm just going to take it easy for this year, I'm not even going to start rigging for fishing gear," Wyzlick said. "I'll start doing that over the winter, a little at a time."

They also don't plan on keeping the current names of the newly purchased boats - renaming them after the boats they lost.

"It's not going to be a Gina Marie II or Gina Marie III," Zarzyski said. "It's going to be the Gina Marie."

Wyzlick's boat was the Salty Dog.

One of the other boats will dock in Bayfield, Wis., while another will go to Washburn, Wis.


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