They are not words you would expect to immediately hear about a marathon crossing solo kayak on a large lake.
However, Mike Stout of Prior Lake insisted that solitude and serenity drove him more than any wind across Lake Michigan from west to east.
Stout launched the 17-foot-high Quest Marine Boat just before 8:30 a.m. on July 24 at sight of the historic Rawley Point Lighthouse near Two Rivers, Wis. Which warned sailors a century or more ago. After about 56 miles and 16 and a half hours – several hours more than planned – he landed on sandy Michigan Beach, north of Luddington.
If the word “fear” entered his mind for long day and night as his shoulders were aching and turning the winds and endless waves causing him to derail his path, then he had learned by then to push back the darkness. It was the second time he crossed Lake Michigan (and the third from Great Lake).
“If you can’t segment the risks and mask the concerns, you are at risk,” said Stout, 59. “It will likely fail.”
Another kayaker, Haris Subacius, was one of a group of four who crossed the lake in 2010 when they were members of the Chicago Area Sea Kayakers Association. He said all kinds of anticipated challenges, like water, look good. Anonymous is part of the adventure psyche.
There are many reasons for not doing this, and no one can determine why. Subasius said, it’s long, it’s boring, it’s hard and uncomfortable work, it’s monotonous, it’s risky. “I did because the opportunity was there and I was curious about what it looked like … doing it solo is a whole different level.”
Connected to water
Stout’s current outdoor life sprouted when he was young, he grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a suburb of Comstock Park, where he put a paddle in the water on the Grand River. Lake Michigan, its beaches, and dunes were nearby, and there was a family spot on Lake Huron as well. “I had a respectful fear of the big lakes,” he said.
After all these years, kayaking has become a comeback. Stout said he tried it by chance in 2016. In really good physical shape, kayaking was considered a weekend escape, with local outings on Pryor Lake. Then he was challenged by a client of his business development firm to think Bigger and Bigger. What about the Minnesota River, the Mississippi River, and St. Croix? Michigan Supreme?
Stout’s getting big – fast. Sharpening its technology and durability. Weekend kayak trips were 40, 50 and 60 miles for the next few months. He was fond of landscapes and personal challenge. Almost immediately, I said, “You know what? My goal this year is to cross Lake Michigan. “
His girlfriend put him down at the time, but Stout kept telling friends of his plans if the mild weather and low winds allowed him to try. He was committed and ready with enthusiasm. “Fresh air. Outdoors. Adventure. It really was an all-in-one that you couldn’t try otherwise.”
On August 3, 2016, Stout completed the first crossing (52 miles) of Lake Michigan in 15 and a half hours. He felt ready for the demands. He gathered more than 500 miles on the surface of the water in the previous period.
Since that time, across Lake Superior (2017, with 27 hours over two days, from Grand Portage to Houghton, Mich.); Raced 75 miles through Puget Sound in Washington State (2018); He made countless long-distance trips on Minnesota’s rivers and lakes in 2019. Returning to Lake Michigan this summer was the puzzle piece to complete his 5,000-mile goal in a Quest Seat in the five years since he started the sport.
Back in Lake Michigan, Stout was not as interested in replicating history as making it. He thought he could become the first kayaker to make a solo round trip of the Great Lake. He felt empowered. It has traveled 800 miles since March 1 – when the ice was still on the Minnesota River.
See the lake forecast stout. Wanted three straight days with controllable winds. He said he would fire if the wind speed was less than 8 mph, and would go “cautiously” if it was between 8 and 12 mph.
The odds increased, only to deteriorate, and the lake showed its mercurial mood. Stout realized that one crossing was his best hope. With local police and the US Coast Guard alerted of its plans and safety and nutrition equipment on board, Stout launched. His plan was to land on Michigan beach after 12 and a half hours.
The lake thought otherwise. The winds moved from the south and eventually blew from the east. He said the waves were working against him as well, and he knew he was far from his path and made little progress based on the GPS readings he was taking every hour.
However, he was assertive. Fourteen hours into the flight, exhausted, he undertook a sharp corrective maneuver to the southeast that involved “running” for the next two hours. Soon the waves crashing on the shore could be heard.
“I’ve never felt any doubt, fear, or anxiety,” Stout said. These thoughts will try to creep in, but you block them. Nope, I cannot spend any kind of energy on that. How lucky I am to be able to do this? “
Despite the constant strong winds, he said crossing is easier than others because of his experience. But no less important. An umbrella of stars, the chance to speak to the sky, and the hope that his adventure will inspire others – all fueled to an end. He said, “It’s really private.”
Of the Great Lakes region, he said, Michigan was the most inviting. Even a fan. He feels he’s calling him back on a possible round trip.
“If I picked it up, it would be severe.”