Jeffrey Hinueber always liked “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” the book by Holling C. Holling about an Indian boy who releases a miniature, hand carved canoe on Lake Nipigon, with dreams that it would travel across Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean.
“It’s a wonderful book, wonderful maps of the Great Lakes, and mapping of the route where the wind and waves may have pushed this little boat,” says Hinueber.
Hinueber says he can’t get enough of the wind, the waves, and the beaches of the big lake. He made his discovery last July in the Apostle Islands.
“We were on York Island. It was a big crescent beach on the north side of that island, and a good ten yards up the beach, where storms had thrown a bunch of driftwood, I saw something that had more of a symmetric shape,” describes Hinueber.
It was a 10-inch-long, hand carved wooden boat, with a weathered inscription on the bottom. Hinueber could make out the name “Lenny” but the last name was obscured. It also had a PO Box and a city: Cornucopia.
In the book, a sea captain finds the little canoe, fixes it up, and sends it on its way.
Hinueber, who builds kayaks, decided to do the same with his little boat.
“I did paint a little red stripe around the entire boat to give it a little more pizazz,” says Hinueber.
He also engraved a brass plaque that included the information about where he found it and the date he released it.
Hinueber’s discovery caught the eye of Ruth Oppedahl, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. It reminded her of Paddle-to-the-Sea, too.
“And I just thought, wow, this is a great watershed story,” says Oppedahl.
Oppedahl says with a watershed like Lake Superior, it could happen: “It’s possible. That’s why it’s called a watershed. It’s possible that a drop of water that falls on Lake Nipigon can make its way out to the Atlantic Ocean.”
So who’s Lenny?
Oppedahl thought it might be Leonard Isaakson, who owns a 90- year- old lumber company in the south shore community of Herbster, but Isaakson says he didn’t carve it.
So for Jeffrey Hinueber, it’s just another Lake Superior mystery. Now, the boat that Hinnueber found is back in Lake Superior, on its own long journey.