Indiana Messabout

by Max Wawrzyniak

Once again I made the trek the messabout at Lake Monroe near Bloomington, Indiana. It just took a lot longer than last year to get there.

After picking up small-craft-designer Jim Michalak, we hit the highway East-bound, with a Michalak-designed Toto canoe strapped to the roof and a Michalak-designed AF4 power cabin skiff trailered behind.  Despite a constant gentle rain we made good time until about 20 miles from the lake.  There we were stopped at a road block; a Tornado had struck a small town ahead just moments before, and all traffic was being diverted to a two-lane blacktop that lead to the South.

Jim Michalak looking

We proceeded down this detour, following a motorhome which was following a semi-truck.  About 12 miles down this detour, and almost with-in spitting distance of our destination, the semi truck ahead of us miscalculated a curve and slid into a ditch.  With the tractor of the rig extending across both lanes, and no shoulders to drive on, we found our progress blocked for a second time.

Weekend skiff

Since it was obvious it would be hours before the truck was pulled from the ditch, Jim and I un-hooked the trailer and swung it around manually, then turned the truck around, re-coupled the trailer, and headed back through territory we had already seen.

Retracing our path back past the first roadblock, we headed up a side road that lead North, hoping to find a way to cut across to a major highway to the East, across a river.

twin 6 hour canoes

We soon enough discovered that our planned Eastward movement was hindered by yet another police roadblock and yet another tornado-damaged town.  So we proceeded North while we wished we were headed South, and out of desperation took a chance on a couple of un-marked local roads which, to our surprise, placed us on the highway we had been so desperately seeking.

John Sellers' Teal

Once we were rolling Southbound again, we started to see the damage.  A major Tornado had moved along this stretch of highway literally for miles, and there were thousands of
shorn-off trees, hundreds of damaged or destroyed buildings, and a look of general devastation.  Traffic on the highway was halted for about 30 minutes while an overturned
semi-truck was righted.  A boat dealership had been hard-hit, with aluminum pontoon boats scattered about.

Bob Bringle's canoe

We arrived at the lake about 2 hours later than we had planned to discover another surprise.  In addition to the 5-dollar-a-day fee that the state of Indiana charges to just enter their state park, the price of the "primitive" campsites had gone up from 5 dollars to 13 dollars.  The nice man accepting some of our money told us this was due to the new "bath house." and that the prices would rise again next year. 

So, after we paid the 5-dollar-per-day entry fee, the 13-dollar-per-day camping fee, and the 5 dollar boat launch fee, we proceeded to set-up camp in the light rain.

Stevenson Weekender

The next day dawned sunny and cheerful and the home-built boats began to arrive and the world began to look a bit brighter. True to form I neglected to get names but I always remember the boats. There was a Bolger Teal, a pair of 6-hour canoes, a Weekend Skiff, a Stevenson Weekender, a Shellback Dinghy, the afore-mentioned Toto and AF4, and host Bob Bringle's exquisitely-executed strip-planked canoe and his factory-built but still darn-good-looking Venture Newport 23-foot cutter.

Sunday morning

The usual looking and trying-out and yakking occupied everyone for a beautiful Saturday, and as night arrived, the group was joined by the world-famous boat-building McDaniels, who are in the process of building a 48-foot, welded-steel Bolger design.  They brought a model of the craft, and also the infamous hand-cranked ice-cream machine, which provided a dessert fit to follow the dinner, which effort I should point out was orchestrated by John Sellers and his wife. A pleasant evening was had by all.

Sunday morning dawned foggy, but it was time to pack-up and head home anyway.

Definitely a nice meet to go to. 

If there was just some way to tell Indiana that easing-up on the fees might promote repeat business.

You can shear a sheep every year, but you can skin him only once.