Thursday, May 24, 2007

The 27th Annual Black Fly Open Golf Tournament

It seems like yesterday when Capt. Don Kilpela Jr. started his Black Fly Open Golf Tournament.

Held on the third Thursday in May each year, it is usually at the height of the infestation of black flies. For protection from the vicious gnats, golfers have worn duck tape around their ankles, head nets, full body nets, and doused themselves liberally with every imaginable bug spray only to find that the flies defy them and usually drive them nuts.

Golfers have tried putting a strip of "Bounce" hanging from the back of their caps, they've tried swallowing mega doses of vitamin B-12 or bathing with special "bug-repellant" soaps; some have tried not washing for several days before the tournament. Nothing really works. One simply endures.

The tournament is listed as a random draw (golfer's names are put into one of three boxes according to their level of skill), 18-hole scramble with a shotgun start. Just prior to the the start, names are drawn from the hat to make up 2-man teams. The catch is that a great golfer will get paired with a bad golfer, etc. In short, one would never get paired with someone of equal skill. In that manner, about 24 years ago I won the tournament having been paired with the late Professor Carmen DelaQuadri He had a bad right hip and I had a bad left leg; we won going away.

The opening ceremony usually features a piper leading the group to the first tee where Scotsman Don Keith, dressed in Keith Clan) dedicates the tounmant to the memory of St. Andrews Golf Course. This year he brought a bottle of Glen Keith scotch (distilled in Northern Scotland) with which to dab a bit behind each ear to keep the bugs away.

Following this, Capt Don has three golfers hit an opening demonstration drive: the oldest participant (this year, at 76 and 11 months, I was given the honor); the golfer who has been in the most tournaments; and usually one who will give everyone a good laugh when his drive flies in a gigantic slice over to the woods.

While the tournament is underway, Capt Don drives around the course filming everyone and usually harassing them enough to produce a prodigeous dub.

At the conclusion of the day, the golfers gather in the club house to accept the prize money and especially to see who gets the booby prizes (the main one traditionally a watermelon) for being the worst team of the day. Finally, Don plays the tape of the day on the VCR and a final good laugh is had by all.

I should mention that on the evening preceding the tournament, there is a 9-hole mini tournament whereby each hole is shortened to a 3-par distance. A number of golfers enjoy this as well and many stay the night at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Part III: The M/T MacVie is OURS

She's Ours

After Betty and I decided to “go for it,” we had to "go for the money." Local banks were out of the question but the late Alex Sample of the Houghton National Bank set me up with an appointment at one of their correspondent banks, Chase Manhattan, New York City. So off to new York I flew.

Chase Manhattan, in downtown New York, was nestled among several skyscrapers It was early morning when I arrived and the boys at the bank ushered me into the walnut paneled conference room to listen to my proposal. They asked some pointed questions which, I realized years later, were evidence of the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing: in short, an oil boat operating in salt water is as far from a fresh water passenger boat as an airliner is from a Piper Cub. After the meeting, Smiling, encouraging, apologizing ("Sorry, Mr. Kilpela, but Chase isn't interested in single ship deals, but we think this sounds great."), the boys ushered me out of the walnut panelled conference room and into the elevator. I was out of the bank before the sun cleared the building and hit the street.

Chastened but not defeated I began an almost quixotic quest to find the money. After a futile search for about a month, the ship broker set me up with Heller Financial in Chicago and, wow, I got the loan…at 24.3% interest. Remember, this was the early eighties and the prime US rate was over 18%. We were in business.

The ship was registered in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, so we had to set up a corporation there, Caribbean Shipping Ltd., which would actually own her. Off to Tortola I went to close the deal and re-register the MacVie. By four o’clock that July day, we were proud owners of the Motor Tanker MacVie. I headed home to prepare to move to Curaçao where the ship lay at a wharf in the Curaçao Dockyard. Aboard, a captain and crew who were now our responsibility to feed.

Like a fire dog hearing the fire bell, off I went to Barbados on my way to Curaçao to begin take over; a question I never asked was, did a make a wrong turn when I ran out of the firehouse?

Picture: with great care and exquisite handwriting, the ship registrar of Tortola signs the M/T MacVie over to Caribberan Shipping Ltd.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back Home in Copper Harbor

Here's two pictures of the Queen IV returning to Copper Harbor this evening. After a long winter frozen in the ice on the Portage Waterway, she's home and ready for her first voyage to the Isle Royale on May 14.

This will be our 37th summer running to the island, almost 3500 trips across the chilly, choppy waters of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. Exhilerating!