Ever wonder how they built the Split Rock Lighthouse on top of a 130-foot cliff, when there were no roads or towns nearby? Vincent Wyckoff did, and in researching the what and the how (spoiler: they haul everything up from the lake!), the familiar characters of Black Otter Bay spun back to tell the tale in Wyckoff’s latest novel, “Refuge from the Sea.”
In the story, a 100-year-old past meets present through the discovery of a journal by 14-year-old Abby Simon, who is determined to find out the truth behind the author’s entries. With the help of her friends, she sleuths clues to mysteries little and large. The reader is transported to a rugged North Shore, an unwieldy Great Lake, and bone-chilling adventures – with, as Wyckoff describes, “lots of tall tales and Lake Superior shipwreck stories.”
There’s romance and even an ox (no, not THAT ox). We’re also introduced to the true but little-known United States Lifesaving Service, one team of whom were deployed to Duluth to rescue people from ships sinking outside the canal.
“The Lifesaving Service was out there trying to get these guys in to shore as the boats were going down, ships were sinking,” said Ericcson resident Wyckoff in a brief interview. “It’s just hair-raising, harrowing stories... They go out in the middle of the night in these storms in row boats, you know?”
The novel is historical fiction, the third story in Wyckoff’s Black Otter Bay series. Wyckoff stays true to the timeline while giving life to some of the ships that contribute to the lore of Lake Superior. The journal is written by the fictionalized George Hemsing, as Vincent puts it – “the guy who wants to build a lighthouse and he’s scared to death of the lake.” And the residents of Black Otter Bay tell the rest.
This part of the North Shore is familiar terrain for Wyckoff, whose family cabin is situated within three miles of the iconic lighthouse. “I used to walk there from our cabin,” he said. “I used to walk through the woods.”
The book releases Sept. 13, and a launch event will be held at Moon Palace Books at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20.
A book signing will also be held Sept. 24, 12-2 pm, at Once Upon A Crime (604 W. 26th St.), at Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais (Sept. 17), and at the Lutsen Mountain Shop in Lutsen (Sept. 18). An author talk is set for Oct. 20 from 6:30-7:30 at Nokomis Library.
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