Lakeshore News Tonight

A Story Of Two Young Women And A Canoe

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A Michigan City woman hollows out a cottonwood tree into a canoe … invites her best friend on a trip  … and together they go on an adventure of lifetime, paddling around Lake Michigan.  Mary Catterlin and Amy Lukas met with the Lakeshore’s Denise Turner at the Porter County Museum of History where an exhibit show cases their trip in an exhibit called “Lake Michigan In A Dugout.”

Mary Catterlin and Amy Lukas grew up fixing up old sailboats and playing water sports on Lake Michigan with friends. One day … Mary decided she wanted her own boat.

Mary Catterlin, Canoe maker:  I got the idea to build my own boat because I couldn’t afford one and I really wanted one.

Mary didn’t know where to start, but her plans came together when a family friend donated a 40 foot tall cottonwood tree. Catterlin cut it down began shaping a canoe which she named Makeba.

Catterlin: The fact that I didn’t have any boat building experience was a challenge, but that was something I was excited about and I wanted to learn about.

Catterlin taught herself how to build a boat, and every summer and winter college break she would carve her canoe.   It took her four years.

Amy Lukas, Friend: We were both at a bonfire in the summer and the boat was coming together, it was starting to look like something that would float.

Amy doesn’t remember who came up with the idea first, but they decided to take it around Lake Michigan.

Amy Lukas, Friend: We would always say, you know I was pretty much and Mary was pretty serious from the beginning, but we kept joking about the idea and eventually became more serious about it.

So they took the 11-foot, 300-pound canoe on a 93-day, 1,200-mile voyage along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Lukas:  We knew it was going to be a long process and we just kept going at it day by day, knowing that we had 12-hundred miles.

There were some challenges but they overcame them.

Mary Catterlin: It was pretty funny, a lot of times its easy to laugh when you are in those situations. I mean, you built the boat that got you in that situation and you’re going around this lake that you dreamed about for 4 years.

Amy Lukas: I think patience was a big thing; we had to be patient with the weather all the time, patient with the lake, also patient with ourselves, with each other.

Denise Turner: Amy and Mary aren’t sure what their next adventure is, but they are sure, it won’t stop here.

Amy Luka:  I think.. um.. but I’m sure there will be another adventure, I’m just not sure what yet.

In Valparaiso, Denise Turner, Lakeshore News

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