As a young boy, he and his dad would fly over the lakes, enjoying the bird’s eye view of the ships wrecked just off the shores.
“You’d see the boats in the water, it’s like looking at a bath tub. That always interested me. From then on, from 8 years old, I was hooked,” says woodworker Patrick McKee.
Being a finished carpenter and woodworker, Patrick was always intrigued by the wood.
In December of 1978 a storm washed the remains of the Lark on shore. Patrick and his dad went to Lansing and obtained a salvage permit, in ‘78 it was still legal to do.
“At the time that I did it, in the late ’70s, you could go to the DNR, which I did, acquired a permit, told them where it was. They would call the area and see if anyone else wanted some or had a problem, usually they’d call a township supervisor at that time. That’s what I went through,” explains Patrick.
There was a challenge, but Patrick won in court to his right to the wood. During the court tussle most of the wood was reclaimed by the lake, but he did get some. The fight left him down, his spirit for the wood gone, until recently.
“This wood was underwater for over 100 years. It obtained colors in it from the lead nails, destroying, growing apart, leaving black lines in the wood, self-staining it from stuff in the water, and you can’t find it anywhere else,” says Patrick.
He has been making clocks out of the remaining wood, donating them to a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser, another to the McGulpin Lighthouse.
He’s OK with the fact that ships can’t be salvaged any more, but in ‘78 the lake gave him the opportunity to get a slice of the lake’s long history.
“I’m just glad I got to do it when you could. It’s a piece of history, that’s what I like about it. It’s a piece of Northern Michigan history,” says Patrick.