Paul Kellner's canoe vanished mysteriously more than a year ago, just steps from the beach near his Park Point home. He figured it was stolen, but he didn't know the culprit and didn't expect to see it again.
Then on Wednesday, as a wild storm raged across the Duluth waterfront, the canoe returned home — just as mysteriously.
"It's just an odd, odd story," Kellner acknowledged as he described Wednesday's incredible events.
Laid up at home following surgery, the construction company owner said he was keeping tabs on the weather as gale-force winds and waves pounded Duluth. When his son and wife came home, his son ran out to the beach just to check out the scene.
"He comes running back up and he says, 'The canoe's back!' and I'm like 'No way ... What do you mean our canoe came back? It has been gone for over a year," Kellner recalled.
He told his son to double check, and when he confirmed it was their canoe, they pulled it back up on the grass where it used to be, "and then we started laughing about it because it's just a silly story. We don't know where it came from or how it got back here."
He still doesn't have an exact read on what happened.
"I mean, we can get into, you know, alien abductions of a canoe, eccentrics, etc.," Kellner posited, although it makes more sense to blame the lake. Musing on that theory, he thought of Socrates — the boat, not the philosopher.
In 1985, the 584-foot freighter Socrates was blown onto Park Point during another wild Lake Superior storm.
"I can't equate my canoe as being as good as the Socrates," Kellner said philosophically. "This is just kind of a fun story to say, OK here's another part of the lore of the lake. The lake takes stuff and it kind of gives it back at times, too."
The damage the storm inflicted Wednesday around Duluth is bad, he noted. "I mean, this lake has just got a natural ability to cleanse itself. And we're just in the way."
At the same time, it's hard to ignore the lake's brutal beauty in that kind of weather.
"That's a fascination that everybody loves," Kellner said. "Every once in awhile, you get these little gems coming back — some of the driftwood that comes ashore is just remarkable. And it just gives you a keen perception of how nature is just so amazing and we're just kind of sitting and enjoying the ride on this wonderful blue planet of ours."
And he does appreciate that Lake Superior felt bad enough about the whole affair to return the canoe.
"If a fishing boat comes along I'd be grateful," he added. "Well we'll see what happens in the next storm. I don't think I'll get lucky twice though."