In The Islander: Coming of Age in the Apostle Islands, Bob Dahl describes growing up on Sand Island, the fifth largest in the Lake Superior archipelago. The book has more than one hundred photos, some of them over a century old. They accompany ten stories, nineteen recipes, five maps, and Bob’s mother’s shopping list for wintering on a northern island three miles from shore in the 1930s.
Born into a fishing family in 1942, Bob was the youngest of five siblings. Carl Sr. and Alma Dahl gave their children free rein throughout Sand Island’s East Bay once chores were finished. Childhood for the Dahl kids was one of adventure. With pristine blue water at their doorstep, they explored the bay on pole-propelled rafts built with their own hands. Their dad’s fishing tug, the Egersund, was strictly off-limits for play, as were the working docks. On land, the siblings investigated abandoned buildings and little-used trails that connected immigrant East Bay villagers who had fished the unpredictable Great Lake since the 1870s.
The book’s lead story is a historical rendition of the steamship Sevona wrecked on the Sand Island Shoal in early September 1905, as seen from the viewpoint of the islanders, some of whom were Bob’s relatives.
Other stories introduce us to island residents and visitors contemporaneous to Bob's time. Chapter topics include an Independence Day get-together, lake rafting, three-day storms, and an unexpected overnight in the Sand Island Light. A few stories transport us to the city of Bayfield—gateway to the Apostles—where Bob attended school. In his teens and early twenties, he worked summers at Sand Island’s southern tip, called Shaw Point. “A Stroll Down the East Bay Road” acquaints us with former islanders from East Bay to the Point, and we experience the memories of those who lived near the mile-long road.
The East Bay community no longer exists, but its history resonates in The Islander, written with in-depth knowledge of island life, a bit of humor, and an abiding respect.
Ten percent of sales from The Islander are donated to the Apostle Islands Historic Preservation Conservancy, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the many historic properties and cultural landscapes in the Apostle Islands region of northern Wisconsin.