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Mystery wooden boat found off Wisconsin shoreline after 27 years

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BAYFIELD, WI- A Wisconsin couple made an unusual discovery earlier this week off the shores of the Apostle Islands.

They uncovered a story dating back nearly three decades and 50 miles.

Lynn and Mike BeBeau drove from their home in Ashland to the shores near the Apostle Islands, visiting a very remote beach to check out the fall colors.

It was there they stumbled upon an unusual object.

"I noticed a little colored piece of wood buried in the sand about 20 feet from the water," said Mike.

They uncovered a small wooden boat that was pained red, white and blue and preserved in the sand.

"I thought it might have been a net buoy or a net float that had broken loose from a commercial fisherman's boat or something but when I dug it out and then kind of washed it off, I was really surprised and I thought 'this is really cool'," said Mike.

On its bottom, the boat has a message: "I am traveling to the ocean. Please put me back in the water". It also had an address to a classroom across the shore in Duluth.

"Of course we didn't know how long it had been out there, certainly didn't think it was going to be 27 years," said Lynn.

That address was to Bonnie Fritch and Brenda Schell's second grade class at Lakewood Elementary in 1993.

"Brenda had a friend that made the boats and we had our class paint them, and at the end of the year we would take a trip around Duluth to go to Enger Tower and all that and we went to Brighton Beach to let the boats go with our class," said Fritch.

They were learning about currents and the connection between the Great Lakes and ocean.

Fritch says this is not the first time the boat has been found.

"It was somewhere up on the Northshore, like Beaver Bay, and the people who found it put another coating on it to help preserve it and set it back in the water," said Fritch.

The BeBeaus are happy to be the second people to release it back into the lake so it can continue on its journey to the ocean and leave them with a story to tell.

"We like to just find remote places and just see what we discover and this was by far the coolest discovery by far," said Lynn.

The BeBeaus see it as a reminder to take the road less traveled. You never know what you're going to find.

Fritch says the book that inspired the boat was called Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling.

Lynn BeBeau says she plans to buy the book and read it to her grandkids so they never forget their discovery.

Natalie Grant

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