Felicia Schneiderhan fell in love the first time she climbed aboard Mazurka in the shadow of Chicago skyscrapers. First, with the captain, Mark, who lived on the boat year-round. And later, with the boat itself. As a writer, she found no shortage of material when living on board (especially in January). She blogged about the experience, which evolved into her memoir, Newlyweds Afloat: Married Bliss and Mechanical Breakdowns While Living on a Trawler. Today, Felicia and Mark and their three “tsunamis”—ages 10, 8 and 6—live on land in Northern Minnesota, and spend summers aboard Mazurka exploring Lake Superior.
Name: Felicia Schneiderhan
Home port: Knife River, Minnesota
Current boat: 1980 Marine Trader 38 Mazurka
Years owned: 17
I grew up fishing the backwaters of the northern Mississippi River in my dad’s 12-foot fiberglass boat. The thrill was running the outboard motor. I loved being on the boat, watching the water race beneath me. In my early 30s, I was living in Chicago when I met my husband, Mark, who was living on his 38-foot Marine Trader trawler, Mazurka, right downtown. He is from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and living on a boat was his way to find space in such a big city. I fell in love with him, and the boat.
I joked in the beginning how Mazurka was a jealous mistress. She was very needy. Two days after we were married, her generator quit. This was an issue, as we were living on a mooring can in Monroe Harbor. (Fifteen years later, the generator still doesn’t work despite many, many tries.)
But, I also love how snug she is, how there was plenty of room for us to live on board and not be in each other’s space all the time. There’s a forward cabin and an aft cabin, and two heads. In winter, she was a great liveaboard, because we could wrap the top in plastic but still keep the windows open. And our views of the city were pretty spectacular.
These days, with our three kids on board in summers, it’s a bit more crowded, but we haven’t outgrown it yet.
Mazurka has changed from my husband’s mistress to our beloved grandma. She’s more than 40 years old, which means everything has been replaced. Our first summer, we brought her from Chicago to Duluth, Minnesota. She was hit by lightning while at a dock (well, technically the lightning hit the boat across the dock, and jumped to her), so all the electronics—even the refrigerator—had to be replaced.
The single Ford Lehman diesel engine is the same, though a few years back, Mark had the head, valves and injectors overhauled. Since he’s not a mechanic, he has to rely on help from friends and his brother, Ed (who is a large--diesel-engine mechanic). But since Mark likes learning all these systems, and he has a problem-solving mind, working on the boat provides his creative outlet. He is forever searching for the source of a leak in the aft cabin.
Last summer, we fiberglassed a hole in the hull for a fun family project; our protective gear and respirators were akin to going on an airplane during Covid. This summer will see the trim on the flybridge replaced. And every year, I swear I’m going to tackle the teak surrounding the outside of the boat: the railings, the window trim, the steps to the flybridge. This might even be the year!
A brand-new generator would be sweet, or better yet, solar power. And that would lead to a hardtop on the flybridge with canvas all around to enclose the space. A mini Seakeeper—a gyroscopic stabilizer—would be nice. The kids want a slide from the flybridge and a rope swing off the mast. Then we start imagining a sauna on the aft deck…
When we decided to start a family, Mark said, “We could have kids on this boat.” I replied, “We could…” It’s not surprising that the place we chose to raise our family (Duluth) was mainly because of its access to the outdoors and Lake Superior. This is definitely an adventure playground for boaters, and our kids are growing up as a confident, reverent crew.
Mazurka has traveled from Chicago up Lake Michigan, through the Soo Locks, and across Lake Superior to reach her home port in Knife River, Minnesota. With our kids, we love exploring the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, the northern coast of the lake near Thunder Bay and Sleeping Giant, and of course, Isle Royale.
My dream is to reach the [Ontario, Canada] Slate Islands, which were created by a meteor impact, and exhibit some of the best signs of this in the world. But since we go about 6 knots, it will take a while.
Oh man, there is no next boat. This one has been with us since our family started. I can’t imagine finding another one. (But a classic 47-foot Grand Banks would be nice.)
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