The Story of Skillagalee

Dear Friends and Family,

Have you wondered why this website is actually called Well, wonder no longer, as I finally reveal this great mystery to you!

I left the Porkies to a cacophony of wild turkeys and made east again for the bridge. I was in familiar territory again as I drove down US-2, heading back to the Mighty Mac:

Southeast of the Bridge, there is a town called Cheboygan, which is the final home of the icebreaker Mackinaw:

And you may expect me here to deluge you with facts about this boat, and what connections I have to it, and my general opinion on the state of icebreaking and shipping operations in the Great Lakes, as well as a comparative historical analysis of other eras of shipping operations on the Lakes, and so on and so forth. But not today! I will not beleaguer you with naval architecture, I promise I will get right to the point! All I want to say is that this was a very impressive museum ship, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area.


In the southwest area from the bridge, there is a small hamlet on the shore of Lake Michigan named Cross Village. There is nothing in this town except for a bar, a restaurant, and a cemetery, and I believe they are all owned by the same people. The restaurant is a locally famous Polish place called the Legs’ Inn. Here is some history about it you can read if you want:

Now, behind the Legs Inn is a huge cliff overlook of northern Lake Michigan:

And out there in the Lake are several large islands, among them Beaver, Hog, High, Garden, North Fox, South Fox, Temperance, and Waugoshance.

We are not here for any of those. We are here for this:

In the dead center of the horizon, over the dead trees in this photograph, barely a couple pixels tall, and probably invisible on your computer monitor/phone screen/Apple Vision Pro(None of my friends and family are that level of hoser), is it. It’s there, I promise, it is.

It’s Skillagalee Island.

Yup! That’s the reason behind the name! That’s it! Skillagalee is a very obscure island, barely 7 miles west by northwest from Cross Village. It is a few hundred feet across in a low water year and it is barely an island in a high water one. And if a 2002 lighthouse spelunking expedition (yes, that is a hobby Michiganders have) is to be believed, it smells like bird shit and dead fish.

So why the hell would I name my website after that?

Well, it’s not because Skillagalee holds some special place in my heart, because it doesn’t. I first learned about the name over a decade ago, probably in 2013, while visiting a friend up north. I had my windsurfer with me on my car’s roof rack when I stopped in for gas at some unknown filling station in Emmet County. I must have paid with cash rather than card, because when I was inside at the register, the cashier told me “windsurfing, eh? You oughta check up by Cross Village. Good wind between there and Skillagalee.”

That name, “Skillagalee,” I didn’t even question it. It isn’t even the most interesting island name in that part of Lake Michigan, a title which I feel belongs to Waugoshance Island. I didn’t even see the island until 2015 while visiting another friend in Conway, who took us up to the Legs Inn for dinner one night. I barely recognized it when I was looking at it, and even on a clear day you can barely see the island because Beaver Island is much wider and taller behind it on the horizon. I wasn’t charmed, I wasn’t awed, I wasn’t even interested in windsurfing down there. In Lake Michigan? Me, on 10′ sailboard in the middle of a Great Lake? What are you, nuts? No way! It was an island of little interest and less consequence, and lesser still was the mental energy I gave to it.

But I didn’t forget about it. Perhaps because my last name is Lee, or perhaps because Skillagalee is just a funny name itself, it never left me. It lolled around in the back of my head throughout college and into my first job. When that job went to pot, I often daydreamed about opening my own engineering firm (which is a stupid idea, don’t do that, there are far better ways to burn 15 million dollars in a year), and in my head I always imagined it as “Skillagalee Engineering, Inc.” No, it wasn’t going to be some “first-name-last-name-naval architects-and-partners” type venture, it was going to be an engineering firm, tried and true.

And it never came true. I don’t feel bad about that, and I never have. But Skillagalee still stuck around in my head, just with even less of a purpose than it had before, which wasn’t much to begin with. When I moved to Virginia, it felt familiar in a long-lost sense. It was a name I could quip and pique interest easily when I wanted to show off my knowledge of the Lakes (which to be clear, impressed absolutely no one ever). It bobbed in and out of my consciousness like a mudflat between high and low tide.

What I’m trying to get at, dear reader, is that Skillagalee was just kind of always there, in the back of my mind. No more, no less. No special meaning, no secret agenda within, no hiding place next to my heart. And when I created my website in March of 2023, I wanted a name that was unique and couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. Yeah, this blog could have been an “Evan’s Rambles” or “Virginian #Wanderlust” or “Fifteen Thousand Miles Over the Land” (which would have been WAY off, Jesus, I hit 15,000 miles back in Glacier!), but how would you remember that? How would you even type that? Would you put the apostrophe in the URL, or the hashtag, or what? So it was Skillagalee: all one word, always distinct, always with enough audio connection to “Evan Lee” that you would remember to check it every now and then on your morning commute on the blue line. And it was two dollars to register it on NameCheap dot com.

The tagline at the top of the homepage, “And Elsewhere!” Is therefore supposed to read like “Skillagalee and Elsewhere!” The bird on the front page has no connection to the website name, and does not have a name herself, but I have decided she is gay. I don’t make the rules babes ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯.

So that is the entire history of the name Skillagalee: it meant nothing to no one, least of all me, for as long as I can figure, until it was there when I needed it for a singularly noncommittal use. I hope that explanation was worth the wait 🙂

Pictured: me, realizing it was probably not worth the wait.

That’s all for now,

Stay well everyone,

Evan 💙