Lake Boats: The Enduring Vessels of the Great Lakes

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9781550464634: Lake Boats: The Enduring Vessels of the Great Lakes

The romance of the great inland sea.

This large-format, full-color pictorial pays tribute to the historic ships still at work on the Great Lakes, from ancient cement boats such as the 100-year-old St Marys Challenger to venerable "straight-deckers," self-unloaders and 1,000-footers sailing under the familiar flags of prominent Great Lakes fleets: Algoma Central, Upper Lakes, Lower Lakes, American Steamship, Canada Steamship Lines and others.

With more than 170 photographs by the author and other fine transportation photographers, Lake Boats celebrates these mariners and working ships of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes. A thorough appendix cites exact identification, specifications and the history of each vessel included in the book.

An extraordinary range of images -- from close-up and interior views of engine rooms and pilothouses to panoramic scenes of these noble workhorse vessels sailing North America's inland seas -- makes Lake Boats a remarkable celebration.

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About the Author:

Greg McDonnell is a professional firefighter, a freelance photographer of note, and the author of numerous books, including Canadian Pacific.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


The Stuff of Dreams

Blame it on steam ... steam and Carl Bury, third engineer on Lower Lakes Towing Company's S.S. Cuyahoga. It was steam, specifically Cuyahoga's rare Lentz Marine Standard engine, that prompted me to seek out the ship at Port Colborne, Ontario, on a hot afternoon in August 1999. It was Carl Bury who arranged permission to board Cuyahoga -- at the time, one of just four vessels powered by reciprocating steam engines that remained active on the Great Lakes -- as she loaded stone on the banks of the Welland Canal. Had it not been for that encounter, this book would not exist.

Until that muggy August day, the closest I'd been to a laker was a brush -- quite literally -- with an Upper Lakes Shipping straight-decker docked in Hamilton harbor in 1979 as my then wife-to-be, Maureen, a frustrated Russian would-be sailor and I brought our barely under control sailboat alongside the towering freighter as we fumbled through sailing lessons conducted by the Hamilton Harbour Commission. All that changed as I followed Carl Bury down the engine-room stairs for an audience with Cuyahoga 's great four-crank, double-compound, reciprocating-steam power plant. It was in the steam and sweltering heat of the engine room that the inspiration for this work was born.

Steam was the catalyst, but it was the taste of adventure, sense of history and the introduction to the majesty and mystique of the traditional lake boat -- powered by steam, steam turbine or diesel -- that inspired this work. These pages are tribute to the enduring vessels of the Great Lakes and to the mariners who serve on them.

Eight years in the making, the creation of this book has allowed me to sail the five Great Lakes and to spend time on a number of vessels, including the 100-year-old steam-powered cement carrier St. Marys Challenger; Upper Lakes Shipping self-unloader James Norris and straight-decker Canadian Miner; Essroc's cement-hauling Stephen B. Roman; Lower Lakes Towing's Cuyahoga and Saginaw; and the Lake Michigan car ferry Badger, the last coal-fired steamer on the Lakes.

There's been time, too, to ride tugs, including the Ian Mac as she and sisters Donald Bert and Debbie Lyn assisted the John D. Leitch into the harbor at Goderich, Ontario, in heavy Lake Huron seas. And legendary Detroit River mail boat J.W. Westcott II -- the only floating Unites States Post Office and the only boat with its own zip code.

Docked at the foot of 24th Street in Detroit, zip code 48222, the J.W. Westcott II delivers mail, food, parts and supplies to passing vessels, and accepts outgoing shipments in return. The Westcott's unique "mail by the pail" service has been a Detroit River institution since 1895, when founder J.W. Westcott commenced mid-river deliveries using a rowboat.

The experience gained in gathering the images on these pages has been the stuff of dreams: leaning on the rail sipping hot coffee on a cold winter night as Cuyahoga chums through the Lake Erie ice; steaming through a thick Lake Superior fog on a damp September midnight as the plaintive call of Saginaw's fog whistle bellows through the dark; sailing past the Superior grave of the Edmund Fitzgerald and getting chills as veteran mariners on the bridge speak in hushed tones of that unforgettable night; sailing proudly into Milwaukee aboard the St. Marys Challenger on a rainy November evening and standing out on the deck as the century-old steamer carefully inches past the old C and NW Kinnickinnic River swing-bridge; probing the oily innards of a Vickers-Skinner Unaflow steam engine with James Norris Chief engineer Martin Desaulniers ... hours spent in wheelhouses, in engine rooms and galleys; nights in wood-paneled staterooms ... a week sampling the wares of Saginaw cook Randy Landry, purveyor of arguably the finest fare on the Lakes.

None of this would have been possible without the invaluable assistance of a number of people. I am deeply indebted to Scott Bravener of Lower Lakes Towing, John Greenway and Cathy Hoadley of Seaway Maritime Transport, Edward Hogan and Aaron Bensinger of Hannah Marine; to captains James R. Scott, Hugh Pink, Ed Dewling, George Herdina, Ken Lichtle, Jim Hornblower, and the hard-working, hospitable crews of ships that have welcomed me aboard.

These pages are enriched by the contributions of friends and talented photographers who have generously shared their work: Michael Valentine, Jeff Mast, Mike Harting, Jim Koglin and Brad Jolliffe, who accompanied me, not only on that initial visit aboard the Cuyahoga, but on a number of subsequent voyages.

If not for the encouragement and support of my wife and best friend, Maureen, this work would be little more than a dream.

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