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

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Publisher: Boston Mills Press

Edition Notes: Second Edition, Expanded and Revised
Author Statement: by Greg McDonnell
Audience: Trade
Specs: over 190 full-color photographs, appendix, index
Pages: 192
Trim Size: 10" X 9" X 9/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20140911
Copyright Year: 2014
Price: Select Below

Lake Boats: The Enduring Vessels of the Great Lakes

The romance of the great inland sea in 32 additional pages and 30 new photographs.

Praise for the first edition:

"Lavishly photographed and romance-packed ... a visually stunning collection of photos, facts and lore about the captains, crews and thousand-foot ships that plough the Great Lakes... It's a great book for anyone who appreciates the machinery that pulls the Rust Belt together."
-- Cleveland Free Times

"Lake Boats belongs on the bookshelves of anyone who admires the strength and purpose of these magnificent ships."
-- The Great Lakes Mariner

This large-format, full-color pictorial pays tribute to the many 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.

This expanded and revised edition updates the original text and includes 32 additional new pages and 30 new photographs, for a total of 193 extraordinary full-color images by the author and other fine transportation photographers. The 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.

A thorough, updated appendix cites exact identification, specifications and the history of each vessel included in the book.


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


excerpt from the Introduction

Don't give up the ship

Don't give up the ship. A simple blue flag emblazoned with the legendary last command uttered by Captain James Lawrence of the U.S.S. Chesapeake in 1813 snaps defiantly in the wind as a driving December gale threatens to rip it from the mast of the gray-hulled steamer grinding through the Lake Erie ice. Burdened with some 14,000 tons of Manitoulin Island limestone, S.S. Cuyahoga, the 620-foot flagship of the Lower Lakes Towing Co., has battled blizzards, gale-force winds and 20-foot seas to reach Cleveland on a snowy morning two days after Christmas 1999.

Ice clinging to her riveted hull, snow swirling about her decks and hatch covers, steam whispering from deck winches and billowing from her stack, Cuyahoga sails victoriously past the pier lights and into the icy black waters of her namesake river. With a spine-tingling blast of her baritone whistle, the big ship announces her arrival as she ducks beneath the Norfolk Southern lift-bridge.

Possessed of classic laker lines, her bow dominated by a grand, curve-faced pilothouse, her stern punctuated by an after house topped with a fat stack resplendent in Lower Lakes' colors and adorned with the company's Indianhead herald, Cuyahoga is a sight to behold. Her handsome dress of Lower Lakes gray and white, with neat red and black trim, accents the sculptured steelwork of her upper decks, the port holes that dot her hull and the subtle beauty of a shipbuilding art that has been lost to time and bottom-line economics. She is the classic laker, the consummate union of function and form.

Tracing its origin to the wooden-hulled R. J. Hackett of 1869, the traditional laker is of unique design specific to the Great Lakes. Its cargo holds are bracketed by a pilothouse at the fore and an after house -- with crew accommodations, galley and engine room -- at the stern. For better than a century, they've been the backbone of Great Lakes shipping, transporting bulk commodities of iron ore and coal, grain, stone, salt and cement over the inland seas and the St. Lawrence River.

Developed in the early 1900s, but uncommon on larger vessels until the 1950s, self-unloading equipment radicalized lake boat design. Outfitted with a system of belts and conveyors running beneath their holds, self-unloaders are able to discharge their cargo onto belts that feed a deck-mounted unloading boom that can be swung ashore on the port or starboard side. Newer vessels have been constructed as self-unloaders and dozens of older straight-deckers have been modified with the addition of self-unloading equipment.

Purists may balk at the aesthetics of the massive boom and bulky superstructure of the self-unloading equipment shouldered by otherwise handsome ships. However, this concession to modernism is in no small measure responsible for their survival long after so many contemporaries have fallen under the ship-breaker's hammer. While only a handful of unaltered straight-deckers remain in service, self-unloader conversions have proven to be the salvation of dozens of older bulk carriers still working the lakes.

The last American-flagged straight-decker to be constructed, the sleek-styled 730-foot Edward L. Ryerson — built to carry ore for Inland Steel of Chicago — was launched by Manitowoc Shipbuilding at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on January 21, 1960. On December 12, 1968, Hall Shipping's Ottercliffe Hall, the last conventional straight-decker to be built, was launched from Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines, Ontario. Algoma Central Marine self-unloader Algosoo, christened at Collingwood Shipyards in Collingwood, Ontario, on November 26, 1974, closed the book on construction of ships of the traditional laker style. The fate of conventional lakers had already been sealed as Bethlehem Steel's 1,000-foot self-unloader Stewart J. Cort made her maiden voyage several months earlier, on May 2, 1974.

Unable to fit through the Well and Canal, the 1,000-footers are restricted to Lake Erie and above. That, and the dwindling fortunes of the Great Lakes trade, has limited construction of 1,000-footers to just 13 vessels. None have been built since 1981 when Interlake Steamship's 1,013- foot William J. Delancy -- the largest vessel on the lakes -- was completed by American Ship Building at Lorain, Ohio. Nonetheless, the 1,000-footers have taken their toll on conventional lakers.

Once, they ruled supreme, but the ranks of traditional lake boats have been diminished by age and attrition, by harsh economics and the incursion of "salties," saltwater vessels from overseas. Victims of declining trade, foreign competition and the advent of monstrous 1,000-footers, hundreds of lakers have been sent to scrap over the past few decades. Those that survive are worthy of attention, if not admiration.



    Acknowledgments -- The Stuff of Dreams
    Dedication -- Stairway to Hell
    Introduction -- Don't Give Up the Ship
    Epilogue -- Long May They Run
    Master's List (identification, specifications and history of vessels illustrated)

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