Carferries of the Great Lakes
Carferry Memories

timetable by Shawn Burgess-Keith 
Having grown up in Ludington only a few blocks from the boat docks, it was only natural that I'd take an interest in them at a young age. I can remember being fascinated by them as a very young boy, when my mom would take us swimming near the breakwater, and the boats would be coming in and out on a fairly regular basis. At the time, there were still seven boats in the fleet, though my personal memories only include the last three survivors. I know I saw all seven, and probably traveled on at least a few of them, but I was too young to tell the differences at that point. They were just boats to me then. I remember hearing stories about my Uncle Don Schrader, who had sailed on the City of Flint in the late 30s and into 1940, until a fateful day in November when she fetched up on the beach outside Ludington in the Armistice Day Storm. While he was unhurt, the storm and grounding had sufficiently scared him that he swore off the nautical life forever, and lived out his days raising his daughters near Toledo. Later on, while in late grade school and junior high, I remember riding my bike down to the docks fairly often to watch the boats dock and load. Most of my memories there surround the Midland, Spartan, and Badger. One particularly memorable trip on my single speed Huffy was to watch one of the boats dock in a raging gale - late afternoon on November 10th, 1975. I'm pretty sure the boat was the Badger. She was coming in from what must have been a pretty harrowing crossing. What I remember most was trying to get back to my house on Gaylord Avenue after watching her dock. The road (William Street) down to the docks was completely open to the harbor with no shelter, and with very little shelter from the open lake. The trip to the dock had been easy - I just let the wind blow me from about where the marina is now. The trip back to that point (what, two blocks?) took about 1/2 hour while I was working my hardest to make progress! When I finally got home, my mom and I went down to the lake to watch the wave action, and witnessed several large waves throw their spume completely over the top of the lighthouse! The breakwater was mostly under water and invisible. My young mind wondered at that, and was amazed that the ferry had been able to survive the crossing at all! Mom still has some incredible photographs of what the storm was accomplishing that day. It was only the next morning I heard the now-famous reports that Lake Superior had claimed another, and the Edmund Fitzgerald had earned a legendary place in the history of Great Lakes Shipping. I believe it was the next summer that I watched the Spartan making harbor - I think it was Friday, August 13th - only to find out later that she'd ripped open her belly on the crib of the breakwater. A bit later, I also found out that there had been another addition to my family that day when my older sister Laurie had her second boy, Jeremy. And what a sight to watch the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw breaking the City of Midland out of the ice in the late 70s when it got so cold! Some of Russ Miller's and Todd Reed's photos of that event are quite stunning! How fun to have had the privilege of growing up so close to the boats, and to see at least the last part of an era unfold. I'm so glad to see the Badger still running, and hope she will be there for many years to come. Many thanks to all who have gone to such great lengths to maintain such an important part of Ludington's history! 
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