We’re vacationing on the shores of Gitche Gumee, not far from where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, as immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot. The Fitzgerald was a smaller boat, only about 600′. The pictured Burns Harbor is a 1000′. The Fitzgerald was of an older generation of lake boat. Only a few boats of that era still ply the waters outside the Cabin, mainly ones from the Canadian lines. A new larger lock in the Soo permitted the running of the thousand-footers. With their squared off stern and their bridge aft instead of fore, their introduction was met with some disdain by the denizens of the beach. Designed to maximize the amount of ship that could fit through the new lock and minimize the number of crew required to sail, they were dubbed the Big Uglies.
According to the Economist, lake boats are undergoing a bit of a building boom. The Great Recession is tapering away, so economic forecasts foretell an increase in shipping business. This makes it time to build. Newer boats can be operated more profitably than the older ones. If these forecasts fall flat then the slack can be made up by retiring older less profitable boats. Either way, sooner or later, the older Edmund Fitzgerald era boats are on their way out and the big butted Big Uglies are here to stay. It is just a matter of time.
I said that we were vacationing on the shores of Gitche Gumee, Lake Superior. Technically, the shoreline outside the cabin is the mouth of the Saint Mary’s River. Sitting here in Michigan, Canada is only a couple of miles away. The lake boats cruise up and down all day and night, in easy view. This traffic pattern has led to a commonly shared dream. This dream has one of these big boats crashing up on the shore, in front of the cabin. This link offers a real world visualization of this dream and you thought that the Edmund Fitzgerald was bad. Yes folks that is one, not Photoshop picture of a real event.
I can tell you all this, because I’ve married into a family of boat nerds. Raised watching lake boats ply the waters before them, the nerdiest of them can identify a boat by its silhouette. Technology though is the great equalizer. I downloaded an iPhone app today, Marine Traffic. As the screen shot above indicates, it allows you to track all the boats in the vicinity. Heck with it, you can track boats and ships anywhere in the world. So, I downloaded this app this morning, but by the afternoon I was suffering from buyers remorse. Not that the app wasn’t everything that I had hoped for and more. But this afternoon, while I was sitting on the beach, binoculars in hand, scanning the horizon, it dawned on me. Why was I scanning for the next down bound freighter? I knew that the next one was still hours away. With nothing left to look for, nothing left to anticipate, I grew bored sitting there waiting and came up to the cabin to write this post.
I like big butts and I can not lie, You other brothers can’t deny …