When the skies of November turn gloomy…


If you have ever taken a stroll along the water’s edge in Wyandotte (as pictured above), or even on Detroit’s own Riverwalk, you probably will not have to wait too long before a freighter appears on the horizon. Soon the shipping season will come to a halt once the waters freeze over and the freighters that sail the Great Lakes will cease their travels until the shipping season opens again in late March.

You don’t have to be interested in admiralty law, or even be in the maritime business, to recognize the beauty of these large freighters and realize the enormity of the valuable cargo they transport. Anyone can appreciate their size and their competent crews who ease them through the sometimes turbulent waters.

One of the common pastimes for executives, in corner offices that overlook the Detroit River in Downtown Detroit, is to indulge in spotting and identifying freighters by their trademark flags or smokestacks. Savvy wanna-be sailors read “Know Your Ships”, a handy primer on sorting out the “stacks” … that is, the smokestacks that identify the various shipping lines whose freighters, a/k/a “lakers”, traverse the Great Lakes.   It’s no easy feat to identify those smokestacks at a glance, even through binoculars, because they often look alike as you’ll see if you access this link: http://www.knowyourships.com/gallery-stacks.html

This freighter from the Canada Steamship Lines seen above is a little nondescript and blah looking with its rust-colored hull. Even the weather that day was a little blah – a gloomy and gray November morning, much like today, when my friend Marge Aubin and I took an impromptu trip to Wyandotte for a gab-and-photo session.  While we snapped shots of seagulls swooping too close to people strolling at the water’s edge, or fisherman reeling in their catch of the day, this huge and hulking freighter suddenly came gliding along changing the view of the horizon.

At a glance, that freighter pictured above could be the “S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald” – the colors of the hull and topside are very similar in appearance to that doomed ship.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been on freighters several times when they were docked and unloading at the cement silo in Detroit because my boss has a client with a small fleet of vessels. I was in awe the first time I ever boarded  a cement-hauling vessel that was just as clean as a cruise ship – in fact it took on paying passengers who wanted a glimpse of the Great Lakes while sailing aboard a freighter.

And looking at this picture today, I am reminded of our trip and the many freighters I’ve seen gliding through the Detroit River over the years.

But one freighter in particular comes to mind today – “The Edmund Fitzgerald”, because it is the 40th anniversary of the ore carrier’s demise.  There’s been a little more commemoration today, than the usual remembrance of its sinking, to mark this 40th anniversary. I’m sure most everyone in Michigan is familiar with the event as well as Gordon Lightfoot’s subsequent tribute song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”; in fact, for most people, they need only hear the first few strains of that song and will recognize it instantly.  It will make you think back and remember what you were doing on that fateful day.  I know I was a student at Henry Ford Community College and on the staff of the newspaper “The Ford Estate” – I recall how we spoke in hushed tones about the tragedy the following day.  We all came to the same conclusion … that it seemed impossible a vessel that size was gone without a trace after gale-force winds swept it from the water.

It seems inconceivable that Mother Nature could wreak such havoc to destroy men and metal, leaving only memories in a matter of minutes.

We will forevermore mark this sad anniversary and remember the 29 crew members who lost their lives that day in special ceremonies at the Mariner’s Church in Detroit. Today there was a special commemoration service in River Rouge where the “Edmund Fitzgerald” was built.

The freighter and crew are forever held hostage in a watery grave, 535 feet below Lake Superior’s surface – gone, but not forgotten, and their memory lives on forever in the beautiful ballad by Gordon Lightfoot … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A

About Linda Schaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, so this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for four decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, though I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too. - Linda Schaub
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When the skies of November turn gloomy…

  1. Marge Aubin says:

    40 years and still remembered with awe. That was a big ship and many men went down with her.I hope they are remembered as solemnly as the ship.I do remember that little trip we took. Nice picture Linda.


  2. ann marie stevens says:

    Miss linda……………………………wow……….that was such a great song and a chilling memory…………………….so you were a student at Henry Ford ……………………….I was stationed in Toledo and the very church I was at …….some of the men were from who had died……………it was a tragedy……..I just love that picture you’re showing…..my dad and uncles all worked on those freighters and were caught up in Alpena or Toledo until the ice melted and my cousins live right near the site of where it went down…………………in Brimley, Michigan in the U.P……thanks that was nice…………


    • lindasschaub says:

      I’m glad you liked it Ann Marie – I was at HFCC and got my Associates Degree there, then transferred to Wayne State after that to complete Bachelor’s Degree. I loved that song as well and back when it came out the year following the tragedy, it seemed you could not turn on any radio station without hearing it. Listening to it the other night, I remembered all the words. The picture was from right along the river in Wyandotte … I had a more close-up picture but liked that one as it showed the walk along the River and the crumpled-up leaves. They might be running those freighters longer this year since we are expecting a milder Winter – I heard on the radio this morning that the Coast Guard says even the freighters have some difficulty navigating the waters – doesn’t surprise me due to the “Edmund Fitzgerald” and also the “El Faro” which sank after Hurricane Joachim. Mother Nature sure doesn’t fool around sometimes – she means business!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s