The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Willy, Harley (back center), and Gretchen

Looking for the Big Ships

Yesterday afternoon I headed out with my niece's 6 year old daughter with two purposes in mind, one was to see if we could watch some of the big freighters go through the St Clair River on their way north to Lake Huron or south to Lake Erie. The second purpose was to separate the two kids and give my sister-in-law a break for the afternoon. You know the old adage: have sibling, will fight.

We headed back down to the Blue Water River Walk. First we saw the Lady Huron, a tour boat, headed back into her slip in the Black River. No big ships were in sight coming from either direction.

So we headed a little further north to where we could see out onto Lake Huron. Hmmmm.....nothing but sailboats over by the Canadian shoreline.

We were on the beach at Lighthouse Park along with some seagulls and a few hardy souls wading in the water or sunbathing.

We went by the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. It is an active Coast Guard station but they do have a gift shop and small museum on sight as well as tours of the lighthouse itself. We passed on that today as I wanted to see some of the big ships.

Ah....our first sighting. This is a foreign ocean liner heading towards the St Clair River and Lake Erie.

She was moving right along.

We saw a couple others way out on Lake Huron so we decided to head back to the river area for closer viewing when they came through. The Blue Water Bridge to Sarnia, Canada is the the background with the Coast Guard cutter Hollyhock in the left foreground.

Alas, the big ships out on the lake were taking too long to get to the river and we had to head home for dinner so all we saw was these kayakers.

I also found the new offices for the Great Lakes Pilots Assn. The foreign ships traveling up the St Lawrence Seaway into the interior of the U.S. and Canada are required to have a pilot on board for so many trips across the great lakes and then to have a pilot on board every time they navigate one of the ports or the access rivers. The reason I really enjoy seeing the ships is that my dad, Captain Alfred Irving Amundson, was one of the founding members of the American Pilot's Assn. 

You can see the pilot boat at the dock here. The pilots ride the pilot boat out to the ship in the lake and climb a rope ladder up the side while both boats are moving if a pilot is required just for the riverway or locks. I have some very good memories of my younger years when dad was piloting Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. One year he was station near St Ignace and Drummond Island. The pilot boat driver did not show up to take my dad out to the ship so he ran the pilot boat out, got it alongside and told me to hold it steady until he climbed up and the other pilot climbed down, and then the other pilot would drive the pilot boat back to the dock and tie up. Well, all went well until the other pilot climbed down and informed me he had no idea how to run the pilot boat and I would have to do it. I got us in and docked okay.....I was 17 and it was the first time I had driven the boat. Dad was furious with the other pilot. Another time, I actually got to go through the river with my Dad. He thought that that particular ship would have a boom seat like a swing that they would lower down for me to get aboard or I probably wouldn't have gotten to go.  I climbed the rope ladder ahead of him and it was a long way up. It was a great adventure and had times been different, I might have tried to follow in my Dad's footsteps, alas, no women pilots back in those days. And to think that I am leery of heights these days.

Stopped a local produce market the other day and picked up some beautiful tomatoes, not cheap but oh so pretty and even more delicious.

 It's BLTs for dinner tonight!

Time for me to head out. A truckload of pigs has arrived at the Inspection Station next to McDonald's and it is noisy and smelly out here in the truck. See you soon.


  1. Very interesting story about your Dad.

  2. We were right there at Fort Gratiot Lighthouse Park earlier in the summer, and have pics of some of the same things as you. . .LOL!

    I loved story about your Dad as well. . .what a great memory!


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