Left: Boaters on the Detroit River
(Wyandotte, MI) As a longtime resident of cities located near the Great Lakes, I can attest to the fact that boating is a past time enjoyed by people from a wide variety of demographic categories. No matter where you live in this region, you probably know someone who owns a boat, and the first warm days of spring mean that waterways in and around the Great Lakes become quite busy.
I spent a few hours on the Detroit River yesterday, watching boats of various sizes cruise along the riverfront. Part of my fascination with boats owes something to the fact that I have never owned one, and I simultaneously feel a strong connection with the water, even a less-than-pristine waterway better known for the presence of toxic waste runoff or floating cardboard boxes.
Perhaps my ancestors were mariners, and large bodies of water strike some chord deep in my DNA, or perhaps my personality is such that quiet hours spent on the water soothe my soul.
Joining the dozens of small watercraft on the Detroit River yesterday was the Edward L. Ryerson, a 730-foot straight-deck bulk carrier that often carries taconite pellets from Minnesota and Wisconsin to steel mills near Lake Erie. The graceful ship took the eastern route around Grosse Ile, so I did not get a closeup look at the magnificent freighter.
And only a person from the Great Lakes can listen to a song like Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and not snicker. I was a kid when the song hit the charts, and it still causes me to pause and reflect on the dangers of a mariner's life on the unpredictable Great Lakes. I remember watching a parody of Lightfoot on television some years back, and the performers had a grand time mocking the song for its provinciality, and getting a bit peeved that this tune - which borders on the sacred in some parts - was being made the object of derision.
It must be a Great Lakes thang.