A distinctive urban publisher since 1941

Wayne State University Press

0 items

Life on the Great Lakes

A Wheelsman’s Story

Fred W. Dutton
Edited by William Donohue Ellis

Autobiography, Great Lakes, Maritime Studies

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: February 1991
ISBN: 9780814322611
Pages: 176 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 37

Dutton has set down the little, everyday events that give history its life and texture.

— Detroit Free Press

Fred Dutton's story tells of the time before the gyro when ships were steered by magnetic compass and men had to estimate the degree of error in navigational calculations. Dutton recounts the terror of ships meeting and passing in the fog and the subtleties of handling ships at the docks. Serving under many captains on a dozen and a half vessels, he spices his account with profiles of ships' officers and crew and with details of deckhand work.

Life on the Great Lakes provides a concentration of information that otherwise would need to be assembled in fragments from a hundred sources. Historians, folklore buffs, and ship lovers will discover details of vessel operation usually available only in the dialogue of a passing generation of very elderly sailors.

Fred Dutton was sixteen in 1916 when he first went to work on a Great Lakes ship. Born into a well-to-do shipping family, he went to sea rather than join the family business. He eventually became a railroad lawyer, but managed to keep his hand on a ship’s wheel, arranging each summer with steamship companies to sail relief wheelsman during his vacation.

William Donohue Ellis is editor of Inland Seas and the author of more than twenty books, including Land of the Inland Seas, The Ordinance of 1787, and the highly acclaimed Bounty lands Trilogy.

Reads as if it was written on the decks and in the wheelhouse . . . [Dutton's] I-was-there stories of first-day jitters, shipboard hazards and shipmates' follies are a refreshing departure from the usual fare. While most histories romanticize big events as seen from a distance, Dutton has set down the little, everyday events that give history its life and texture.

– Detroit Free Press