In Search of the Freighter

Beautiful Wilderness State Park in Carp Lake

Travel counselor Bonnie Fink takes us along with her family on their summer getaway – a camping trip in Northern Michigan.

My husband, Mike, our two sons, Paul and Stanley, Paul’s friend Kenny and myself are going camping to Wilderness State Park.

We arrive just after 1:00 pm in Mackinaw City. It is a beautiful, hot, sunny day. No sweatshirt required. We grab a picnic table by the lake for lunch. I can’t wait to spot that freighter out on the Great Lakes, but there are none, only sailboats and ferries. We eat lunch and take a walk down by the lake. Still no freighter. We pack up and head out to the campground.

Our site is three from the lake, located in the back corner. We like it. The lot is large and well shaded. Later on the boys are tossing the football in Lake Michigan. It is warm and inviting. Mike and I take a walk down the beach. We come across a huge heart etched in the sand. I must stop and add our names. I wonder how long the heart will remain before the waves wash it out to sea. We continue on our way. I am sure I will spot a freighter out there, but no such luck, just a beautiful sunset out on the lake.

We have all returned to the campground and are getting the campfire started. We make ourselves comfortable and get out all those yummy campfire snacks. By this time it is late and I go inside, crawl in bed and drift off to sleep as the boys discuss strategies for the upcoming football season.

The next morning we are awakened by what sounds like loads of jelly beans dropping from the sky. It is pouring. As we get our breakfast around, I realize I have used half of our cereal bowls for last night’s leftovers. So what should I do? Two spotted campfire mugs and a little sauce pan later, we have rounded up enough make-shift bowls for breakfast. The day could only get worse if I don’t locate that freighter. But I am hopeful. I just know that I am going to see one today.

The Mackinac Bridge, gorgeous even on a rainy day

We finish breakfast and go into town. We make our way over to the Mackinaw Ice Breaker Maritime Museum. It is still raining as we take the tour.  As we finish the tour, we are standing on deck and watching the sky getting ready to open up and let out the rains, AGAIN. We get under cover to let it pass. We can no longer see the pillars of the Mighty Mac, it is raining so hard. Then, moments later, I hear those “magical” words I have waited to hear. Mike hollers, “There’s one!” Out in the foggy distance there she is, a Big Black Beauty, heading South in the Straits of Mackinac, the freighter I have been looking for. As I descend down the stairs, I am grinning from ear to ear, watching her and wondering, “What is she carrying and where is she going?”

Bonnie Fink is a travel counselor with Pure Michigan Travel. She enjoys traveling and helping the public with their travel plans.

  • Joy Muir

    Bonnie,
    I really enjoyed your tale. We are Michigan natives living in Missouri and I miss the freighters soooooooooooooooo much. Not to mention the blue water. I grew up in Port Huron, near the river, and watched the ships every day. Then we moved to Clawson, Mich….New Orleans….and then to Romeo, Mich. Now we are in Independence, Missouri ( I can see Harry Truman’s Presidential Library out my window) but we vacation in Algonac, Mich. every summer.
    We rent a cottage that is located right on the edge of the St. Clair River and I take a picture of EVERY ONE that passes and even keep a journal about them.
    We just returned Sunday after 6 weeks up there and I have about 1,500 pictures, 98% of them are freighters.:o)
    I certainly understand how you felt.
    Joy

  • barb beasley

    I too love to watch for the freighters…we got the pleasure of seeing numerous freighters on the July 30 weekend that we went to the U.P. And after we got home and I was reviewing all the pictures we took, amazingly I saw that the freighter I took a picture of while we were on the island while looking thru the fort window opening, is the same freighter that we would see later in the evening when we stopped at the Soo Locks before heading back to our hotel. She was a big black beauty too – American Spirit – the longest freighter on the Great Lakes.

    Thanks for the nice article – I never get tired of visiting Michigan’s U.P.

  • Kathi

    What is this, our love of freighter’s? I always wonder how many people are one board and where are they headed?

  • Kerri Tang

    Thanks for sharing your story. My sister and I go to the U.P. and Mackinac Island (and various stops along the way in between), each fall. We’ve always been lucky to see more than one freighter, during our stay along the Great Lakes. Usually, while we are on Mac Island, we see one each day. They are so beautiful! And, like you, we are always saying to ourselves, “wonder where she is going to”.

  • Fred Bridgeman

    Love your story. When we go up to Grindstone City Michigan, we always take the scenic tour along Lake Huron on M-25 and everytime we head up, we see at least three freighters heading north. I just love the lakes and always look forward to getting away from the city. Thank you again for sharing your adventure with us. :-)

  • Cindy

    I can completely relate to your fascination with freighters; I love watching them every chance I get. Next stop Soo Locks; a must for all freighter lovers!! Amazing!!

  • Leslie

    Thanks so much. As a child, we camped every summer for weeks, and we’d always go where we could see freighters — I’ve been enamored with them ever since! It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen any since I live in south central Michigan — but your story brought back some great memories!

  • Dlynn

    We stayed here last summer for the long Labor Day weekend and walked the bridge. I have 2 weeks reserved with a beach side site for this Labor Day. I can’t wait it is a beautiful park and peaceful area. 

  • JJCoffield

    If you have access to internet a great way to know where the freighters are is to check http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shiplocations.phtml

    This website gives the locations of larger ships on the Great Lakes!

  • JJCoffield

    Hmm… my link that I just posted does not seem to be working as I had hoped!  But if you go to http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack you should be able to find the Great Lakes link from there (I hope!)  If not, it seems that you can click on the map on the link below, and then click on the area of the map that you would like to see more in depth.