"Sweetwater Sailors" Casts Off Via Compelling, Untold Stories of Merchant Mariners on the Great Lakes
New book chronicles the unique lives of freighter sailors on the Great Lakes, often overlooked in favor of their deep-water counterparts
By: The Unapologetic Voice
Author Bob Ojala brings readers up close and personal with these unique maritime professionals. They lived a nomadic existence on vessels notable for cramped conditions, never-ending vibration and uncountable sounds and smells.
Great Lakes sailors performed the unglamorous task of transporting ore, cement, salt, grain, coal and other cargo across the unpredictable waters. Ojala notes that while a few highly-publicized sinkings (most notably the Edmund Fitzgerald) captured public attention, the lives of the sailors who always returned home have earned scant retelling.
"These sailors worked weeks straight while at sea, and gave the better part of their lives to a difficult job that was integral to our nation's economy," Ojala said. "They might not have 'sailed the ocean blue,' but their stories portray a compelling, unappreciated living that deserves to be told."
Merchant Mariners spent the better part of every year away from their families, missing birthdays, holidays, weddings and other gatherings. Yet they returned to sail again, year after year.
Those who crewed the freighters shared a unique personality type, Even after returning to their families from long trips away, sailors would soon grow antsy for their next tour of duty.
Crews aboard the freighters became like family. They bonded over constant togetherness, strenuous, dangerous working conditions, and pleasures such as near-gourmet food prepared in simple galley kitchens.
Great Lakes merchant sailors shared interesting and entertaining stories with Ojala of their years on the Great Lakes. Their tales range from enduring terrible storms on the water, to encountering a motorcycle gang on board, to spending a few hours "up the street" while docked in port.
Sweetwater Sailors also describes the gradual integration of women into freighter crews. Limited early to roles such as cooks, stewards and cleaners, women climbed the ranks to become chief engineers and eventually ship captains.
Ojala, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, is abundantly qualified to tell these sailors' stories. Besides operating a marine consulting business for 30 years, he worked 17 years with the American Bureau of Shipping, and nearly nine years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sweetwater Sailors is available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/
Bob Ojala, Author, "Sweetwater Sailors"