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"Not a Cruise Ship"— an audio slideshow I produced for WBEZ’s Front and Center

WBEZ Feature goes on the air!

I produced a documentary feature about life on board the Calumet for WBEZ’s Front and Center series on the Great Lakes. Listen here.

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After spending a month on a boat, everyday things back home can catch you off guard. Here’s Ed.

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The first rule in recording an interview for radio is to find a quiet place, and unplug the refrigerator (don’t want that buzz in the background!) On a cargo ship, though, I have to embrace the noise. There’s no escaping it.

We backed two miles down the Calumet River in South Chicago to load coal at KCBX Terminals, Co.

Here’s a map of the Great Lakes and the load/unload schedule while I was on board.

map of the Great Lakes

I joined the Calumet crew in Ohio, west of Cleveland, and got off nine days later in South Chicago. Here’s the schedule with stops we made while I was on board. This route took us from Lake Erie up the Detroit River, across Lake Huron, through the Straits of Mackinac, and all over Lake Michigan.

  • Marblehead, OH— load limestone/dirt mix (“work dirt”)
  • Marine City, MI— unload half the dirt
  • Marysville, MI— unload the other half
  • Sarnia, Ontario—stop for fuel
  • Meldrum Bay, Ontario— load limestone
  • Grand Haven, MI— unload
  • S. Chicago, IL— load coal
  • Green Bay, WI— unload
  • Port Inland, MI— load limestone
  • Grand Haven, MI— unload
  • S. Chicago, IL— load coal

Loading work dirt at Marblehead, OH. This is where I got on board.

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Working out here is not a vacation… it’s a job. Ed, Sam, and Dom weigh in on this.

This silent video is really a montage of over 500 photos taken in Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Port Inland, and the Calumet river in South Chicago. I put them in order using iMovie and varied the speed of frame playback. Stop motion photography is a new medium for me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 – 

We’re “out here,” somewhere. Yep.

Counting down the days til crew change.

Counting down the days til crew change.

Somewhere in Lake Michigan.

Captain Jeff gets back on board after checking in with customs in Grand Haven, MI. We loaded limestone in Ontario the day before and this is our first stop back in the U.S.

Captain Jeff gets back on board after checking in with customs in Grand Haven, MI. We loaded limestone in Ontario the day before and this is our first stop back in the U.S.

Dom at work, coffee in hand. We’re pulling up to the fuel dock at Sarnia, Ontario.

Dom at work, coffee in hand. We’re pulling up to the fuel dock at Sarnia, Ontario.

"The money’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but it can’t be the only reason you’re out here…"

…I think the money’s why a lot of people do it in the first place but… How do I put it? Sailing just becomes a part of you. Without it, you feel like you’re missing out on somethin’. You go on vacation, you know sure it’s fun for the first week or so, but then you start missing it. You wanna be back on the water. Least I do. I just love being on the water. You have your bad days when you wonder why you’re out here but… if you didnt have it, I guarantee ya… 16 out of these 17 guys, they’d really miss it and want to come back.”

-Sam, on why he sails

"Not a Cruise Ship"— an audio slideshow I produced for WBEZ’s Front and Center

WBEZ Feature goes on the air!

I produced a documentary feature about life on board the Calumet for WBEZ’s Front and Center series on the Great Lakes. Listen here.

We backed two miles down the Calumet River in South Chicago to load coal at KCBX Terminals, Co.

Here’s a map of the Great Lakes and the load/unload schedule while I was on board.

map of the Great Lakes

I joined the Calumet crew in Ohio, west of Cleveland, and got off nine days later in South Chicago. Here’s the schedule with stops we made while I was on board. This route took us from Lake Erie up the Detroit River, across Lake Huron, through the Straits of Mackinac, and all over Lake Michigan.

  • Marblehead, OH— load limestone/dirt mix (“work dirt”)
  • Marine City, MI— unload half the dirt
  • Marysville, MI— unload the other half
  • Sarnia, Ontario—stop for fuel
  • Meldrum Bay, Ontario— load limestone
  • Grand Haven, MI— unload
  • S. Chicago, IL— load coal
  • Green Bay, WI— unload
  • Port Inland, MI— load limestone
  • Grand Haven, MI— unload
  • S. Chicago, IL— load coal

Loading work dirt at Marblehead, OH. This is where I got on board.

This silent video is really a montage of over 500 photos taken in Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Port Inland, and the Calumet river in South Chicago. I put them in order using iMovie and varied the speed of frame playback. Stop motion photography is a new medium for me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Counting down the days til crew change.

Counting down the days til crew change.

Somewhere in Lake Michigan.

Captain Jeff gets back on board after checking in with customs in Grand Haven, MI. We loaded limestone in Ontario the day before and this is our first stop back in the U.S.

Captain Jeff gets back on board after checking in with customs in Grand Haven, MI. We loaded limestone in Ontario the day before and this is our first stop back in the U.S.

Dom at work, coffee in hand. We’re pulling up to the fuel dock at Sarnia, Ontario.

Dom at work, coffee in hand. We’re pulling up to the fuel dock at Sarnia, Ontario.

"The money’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but it can’t be the only reason you’re out here…"

…I think the money’s why a lot of people do it in the first place but… How do I put it? Sailing just becomes a part of you. Without it, you feel like you’re missing out on somethin’. You go on vacation, you know sure it’s fun for the first week or so, but then you start missing it. You wanna be back on the water. Least I do. I just love being on the water. You have your bad days when you wonder why you’re out here but… if you didnt have it, I guarantee ya… 16 out of these 17 guys, they’d really miss it and want to come back.”

-Sam, on why he sails

After spending a month on a boat, everyday things back home can catch you off guard. Here’s Ed.

The first rule in recording an interview for radio is to find a quiet place, and unplug the refrigerator (don’t want that buzz in the background!) On a cargo ship, though, I have to embrace the noise. There’s no escaping it.

Here’s a map of the Great Lakes and the load/unload schedule while I was on board.

Working out here is not a vacation… it’s a job. Ed, Sam, and Dom weigh in on this.

We’re “out here,” somewhere. Yep.

"The money’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but it can’t be the only reason you’re out here…"

About:

Last November, I had the opportunity to spend nine days aboard the MV Calumet and get a glimpse at the fascinating world of shipping on the Great Lakes. While the boat hauled stone and coal between quarries and coal terminals in Ohio, Canada, Michigan and Wisconsin, I recorded over 40 hours of sounds and interviews and snapped hundreds of photos. Back on shore, I'm sifting through this material to create a radio and multimedia documentary project. The end product I envision incorporates sound, still images, stop motion photography and text.

It takes time to go through so much material, so in the meantime I want to share the process. The posts on this site are all rough ideas, half-digested. I am trained in telling stories with sound, so photography and multimedia art is new territory for me. I would love to hear your feedback! Click on the Questions/Comments tab and tell me what you think, or shoot an email to allison.swaim at gmail.com.

Thank you Tom Burke, Grand River Navigation Company, and everyone on board the Calumet for making this project possible!