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Northern Michigan in Focus: Salty – The Colorful Adventures of a Well-Seasoned Sea Dog Pt. 1

It was only supposed to be a part-time job, but then one man soon found himself traveling the world.

Corey Adkins tells his story in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“Forty-five years later I was still out there. I promised my folks I was going to get a real job someday, and maybe someday I will,” said Lon Calloway.

On man, talk about a life

“My name is Lon Calloway and I am a retired merchant mariner and I’ve spent over 45 years working all over the United States, Alaska, Gulf of Mexico working on a variety of vessels, 85 in total,” explained Lon.

It all started when Lon simply wanted to make some money for college.

That all changed when he found that if he worked as a relief worker, working on the boats gave him a lot of freedom.

“The money and the flexibility of being able to work when I wanted, I pick and choose my jobs. I would get relationships with dispatchers from all these different companies and then I could call them up and tell them I was available, and they would tell me if they needed somebody.  I could usually get a job within 24 hours of making a phone call,” explained Lon.

He learned quickly that not all these jobs were smooth sailing.

“You had to work it. I had to make sure that they knew that I would take a bad job to get a good job, and I would because I knew that they had to service their contracts.  I had some pretty horrible boats from time to time. For instance, the tugboat in Alaska name the Lutak Pride, it had garbage bags taped up to the ceiling to keep the water from leaking through to the deck and running on you when you were in in your bunk. You didn’t dare take your shoes off, because you might have to run for it if something happens and it started to sink,” said Lon.

Time is money for the boat companies. Just getting on the freighters can be an adventure.

“The Ojibway is the story of the first time I ever stepped aboard a freighter. They took supplies and crew members out to the freighters and the Ojibway would swing up alongside of it and, with a crane, they would boom over all the supplies and then the relief guys will jump on and then the guys getting off would get on the boat and head back into town. For a new guy, it’s a pretty intimidating experience pulling up alongside that big sled that’s rumbling down the river and seeing all the action on there, climbing over the rail and when the Ojibway pulls away, you’re stuck, there you go,” explained Lon.

Lon has so many stories about his 45 year career he was convinced to write some of them down in .

“The book I just wrote is called ‘.’ It has some of my better ones in there. I think it has 27 stories about my life at sea and some of the 85 boats that I’ve been on and some of the just insane people I’ve met along the way,” said Lon.

Next week, in part 2 of Lon’s story, you’ll hear about some of those people, and the storms he’s been through and how he fell in love on one of the boats.

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