Northern Michigan in Focus: Salty – The Colorful Adventures of a Well-Seasoned Seadog Pt. 2
Last week for Northern Michigan in Focus we had part one of Lon Calloway’s story.
He spent 45 years sailing as a merchant mariner on over 85 vessels. He wrote a book about his adventures.
“Probably the most insane was the guy name that Mike that liked to make bombs. He was mad at the seagulls because they would fly over and deposit things on him when he was back fishing. You couldn’t tell that guy not to stand by the garbage cans and he’d go down below and create these little bombs, he was a cook so he’d be fit into a loaf of bread, and then he’d go back and chum some garbage and this bread bomb and throw it over the side and vaporizes as many sea dogs as he could,” said Lon Calloway,
When Lon was new on the boats, one of the first ships was the Sewall Avery. They were 15 hours ahead of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975.
“We were headed westbound through the Straits of Mackinac and the weather started getting rough. As we got down to the Straits and down towards Lansing Shoal we really took a beating. Our life boat jumped the cradle and punched a hole in the bottom of that. I remember we got hit once so hard my toothbrush popped out of the holder and bounced off the ceiling and that’s when I started thinking this is kind of a big deal,” said Lon. “This would have been the morning after this would have been November 11, 1975. I was the deckhand on the Sewall Avery when the first mate said go back and change out the flag, it was damaged. So I went and changed it out and decided to keep it. And this windsock was totally blown out that night so they had me replace that too.”
Even though that was a big storm, it wasn’t the worst weather he’s sailed through.
“The worst storm I was ever in was in Alaska in the U.S. Coast Guard,” explained Lon. “I was stationed in a town called Sitka and we were headed for Honolulu late in the year in October and going down there for some training with the Navy. We got caught in a typhoon and we spent 12 days with 45 to 50 foot seas, winds in excess of 70 miles an hour, just getting stomped. I never thought we were going to make it. I didn’t see how it was going to be possible, but it was quite a ride.”
Over the four decades and 85 ships he’s worked on, which one is his favorite?
“Of course that Edward L. Ryerson, on the Great Lakes, Queen of the Lakes, Fast Eddie. It was the only boat I’ve been on that actually had fan mail,” said Lon.
He even fell in love on the Ryerson.
“I did meet my fiancé Lisa on Ryerson. She was a security officer at the Soo Locks and we were coming down. She came down after her shift and she wanted to buy a ship’s hat. We were selling those and I happened to be the guy handle on the sales. One thing led to another and here we are 12 years later and we’ve been engaged for five years,” explained Lon.
His book “Salty: The Colorful Adventures of a Well-Seasoned Seadog” is full of stories like this.
It’s a great read for all us boat nerds who wonder, what’s happening on these beautiful boats as they glide by.
“I just wanted to share some of the more humorous aspects of the things that are going on on there that you might not be aware of just looking at it from the distance,” said Lon.