2016-12-15 / Opinion

Great Memories of Working on Arnold Line Ferries

To the Editor:

Arnold Line? What a great time.

After reading Julia Law’s letter, I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. I’m 64 years old, with 45 years in the Merchant Marine and have been all over the world on ships — big boats, little boats, you name it, I’ve probably been there.

Arnold Line, man, there was a company. I showed up in 1993, moving down from Alaska. I grew up in Pellston, so in a big sense, I was coming home.

I started sailing commercial in 1974 with U.S. Steel and joined the Coast Guard in 1977. I spent 16 years in Alaska, with four years in the Coast Guard, then 12 years as a wheelsman with the Alaska State Ferry System. I moved back to Michigan 1993 with the idea of applying to Arnold Line as a captain. After an interview with Bob and Jim Brown, I was hired.

My break-in guy was Captain Rollie McReady. He was awesome.

He told me right off the bat, “Hey, kid, this is show biz.”

Yep, it was. A big part of the job was being the captain. I always tried to make it a point to let kids steer the boat. I figured that, if I did that, then when they turned older they would bring their own children to ride Arnold. Plus, it was fun for me.

The people: Wow, I met people that are friends to this day. Captain Paul Allers…Mike Frey and Chris Hanson made it a pleasure to come to work. Chrissy, Camille, and Jan, in the office, were always fun to joke with.

I always went out on the ore freighters after Labor Day and Captain Jim Ryerse encouraged me to write the pilotage exams for the Great Lakes. I did and ended my career as an unlimited Master/Great Lakes Pilot on the ore boats, thanks to Jim.

Working with Jim was the highlight of my maritime career. The first time I met him was on an Arnold run back to St. Ignace from the Island. About a quarter mile from the St. Ignace dock, his hat blew off.

He turned to his son, Wiz, and said, “Go get my hat.”

Wiz didn’t hesitate, jumped over the side and got the hat, swimming back to the dock. I wanted to turn the boat around, but Jim just laughed and said, “Don’t worry, he won’t miss supper.” I almost had a stroke.

I met Captain Jim through Arnold Line, and owe my career to him. He is and always will be a nautical god to me.

My best friend in the world, Captain Garth Law, was my deckhand when he was just in high school. We worked well together and I encouraged him to get captain’s papers. He did so… He married Julia, who was a top-ofthe line purser. I was thrilled to be best man at their wedding, another Arnold Line event.

My daughter, Jessica, went to work as a greeter on the St. Ignace dock when she was 15. She also filled in as a deckhand on the Chippewa when I ran shorthanded.

The first time she did that, I told her, “I’m the captain, [and] you are legally obligated to do whatever I say.”

She just smiled at me and said, “Yeah, dream on, Dad.” I love that response to this day. Another Arnold Line memory.

I could go on and on, as old sailors do, but I will stop here. I have been working ships for 45 years, 85 boats from the Panama Canal to the Bering Sea, and the best time I ever had was working with my friends at Arnold Transit Company.

Best regards to the finest Chippewa crew ever: Roger Horn, Ron Halberg, and Chuck Wills. You guys have to buy the next round.

As we say on the lake, smooth sailing to you all.

Captian Lon Calloway

M/V Chippewa, the Queen of the Straits

Indian River

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