The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis, c. 2003
In his newest book, Dennis (From a Wooden Canoe) offers an engrossing description of being a crew member on the schooner Malabar on a six-week trip through the waters of Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Capt. Hajo Knuttel and other crew members such as Tim, the ship's creative cook, spring to life in this modern adventure tale. Dennis weaves anecdotes from his childhood, such as a family-fishing trip on Lake Michigan, together with informed commentary on the natural history of the lakes and the people who live there as well as evocative descriptions of the enchanting view of the forests along Lake Superior from the schooner. His narrative is a continual reminder of the dangers inherent in navigating the waters of these magnificent lakes as he details their current condition; he explains that in the 1970s, Lake Erie's waters were saved from an ecological disaster by a public outcry, yet other waters are still in danger from commercial dumping. But all does not go smoothly for the Malabar; Dennis's narrative takes on an air of adventure when, toward the end of the trip, the Malabar and its crew encounter a terrifying storm.
Dennis surveys the Inland Seas through the viewpoint of his lake-faring rambles in three different vessels: schooner, racing yacht, and voyageur canoe. As he passes the numerous spectacular sights the Great Lakes afford sailors, Dennis recalls their associated history in a vibrant blend of personal observation and geological, historical, and environmental anecdote. The main focus here is a schooner trip in 2000 from Grand Traverse Bay to Maine (via the Erie Canal). As the Malabar negotiates the treacherous Straits of Mackinac, Dennis not only covers the French missions, British forts, and innumerable shipwrecks in this storied area but also recollects his experience in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac yacht race. Working in a separate, French fur-trapper style canoeing adventure on Lake Superior, Dennis touches on all five lakes in this compendium, endowing his chronicle with a breadth that makes it a fine introduction to the lakes' ecology.