Semper Paratus: Through Surf and Storm

Each Great Lake vessel submerged in a freshwater grave has a tale of adventure to tell.
Through Surf and Storm
Photography Courtesy of In-Depth Editions

A founding member of Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates and master scuba diver, Craig Rich hadn’t selected a working title for his second book (a follow-up to 2010’s “For Those in Peril: Shipwrecks of Ottawa County”, until he’d almost finished writing it.

“Then, after realizing how prominent the members of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, the U.S. Lighthouse Service and later the U.S. Coast Guard were on these pages, I felt compelled to find a way to honor them,” the Holland-based author says. “The title ‘Through Surf and Storm,’ borrowed from their anthem, does just that: These men lived by the motto, ‘You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.’”

While the U.S. Coast Guard’s anthem “Semper Paratus” (“Always Ready”) was written well after much of the history in Rich’s newest book “Through Surf and Storm: Shipwrecks of Muskegon County” occurred, both capture the timeless spirit and adventure of lifesaving.

“As Michigan’s premiere lumbering port during the 19th century, Muskegon served as the eastern terminus for a huge fleet of scows, schooners, side-wheelers, steamers and propellers,” Rich notes. “Often those expected never made port and those departing never arrived at their destinations. Fierce Lake Michigan gales, sudden snow squalls, waterspouts and even a rarely-recorded Lake Michigan seiche (a standing wave) capsized vessels, stranded them on shore, froze their rigging, tore their sails and tossed many a crewmember into the icy water.”

Today, while beachcombers may catch glimpses of these historic vessels as shifting sands uncover their bones in shallow water, scuba divers visit deeper wrecks while explorers like Rich and his associates (including fellow author Valerie van Heest, see Lake Stories on page 28) search for dozens of others still hidden beneath the waves.

“It’s my hope that this volume can become a resource and an inspiration for those seeking ‘ships gone missing’ off the Muskegon County coast and elsewhere in the Great Lakes,” Rich says, adding a special note of thanks to his wife, Vickie: “(She’s) sent me off on my wild adventures and quirky historical pursuits with the same words ever since our marriage in 1975 — ‘Have fun.’”

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White River
Photography Courtesy of Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy

Seeing the Light

Six miles west of the Mackinac Bridge, St. Helena Island’s tall white beacon beckons as part of several August excursions being offered by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. Lighthouse cruises departing from Shepler’s Mackinaw City dock provide plenty of maritime lore and opportunities for first-hand exploration as they spotlight iconic watch towers including Waugoshance Light, Mackinac Lighthouse and White Shoal Light, among others (

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