Authored by Kerri Fitzgerald
July 19, 2016
Meet Historian & Onboard Lecturer Fred Stonehouse
Authoring over 30 books on maritime history, Fred possesses a wealth of knowledge about the historic waterways Blount navigates, bringing history to life for Blount adventurers. Fred will be traveling with us on our 2016 Locks, Legends & Canal itinerary.
Q: What is your favorite part about a Blount adventure?
FS: My favorite part is doing what Blount does best, going into the small ports and off the beaten path places the big ships can’t go! Arriving at a port that rarely sees a cruise ship is a special thrill as local residents always come down to the dock to greet us and learn about this unique ship that suddenly arrived at their doorstep. I remember going into Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior’s rugged northwest shore early one morning as residents crowded the harbor to see us do a Blount only “beach landing” as the port was too small to have a dock. Seeing through their eyes this big ship just coming and coming until running on the beach, the bow ramp dropping minutes later followed by passengers exploring this small part of the world was fascinating.
Q: What is your favorite historical landmark to visit?
FS: On the Locks, Legends and Canals of the Northeast trip there are two landmarks that especially intrigue me. The first is the Erie Canal, an engineering marvel of the first rank when opened in 1825; literally the engineering marvel of the age. “Clinton’s Ditch” opened the entire Great Lakes region and beyond to the commerce of the world and the reverse too! Although improved since, it still has the grip of history around it as we make our way through picturesque towns and villages harking back to the previous century. It is a very exceptional voyage into America. The second landmark is the US Military Academy at West Point. As the ship approaches and the “Point” slowly comes into view from behind the river’s curve, you experience what the British must have felt during the American Revolution and their frustration of being unable to seize this most formidable Patriot post. When he was fort commander, the traitorous Benedict Arnold tried to sell the plans to the British but was foiled at the last minute, thus preserving it for the Americans. With West Point in British hands who knows how the Revolution would have turned out. Walking the grounds during our tour means striding where giants marched; men like Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, Grant and so many others of the long gray line. Today’s Point is producing a new generation of leaders and the feeling of pride is powerful.
Q: What does adventure mean to you?
FS: In a broad sense, to me adventure means exploration, learning more about the world around you as well as more about yourself and what you’re capable of. It also means travel because travel opens the gateway for adventure, boarding a plane or ship is the venue to new worlds . It is doing something different than the normal, trying something in a new environment. As a marine historian I usually find my adventure on the water. Perhaps piloting a tall ship or navigating tricky narrow channel at night in the midst of a thunderstorm. Even sailing in calm seas and fair winds can be an adventure. In a somewhat different sense “Locks, Legends and Canals of the Northeast” also offers special adventures. The experience of sailing the St. Lawrence River, the same waterway the French voyageurs and missionaries used to open the heart of North America. Passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway locks allowing saltwater freighters to reap the harvest of a continent. Skirting the winding channel through the midst of the inspiring Thousand Islands with their magnificent summer homes including two Rhine River inspired castles is incredible. Entering the Great Lakes home to over 7,500 shipwrecks brings home the dangers sailors face. Every day on this trip is an adventure in it’s own right with unique experiences in an ever changing environment. I relish such adventures as after all, you only live once.
Q: What is your favorite lecture to give our passengers?
FS: While I change lectures depending on what cruise I am on, a universal favorite is “Rum Runners and Fast Boats” dealing of course with Prohibition and how the illegal booze was smuggled to thirsty Americans. I use a more lighthearted approach which passengers enjoy. Invariably after every lecture someone will come up and relate to me a rum running tale with a personal connection. “I shouldn’t tell this but family stories claim my grandfather used to….” History isn’t about dates and events, it is about people and what they did. There is no better example than this presentation
Q: Which ports are most special to you?
FS: All are special in their own way but two stand out for me. Quebec because being a historian it gives me a chance to walk the “Plains of Abraham,” the battle site where British General Wolfe defeated the French under Montcalm in the French and Indian War thus setting the stage for the American Revolution. It is where an empire was lost and won, changing the world forever. That said, walking through the old town is truly a step back into history, giving the feel of what the city was like when voyageurs paddled their canoes deep into the continent in search of valuable beaver pelts. Clayton, New York is special too as it not only retains its historic downtown but is home to the world class Wooden Boat Museum. I said I am a maritime historian didn’t I?
Fred Stonehouse authored over thirty books on maritime history, many of them focusing on the Great Lakes and contributed to several others. The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald and Great Lakes Lighthouse Tales are regional bestsellers. Wreck Ashore, the U.S. Life-Saving Service on the Great Lakes, won a national publishing award and is the predominant work on the subject. Another book, Haunted Lakes, Great Lakes Maritime Ghost Stories, Superstitions and Sea Serpents, opened an entirely new genre in Great Lakes study.
He has been a consultant for both the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada and has been an "on-air" expert for National Geographic, History Channel and Fox Family, as well as many regional media productions. Awards for contributions to Great lakes maritime history have been received from Underwater Canada, Our World Underwater, Marquette Maritime museum and Marquette County Historical Society. He is also the recipient of the 2006 Association for Great Lakes maritime History Award for Historic Interpretation. The prestigious Award is presented annually in recognition of an individual making a major contribution over many years to Great Lakes maritime history.
In addition he was named the Maine Historical Society of Detroit's "2007 Historian of the Year". The award is the result of election by past MHSD Historians and recognizes persons who have significantly contributed to the stud of Great Lakes history,
Fred teaches Great Lakes maritime history at Northern Michigan University and is an active consultant for numerous Great Lakes oriented projects and programs. He is President of the Board of the Marquette Maritime Museum, past President of the National Board of Directors of the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association, Vice Chair of the Michigan Port Collaborative and a former member of the Michigan Iron Industry museum Advisory Board (Gubernatorial appointment). For more information: www.frederickstonehouse.com
Interested in seeing first-hand "What Blount does best"?
View these itineraries to learn more:
Great American Waterways
Locks, Legends & Canals of the Northeast
Islands, Castles & Canals: Boston to Montreal