The Mackinaw or “Commercial fishing boat of the 19th century” as Pat Labadie stated is a very interesting boat with a lot of history. Pat himself owned a vessel named The Helen Macleod. He found it in a junkyard near Detroit and eventually brought it to the Saugatuck Marine Museum that he worked with. He ended up donating it to a museum in South Bend Ontario. Later on in life Pat worked at the Dossin Marine Museum. Once he left Dossin he worked at the Saugatuck Museum in Saugatuck Michigan from 1968-1973. From there he went to the Superior Museum in Minnesota from 1973-2000. In 2003 he retired and moved to Alpena Michigan and has worked as a historian at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary since. Pat has a huge selection of files under his name in the Maritime section at the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Library. The files include an endless amount historical photos of different vessels and various letters from different boat owners. There are also original blueprints from serveal boats dating back to the 1790’s.
Pat’s wife June is also involved in his maritime work. The photo located at the top of the page is a painting created by June of the Helen Macleod. She has several amazing paintings of the historic Great Lakes vessels, including a Mackinaw boat. Her painting shows the clinker and carvel built vessels. These boats can be anywhere from 16-40 feet long. The boats often had beautiful, large sails.
The Mackinaw boats were a very popular and very low cost choice, with a safe way of fishing because of their large capacity. The boats were designed to take advantage of the wind, racing them through the waters. The Helen Macleod held two engines, making it even more practical. These small but classic masted ships were crafted with red or white oak. Several of the original vessels have been preserved throughout Michigan. More recently the boats have been known to contain steel nails, taking away from their European origins but still keeping the overlapped barks in place. The newer models of the ships are used for more recreational purposes, such as races. On the 29th of September 2019, there will include a Mackinaw Boat race in Tawas Michigan. At the race there will be different events and guests, such as keynote speakers. So the “commercial fishing craft of the 19th century” has overcome a lot of changes throughout its years on the water, and is very valued in the Maritime community.
Written by Gracie Papin- Alpena High School- Science in the Sanctuary
Works cited- Labadie, Pat. Personal Interview May 30th 2019
Image credit- Perry, June. Personal Interview May 30th 2019