The Badger’s captains: a Ludington tradition

October 5, 2012

Capt. Jeff Curtis

ON-BOARD-THE-SS-BADGER – The carferries have a tradition in Ludington dating back to 1897. At one time Ludington alone had seven carferries operating out of its port, transporting railroad cars across Lake Michigan to the Wisconsin ports of Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Keewaunee. Other Michigan ports such as Frankfort and Muskegon also had carferries. This meant dozens of captains operating the steam ships.

Today, Dean Hobbs and Jeff Curtis are the only two steam carferry captains working full time on the Great Lakes. They are the captains of the 410-foot S.S. Badger, the last remaining operational steamship on Lake Michigan.

Hobbs started working for Lake Michigan Carferry, the Badger’s owner, in 1995. This is Curtis’ first season on the Badger.

“What the crew does here on the Badger is pretty remarkable,” Hobbs says.

“The tradition of operating this ship is handed down captain to captain and crew to crew,” Hobbs said. “There is a lot of pride on board this ship.”

One of the major duties of the Badger’s captain is to back the ship into dock from the aft pilot house. This is done after the Badger enters port and the anchor is dropped.

Capt. Jeff Curtis, wearing a traditional white captain’s uniform and hat, maneuvers the ship using the various controls. Every once in a while he will move a lever that sends off a series of rings down to the engine room, communicating with personnel down there the speed of the ship’s engines.

The procedure takes about 10 or 15 minutes from the time the anchor is dropped. The aft pilot house, located on the main passenger deck has windows on port and starboard sides so passengers can look in. This is serious business, though, and the captain doesn’t let the on-lookers distract him from his duties. However, when he finishes docking the ship, on this particular day, he glancesto his right and notices a little girl looking at him, waving with a big smile.

Capt. Dean Hobbs

“That is the best part of this job,” Curtis says, now grinning himself. As he walks back onto the passenger deck a woman stopped and asked if she could get her picture taken with him. The captain obliges.

“I love this job,” he tells me. “In the rest of the maritime industry here on the Great Lakes captains and pilots are doing amazing ship handling but no one sees it. Here, on the Badger, I get the thrill of having an audience for my work.

“Of course, the downside is if I screw up I will most likely end up on Youtube.”

Curtis started working for Lake Michigan Carferry this season replacing Capt. Kevin Fitch who left for another job. Curtis and Senior Captain Dean Hobbs are the two regular captains on board the historic vessel.

Hobbs said he will never forget his first experience operating the Badger. He was riding with Capt. Bruce Masse on a goodwill tour to Chicago’s Navy Pier.

“Bruce had never taken a ship into Navy Pier before,” Hobbs says. “He had taken ships into the Wisconsin ports of Kewaunee, Milwaukee and Manitowoc but Chicago scared the heck out of him.

“So, we took the Badger into Navy Pier as you would take a typical steam ship into any port. You get about 2 miles from the breakwater you slow down to half speed. When you are a mile out you slow down to 1 or 3 knots per hour depending on the wind. Well, that was not Bruce’s comfort level. It was too slow and methodical.

“I took the Badger out of Chicago and turned it around and we left, again, typical steamboat fashion. When we got back to Ludington, Bruce was back in his comfort zone. He said, ‘now I will show you how we do it C&O style,’ referring to the C&O Railroad that used to own the Ludington carferries.

“So we got two miles from Ludington breakwater and he didn’t slow the ship down. I suggested we slow down, but we didn’t. We got one mile from the breakwater and he put the engines on standby. At half mile from the breakwater he finally put the engines at half. We went past the breakwater doing 13.5 knots, 10.5 knots faster than going into Chicago! Then he checked from half to slow somewhere near the inner green light. As we went by the Coast Guard station we were doing 10 knots. We got to the corner and he gave the wheelsman the order to turn hard right and starboard at half stern. The boat started spinning. He pushed the button and the anchor went down and he said ‘we have to go to the aft pilot house.’

Capt. Curtis docks the Badger

“It seemed like a pretty out of control experience from that pilot house. My first thought was ‘I can’t do this. This is insanity.’ In fact, I called my old job and asked if I could come back. Bruce told me to give it some time. Over the next couple of weeks I started going back and forth to Manitowoc and it came to be more reasonable to me. Now it’s sort of second nature.”

Prior to working for the Badger, Curtis worked for 14 years as a federal pilot for the Western Great Lakes Pilots Association. The Badger is certainly a different experience.

“We don’t have a bow thruster,” Hobbs says. “We use an anchor and the engines and a single rudder, pretty much the same way it was done over 100 years ago. The tradition of operating this ship is handed down from captain to captain and crew to crew. There is a level of pride that is handed down. This is a legacy.”

“The Badger was built in 1952 and put into service in 1953,” Curtis explains. “Not much about this ship has changed since then. This is a tall ship so the wind affects it a lot. Because there isn’t a bow thruster and the one rudder is set between the two propellers we need to maintain more speed to maintain control than would be normal on other ships.”

So what is a typical day like for the captain of the S.S. Badger?

“It goes like this,” Curtis explains. “I relieve Capt. Hobbs when the ship arrives in Ludington around 7 p.m. I check the computer for company email and also for the weather forecast. I then check the galley for cookies.

Capt. Hobbs signs an autograph

“We depart Ludington at 8:30 p.m. (this interview took place when the Badger was operating dual sailings, which ended the beginning of this week). In the evening I try to get as much sleep as possible. The mate will give me a call 30 minutes before the Manitowoc breakwater. I come to the wheelhouse and get the rundown of the weather and boat traffic for docking. I dock the ship between 12:30 and 12:40 a.m. Eastern Time. I get a bite to eat and check for more cookies. I then check the computer for emails and weather and then wait for departure.

“We depart Manitowoc at 2 a.m. Eastern Time and again after we leave port I try to get as much sleep as possible. Around 5:30 a.m. the mate will call me, which is 30 minutes from Ludington. It’s then the same routine going into Ludington as going into Manitowoc. We dock around 6 a.m.

“If I feel I have gotten enough sleep I will take a run otherwise I will nap until around 8 a.m. I then have some breakfast, check for cookies, check the computer for emails and weather. We depart Ludington at 9 a.m.

“In the morning I like to try to walk through the vessel, talk to passengers, answer questions and look for cookies. Around 11 a.m. I get lunch and take a short nap. When we arrive in Manitowoc in the afternoon it’s nice to take a bike ride. I also like to talk to people on the dock. They always have interesting questions.

“We depart Manitowoc around 3 p.m. Eastern Time and it’s back to Ludington. I try to walk through the vessel again and talk to passengers. At 5 p.m. it’s supper time after which I get a short nap until the mate wakes me up 30 minutes from Ludington. I dock the ship around 7 p.m. and it starts all over again.

“At the end of the second day Capt. Hobbs is a welcome sign to relieve me.”

Both captains respect the water and enjoy the uniqueness of the Badger.

“I like working on ships as the water is an amazingly beautiful and ominous entity,” Curtis says. “You need to pay attention and respect the power the lake has.

“The Badger is a unique job as unlike other ships here on the Great Lake the cargo (people) can tell you what they like or don’t like. Never before in the industry have I been applauded for doing a good job. As well, I often get people who want to have a picture with the captain or want my autograph. This is why I wear the full uniform. I think it’s important. Most of the passengers have very little experience with ships or the water. They may be nervous or apprehensive and when they see the uniform, that can help them be more comfortable or enjoy the experience more.”


591 Responses to The Badger’s captains: a Ludington tradition

  1. jmickevi
    September 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Great story!

  2. fille_du_fleuve
    November 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Captain Dean Hobbs died suddenly on the night of Thursday, November 21, 2013.

    Rest easy, Captain Hobbs. May your family find comfort in your legacy.

  3. Pingback: Skydiving NYC
  4. Pingback: hotels
  5. Pingback: new article
  6. Pingback: click here
  7. Pingback: read more
  8. Pingback: new website
  9. Pingback: my company
  10. Pingback: More Bonuses
  11. Pingback: click resources
  12. Pingback: content
  13. Pingback: look here
  14. Pingback: best info
  15. Pingback: new website
  16. Pingback: news
  17. Pingback: how to
  18. Pingback: about
  19. Pingback: my response
  20. Pingback: More Bonuses
  21. Pingback: check that
  22. Pingback: Learn More
  23. Pingback: Get the facts
  24. Pingback: read more
  25. Pingback: click here
  26. Pingback: click here
  27. Pingback: read more
  28. Pingback: read more
  29. Pingback: click here
  30. Pingback: more news
  31. Pingback: official site
  32. Pingback: More hints
  33. Pingback: new source
  34. Pingback: best news
  35. Pingback: learn now
  36. Pingback: click here
  37. Pingback: read more
  38. Pingback: important
  39. Pingback: find
  40. Pingback: figure out
  41. Pingback: what to do
  42. Pingback: where to look
  43. Pingback: insight
  44. Pingback: Sperry shoes
  45. Pingback: Homepage
  46. Pingback: find this
  47. Pingback: my response
  48. Pingback: More hints
  49. Pingback: Get the facts
  50. Pingback: explanation
  51. Pingback: sperrys qvc
  52. Pingback: read more
  53. Pingback: check my blog
  54. Pingback: click site
  55. Pingback: see here
  56. Pingback: this website
  57. Pingback: my company
  58. Pingback: imp source
  59. Pingback: find more info
  60. Pingback: see it here
  61. Pingback: Homepage
  62. Pingback: find this
  63. Pingback: Bonuses
  64. Pingback: click here now
  65. Pingback: check here
  66. Pingback: my response
  67. Pingback: this page
  68. Pingback: news
  69. Pingback: click here
  70. Pingback: click here
  71. Pingback: click here
  72. Pingback: read more
  73. Pingback: read more
  74. Pingback: read more
  75. Pingback: what is new
  76. Pingback: what is new
  77. Pingback: what is new
  78. Pingback: aloe vera
  79. Pingback: more info
  80. Pingback: website
  81. Pingback: news
  82. Pingback: niagen pill
  83. Pingback: niagen pill
  84. Pingback: find now
  85. Pingback: news
  86. Pingback: important
  87. Pingback: new article
  88. Pingback: keep reading
  89. Pingback: home page
  90. Pingback: more about this
  91. Pingback: More Bonuses
  92. Pingback: click resources
  93. Pingback: her explanation
  94. Pingback: read more
  95. Pingback: news
  96. Pingback: link
  97. Pingback: best source
  98. Pingback: click reference
  99. Pingback: visit site
  100. Pingback: look here
  101. Pingback: Going Here
  102. Pingback: click to read
  103. Pingback: a knockout post
  104. Pingback: Extra resources
  105. Pingback: Niagen review
  106. Pingback: click here
  107. Pingback: website
  108. Pingback: webpage
  109. Pingback: new source
  110. Pingback: news
  111. Pingback: best info
  112. Pingback: read more
  113. Pingback: website
  114. Pingback: news
  115. Pingback: best source
  116. Pingback: best source
  117. Pingback: click here
  118. Pingback: Check This Out
  119. Pingback: navigate here
  120. Pingback: weblink
  121. Pingback: check over here
  122. Pingback: this content
  123. Pingback: click here
  124. Pingback: Check This Out
  125. Pingback: check over here
  126. Pingback: this content
  127. Pingback: his explanation
  128. Pingback: more info here
  129. Pingback: official site
  130. Pingback: visit
  131. Pingback: check it out
  132. Pingback: see this
  133. Pingback: feres inşaat
  134. Pingback: feres
  135. Pingback: feres
  136. Pingback: find more info
  137. Pingback: find more info
  138. Pingback: my company
  139. Pingback: my review here
  140. Pingback: click site
  141. Pingback: check my blog
  142. Pingback: this content
  143. Pingback: click here
  144. Pingback: midogen
  145. Pingback: midogen review
  146. Pingback: niagen reviews
  147. Pingback: niagen reviews
  148. Pingback: niagen
  149. Pingback: More Bonuses
  150. Pingback: check my source
  151. Pingback: Check This Out
  152. Pingback: navigate here
  153. Pingback: go now
  154. Pingback: useful link
  155. Pingback: useful link
  156. Pingback: pop over here
  157. Pingback: click here
  158. Pingback: pop over here
  159. Pingback: Full Article
  160. Pingback: read more
  161. Pingback: Full Article
  162. Pingback: read more
  163. Pingback: read more
  164. Pingback: click here
  165. Pingback: Full Article
  166. Pingback: click here
  167. Pingback: Full Article
  168. Pingback: read more
  169. Pingback: Source
  170. Pingback: check my blog
  171. Pingback: see here
  172. Pingback: see here
  173. Pingback: Get More Info
  174. Pingback: click site
  175. Pingback: click site
  176. Pingback: read more
  177. Pingback: lifecell
  178. Pingback: Visit Website
  179. Pingback: dig this
  180. Pingback: explanation
  181. Pingback: Bonuses
  182. Pingback: click here
  183. Pingback: read more
  184. Pingback: official site
  185. Pingback: dig this
  186. Pingback: directory
  187. Pingback: Check This Out
  188. Pingback: weblink
  189. Pingback: weblink
  190. Pingback: greenox feres
  191. Pingback: a knockout post
  192. Pingback: sources tell me
  193. Pingback: breaking news
  194. Pingback: my sources
  195. Pingback: my explanation
  196. Pingback: I loved this
  197. Pingback: the advantage
  198. Pingback: have a peak
  199. Pingback: great site
  200. Pingback: moved here
  201. Pingback: read review
  202. Pingback: read it here
  203. Pingback: see results
  204. Pingback: website
  205. Pingback: news
  206. Pingback: read blog
  207. Pingback: have a peak
  208. Pingback: best info
  209. Pingback: read more
  210. Pingback: subject
  211. Pingback: Ruksis780
  212. Pingback: this hyperlink
  213. Pingback: learn more
  214. Pingback: read review
  215. Pingback: homepage
  216. Pingback: use this link
  217. Pingback: official source
  218. Pingback: greenox png
  219. Pingback: Check This Out
  220. Pingback: Source
  221. Pingback: check over here
  222. Pingback: Bonuses
  223. Pingback: click here now
  224. Pingback: my company
  225. Pingback: find more info
  226. Pingback: this page
  227. Pingback: see this here
  228. Pingback: directory
  229. Pingback: visit
  230. Pingback: article
  231. Pingback: best source
  232. Pingback: more info
  233. Pingback: read more
  234. Pingback: click here
  235. Pingback: find more info
  236. Pingback: imp source
  237. Pingback: my company
  238. Pingback: see here
  239. Pingback: this website
  240. Pingback: Get More Info
  241. Pingback: this page
  242. Pingback: my review here
  243. Pingback: see it here
  244. Pingback: see it here
  245. Pingback: address
  246. Pingback: Visit Your URL
  247. Pingback: this content
  248. Pingback: weblink
  249. Pingback: check over here
  250. Pingback: navigate here
  251. Pingback: Source
  252. Pingback: Get More Info
  253. Pingback: Get More Info
  254. Pingback: this page
  255. Pingback: my review here
  256. Pingback: news
  257. Pingback: check my blog
  258. Pingback: best
  259. Pingback: fucoxanthin
  260. Pingback: geniux pills
  261. Pingback: intellux
  262. Pingback: genius reviews
  263. Pingback: testomax
  264. Pingback: alpha f1
  265. Pingback: alpha fuel
  266. Pingback: alpha man pro
  267. Pingback: alpha peak
  268. Pingback: anabolic rx24
  269. Pingback: cognifocus
  270. Pingback: garcinia melt
  271. Pingback: nerventrax
  272. Pingback: nutra forskolin
  273. Pingback: testorip
  274. Pingback: testoroar
  275. Pingback: zynev
  276. Pingback: pro forskolin
  277. Pingback: forskolin slim
  278. Pingback: garcinia xt
  279. Pingback: vitapulse
  280. Pingback: Vita pulse
  281. Pingback: somnapure
  282. Pingback: perfect biotics
  283. Pingback: vitapulse scam
  284. Pingback: vitapulse
  285. Pingback: vitapulse
  286. Pingback: vita pulse
  287. Pingback: taurus
  288. Pingback: Fat Loss Factor
  289. Pingback: Ecomaxx Reviews
  290. Pingback: T90 Xplode
  291. Pingback: Tea Tox Reviews
  292. Pingback: MegaDrox Review
  293. Pingback: Test X180
  294. Pingback: vita pulse
  295. Pingback: page
  296. Pingback: my review here
  297. Pingback: Piano For All
  298. Pingback: news
  299. Pingback: find this
  300. Pingback: see it here
  301. Pingback: see here
  302. Pingback: more info here
  303. Pingback: internet
  304. Pingback: Go Here
  305. Pingback: more info here
  306. Pingback: dig this
  307. Pingback: internet
  308. Pingback: more info here
  309. Pingback: original site
  310. Pingback: here
  311. Pingback: click here
  312. Pingback: his explanation
  313. Pingback: anchor
  314. Pingback: check it out
  315. Pingback: internet
  316. Pingback: official site
  317. Pingback: Read More Here
  318. Pingback: her latest blog
  319. Pingback: check my site
  320. Pingback: click here
  321. Pingback: tires
  322. Pingback: Greg Thmomson
  323. Pingback: read more
  324. Pingback: read more
  325. Pingback: read more
  326. Pingback: read more
  327. Pingback: read more

Leave a Reply

MCP Facebook feed

Submitted video of the debris on the Ludington State Park beach near Big Point Sable caused by the wreckage of a grounded boat. See story here: ... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

WSCC: I am

Legally Speaking: Divorce

Great Lakes Ford Oil Change Service

Subscribe to MCP via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 442 other subscribers