Life On Shore For A Ship Captain’s Family

By Erika Janik | June 10, 2016


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Ann Lewis grew up the daughter of a Great Lakes ship captain. Ships came in, ships went out – and with it, her father. 

“He was gone a lot, from March through November,” says Lewis. 

Depending on his schedule, Lewis’ father came home for a brief visit every five or six days. Her parents wrote letters back and forth.

This shipping life was normal for Lewis because she hadn’t known anything else, though she did sometimes regret that her father wasn’t home in the summer when families often went on trips together. 

When Lewis was twelve, she got to travel with her father for the first time.

“The nights were magical,” describes Lewis. “When you’re on a ship, you’re on a different time cycle. There are four hour shifts that go all night. I used to love to stay up at night and go into the pilot house.”

Looking back on her childhood, Lewis says she didn’t realize how hard her father’s schedule was on her mother until she was married with children of her own.

“I knew it was hard on my mother but I hadn’t considered the loneliness she must have felt,” says Lewis. “He was a sailor and sailing was his life.”








Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...

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