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Shipwrecks Of Ottawa County Michigan

By Craig Rich

The lyrics of the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save pay homage to sailors who risk their lives in the course of everyday work and aptly express the intriguing maritime heritage of Ottawa County, Michigan, a region along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan that saw many a ship and sailor lost. The lakeshore communities of Grand Haven and Holland became thriving commercial ports in the latter half of the 19th century and bore witness to the evolutionary changes in Great Lakes transportation. Early wooden sailing vessels were replaced by wooden steamers, which soon made way for steel vessels, which grew to include today’s “thousand footers.” Schooners laden with lumber and stone gave way to luxury passenger steamships ferrying Chicago’s wealthy tourists to Ottawa County’s grand tourist hotels. Families were changed forever when husbands and sons were lost to the gales of November, and fortunes were lost when vessel owners tried to get just one more trip in before the harsh winters closed the ports. Many of these vessels were simply overtaken by age, mechanical failure or shifting sands. Some broke up on shore while others were refloated to sail again. Some were left to rot at the dock while others simply sailed over the horizon into oblivion never to be seen again. Many now serve as “ice water museums,” attracting scuba divers, explorers and historians to these shipwrecks that comprise an important part of the early history of Ottawa County and the Great Lakes region as well.

Regional Studies  ISBN:978-0-9801750-2-8 | Soft Cover | 6×9 Format |136 Pages | 55 photographs | $17.95
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Craig Rich is a veteran Great Lakes master scuba diver who began diving as a teen after taking lessons through the local YMCA in 1971. He is a certified Master Diver through Scuba Schools International with specialties in Wreck Diving, Search & Recovery, Stress & Rescue, Dry Suit Diving and Enriched Air Nitrox diving. He began researching shipwrecks in the late 1980s and actively diving them in 1988 with local diver Doug Welsch. Since then, he has completed 500 dives, mostly on Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Rich joined the Southwest Michigan Underwater Preserve Committee in 1996 helping see that organization through to official state designation as Michigan’s tenth underwater preserve in 1999. With fellow SWMUP members Valerie van Heest and Jack van Heest, and new members Ross Richardson and Geoffrey Reynolds, he co-founded Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates in 2001. In addition to his shipwreck research for the organization, he designed the MSRA web site and serves as webmaster. A regular speaker for local and regional groups and historical societies, he is also a frequent guest on local radio talk shows on the topics of diving and shipwrecks. He has provided professional narration and voice work for MSRA’s documentary films as well as radio and TV commercials.

Rich and his father started radio station WZND in Zeeland, Michigan, in 1971 and ran the radio station as a family business until the end of 1986. At WZND he was the morning deejay, news director and program director. From 1982 until 2009, Rich served as an elected city council member in Holland, Michigan, and for the last two decades, he has been an advertising consultant for the Grand Rapids Business Journal. Craig holds a business management degree from Davenport College and is married to Vickie. They have two daughters, Allison and Catherine.

Contact the author at: oldpirate@comcast.net