Six degrees of freedom ‘nice, peaceful’

Bob Belic stands near a special steering wheel at which passengers can have their picture taken aboard the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Bob Belic stands near a special steering wheel at which passengers can have their picture taken aboard the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Manistee senior citizens find peace sailing across Lake Michigan

On the Inland Seas – all seas, for that matter – peace can be found in the six degrees of freedom.

A few weeks ago, several senior citizens from the Manistee area felt that freedom, first hand – six different ways a boat can move on the waters of Lake Michigan, as they traveled the 60 miles from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wis.

“I love these boat trips,” said 91-year-old Robert Belic, a veteran of World War II. “I love the ‘feeling’ of the lake. Visiting the other side (of Lake Michigan) is nice, but I go for the boat trip – it’s very peaceful.”

Belic and about two dozen others from the Manistee area made the two-day, one-night trip across Lake Michigan aboard the legendary car ferry, the S.S. Badger.

Marge Hybza and Joan Haynes walk on deck during their four-hour voyage to Wisconsin on the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Marge Hybza and Joan Haynes walk on deck during their four-hour voyage to Wisconsin on the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Many of them have been making the four-hour crossing for years, as part of a series of Manistee Senior Center outings.

“I served in the Pacific, and in the Atlantic, aboard a baby aircraft carrier,” said Belic. “I guess I’ve always liked the sea. There’s just something about the movement, that gets you.”

So what is the “six degrees of freedom” for sea-goers like Belic?

In a nutshell, that explains the six different ways a boat can move across the water:

Heave – move up and down in a bobbing motion

Surge – move forward, or backwards

Sway – a sliding motion from side-to-side across the surface of the water

Roll – a rotational movement from side-to-side

Pitch – the rocking horse type of movement where the ship rocks the bow and stern

Yaw – the rotational type movement when you can’t quite get the ship to go exactly straight (the ship turns back and forth)

On calm seas, just one or two of the “freedoms” are typically felt.

On heavy seas, all six “freedoms” can be felt simultaneously. That’s right, at the same time.

“I’ve never really gotten sea sick, but there have been many times when I didn’t know which way the boat would be moving next, (both in the Navy, and aboard this ship),” said Belic.

Ron Kaminski, 70, also has made several trips across Lake Michigan aboard the 410-foot long Badger, which is about half the size of what the Titanic was.

“I’m an Army guy, not a Navy guy,” said Kaminski, smiling. “I don’t have ‘sea legs.’ While I’ve never really gotten sick, there have been times when I just sit here, and enjoy the ride, or wait out the ride.

Ron Kaminski, who's made about 20 crossings of Lake Michigan aboard the S.S. Badger, relaxes as the 410-foot ship pulls away from Ludington. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Ron Kaminski, who’s made about 20 crossings of Lake Michigan aboard the S.S. Badger, relaxes as the 410-foot ship pulls away from Ludington. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

“I remember one time a few years back when the boat was rolling so much that one second I was looking out the window and seeing the sky, and the next second I was looking down at the water. That was an interesting trip, to say the least.

“But I have to say, more often than not, it’s just a nice, peaceful ride, from one side (of Lake Michigan), to the other,” said Kaminski.

The Badger makes approximately 550 crossings each year – 60 miles one way. That adds up to about 33,000 miles each year, or about one trip around planet Earth, with an extra 8,000 miles or so left over to take travelers somewhere far, far way.

In its more than 60 years in service – first hauling railroad cars, and then carrying passengers and their automobiles – the Badger has sailed about 2 million miles – give or take a couple thousand.

“It really is a beautiful ship,” said Kaminski, who has made close to 20 trips across Lake Michigan over the years. “It has quite a history. I know I look forward to these trips, every year.”

The Badger offers the largest cross-lake passenger service on the Great Lakes – an advertised “authentic steamship experience.”

Since being converted to a car-ferry in the early 1990s, it carries passengers, autos, RVs, tour buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and commercial trucks across Lake Michigan, officially linking US 10 in Michigan, to US 10 in Wisconsin.

In fact, just this year, the ferry was officially designated as part of US 10, because it links together the two disconnected segments of the highway.

When the Manistee contingent made their way across Lake Michigan a few weeks ago, the lake had swells of 6 to 8 feet, causing the ship to experience more than one of the “six degrees of freedom.”

“Oh, I felt it,” said Kaminski. “It wasn’t bad, but I felt it”

Rose Fortier said she also felt the motion of the lake’s surface on their trip to Wisconsin.

“I’ve never gotten sea sick, either,” said Fortier. “But I sure felt this trip. So, I just sat and waited ’til we got done – not much more to do, than that.

“But I do like these trips – they’re nice. I like seeing different things (in Wisconsin), visiting different places, but I mainly like the boat trip.

Ken Kuuttila (left) and Ellen Kuuttila (right) sit with Melvin and Cathy Larsen, while playing Bingo aboard the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

Ken Kuuttila (left) and Ellen Kuuttila (right) sit with Melvin and Cathy Larsen, while playing Bingo aboard the SS Badger. (Courtesy photo/Jeanne Barber)

“Usually, most of the time, it’s just really, really relaxing,” said Fortier.

The Badger’s sailing season will end Oct. 11. It typically begins in mid-May. During the peak summer months, the boat makes two trips across the lake every day.

“Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces,” said Kaminski. “We’ll play BINGO, or just sit and talk. We get to know each other, and then we don’t see each other again, until we make our next trip.

“It’s definitely a different way of traveling. It makes you appreciate what people did way back when this was the only way to travel, before air travel took over

“You hear the wind and feel the wind, and you hear the ship (moaning) – I like that,” said Kaminski. “It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing. I like that.”

In sailing both oceans during World War II, Belic said riding aboard the Badger sometimes takes him back to those days when he and his fellow sailors would look forward to breaks in the war.

“Of course, it was different back then,” said Belic. “War! We always had to be on the lookout for one thing, or another.

“But there were those times when nothing was happening, when everything was nice and calm. And just to ride (across the ocean) seemed so nice – so peaceful.

“That’s what these trips are like – nice, peaceful.”

Freedom – measured by six degrees or any other way – will make a person feel that way.

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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