Great Lakes Memoir Released from WHS Press

Ship Captains Daughter

Set course for a Great Lakes adventure with author Ann Lewis. Whether she was sailing through storms or star gazing on calmer waters, her childhood was far from ordinary. For Lewis, the thawing and freezing of the Great Lakes signaled something special – the beginning and end of the shipping season, months of waiting that were punctuated by brief trips to various ports to meet her father, the captain.

Anchored by lively storytelling and vivid details, Lewis’ new book from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Ship Captain’s Daughter: Growing Up on the Great Lakes, captures the unusual life of shipping families whose days and weeks revolved around the shipping industry on the Great Lakes. She paints an intriguing and affectionate portrait of her father, a talented pianist whose summer job aboard an ore freighter led him to a life on the water. Working his way up from deckhand to ship captain, Willis Michler became the master of 13 ships over a span of 28 years.

From the age of 12, Ann accompanied her dad, the captain, to the ports of Milwaukee, Chicago, Toledo and Cleveland on the lower Great Lakes. She describes sailing through stormy weather and starry nights, visiting the engine room, dining at the captain’s table, and wheeling the block-long ship with her father in the pilot house. Through her mother’s stories and remarks, Lewis also reveals insights into the trials and rewards of being a ship captain’s wife. The book is enhanced by the author’s vintage snapshots, depicting this bygone lifestyle. For more information or to buy a copy, visit

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