MUSKEGON, MI – Robert Priefer is a storyteller.

Armed along with his favourite subject – the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, the 118-year-old ship that used to chop by way of the Lake Michigan waves ferrying individuals and autos from Muskegon to Milwaukee – Priefer likes to share tales of happenings on the ship that occurred many years in the past.

“When he walks by way of the ship, he has a narrative for nearly each single room,” Brock Johnson, an 18-year-old deckhand, informed MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. “He loves this ship. It was the primary he ever sailed on.”

Priefer’s tales in regards to the historic vessel, which now not sails on the Nice Lakes however rests on the Grand Trunk dock on Muskegon Lake, come from many years of historical past he witnessed on board. He began out as a dishwasher and moved up the ranks to turn into captain, and in more moderen many years grew to become part of the group preserving the vessel.

Priefer, who spent 11 years because the ship’s captain primarily within the Nineteen Sixties, goes to be the main target of a birthday celebration Saturday. It’s in honor of his a centesimal birthday.

The party is open to the group to honor the legendary captain. The celebration is scheduled for six:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 6 on the Milwaukee Clipper docked at Grand Truck Dock, 2090 Lakeshore Drive.

A former president of the Clipper’s board of administrators referred to as Priefer a “treasure” for all he’s finished over time whereas crusing the ship after which advocating for its preservation.

Priefer began out engaged on the Milwaukee Clipper in 1941 as a pearl diver, which is slang for dishwasher. That was the identical 12 months the previous cruise ship, referred to as the Juniata, was reworked to start carrying passengers and autos on Lake Michigan.

He ultimately served as captain of the Milwaukee Clipper from 1959 till its ultimate voyage in 1970.

For years now, Priefer works with the Nice Lakes Clipper Preservation Affiliation to protect the historic ship for occasions and excursions.

Along with these official roles, he’s additionally been one to share the wealth of tales he’s gathered over the many years in regards to the ship.

Priefer remembers a number of of the celebrities who sailed aboard the Milwaukee Clipper. He informed MLive/Muskegon Chronicle for a narrative in 2010 that he recalled famed conflict correspondent Ernie Pyle and wrestler Beautiful George as having been passengers on the ship.

Johnson, the deckhand, stated that considered one of Priefer’s favourite tales to inform as captain is his expertise with a four-legged passenger that fell overboard. Seems, it was the pet canine of the proprietor of the ship, the McKee household.

The Marine Lounge’s Horseshoe Bar, proven on this 2010 file photograph, is without doubt one of the refurbished areas of the ship that’s presently docked alongside Muskegon Lake. The Milwaukee Clipper used to hold passengers and autos between Muskegon and Milwaukee. (MLive file photograph)

Regardless of reaching 100 years outdated, the captain continues to assist out.

“I used to be launched to the captain in 2018, and I developed an excellent relationship with him over time,” Johnson stated. “He’s an fascinating man and never like your typical captain. He isn’t the sort to boss individuals round after which sits in a chair. He’ll do the work.”

And the preservation work is ongoing for the historic ship. Though it’s nonetheless “briefly” docked at Grand Trunk, as the problem of discovering a everlasting place to dock has surpassed 20 years, the vessel is open at instances for excursions.

These attending the party will have the ability to see how these efforts have paid off.

Everything of the inside of the ship has been restored, with the entire crew rooms cleaned as much as welcome guests.

In the course of the social gathering, group areas such because the dance flooring, essential lounge, cafeteria, and theatre might be open to the general public with totally different tokens from 1822 for guests to view.

The Clipper was first inbuilt 1904, coined the Juniata, as a passenger ship for immigrants that sailed between Buffalo, New York, and Duluth, Minnesota, till Max McKee and Mark McKee of the Sand Merchandise Corp. of Muskegon took over as house owners.

The McKee household constructed a brand new metal, streamlined construction earlier than renaming the ship the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper in 1941.

The ship had a capability at one level for 900 passengers, a crew of 110 and room for about 115 automobiles.

The Clipper was bought and moved to Chicago in 1977 earlier than returning to Muskegon in 1997 beneath the care of the brand new Nice Lakes Clipper Preservation Affiliation after an absence of 20 years.

S.S. Milwaukee Clipper

The S.S. Milwaukee Clipper used to hold 1000’s of passengers and vehicles between Muskegon and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photograph offered to MLive by Brock Johnson.Brock Johnson

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