According to the incurably romantic story-telling of Dwight Boyer ("True Tales of the Great Lakes," "Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes," etc.), even the plodding ore freighters, limestone haulers, and coal barges of our great inland lakes are referred to as 'she'-- whether her name is 'Edmund FitzGerald' or 'James H. Reed,' 'she' could be a sweet-handling lady or a cranky individualist with a tendency to sink at the slightest provocation.
One of my favorite Dwight Boyer stories in this book concerns a cantankerous whaleback named 'Henry Cort.' For twenty-five years she was a steady worker making the long haul from the upper lakes to Ohio and back, her holds full of ore and grain. But increasingly larger carriers took over the long hauls and 'Henry Cort' was reduced to "carrying pig iron, scrap, slag and heaven-knows-what, always ending up in some evil-smelling backwater dock wreathed in the noxious fumes of foundry furnaces."
Naturally she revolted. When she was asked to function as an ice-breaker for the larger, more modern ships, 'Henry Cort' disobligingly sank and took her winter's rest under the waters of Lake Erie. She was raised the next season and resumed her career as a short-hauler. She drove hard onto a reef and sank.
According to Admiral Grace Hopper, "a ship in port is safe..." but not this old whaleback. She was raised and worked for five more years, then sank with her bow tied to a Detroit dock!
Pumped out and patched, she dashed against a Muskegon breakwater, 3000 feet from shore during a furious gale and down she went. Even her faithful engineer, who had stayed with her through three sinkings gave up with her this time: "To hell with 'er!" he is reported to have said, as he scrambled up the icy rocks of the breakwater.
"Strange Adventures of the Great Lakes" may not be Boyer's best book (my favorite is "Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes") but he spins vivid tales of fresh-water ships like the 'Cort' and of the eccentric, heroic crews who sometimes came ashore without them.