Capt. A.C. Majo Still
Running Ferry at the
Age of 84
Since infancy, when he had his firs ride on a windjammer, Capt. Albert C. Majo, now 84 years of age and one of the oldest active lake captains, has spent every sailing season on the Great Lakes following the career which his father had before him.
For the last thirty-five years or so, Capt. Majo has operated a ferry line between Duluth and Superior, in recent years having only one boat, the familiar "Hattie Lloyd." Capt. Majo who was born in 1847 in Chicago - then a city of only 16,000 inhabitants, has earned his living as a sailor since he was 16 years of age. Love for the Great Lakes sparkles in the old captain's eyes as he tells of his experiences.
Shortly after his birth his father, who did not like Chicago, took him and his mother aboard a sailing vessel bound for Cape Vincent, N.Y., near where the St. Lawrence river has its headwaters with Lake Ontario. "That was my first boat ride - in my mother's arms," Capt. Majo said.
Taught Sailing Art
His father sailed in and out of Cape Vincent, in the meantime teaching Capt. Majo the art of sailing. He taught him how to hold a course by compass, how to handle the helm of a sailing vessel.
When Capt. Majo was 16 years of age he obtained a bert as "a boy before the mast" on a sailing vessel bound from Cape Vincent to Chicago. "That was my first trip back to my birthplace," the captain said. The crew, besides himself and the captain, numbered five men. "Every boat in the days of sailing vessels had a boy before the mast whose job it was to climb atop to furl or unfurl the sails," he explained. "I was only a boy, but I had been taught sailing and I could handle the helm as well as the men."
So Capt. Majo on his first trip as a regular sailor steered his course towards Chicago during his watches. "They told me what course to hold, so I watched the compass, and I had no trouble."
In command of the schooner, called the "Flying Cloud," was Capt, James T. Borland, who son, Dwight, still lives at Cape Vincent. "If you use this in the paper," the captain said, "I'm going to send a copy to the old captain's son back there in Cape Vincent."
He sailed the Great Lakes on various schooners, brigs and barks during the last years of the Civil War. The captain recalls several of the songs the sailors sang during the war.
"We don't have those old fashioned songs any more. The new ones are not so rollicking. Why, I listened to the radio the other night and these new ones - well, they're not so good as they were when I was a boy."
After sailing a few years on windjammers, Capt. Majo had saved enough money to buy a tug. He established himself at Muskegon, Mich., in those days a bustling lumber center. From Muskegon. From Muskegon sailing vessels transported lumber to Chicago.
"My, those were lively days," the captain said. "We worked night and day because there were seven or eight other tugs and the competition was fast. When a schooner would come in from the lake there would be a race for the tow line. There were no eight-hour days then. We lived on our boats."
He remained at Muskegon until about 1894, when he came to Duluth and established a ferry line. For some years he had a fleet of ferry boats operating between Duluth and Superior. He recalled a few of their names - The Belle, Crescent, Ideal, and Swanser.
Affect Ferry Business
Then the automobile came. It affected the ferry business, and as a result Capt. Majo reduced his fleet to one boat - the"Hattie Lloyd," which is still in operation. In those days Capt. Major ferried Duluth workers across the bay to Superior. The first trip was made at 6:15. Business was brisk and all of his boats were busy until the automobile began to cause his business to decrease.
The automobile - once almost his nemisis - now brings him plenty of trade to keep him busy during the summer months. Tourists from inland cities are his chief customers. Many of them have never had a boat ride before.
The "Hattie Lloyd" makes regular tours around the harbor, giving the tourists views of one of the busiest inland ports in the world. He will not tell who the "Hattie Lloyd" is named after, except to say it is the maiden name of a Duluth woman. "No, I didn't name her. I left that name on her when I bought the boat."
The captain and his wife, whom he married in Muskegon, live at 318 14th Avenue East.