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The Great Lakes Science Center makes touring the Mather a unique adventure

The tour begins in the welcome area with a safety instruction.
The tour begins in the welcome area with a safety instruction.
Mark Horning & Co. Photography

There are two ways to tour the Steamship William G. Mather. The first is to take the standard self guided walking tour that is available from June, July and August from Tuesday through Sunday during regular hours of 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with tickets costing $8.00 for adults and $6.00 for youth age 5 to 12. Or if you’re one of those who are fascinated with the behind the scenes inner workings of the boat and want to truly immerse yourself into the history of the Mather and how it operated then the Hard Hat Tour is definitely for you.

For a truly adventurous experience check out the William G. Mather Hard Hat Tour
Mark Horning & Co. Photography

Priced at $25.00 or $20.00 for GLSC members (which includes the standard walking tour afterwards) this rigorous tramping through the boat will take you to views seldom seen by the average tourist. Included in the tour are two guides who safely lead you through the inner passages and holds below deck while giving you a wealth of information about how the boat functioned, the innovations that made it truly unique as a flagship for the Cleveland Cliffs Company and what it took to keep this great material carrier afloat. There is also ample time to ask questions and engage in discussion about the Mather. The tours run from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on select Saturdays and Sundays from May to August.

As you begin the tour you don hard hats and safety glasses as you weave up and down, in and around various parts of the boat ducking under pipes and squeezing through various spaces. Your journey begins beneath the deck as you are taken inside one of the huge cargo holds where tons of sand now sits. The tour then goes through such areas as the bow area where the chain winch is and the anchor chain is stored.

From there you go through various cabins then on deck to see the bosun’s chair which unlike today’s modern and safer versions consisted of a plank of wood on a rope attached to a small boom and was used to get the first crewman to the dock (not the most sought after job on the boat). From there you walk across the long deck area making note of the manner in which the hatches were kept secure as well as how the ballast was maintained to keep the boat stable at all times.

After a quick walk through the officer crew quarters and the galley, the best is saved for last as you are taken to the five story tall engine room across a catwalk and through a door in the engineer’s bathroom which gave him easy access to the engine in times of problems. Once in the engine room you duck and bend under and around various obstacles while a running commentary is given about how the boat’s engine operated.

While being athletic is not a requirement, there is quite a bit of walking, climbing and descending as well as twisting your body around and through various areas but if you are up for a little adventure it is well worth the trouble. Lastly, a very special shout out to guides Aimee and Sean who patiently answered a gazillion of my questions without making me feel like an idiot.

Lastly, and most important is that space for the tours is limited and reservations are a must. You can get more information as well as booking the tour by calling (216) 621-2400 to register or by going on line at