GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Christmas stories come in all kinds of packages.

This one is about a package that’s quite large, a Great Lakes freighter more than two football fields long.

At Christmas, Captain Gary Schmidt would still be aboard his vessel, the tug/barge combination Dorothy Ann/Pathfinder, on the lakes some distance from his home in Allouez, just across the street from my house.

As a married-in part of his family, at Christmas I was asked to stand in for him and say something of meaning at the large gatherings in his home.

How is that for a gift?

Always included was a phrase that we should keep in mind “those not with us.”

Gary could be sailing near Detroit, Alpena, Marquette, Cleveland, Marblehead, Saginaw, Petosky, Duluth, The Soo, Thunder Bay, Manistique, Toledo, Erie, Chicago or who knows where.

One Christmas, his brother, Dale, said to me, “You should write a book with Gary. He has so much to tell.”

Eventually, I wrote that book, with Captain Schmidt telling me all the ins and outs of what it is like to sail aboard a massive freighter on the rugged Great Lakes in all weather.

And then appearances on behalf of the book took us on wide adventures that were new to me and the captain.

Years later, it was a gift to have the opportunity to write about our “rest of the story.”

Gary loved being on WFRV-TV, Channel 5.

And fascinating audiences in person with his pictures and stories.

And seeing how people enjoyed meeting a real Great Lakes captain.

And hearing his tales about his 40-plus years of real, honest sailing.

The Christmas connection is in a chapter in “Real, Honest Book with a Great Lakes Captain.”

The book and the captain. (Warren Gerds)

The book also connects with the Neville Public Museum, 210 Museum Place in Green Bay, where Captain Schmidt twice presented story-filled, picturesque programs for large audiences. The book is on sale in museum’s gift shop, along with my other books.

Also in the book is a photo of Captain Schmidt and me appearing at Artstreet arts festive in downtown Green Bay, with Bosse’s hosting local authors. Bosse’s News and Tobacco, 220 Cherry St., sells “Real, Honest Book with a Great Lakes Captain” along with my other books.

For booksellers, Thunder Bay Press in West Branch, Michigan, carries “Real, Honest Book with a Great Lakes Captain” as part of its motto, “We bring the Great Lakes to you.” Captain Schmidt saw the whole of the Great Lakes, which is rich in maritime history of which he is a part.

Also selling the book is the Buffalo Harbor Museum, 66 Erie St. Buffalo, New York. The museum’s gift shop carries the book because of Captain Schmidt’s insights on what it is like to be a captain on the Great Lakes, which can include being away from loved ones at Christmas.