Twenty six year old Nicolette Strickland has been working on the lakes for five seasons. Her and her friend Earl Franklin board an ore carrier from the mail boat in Detroit in August. The story picks up in November when the unloading boom goes overboard in heavy weather in Lake Superior. Nick has to help the other guys to get the boom back onboard. In Sault Ste Marie, they pick up an unwanted guest and Nick continues to rack her brain to figure out the identity of her secret admirer. After unloading in Cleveland, Nick gets into a fight with Earl. Nick meets the Mate at a restaurant and accidently discovers that he is the secret admirer. They both live in Marblehead, so he takes her home. When the boom is fixed, they go to Lorain to get a load of coal. They have to fix a turbine on the way. In Lake Huron the weather turns bad but they have Thanksgiving dinner on board. Nick and several guys get the 24 hour fl u before they get to Duluth. After unloading the coal, the ship goes to Winter lay-up and most of the crew leave. Nick and Earl catch a commercial flight to Cleveland. A couple of the crew are on the airplane. A week later they attend a retirement party for Captain Kompsii. A small fight ensues after the party. Back in Marblehead, Nick finds out that her former shipmate, Guiddo, is in bad shape from a stroke. Nick arranges to complete her degree over the winter. She finds herself hanging out with the Mate quite frequently.