In my (endless) research into the first book of the Blood Guardians series, I found myself wondering about the fastest route available to two vampires trying to make a quick escape. That’s when I stumbled on the Packet Boats of the canals. They were the monster trucks of the water freeways in the 1830s (when the book takes place), with a 14 foot width and 70-90 feet long. The boats squeaked through the two-lane canals and were drawn by horses or mules.
Their ability to carry any type of cargo was one of their greatest benefits. They hauled mail, building materials and food, and all for a fraction of the overland price. Their greatest contribution to the United States, however, was their hauling of settlers to the west. Packet boats could carry up to 60 passengers at a time, and the water route was a much faster and more comfortable way to get out west. All those passengers, with the invaluable help of the packet boats, settled the old Northwest (Wisconsin) and what’s now known as the Rust Belt (Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, etc.).
Without these boats, the west would have still been won, but definitely at a slower, costlier pace.