It is a special treat to serve as the new president of the Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition, WIDMAC. I live in Milwaukee and have worked in the American maritime industry for much of my professional life so highlighting Wisconsin’s vibrant maritime industry is particularly meaningful.
Wisconsin is undeniably an important American maritime state. Consider this:
On the west, the state is bordered by the Upper Mississippi River. A steady stream of tug and barge traffic moves along this important waterway. Many Wisconsin cities have longstanding historic or commercial connections to one of America’s longest navigable waterways.
The east coast of Wisconsin is formed by Lake Michigan with Lake Superior to the north. By any measure, Wisconsin is a major maritime Great Lakes state.
The Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association lists 14 commercial port serving domestic and foreign vessels throughout the state, including major Great Lakes ports in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Superior. In addition, 15 Wisconsin charter boat/fishing ports also dot the Wisconsin coasts.
Wisconsin is a major American shipbuilding hub in Superior, De Pere, Marinette, and Sturgeon Bay. Thousands of skilled jobs are directly linked to these shipyards, which produce and maintain vessels for the commercial maritime industry and the U.S. Department of Defense. Wisconsin also is home to important recreational boat builders in Superior, Manitowoc, and Zenda.
Two high profile ferry operators transport cargo and passengers across Lake Michigan and connect Wisconsin and Michigan. To the north, the historic S.S. BADGER runs between Manitowoc and Ludington, Michigan. To the south, the LAKE EXPRESS fast ferry connects Milwaukee with Muskegon, Michigan.
Add to that the state’s rich maritime heritage. In the 1673, Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet canoed on state rivers and the Great Lakes in the historic exploration of the Mississippi River. Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee, was settled in the 1800s in great part because of its strategic location at the confluence of three rivers and Lake Michigan. The Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc highlights the region’s maritime heritage and submarine construction for the U.S. Navy in World War II.
The purpose of WIDMAC is to highlight the importance of the domestic maritime industry, including the current commercial maritime industry, to Wisconsin. That’s not hard to do given the far-reaching importance of the maritime business to the state.
Fantail of the EDGAR B. SPEER
Two historic vessels with Wisconsin ties acquired
The S.S. BADGER, a National Historic Landmark, and the tug/barge combination UNDAUNTED/PERE MARQUETTE 41 have been sold to Interlake Holding Company based near Cleveland, Ohio. Both the sellers and buyers are family-owned, U.S.-based operations.
The BADGER was built in Sturgeon Bay, WI and launched in 1953 for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Since her launch, the BADGER has been sailing between Ludington, Michigan, and ports in Wisconsin. Since 1992, that route has been Ludington to Manitowoc.
The UNDAUNTED/PERE MARQUETTE 41 have their own unique history. The UNDAUNTED was launched in 1944 and served in the Western Pacific during World War II as a “retriever tug.” She served the Navy, Maritime Administration, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, and as a training ship for the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York before entering the Great Lakes in 1993. In 1998, with a few modifications, she was paired with the deck barge PERE MARQUETTE 41, originally launched in 1941 as the railcar ferry, CITY OF MIDLAND before being converted and carries what may well be the most diverse cargoes in the Great Lakes on both sides of the border.
The BADGER will continue to make 450 crossings of Lake Michigan each year between Ludington and Manitowoc, May through October, carrying as many as 600 passengers each trip and her lower decks filled with cars, tour buses, RVs, motorcycles, and commercial trucks. The UNDAUNTED/PERE MARQUETTE 41 will keep a very busy sailing season between late-March and mid-January frequenting nearly 30 ports in the U.S. and Canada.
Tug/Barge UNDAUNTED/PERE MARQUETTE 41
The Great Lakes Towing Company Christens Tug WISCONSIN
There’s a new tug WISCONSIN working the Great Lakes. While she’ll be working the waters in and around Cleveland, Ohio she carriers a storied name in the industry. Just christened in December she takes the name WISCONSIN from another Great Lakes Towing Company tug built in 1897. That tug is one of the most durable and storied tugs on the Great Lakes: sunk twice and burned twice. She will lose her name to the new tug but will remain a working tug for Great Lakes Towing, the oldest in their fleet.
CALUMET in tow with Tug WISCONSIN, Scott Tish
Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition (WIDMAC) | 3515 N. Summit Ave., Shorewood, WI 53211