Sailing and Cruising the Great Lakes and Beyond

Death’s Door off Washington Island
Warm weather brings the sight of watercraft on Lake Michigan around the Door Peninsula and Washington Island of different sizes and class of vessels from yachts to skiffs. All over the Great Lakes summer brings the sight of vessels, the lakes being formed long ago when the Ice Age was ending and glacier melting caused receding to form the largest series of freshwater lakes in America and the world. Cold and deep, the Great Lakes has also a history of tragedies and shipwrecks. The St. Lawrence Seaway connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean for those adventurous vessel owners.
Commercial fishing has been one of the major industries on the Peninsula as well as all over the Great Lakes region, and the depiction of a mariner standing with a farmer is on the Wisconsin state flag.
All summer visitors and vessel-owning residents sail or motor the waters of Lake Michigan from and to the Peninsula, Washington Island, navigating the treacherous waters of the Death’s Door passage between Door Peninsula and Washington Island where a ferry runs on a tight schedule all year long; as well as visitations to points of interest to see the lighthouses and the historic Rock Island. 

Egg Harbor-East; photo by KAL-2011
The DCS&PS [Door County Sail and Power Squadron] is one of 445 charters across the United States whose members involve themselves with community service, continuing education, and social activities. It was chartered in 1954 as the Sturgeon Bay Power Squadron, but the name was changed in 2001 to reflect its county-wide membership.
The DCS&PS activities include vessel safety checks that are courtesy inspections to verify the presence and condition of safety equipment required by state and federal regulations for owners of vessels from ocean-yachts [built and repaired here in Sturgeon Bay by Peterson Builders] to rowboats. The inspections cover life jackets, engines, fire extinguishers, running lights, flares, general cleanliness and tidiness.
The DCS&PS examiner also makes recommendations and discusses safe boating practices. Owner whose vessel passes the safety check receives a signed check sheet and an inspection sticker after passing the inspection that is approved by the Coast Guard. The owners, after passing inspection, get a discount on boat insurance. Free vessel safety checks are available all summer at marinas in Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, Baileys Harbor, and Fish Creek. Check with your marina for exact dates.
The DCS&PS is involved in partnership with the Door County Maritime Museum, Quarterdeck Marina, and Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club for projects and fundraisers like the Annual Classic & Wooden Boat Festival, as well as waterfront cleanup at Sunset Park, Sturgeon Bay on 3rd Avenue. The squadron also works with the local fire departments to demonstrate the correct use of flares and how to properly use a fire extinguisher for various on-board fires.
The ABC-3, America’s Boating Course, is offered to the public at a fee once or twice per year. It has become popular in Door County, especially since Wisconsin law requires that anyone born on or after January 1st, 1989, at least 16 years old, may operate a motorboat only if he/she has completed a boating safety course accepted by the Wisconsin DNR. The course is eight hours.
The ABC-3 basic course can be followed [voluntarily] by five advanced courses that include seamanship, basic piloting, advanced piloting and more. The courses start with the basic seamanship course that teaches about water safety and knowing about buoys and navigation rules. The next series of courses include paper chart navigation, the use of charts to plot a course and figure distances using coordinates and navigation tools that has been used since the days of Christopher Columbus. The course series teaches how to navigate by the sun and stars using a sextant, as well as advanced navigation like GPS and other electronic equipment and offshore navigation.
Two-hour seminars are available that cover boat handling to using a marine radio and five elective courses that includes weather, marine electronics, engine maintenance, ans sail/cruise planning.
The weather course is important for water safety, whether taking short cruises or long ones, for the Great Lakes is infamous for its sudden bad weather that can put an inexperienced and uninformed vessel operator into some serious and life-threatening situations. Many shipwrecks lie on the bottom of the Great Lakes of all sizes, some dating back to the ancient native canoes and early exploration vessels before America was settled. The courses are definitely worth the time and money, as well as interesting. Cruise courses teach navigation at various levels for navigating American waters in the Great Lakes, Florida, and Mississippi River.
Instructors for the cruise planning are Andrea and Jim Jauqet who are experienced navigators who took their 35-foot sailboat to the Mediterranean Sea and left it there. Each summer since then they have been to different foreign ports. They are a great source of knowledge and provide helpful tips for long cruises, such as coating eggs with Vaseline, which allows them to stay fresh for weeks in tropical weather.
If you would like additional information about DCS&PS, its courses and activities, contact JoAnne Rosenfeld at 920-559-7530 or send email to: or visit their website.

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