"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum has an important mission, to educate the public about the ships that sailed the Great Lakes over the centuries. Also to honor the sailors that have given their lives while serving aboard their ships when the weather turned deadly.
Our first connection to this museum occurred on February 24th when we went to the Mad City Model Railroad Show and Sale in Madison. There was an Edmund Fitzgerald model there and the museum was mentioned also.
We got there just before they opened so we looked around awhile. There is a historic marker for the lighthouse. To see everything, allow yourself 3 hours.
You can even stay overnight here!
The museum opened and we took the optional lighthouse tour too. Our guide Kate was wonderful and was enthusiastic in her delivery. the view was amazing at the top. You could also see the mouth of the St. Mary River from here if it is clear enough.
Visibility was real good that day, this is the view from Google Maps of what you are seeing here.
A fishing trawler was also visible.
The light itself, impressive!
She even took a selfie with us afterwards, thanks!
The video also has some of the other exhibits we saw.
We did the lighthouse tour first, so now it was time to explore the other exhibits. The first building was the Coast Guard Surf Boat House.
In here is a rescue surfboat on display, this model has enabled rescuers to save many lives.
Next door in this building are Edmund Fitzgerald exhibits. The song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” specifically mentions Whitefish Bay so it was still surreal that we were there. There was a model of the ship made of Legos® (video) on display.
In this building is also a wood cut-out to take a picture with.
And now for the last building with many more shipwreck exhibits, and artifacts from the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Edmund Fitzgerald large display, there was also a video playing showing all of the 29 crew members who died in the deadly November 10, 1975 storm.
The real ship bell. You could not help but to feel sadness thinking of this brave crew and their sacrifice.
There were many other ships represented too along the wall on the right side of the room.
After exploring the exhibits here we went down to the shore. You accessed it on a boardwalk and stairs down. It was sandy with stones worn smooth by the water.
There were also dedications to the Edmund Fitzgerald shore side too, we could almost imagine the storm that sealed their fate. This one listed the 29 crew members.
On the shore were three more for three of the crew men, resembling gravestones.
The summer shoreline is quiet and peaceful, the piles of driftwood showed the results of when conditions get rough.
We took a solemn self-portrait here among the driftwood, remember all the sailors who passed on. We are glad we came here during our one day in the U.P. of Michigan.
We finished our day in Mackinaw City by exploring The Icebreaker Mackinaw, a decommissioned Coast Guard ship built to keep an open waterway in the winter. It is open May through early October, admission is $11 for adults, ages 6-17 are $6. Get your tickets at the end of the pier in the ticket building. It looks like a buoy. There is also a ship propeller on display. The marker above is also nearby.
We began our walk towards the ship, there were informational signs along the way.
Al served in the Navy in the 1980’s, and he informed me that rank and decorations for service are the same in Coast Guard. Al showed me the decoration he earned during his years of service.
We approach the gangway and are welcomed aboard. The staff are friendly and are there to answer any questions you might have.
We began with an orientation before our self-guided tour. We saw a short film about the ship and it’s important role keeping the seaways open during WW II and after. The citizens of Mackinaw City didn’t want this ship to be sitting in a scrapyard after it was decommissioned. They banded together and purchased the ship and converted it into a maritime museum. We are so glad they did! The way between levels are essentially ladders, watch your step!
The Ward Room
Chief Petty Officer Mess
1st Class Petty Officer’s Lounge
Berthing Crew Quarters for the Women Crew Members
Watch your step!
If this ship were operating, you would get a pair of ear plugs before entering the Engine Room, our next stop. Jim told us about how the engine worked.
The engine room was impressive even silent, we could imagine the power it would have running. We went back up the ladder to the Main Deck again. The route is clearly marked with arrowed signs. Saw this plaque commemorating 50 years of ice breaking on the wall. Congratulations on a half-century of fine service to the fleet!
Since I am a cook, the galley was of particular interest to me. I took a picture through the plexiglass. There was a small monitor with a video describing kitchen operations. One of the docents answering people’s questions in this area offered to take me inside the kitchen, thanks! This kitchen is bigger than I expected for being on board a ship, very impressive!
After the galley went out to the deck. we are looking to the former Railroad Dock area of the marina. On shore is a marker describing it.
Now we enter the Enlisted Crew area.
Executive Officer Office
Now we head upstairs to the deck and Pilot House. What a great view up here!
And now the view from the deck! Ferries, freighters and parasailing all at the same time. This is a very busy place in the summer!
Our tour is at a conclusion. Allow yourself at least 2 hours to explore the ship, and be sure to pick a memento at the Ship Store. If you don’t have time to take the tour, you can still stop in the store.
We highly recommend coming here for the tour. We learned a lot and had a great time. It’s not every day you get to see the inside of a Coast Guard Icebreaker.
The Icebreaker Mackinaw is in need of a complete repainting to preserve the hull. A Gofundme
account has been set up for donations. Please help if you can!
Our day in Mackinaw City would not be complete without a visit to the Mackinaw Bridge Museum to learn more about this important connection between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. It is open spring through fall, closes in winter. Residents and visitors alike love their bridge and are not shy about showing it. Our first view of the bridge as we approached Mackinaw City sparked the same reaction in us. The bridge celebrates its 60th birthday in 2017.
The agency charged with the upkeep of the bridge and safety of people crossing is the Mackinac Bridge Authority. They have offices in both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
There is a $4.00 toll payable on the St. Ignace side, which helps pay for maintenance and professional drivers. They drive people across the bridge in bad conditions or if you have a fear of bridges. Tune your radio to 530 or 1610 AM to hear a broadcast on bridge conditions. If there are good conditions, you hear a welcoming message to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).
Across the street is Luck’s Antique Mall, where we got an early start on Christmas shopping. Stop here to find a unique gift or antique for that special someone. It used to be a Ford garage 100 years ago.
If you cross the street at the bridge and walk far enough, you will see a HUGE eagle mural on the back. Artist Randy Koenecke did a great job showing off the village mascot, the American eagle. The mural was painted in 2014.
Visit the Tripp Memorial Museum to learn more about the Sauk Prairie (Sauk City and Prairie du Sac) area.
Buy or rent or watch the latest movies at the Bonham Theater and Video in the Bonham building. You can also get video games here. The building might date back to the 1920’s. It has an interesting historic feature in the lower left corner above the blue door, a cornerstone that says “air-conditioned”. Neat!
Be sure to take a peek on the eagle-watching platform overlooking the river.
Two shops are in the building to the right of the tackle shop. DMarie Knit and Fiber has great knitted gifts yarn to make your own. Also needlepoint supplies. Prairie Pet Styles next door to get your pet groomed.