2016-09-29 / Life in Leelanau

All aboard!

Inland Seas Education Association to welcome 65-foot schooner in Greilickville today
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


THE SCHOONER Utopia this week was headed from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., to Discovery Pier in Greilickville where it will be permanently based and put to use by the Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA). THE SCHOONER Utopia this week was headed from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., to Discovery Pier in Greilickville where it will be permanently based and put to use by the Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA). Leelanau County was expected to become the new home of yet another tall ship today.

The famed 65-foot schooner Utopia was slated to arrive today at Discovery Pier in Greilickville after a voyage across Lake Michigan from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., where it was built in 1946.

The ship has been donated to the Suttons Baybased Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) by Ellsworth Peterson, retired chairman of the boat building company Peterson Builders.

Ellsworth Peterson’s father, the late Fred J. Peterson, built the ship and circumnavigated the globe aboard her with a seven-member crew on a three-year voyage that began in 1956.

At the time, the historic voyage was widely covered by news media around the world and was the subject of a National Geographic film.

It is estimated that Utopia has logged more than 60,000 miles, including several Chicago- Mackinac races.

In recent decades, Utopia has been a goodwill ambassador in Door County, Wis., and elsewhere, hosting numerous non-profit events and receptions, according to an ISEA news release.

ISEA already operates the “schoolship” Inland Seas, a 61-foot schooner based at the former coal dock in Suttons Bay. ISEA also offers schoolship programs aboard the 110-foot charter schooner Manitou based at Discovery Pier in Greilickville.

Rotary Charities recently purchased the pier from Traverse City Light & Power which used it as a coal dock for many years. The pier was opened to the public and renamed Discovery Pier earlier this year because it is used primarily by a collection of water-related non-profit organizations operating under the umbrella of the Discovery Center – Great Lakes.

Most of the Discovery Center organizations are based on the west side of M-22 (S. West Bay Shore Drive) opposite the pier. ISEA recently became an affiliate of the Discovery Center so it could expand its operations southward from Suttons Bay.

ISEA officials said the addition of Utopia will allow ISEA to reach more individuals with its mission of “inspiring Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship and passion.”

ISEA executive director Fred Sitkins said, “there is no doubt in our minds that Utopia is a perfect platform for developing a love of our Great Lakes.”

Specific plans for how Utopia will be used will be determined after a Coast Guard inspection, according to ISEA officials. Customarily, larger vessels must pass a stringent Coast Guard inspection before they may be used to transport passengers.

Plans are in place for ISEA to purchase a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and develop an underwater course for school groups and the public beginning in 2017. The purchase will be made through a grant secured from the Worthington Foundation, according to ISEA officials. The ROV program will be run from Utopia beginning next summer at Discovery Pier.

“Inland Seas Education Association is the ideal new home for Utopia,” said Ellsworth Peterson, who donated the ship to ISEA. “After our research, we determined that space, economics and programming precluded our leaving her in Sturgeon Bay.”

Peterson’s friend and crew mate, Jerry Waite, introduced Peterson to ISEA where he learned how the association’s environmental and student education programs could allow Utopia continue the maritime legacy that began in 1946.

On its globe-spanning voyage, Utopia stopped at ports in the Azores, Tangiers, Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Trinidad, Havana, Tonga, Galapagos, the Solomon’s, New Guinea and dozens more.

Said Sitkins: “We’re thankful for the story of Utopia and the Peterson family and will work hard to ensure that this story is told to as many people as possible.”

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