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Hop aboard Milwaukee's only Great Lakes schooner

The world is now a place where we can get our online purchases delivered within hours by drones and when next day shipping isn’t available for something, it’s a problem.   In this time of immediacy it’s easy to forget when getting things from one place to another was a little more complicated. When roads were scarce and horsepower was measured by literal horses, tall ship schooners were the drones of the day.

In the 19 th century schooners were a common sight on the great lakes and carried cargo in bulk from port to port.  These ships had a huge impact on cities like Milwaukee and allowed them to develop.

In 1991 plans started on a replica ship.  It was completed in 2000 with the help of over 1000 volunteers.  Now, docked alongside the Discovery World Museum is the Denis Sullivan, a floating tribute and teaching vessel. 

The ship was christened the S.V. Denis Sullivan after captain and owner of the19th century ship Moonlight which was regarded as the fastest ship on the lakes. The Sullivan is comprised of three tall masts and has the triangular sail on the foremast that characterizes Great Lakes schooners.  It is currently the only replica of its kind in the world.

The Sullivan isn’t just a stationary commemorative ship.  It has a crew of eight to ten that live on board and sail multiple times a day out into the lake and beyond.  However, the ship’s main purpose these days isn’t hauling grain around Lake Michigan but is focused on education.

Discovery World offers programs and events for all ages.  During trips, visitors are encouraged to help the crew in their duties like raising sails and learning what it takes to man the ship. The Sullivan also brings students out onto the water to have an immersive environmental and field science experience.  Students learn about weather patterns, lake ecology, research procedures and environmental issues by taking samples, recording data and other tasks. 

To find out more about the Denis Sullivan and to see their program schedule, visit its official website here.  To hear about the crew’s experience’s living aboard the ship click the podcast player above.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee