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Sailor's Prayer


2015 Chicago Maritime Festival Presenters

South Pacific Traditions with Lanialoha Lee

Learn about the ancient and modern heritage of this rich maritime culture. Lee is a true tradition-bearer and native born Hawaiian raised in the Chicago area and third generation descendant of the first Polynesians who migrated to the Midwest. (See featured performers.)

Great Lakes Aircraft Carriers of World War II with Amanda Wetzel

With the threat of German U-boats and the attacks on Pearl Harbor the United States Government realized that they needed a safe haven for their pilots and navy personnel to train, but where? With the help of Captain Francis Richard Whitehead they found just the place, Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan was the only body of water in the United States not touched by foreign soil, and with the Navy Station in Chicago it became evident that this would be the place to train our pilots and aircraft personnel.  Lake Michigan offered unpredictable waters and weather, similar to what one would encounter on the oceans. Two side wheel steamer cruise ships, the SS Seeandbee and SS Greater Buffalo, were turned into Air Craft Carriers, the USS Sable and USS Wolverine. Training began in 1942, with the ships making trips between Chicago and Grand Traverse Bay almost daily. Pilots and Drones out of Traverse City would make the tricky landings on these carriers, which were sometimes successful, but not always. Over 17,000 men and women received training on Lake Michigan, one being future President George H.W. Bush.  Traverse City became a major supply port for the carriers, through the use of South Airport Access Road and the help of Luedtke Marine Construction Company in Frankfort, and Hannah Lay Coal Docks.  Learn a little bit more about the efforts of the Great Lakes to help support the war effort in the 1940s. 

Amanda Wetzel is a Michigan native who was introduced to the Great Lakes and their history from an early age and spent most of her summers travelling the Michigan coastlines with her family. Her passion for Michigan History spurred her into her undergraduate degree at Eastern Michigan University with a focus in Journalism and History. Wetzel continued onto her Masters degree from the Eastern Michigan University in Historic Preservation and graduated in April 2014 with a focus in museum practice. During her Masters Wetzel worked on various maritime projects around the state of Michigan and Ohio, and even was a fellow with the Thunderbay National Marine Sanctuary with a focus in education and outreach.  Wetzel began as the Assistant Director of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum in May of 2014. She now lives in Traverse City Michigan where she is involved also with the Girl Scouts of America and the Michigan Lighthouse Alliance Board.

Youth, by Joseph Conrad: A Dramatic Reading by Eric Sikora of Theatrical Readings


Hear a short classic by Joseph Conrad, in slightly abridged form. The lively work is read in character, with images corresponding to the narrative periodically projected behind the reader. 

Those that may have been mystified by Conrad's better known writings will be pleasantly surprised. In Youth, as in some of his other works, Conrad tells a story through the mouth of a fictional eyewitness. But this, unlike the others, is an autobiographical chronicle - Conrad's own first voyage as a merchant officer at the age of 20. The character Marlowe (narrator of Heart of Darkness and other works) recounts the light-hearted tale, seeming to conclude that life's only real attainment is to willfully experience full demands on one's abilities; an experience we seek only under youth's illusions. 

Based in Chicago, Theatrical Readings brings to life short classic literary works that beg to be read aloud. Our vision is to capture the lyrical attributes of great writing through staged readings.

Railroad Car Ferry Number Two - A Tale of Two Sinkings with John T. Bell

Railroad Car Ferry No. 2 capsized in the Chicago Harbor in 1906, was towed into the lake and sunk in 1907, and then blown up by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1908.  This presentation will explain the history of this ill-fated vessel, and present the results of a multi-year survey of her current condition conducted by the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago, including sketches, photographs, videos, and a site plan generated from sidescan sonar.

John Bell has been diving since 1990 and conducting amateur underwater archaeology since 2004.  Past President of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago, USAC John will soon complete part II of the Nautical Archaeology Society program in Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology.  John owns a small personal dive boat, the Diving Belle, from which he conducts sidescan sonar and underwater surveys of wreck sites in southern Lake Michigan.  Professionally, Dr. Bell teaches Computer Science at UIC.

The Lost Story Behind The Story of Chicago's Great 1893 World's Fair with Thomas Lutz

Find out the original site for the World's Fair.  See the original plan for the fair before it became the "Great White City".  Discover the people who made the magnificent improvement that
helped the Fair to be so widely remembered.
Thomas Lutz studied architecture at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in 1973. He then joined the historic preservation staff at the Minnesota Historical Society, becoming head of the historic sites program in 1974. There he was instrumental in planning the National Irvine Park Historic District, an early territorial area in the state capitol, and the massive National Historic Hill Historic District.
In 1975, he joined the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, becoming the assistant director soon after, where he was among three people who created the experimental regional Main Street Project, the forerunner of the later National Main Street Program. He then took a two year sabbatical in 1979, when he assumed the position of the Director of the Red Wing, Minnesota Downtown Development Association, as well as starting its community-wide historic preservation program. He returned to the National Trust in 1881, at the now National Main Street Center, in Washington, DC, where he served as the Senior Program Advisor to local Main Street programs in Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He also was the chief economic affairs advisor to many other Main Street communities.  Lutz again left the National Trust in 1987 when he became a private consultant for local and regional economic development programs.

World War II Airplanes at the Bottom of Lake Michigan? with Chet Childs

Find out how they got there with Chet Childs a professional photographer and videographer for the University of Chicago and various news services; his credits also include underwater shipwreck footage. As a Navy veteran, he has always been fascinated with the achievements of naval aviation during WWII and beyond. 

Planning Your Next Model Boat with Glenn Braun

So! You finally finished that model that ate up umpteen years if your life. What are you going to do now? Start another one, duh!" Find ideas, energy, and resources to help you sail smoothly into your next project.

Glenn has been building ship models for over fifty years and his works have been on exhibit at several maritime museums. Visit him in the exhibit hall where he will demonstrate various aspects of the ship model builders art, including ships-in-the-bottle, and other current projects.

Weather (or not) to Sail! with Amy Seeley

Learn how to navigate the National Weather Service website to get the latest forecast information and how to use it best as a sailor.

Amy is a Meteorologist and has been with the National Weather Service for over 20 years.  For 14 years, she was the Port Meteorological Officer for the Great Lakes, and trained commercial mariners on how to use NWS marine products and how to take marine observations while on the water. Now she works with recreational boaters and training them on what to expect weather wise while on the water. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in meteorology in 1992 and has received an NWS award for her presentations. She is involved in numerous organizations, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadron, and International Shipmasters Association.

Underwater Detectives: Welcome to the World of Water with Eugene Hasiak 

Learn the basics of the different equipment that is used, how to communicate underwater, plus different ways to document and record your findings. Participants will survey a 40' ship and receive a certificate of completing their first "Underwater Detectives" field project.

Gene Hasiak has been a member of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago for 20 years.  He is a Diveheart Ambassador and a Handicapped Scuba Association dive buddy.  Gene has presented Underwater Detectives programs to schools in Illinois and Wisconsin as well as the Western Michigan Underwater Preserve at the Ships and Technology show, the Indiana Dept of Natural Resources, the Knox Indiana Public Library, and the University of Michigan, Munising at the Land of Lakes Festival. 

Chicago Maritime Museum 2015: What's New! with Jerry Thomas


The goal of the Chicago Maritime Society it is to establish a Chicago Maritime Museum. In pursuit of that goal, the Society moved its facilities to the Bridgeport Art Center at the end of January. Planning the new museum, a daunting but exciting task, is being carried out with the help of some very able people. The seminar will focus on the plans for the new museum while weaving together some of the facts about where the Society has been and the vision of what it can become.  See what people can do to help make that vision a reality!

Architectural plans and renderings have been provided by Dirk Lohan, Vice-President of CMS. The floor plan will allow the museum to display a small number of exhibits and also store its extensive inventory of small artifacts. Larger artifacts such as the Ralph Frese Canoe Collection and other watercraft are currently housed at Crowley’s Yacht Yard; Grant Crowley is Treasurer of CMS.

Jerry Thomas has had varied experience from research in high energy particle physics at CERN to industrial applications at Bell Labs and Motorola. He is an avid sailor and competitor and extremely interested in Chicago’s maritime history. Jerry is active in a number of Chicago not-for-profit organizations and is currently President CMS. 


Open Forum at the Grafton Pub

Moderated by Bill Derrah, CMM Board Member &Voyageur


For Ralph …          

A jaunty tuque and a long canoe – unwinding the secret streams

A hammer hard on red hot iron -- bending and shaping the stuff of dreams        

A hearty laugh and a helping hug – unbounded in the passion of life

A sparkling eye and a skeptical glance – reveling in the unfolding of the unknown

A wildflower seed in lost a prairie – sewing a legacy that grows through time

                                                    … Chris Kastle, 2012

Share your favorite memory or story of Ralph Frese and celebrate his life. 

Popularly known as “Mr. Canoe,” Ralph paddled the same waterways that carried the canoes of Native Americans, explorers, and the founders of Chicago. He devoted his life to keeping rivers and lakes clean for all to enjoy and educated people about the importance of waterway conservation. For over 60 years, Ralph’s outstanding accomplishments included founding the Chicagoland Canoe Base (his business where he built handcrafted canoes and practiced as a fourth generation blacksmith), taught local Boy Scout troops how to build their own canoes, helped the Cook County Clean Streams Committee transform Chicago Rivers, organized the annual Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon (now in its 54th year) to help draw attention to the scenic Des Plaines River as a valuable resource to preserve, and served as a charter member and vice-president of the Chicago Maritime Society. In 2010 he was the recipient of the National Rivers Hall of Fame Achievement Award. He was the first recipient of the American Canoe Association’s “Legends of Paddling” award in 1994, inducted into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2006, and received awards from the Cook County Board of Commissioners the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Bureau of the Interior, to name just a few. Three years ago, a stretch of the wooded upper Chicago River was declared the “Ralph Frese Canoe Trail”.  

 Model Boat Building For Kids  

Design and built your own model boat – from motor vessel to tall ship – it’s up to you. Take your model home. All materials provided.

The Art of Knots with John DeWilde & JP Honeywell  

Exhibit & Demonstration  


Join John and JP at their amazing display of bell ropes, mats, and turkheads made of traditional and modern material. Most of the pieces have been created recently and have not been displayed at the festival in any previous year. Learn about Marlinespike seamanship, functional knotting, and decorative knotting.

John DeWilde and JP Honeywell are both members of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. 

Bawdy Sea Songs at the Grafton Pub


Featured performers and special guests will perform totally uncensored shanties and sea songs. No one under 18 will be admitted.