Water laps gently against the traditional tall ship schooner while aboard the crew shouts commands and hauls up the red sails. A brisk wind catches them and the 77-foot schooner is off.

The schooner is owned by the Inland Seas Education Association, a non-profit organization in Suttons Bay whose mission is to inspire Great Lakes curiosity, stewardship and passion to people of all ages. This is done in part through hands-on research and a variety of public and family programs.

“The Great Lakes are probably one of the most important resources in the world, and we’re the guardians of this resource,” says Executive Director Fred Sitkins. “Involving participants in the research is a way to get more people involved and interested.”

ISEA offers a variety of programs including school field trips, boat-building classes, wetland walks and astronomy sails among others.

The Great Lakes Discovery Sail is an experience for the entire family. The schooner is a fully equipped research boat, which allows participants to collect plankton samples, trawl for fish, take samples from the lake bottom and complete a variety of water quality tests such as pH level. Participants can also help hoist the sails and steer the schooner during the three-hour sail.

The Young Men and Women in Science Programs allows high school students to conduct research projects on a two-day sailing trip aboard the Inland Seas. Participants learn how to use scientific instruments and develop their own research report.

“It’s not a one time visit,” Fred says. “You can learn and experience something new each trip.”

For 26 years, the volunteers at ISEA have worked with kids and adults to collect and analyze water samples from Lake Michigan in order to evaluate the overall health of the lake. Each year, as many as 5,000 students participate in the programs.

The next time you’re planning your Northern Michigan vacation add sailing to the list. Click here to learn more about the Inland Seas Education Association and their various programs. Check out MyNorthTickets.com to find a list of events going on!


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Photo(s) by Carly Simpson