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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer Guide 2014

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Milwaukee’s lakefront gets most of the attention, but it’s not the only body of water that helps make our city a great place to live. According to some authorities, Milwaukee means “meeting of the waters,” specifically, the convergence of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers with Lake Michigan.

Now that the warm season is arriving after one of the hardest winters on record, Milwaukeeans will be spending free time outdoors. Some of us will spend it on the water. In this year’s Shepherd Express Summer Guide, we look at options for sailing on the lake and paddling up and down the rivers. And if dry land suits you just fine, we have once again compiled the city’s comprehensive roster of outdoor events and festivals.

You deserve a break from the cold. Enjoy!

For a comprehensive summer festival listing, click here.

MCSC teaches sailing at every level
Setting Sail on a Great Lake

By Emily Patti

Rather than remaining a mere admirer of Milwaukee’s majestic lakefront this season, perhaps it’s time to set sail and welcome adventure on the expansive waters of Lake Michigan. A novice will likely require the assistance and guidance of the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center (1450 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive), a private, nonprofit agency that offers basic, intermediate and advanced sailing classes for adult and youth members. A Milwaukee presence since 1977, the MCSC has taught nearly 15,000 adults and more than 18,000 children and individuals with disabilities how to sail since initiating classes in 1980, and with summer courses offered from early May through late August, MCSC’s impact and outreach is bound to continue.

 

Helping Milwaukeeans Set Sail

 

“Each course has its own set of requirements and the classes get more complex and specific as a student moves into the upper-level classes,” explains MCSC CEO Margaret Jaberg. “As a student moves into the more advanced classes, they have the opportunity to move beyond the Ensign [a training boat used for Adult Basic Sailing classes] to other, more exciting boats.” Among them are the Soling (a former Olympic race boat), the J/24 (a large boat, requiring a team of five to six crew members) and the 470 (a centerboard boat with spinnaker). “Simply put, the more advanced classes you take, the wider variety of sailboats you can use, and the more sailing experiences you can gain,” Jaberg said.

And while the advanced and intermediate classes provide supplementary skill building and comprehensive enrichment exercises, it is the completion of the Adult Basic Sailing course and its subsequent evaluation that grants participating MCSC members the opportunity to sail independently or with guests on a selection of the MCSC’s fleet. Comprised of eight three-hour sessions, the Adult Basic Sailing Program covers a variety of sailing essentials, including sailing terms, steering, docking procedures, boat parts, jibing and the Quick Turn crew overboard maneuver. Offered in both afternoon and evening classes, the MCSC also offers an intensive, weekend Adult Basic Sailing course intended for time-stressed individuals.

MCSC also engages Milwaukee area youth through its series of programs and courses. Designed for children 12-17, the Youth Sailing Program requires parental consent, a completed medical form and “swim check,” and established MCSC youth membership prior to registration. Divided into three levels, each series of classes carries a fee of $85, but scholarships are available through the Milwaukee Area Sailing Teens (MAST) program, a collaborative effort to provide educational and sailing opportunities for disadvantaged and at-risk youth.

For children ages 8-11, there is the Prams in the Park program, a water safety and sailing education course offered from late June to mid August. Held at the Juneau Park and Discovery World lagoons, Prams in the Park affords children from diverse economic backgrounds the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain confidence through sailing.

An alumnus of MCSC’s adult sailing program, Jaberg promises that the center’s staff, seasonal employees and dedicated volunteers will continue to transform attitudes and strengthen communities with instruction and care. “Sailing is a contradiction—it’s challenging as well as relaxing and it’s different every time you do it,” Jaberg explains. “You have to think about it while you’re doing it, because there are always conditions in the water that are different. It’s empowering and it makes you feel more confident, so that after the sail you feel like you’ve really accomplished something and enjoyed your time.”

To learn more about MCSC programs visit sailingcenter.org or call 414-277-9094.

 

Paddling Milwaukee’s Rivers
The adventure of kayaking and canoeing

By Susan Harpt Grimes

At one time Milwaukee’s rivers were vital for not only transportation and commerce, but recreation as well. A multitude of swimming and boating clubs once dotted the banks of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic. Sadly, as was the case with many urban rivers, pollution and overdevelopment took their toll. In the not-too-distant past, environmental groups like the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition and Milwaukee Riverkeeper led the way to reverse the damage done along Milwaukee’s waterways. Now the rivers are once again becoming a great place for recreation.

The Milwaukee River does allow motorized watercraft, but the best way to explore the quieter reaches and the narrow, shallow parts of the Menomonee and the Kinnickinnic is in a personal craft like a kayak, canoe or a stand-up paddleboat. First-time paddlers may be surprised by how many green places and wild animals still survive along an urban river and also gain a new perspective on our city only available from the water.

 

What You’ll Need

If you don’t already own a kayak, canoe or paddleboat, you may want to rent one before you make an investment in all of the appropriate gear. The easiest option for folks without a trailer or roof rack is to rent from the Milwaukee Kayak Company (318 S. Water St.). Located in the Third Ward, they offer the opportunity to launch directly from their private dock. Rentals are reasonably priced at $25 for four hours on a kayak or paddleboat, and $40 for canoes or tandem kayaks. All rentals include the use of a personal floatation device (PFD) and dry bag (if needed). A big plus here is Milwaukee Kayak’s central location—paddlers are perfectly positioned to explore any or all of Milwaukee’s rivers.

Although Laacke and Joys recently closed their Downtown location, they do still offer rentals at their Brookfield store (19233 W. Bluemound Road). Rates run $35-$60 for a day depending on the type of kayak rented, $45 on canoes and $45 for paddleboards. All rentals include the use of a PFD and a car-top carrier (foam pads and straps). You’ll need to find a place to launch with water access, whether you rent from here or if you already own a boat.

 

Cast Off

When planning a river trip, paddlers should check out the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail, which outlines some 25 miles of paddling very close to home. The Water Trail map put out by Milwaukee Riverkeeper is pretty comprehensive in listing launch sites, various routes to take, parking, public restrooms and interesting historical facts/information about the things you are seeing along the way. All of the rivers are lined with a blend of private and public land, so to avoid trespassing follow the designated beginning and ending places on the map. It’s also a good idea to scout out your “put in” and “take out” locations beforehand so you’re not wrangling a heavy boat as you discover unexpected terrain. Keep in mind, inexperienced paddlers are strongly cautioned to avoid going out on Lake Michigan, which can be more unpredictable than the slower moving rivers.

For those who like to end their recreation with relaxation, you may want to conclude your excursion at one of the Downtown brewpubs or restaurants with river access for food and drinks. Likely destinations on the Milwaukee River include the Harp Irish Pub, Lakefront Brewery, Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and the Milwaukee Ale House. On the Kinnickinnic, try the Horny Goat Hideaway. All of these places are either adjacent to a public “take out” place or have a pier for customer use. However you choose to end a river trip, you’ll never view Milwaukee quite the same way.

For more information on rentals, visit milwaukeekayak.com or ljoutdoors.com.

For more information on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail, visit mkeriverkeeper.org.