Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fourth Museum: The Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Yesterday I asked my new friend Elisabeth to accompany me to the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. This is one of those museums that I drive by about 5 times a week but never take the time to go into, because I was there when I was 6 and therefore I've already "done" that museum. Well, that changed yesterday. I was excited to tour the Cobia submarine and hopefully learn a little more about the huge barges and tankers that I constantly see sailing the lake from my wonderful vantage point at the hospital.

Elisabeth and I started the museum by watching a short movie about submarines that were made in Manitowoc. Did you know that 28 submarines were made for World War II in Manitowoc, and that 24 of them survived the war? I even read that the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company received several awards from the federal government for the quality of the boats and they completed their contract for the subs 15 months early! Then we headed into the submarine, which is permanently moored in the Manitowoc River, right outside the museum. Our tour guide was excellent and incredibly knowledgeable, and had a sense of humor to boot. We got a really good look at the bunks on go off on a tangent, they rent the submarine out for overnight sleepovers and I was really thinking about renting it for my next birthday party. After only 30 minutes on the sub, however, I quickly nixed that idea. The boat was swaying side to side just enough that you had to hold onto something or stand with your legs spread apart for stability. Let me tell you, when I got off the boat and back onto solid land I could still feel the ground moving beneath me, and there was a good solid hour where I seriously thought the contents of my breakfast were going to make a repeat appearance. I never really thought that I was affected by seasickness because I've been on quite a few boats, but evidently yesterday proved that wrong! Anyway, I really enjoyed the sub and it was neat to think that I was literally standing inside a boat that fought in WWII.
The rest of the museum was dedicated to exhibits for boats built in Wisconsin, a steam engine exhibit, the fishing industry in Wisconsin, and a really neat-looking kids place called the Children's Waterways Room where they get to play with water and wear water-proof vests. Elisabeth and I were very jealous we couldn't go in there, and she stood with her nose and hands pressed to the glass, looking into the restricted area for several minutes before we gave up.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed this museum the most so far. The sub tour was the highlight, but the rest of the museum was neat too. There's also a little exhibit dedicated to shipwrecks near Manitowoc/Two Rivers, which I always enjoy reading about. I also picked up a brochure for "Wisconsin's Schooner Coast...Sixty Miles. A Thousand Stories". The cities of Manitowoc, Two Rivers, Kewaunee, Algoma and Sturgeon Bay have joined together in advertising themselves as the Schooner Coast, with discounts at many businesses in those cities and even a trivia scavenger hunt for kids, with a prize at the end if they visit each of those cities and answer trivia questions about them. I just think it's cool that someone finally decided to capitalize on this amazingly rich history of shipping in Lake Michigan and use it to educate a lure tourists to this area. Did you know there's a shipwreck off Rawley Point in Point Beach State Park that's resting in 15 feet of water, with the top portion of the ship only 5 feet below the surface of the water? Supposedly in years where the lake is low the ship actually pokes out of the water! AWESOME!
I really hope you take the time to visit this museum, and that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Address: 75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc
Hours: roughly 9-5, 7 days a week
Would I recommend? Yes! Definitely!
Awesomeness level: 4
Time required: No less than 2 hours (if you really walk through the exhibits fast)
Cost: $12 adults, $10 kids


  1. Spent the night on the sub with my Boy Scout Troop a few years ago. It was a great experience for the boys, but not the best night's sleep I have ever had. Had several bruises from hitting my arm on the torpedo that was next to my bunk. As far as the shipwrecks, the one off of Rawley point can be seen from the shore if you know where to look. Go to the point where county trunk O curves sharply to pass the Rahr forest. The land on that corner is public. If you look to the south when the lake is calm you can see it sticking out of the water. I have kayaked over this wreck numerous times. As far as the boats that you see, they are rarely tankers, but rather bulk carriers. The Maritime museum is very interesting. Did you take advantage of the free admission for Aurora Employees? I have pictures that I took of the Chief Wawatam when it was still being used as a ferry in the Mackinac straits. I also have one of the awards that the shipyards received for production during WWII. It was given to me by my Grandma.

  2. Two things:
    1. I have to cancel my reservation for your overnight submarine birthday surprise! :)
    2. I'll totally let you borrow Felix to get into the Children's Waterways Room!