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Inland Seas Education Association Review- What an interesting place


In the Northwestern end of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula there is no shortage of natural beauty and sights to see. From sprawling vineyard and orchards, to the pristine inland lakes and the massive Great Lakes, and from the hustle and bustle of cities like Traverse City to the small town charm of villages like Northport or Suttons Bay, there is something for everyone.
Some of the most unique experiences you could hope to encounter can be found in this area of the Great Lakes state. The National Cherry Festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and the Arnold Palmer designed and named “The Bear” golf course gets its fair share of visitors. However, tucked away in the coastal village of Suttons Bay is the impressive Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA).
ISEA has been educating the public about the value and benefits of Michigan’s massive freshwater resources. But this is no normal outreach program, this program is different. ISEA owns and operates its own mini armada of sailing vessels, led by the regal and impressive namesake the Inland Seas.
The SV Inland Seas is a 77 foot Gaff Rigged Schooner, that is capable of sleeping 12 passengers. ISEA utilizes the ship in a number of ways from taking young school children (more than 100,000 in their history) out on the lakes, to hosting “Women in Science” workshops, University level classes in Bathymetry, Fresh water ecology, and boat handling, and also supporting research through multiple organizations including Lake Superior State University, State University of New York at Fredonia, and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Labs.
The best part about ISEA is that the average joe off the street can wander in to their impressive “office” and be engrossed in Great Lakes history and ecology. The home office of ISEA is a museum and education center which supports the shipborne operations of the association by educating visitors to issues affecting the Great Lakes and its flora and fauna. With tanks holding Sturgeon and Salmon specimen, in addition to their many plant displays, the array of information displayed is remarkable.
The association offers several different sailing packages for you to choose from, in both half day and full day sails. Other packages are available for longer durations but are usually part of programs through an educational institution. For instance the package I signed up for was a course offered by Lake Superior State University. The course was a 6 day research trip in which we departed Suttons Bay and sailed to Beaver Island. After touring Central Michigan Universities research station and taking many water and sediment samples around the island we sailed on to Saint Helen Island in the Straits of Mackinac for another anchorage. We then worked on several projects in the straits area and completed a passage under sail under the massive Mackinaw Bridge before ending the trip in Saint Ignace. During the whole trip all passengers were totally hands on (after careful instruction) in sample collection, logging, species identification, boat navigation and handling, and sail handling. Not everyone has four weeks to dedicate to a whole college course though, so ISEA has offered all of the above in generalized day long trips around Grand Traverse bay and upper Lake Michigan.
The cost of the trips varies between 35 dollars for a half day trip to 1200 dollars for the course I enrolled in. The course provided all accommodation, food, transportation, and a shortened summer college course in Oceanography and Bathymetry. You do not need to be a full time student to enroll. If you are looking for an immersive and amazing adventure, one that very few can claim, look no further than the Inland Seas Education Association. They can be found at


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