Meryl Strichartz is a Kenosha resident and active board member of the Kenosha Community Sailing Center. She is also a member of the Kenosha Yacht Club and ally to many Kenosha harbor businesses and environmental groups. She is the owner of Lakeshore Pedal Tour and Career Coaches of Wisconsin. She has her MBA from UW-Parkside and has been involved with many Kenosha and Racine nonprofits.
A BLESSING ON YOUR HEAD OR BOAT, MAZEL TOV!
Ahoy – Perhaps you are familiar with the Pot Roast Story. There are many versions, but it all boils down to this (see what I did there?!). A young girl watching her mom cut the ends off a roast before sticking it into the pot, asks why she cuts the ends off. Her mother says that is the way her mother did it and that she should ask her grandmother. When the little girl asks her grandmother, she replies, that when she was a newlywed, she didn’t have a pot big enough for the roast, so she cut the ends off so that it would fit, but she has no idea why the others do it! The parable is often told to remind people that it is important to question why you do things.
COVID forced us all to question what we do and why—it demanded that we think about our traditions. That word “tradition” is loaded. For me, I immediately hear the refrain from Fiddler on the Roof—tradition, TRADITION, tradition playing in my head. For others, I think tradition means having a certain dish at Thanksgiving. Organizations had to look at their traditions, too. There were some things they could modify, some things that just couldn’t happen and some new things that emerged.
The Kenosha Community Sailing Center added family classes and private lessons to their offerings and they found out that there was an untapped market. They also started offering their adult introductory sailing lessons in the harbor and found that people responded to that, too. Check out their new courses at kenoshasailing.org.
The Kenosha Yacht Club had to re-thinks things, too. The club was first charted in 1912 which means it has survived multiple wars and two pandemics. If you think about that for a moment, it’s pretty impressive. It means that for over a century there have been Kenosha sailors and their families who have volunteered and cared enough to keep the organization afloat (I’m on a roll today!) throughout a lot of hard times. I believe that part of the reason they have survived over the years is their commitment to the harbor community and their respect for tradition.
Last year they held their Blessing of the Fleet virtually, and this year they will be holding both an in-person and Virtual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony. Who could have imagined in 1958, when they had their first Blessing of the Fleet, how times would change. The reason they decided to adapt this tradition wasbecause they knew it was important to respect those that had passed in the year prior and to usher forth a new and healthy boating season.
Boaters understand the immense power of the lake and recognize how capricious nature can be. Blessings of the Fleet originally started as a Catholic tradition but has evolved to be more inclusive. Anyone with a boat is encouraged to participate in person or virtually. The bell at the lighthouse will be rung for members who have passed and a blessing will be made hoping to ensure safe travels on the waterways for all. It is a very special and venerable tradition.
Anyone who wishes to have a boat blessed should arrive at the Kenosha Yacht Club dock, Sunday June 6th between 10:00 and 10:30am. Boats are encouraged to display their “Brag Flags”. To access the Virtual Ceremony, boats can join the Zoom meeting on Sunday, June 6th at 10:30am.
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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kuspubnde
After you join the Blessing of the Fleet from your boat or through Zoom, please come to the KYC Bar and Grille for a great meal and your favorite drink. They have a beautiful new and expanded “Island Deck” just waiting for new traditions to start! If you have any questions about the ceremony or how to participate, please contact Rear Commodore, Joyce Rinehart at email@example.com
See ya’ down at the lake, Meryl!
ALL MEN ARE EQUAL BEFORE FISH
Ahoy – There is something about the personalities of those who fish that makes me want to spend time with them – they are patient, dialed into nature, and always dreaming of the big one. Now, I’m sure that there are many people who like to fish in solitude, but I think that most people who fish like to do so with a friend/family member, or just in proximity to others. I believe it is a grown-up version of parallel play.
I have taken my boys to many places in the US and it is the same story everywhere we have gone…There is always someone who is willing to share what they are doing and what bait they are using. Off the piers in California, Randy taught us how to use Sabiki rigs and how important it is to reel the fish in fast so that the Harbor Seals don’t bite them off the lines. In Alaska, we learned how to “combat fish” and yell out “fish on the line” from Miki. In Florida, Carlos taught us how to catch Red Drum off the beach and in Arkansas, Bill taught us how to roll bait balls. This kindness goes on everywhere all the time.
Here in Kenosha though, we have a band of fishermen who are next level. They are members of the Kenosha Sportfishing and Conservation Association (KSFCA) and they have been rearing and releasing Chinook Salmon into Lake Michigan since 1973. In the spring, they receive 40,000 fingerlings and they imprint them for 2-4 weeks with the water from the Pike River before releasing them. The fish then grow-up and return to spawn 3-4 years later once they reach maturity.
I’m no mathematician, but if the KSFCA have been releasing fingerlings for 48 years, it means that they have imprinted about 1,920,000 baby fish to our local waters. That’s a lot of fish! It also means that if you or someone you know catches a salmon in the harbor or the southwestern waters of Lake Michigan, chances are they have been reared by this group and you owe them a debt of gratitude (or better yet, you can make a donation directly on their website www.kenoshasportfishing.com).
Sportfishing is a huge industry (2.3 billion in Wisconsin) and we are lucky that groups like this exist to help the DNR get the fish out there. We have a lot to brag about. In Kenosha, one can easily find a great fishing charter captain by visiting kenoshacharterboats.com. They boast that they have the highest catch-per-hour rate and offer both salmon and trout charter fishing. There are also a zillion places to fish in-land. These are things to be proud of for sure, but what’s going on here with the Kenosha Sportfishing and Conservation Association is more than economic support for the fishing industry—this group is making sure that there are fish so others can dream of catching the big one.
The KSFCA is the non-profit group that holds the annual Fish N’ Fun Day on Anderson Lake, organizes the Pike River Clean-up, and have been leaders in getting life-rings on our shores. This week they will be releasing the 2021 fingerlings and the bulk of their work will be done until next year, but they still need you. They need new community members who care about keeping Kenosha a great place to fish. Like so many established organizations, their membership is aging and they need more donations and some human fingerlings to imprint!
Herbert Hoover was known as the “Fishing President” and even wrote a book about fishing. He opens his book with the following:
‘Fishing is a chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on the blue water…. It is discipline in the equality of man–for all men are equal before fish.’
In his book he further offers insights into the mentality of fishermen, “He must be of contemplative mind, for it is often a long time between bites; he is by nature an optimist or he would not go fishing.”
Those are some pretty dramatic passages, but the sentiment is really true. People who enjoy fishing are optimists and I’m so glad to be a new member of an organization that rears optimism every spring. If you fish, if you dream, or dream of fishing in Kenosha—please consider becoming a member.
See ya down at the Lake, Meryl
Lakeshore Pedal Tours is offering a special ride to help raise funds for this organization. Visit our website to book it at a discounted price. Proceeds will be donated to KSFCA. lakeshorepedal.com
FOOLS RACING OR RACING FOOLS?
Ahoy – I have a friend who was telling me that the kind of gym she needs is the kind that is filled with hungry dinosaurs that would chase her around—fear of being eaten was pretty much what she thought it would take to get her moving. I thought it was a hilarious idea and naturally we started coming up with names like Jurassic Gym or Anytime Eaten (Louie Arecco, remember you heard it here first).
Then on the other extreme, I have my 14-year-old son who loves running and makes me watch YouTube videos of Usain Bolt and reviews of tennis shoes. Yes, it’s true, there are countless videos where shoe experts compare carbon vs. nylon plates, who knew, right?
Saturday, May 1st marks the beginning of the summer races with the Wisconsin Marathon, a half marathon and 5k race winding through downtown Kenosha and the parks. It is also when the Kenosha Yacht Club (KYC) will launch their summer season with an “April May Fool’s Day Regatta.” This annual event is a fun and silly tradition that the KYC racers do to inaugurate the sailing season. They will often have backwards sailing races and play other sailing games in the dinghies.
The bridge over Simmons Island will be blocked off until the marathon is over (usually by noon) at which point you might want to make it over to KYC to have a drink and watch the sailors compete in the harbor for the title of best Ship of Fools.
KYC’s Dock and Derrick Master, Doug Vacarello, along with a team of volunteers, have already started to launch boats. One by one, the boats are hoisted into the water and masts are stepped until all of them are in the water by June. (If you want to see a short time-lapsed video of how a boat is launched, there is one available on KYC’s website). Then, on the first Sunday of June, the boats are blessed in a time-honored traditional ceremony, and the real racing begins.
The Kenosha Yacht Club is home to the Buccaneer Fleet #15 as well as an active PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing) keel boat fleet. Races are held on Thursday nights and late Sunday mornings. Awards are presented to top finishers and boats of all kinds are welcome. For a relatively small yacht club, KYC has an extraordinary number of skillful racers who do well in the Double Hander, Queen’s Cup, Mac, Hook Race and Q Race.
Although you must be a member of the Kenosha Yacht Club to race under their burgee, the racers are very welcoming and even hold moonlight and other special races throughout the season to encourage participation in the club and racing. The league is organized and led by John Weiss, a nationally ranked sailor, and is a good balance between competition and camaraderie.
This year the Kenosha Community Sailing Center is offering a class specifically for sailors who would like to enter the world of racing. The course will focus on learning how to sail as a crew or “pod” and will integrate with the KYC races. Among many other things, what makes this course special is that it will prepare sailors to be a part of a crew, ensure existing captains that new crew members are knowledgeable, and provide those with an interest in captaining the tools to manage a crew.
Whether a cruiser or day sailor, joining a racing league is one of the fastest ways to build sailing skills and practice boat handling. So, if your neighbor has a sailboat sitting in their yard, or if you know that they only use it as a floating tailgate party in the marina, it’s time to give them a gentle nudge to get involved with the Kenosha Community Sailing Center and the Kenosha Yacht Club to up their sailing game. If that doesn’t work, tell them that there is a roving pack of dinosaurs that have escaped from a local gym, looking to eat people with sailboats that are not in use.
See ya down at the lake – Meryl
Kenosha Community Sailing Center – kenoshasailing.org
Kenosha Yacht Club – kenoshayachtclub.com
Wisconsin Marathon – wisconsinmarathon.com
Also check out www.lakeshorepedal.com
1 Billion Served and We’re Not Talking Burgers
Ahoy – When I’m traveling, I often run into fellow Wisconsonites and can identify them by their Green Bay Packer clothing. But we also have another claim to fame that I have not seen branded onto a t-shirt, and probably should be. We are the founders of Earth Day. Yes, our very own Senator GaylordNelson made Earth Day official in 1970 and it is now the largest secular celebration in the world with more than a billion people every year taking environmental action.
This year in celebration of Earth Day, Nancy Carlson, the Program Director of WATERshed, has been organizing a Kenosha beach clean-up for the Great Lake Community Conservation Corps which is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Trash-Free Waters initiative
To avoid large gatherings, Nancy has been seeking organizations who can commit a small group of 6-12 people to clean up a beach rather than just inviting community members down to participate. There are so many organizations in Kenosha that have already stepped up, but she needs a few more and will be holding additional clean-ups in our parks over the summer.
So, let me tell you a bit about the WATERshed program. Their mission is to promote conservation of our natural resources through education and preservation in Lake Michigan’s coastal communities. The program has won multiple awards and is consistently recognized for their excellence in education (the program is linked to Next Generation Science Standards). The WATERshed program uses Lake Michigan and the creeks and rivers that feed into it as living laboratories to help students make personal connections to freshwater resources in our community. They organize many school field trips (virtual in 2020), fundraisers and exciting community-building events.
WATERshed is working with the Great Lake Community Conservation Corp because they have overlapping missions. In addition to bringing the Trash-Free Waters initiative to our area, the Great Lake Community Conservation Corp addresses climate change, advances greener living and provides education and training for disadvantaged populations in the Great Lakes area. They run Veterans Corps programs which offer assistance with transitioning vets into civilian life. They have a Go Solar program that offers discounted solar panel installation and a Reduce the Runoff program which provides free landscaping to qualified recipients to minimize rainwater pollution from runoff. They also run a Certification and Emergency Response Training School out of Racine and Milwaukee that trains 18-20 year oldstudents to be first responders.
The other organizations that are stepping up to step out and clean up our beaches include:
Kenosha Community Sailing Center – Dedicated to educating individuals in the sport of sailing and promoting awareness of and access to the Kenosha Harbor and Lake Michigan. Kenoshasailing.org
Root Pike WIN – Dedicated to restoring, protecting and sustaining the Root-Pike basin watersheds. Rootpikewin.org
Vet Corp – an inclusive program that serves all veterans transitioning into civilian life. Administered by the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corp. Greatlakesccc.org
Southport Park Association, – Dedicated to establishing public-private partnerships committed to historic preservation and sustainable environmental stewardship throughout Kenosha’s lakefront park system. Kenoshasouthport.org
Seno K/R Land Trust Conservancy – Dedicated to sustainable forestry, natural resources education, conservation and land preservation. Senokrlt.org
Boy Scout Troop 422 – Troop leader Wade@westwordsconsulting.com
Boy Scout Troop 544 – Troop Leader firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to participate in the Earth Day Beach clean-up or others that will be organized this summer, please contact Nancy Carlson at email@example.com and if you can’t participate but would like to support the cause, please consider making a donation to any one of these worthwhile organizations and groups. Happy Earth Day 2021!
This story originally appeared in the 4/08/21 edition of The Smart Reader magazine.
I BET YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS
My dad liked to play cards, so growing up on the coast of Southern California we would sometimes drive to Las Vegas so he could play blackjack and poker. While my dad played cards (which was never referred to as gambling), my mother took us to buffets, swimming pools, and shows. At night she would sometimes take us outside where my brother and I could marvel at the sizzling heat of the night air and the stars. She knew we liked stars, the moon and all things having to do with space. It seemed like everyone liked space then. Just looking up at the sky filled you with patriotic pride, a sense of adventure and mysterious imaginings. The stars were dazzling and even the lights on the Strip and the jewels on Elvis’s jumpsuits didn’t compare to the night sky.
Then the years passed and the suburban skyglow grew greater than the stars. I read somewhere that 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way because of light pollution. I bring this up because the other night I got out of my car and looked up at the Kenosha sky and saw stars. Not as many as out in the desert, but enough to stop and stare. I stood on my driveway feeling like I was holding an ace and a jack; I knew I was lucky to see them.
If you have a chance and the clouds blow away, bundle yourself up and get out there and look at our Kenosha night sky. Better yet, take someone you love outside to look at the stars with you (and don’t even get me going about our unbelievable moon rises over the lake).
As promised, I told you that I would let you know about some incredible things going on down at the lake. One hidden treasure is Carthage College’s Professor Brian Schwartz and the Griffin Observatory at the Kemper Center. He hasn’t been able to hold public viewings this year because of COVID, but he is still hosting small groups upon request. One of Professor Schwartz’s greatest joys is to share his love of astronomy with others. To schedule a free tour, event or stargazing session, email Professor Brian Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 262-551-6042.
Honestly, I don’t know that much about stars, and as a sailor, if my GPS went out, there is no way I could navigate by them as they did in days of yore. All I know is that they are beautiful when they glisten in the sky and it’s my good fortune to live where I can still look up and see them at night or drive myself just a few miles to gaze at them with an expert.
This month we will celebrate the spring equinox, St. Paddy’s Day and day light savings. These are all indicators that spring is here and it’s time to start making summer plans.
• The Kenosha Community Sailing Center’s course registration is open. Sign up today at Kenoshasailing.org
• The Kenosha Yacht Club racers are finalizing their 2021 race schedule and educational offerings. Become a member at Kenoshayachtclub.com
• The Kenosha Sportfishing & Conservation members are planning an April 5 member meeting to plan their community events and to celebrate the good news that in 2021 they will be receiving Chinook salmon fingerlings from the WDNR for their rearing pond. Learn more at Kenoshasportfishing.com
See you down at the lake — Meryl
(This story originally appeared in the 3/11/21 edition of The Smart Reader magazine.)
This is my maiden voyage as a blog writer for Smart Reader and I hope to take you with me on an exciting journey through Kenosha’s harbor community. Kenosha is many things to many people, but it is foremost a harbor town located on the shores of Lake Michigan.
My purpose in writing is not to inspire you to become a sailor, although that would be great, especially if everyone dressed and talked like pirates, but to inform you about what is going on down at the lake. For me, what it important is simply that you know about our thriving harbor community and the incredible recreational and environmental opportunities that exist here. Each blog will feature different organizations and businesses that are doing fun and worthwhile activities that you may not know a lot about.
Closest to my heart is the Kenosha Community Sailing Center (KCSC), a nonprofit which operates in cooperation with the Kenosha Yacht Club to offer youth and adult sailing classes to the community. This organization has been led by Jim Buck since 2008 with the unwavering support of John Gransee whom many know as a chemistry teacher from Harborside. The two of them, along with many other volunteer sailors, have created a very special place.
The KCSC offers sailing classes for kids all summer long in the harbor. If you have strolled along the Sculpture Walk, chances are you have been amused watching the youth sail. It is pretty routine for walkers to be tempted to call 911 when they see the kids learning how to capsize and right-side their boats. John Gransee also loves to teach the adults how to tack in the harbor’s channel by having them come-about close to the walls which always brings nervous cheers from the landlubbers as they zig-zag the boats up and down the channel.
Like so many nonprofits, when COVID-19 started to spread last year, KCSC was forced to pivot. Youth Education Director, Bettie Wescott, worked nonstop to establish health policies and sanitation protocols. It was a challenge, particularly because the board had to make risky operational choices with nothing certain except for uncertainty. Luckily, with protocols in place, parents did register their children for classes and registration for 2021 sailing courses has already opened (kenoshasailing.org).
COVID also prompted KCSC to start offering family and private group sailing courses. Bettie’s husband, Paul Wescott, a US Sailing certified instructor with the center, agreed to offer these classes to fit the scheduling needs of the families. These courses turned out to be very popular and are being offered again in 2021. These flexible private classes also appealed to couples and groups of friends that were comfortable being together in the open-air. We jokingly called these courses our “virus buddy” classes.
My sense of humor and ideas can be zany to say the least. For example, I’ve been wanting to do a Titanic dinner fundraiser where we would recreate the menu (maybe shave it down to 7 courses) and read from the movie script. I was already thinking about what band we could get to play, when someone pointed out to me that it was irreverent. Oops. I was just thinking about the fun part.
For better or worse, this is how I roll, thinking about the fun part. It’s been a brutal year and I know there is still much suffering in our community both personally and professionally. But we’ve also managed as a community to come together and be creative in these challenging times. As you get to know me and the organizations that I am involved with, I hope you will also think about the fun part. If we haven’t learned anything else from 2020, it should be to not take the good times for granted.
This story originally appeared in the 2/25/21 edition of The Smart Reader magazine.