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Throw Caution to the Wind

This was originally published by our friend Dianna over at Promote Michigan.

When was the last time you just let go of all your deadlines and responsibilities and just kicked back to relax? Where the only distractions are the waves underneath you, the sunshine above you and the 360-degree views of the northern Lake Michigan shoreline surrounding you. Where your direction is set by the wind and the only scheduled activities are breakfast, lunch and dinner.


You’re invited to set sail aboard the Tall Ship Manitou – one of the largest sailing ships on the Great Lakes – during a 6-Day Windjammer Cruise, September 17-23. Guided by the passionate, skilled and entertaining crew of the Traverse Tall Ship Company, this voyage sets sail out of Grand Traverse Bay aboard a replication of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner. A traditional two-masted, gaff rigged, topsail schooner, Manitou measures 114 feet in length with more than 3000 square feet of sail. Passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew, but it’s much more fun to lend a hand and learn the arts of the sailor.

The exact course of the trip cannot be determined in advance, as the captain and crew rely on the winds to guide the path of the ship. Yet, no matter what the route, the sights, sounds and stories meld together for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.


It’s likely Manitou will sail near the 200-acre Power Island toward the northern end of West Bay, just three miles off Bowers Harbor. It was also known as Marion Island or Ford Island, as auto giant Henry Ford owned it between 1917 and 1944. A seasonal visitor to Traverse City, he and his pals, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone, were known to explore the rustic shoreline and trails.


Maybe Manitou will make its way around the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula (where the Grand Traverse Lighthouse proudly sits, protecting the coastline) toward the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—named after a Chippewa legend and representative of the mother bear who lays perched at the top of the dunes watching out over her two cubs—North and South Manitou Islands.


If the winds are coming in from the southwest, Manitou may venture north toward Beaver Island, where Mormon leader James Strang declared himself king in 1850 before being assassinated just six years later by a few of his former followers.


There is plenty of space for sitting and moving around Manitou’s deck while under sail on the freshwaters of Michigan’s inland seas. Settle in with a good book, watch the stars (and perhaps even the aurora borealis) at night, play a game of cards, take photographs or engage in old fashioned conversation. Unplug from technology—no television, internet, email or cell phones (unless you’re snapping selfies from the deck).

To make reservations for the 6-Day Explorer Cruise, call toll free (800) 678-0383.

Summer on the Great Lakes with the Vagabrothers

Check out the great footage of Manitou from the Vagabrothers during their visit to Traverse City.


Sail aboard Scout with Captain Amber

The perfect way to sail West Grand Traverse Bay

A private 2-hour daysail aboard the Sailing Yacht Scouta classic Cabo Rico 38 XL, with our new Captain — Captain Amber!

Meet Captain Amber

My name is Amber Ramsey. I am originally from Sanford, Florida, just a few miles outside of Orlando. Being the eldest of 4 daughters, I was raised with a great sense of responsibility to set an example, and rise to the occasion of challenges. 

My sailing career started 4 1/2 years ago with a sailing lesson at the local Key West sailing club bought for me on my birthday. At the time, I never would have thought that I would even like sailing, never mind it becoming a passion of mine. One class, and I was hooked. I immediately quit bartending and started working with Danger Charters, a trio of schooners that operate eco-tours and sunset sails. 

However, with cockpit lead sheets, my thirst for learning all I could about all things sailboat quickly outgrew a company where my job mostly consisted of giving tours. So I began training as backup crew on the Schooner America 2.0. I started out with no promise of shifts, only fill in work. Over the past 4 winters, I’ve progressed up to the position of 1st mate. I’ve also worked for the same company in Boston on Schooner Adirondack III and M/V Northern Lights and for the traditionally rigged Schooner Argia on Mystic, CT.

Finally, after just 4 years sailing, I’ve acquired my 100GRT Near Coastal. And I am thrilled to have my first command aboard Sailing Yacht Scout and a summer full of new and exciting challenges. 

More about Sailing Yacht Scout

Scout is a classic Cabo Rico 38 XL.  Built in 1988 on a mountain site in Costa Rica, this lively cutter combines vintage design lines with modern construction technology.  From her graceful clipper bow and wood deck trim to a stunning symphony of honey-colored teak (all sustainably plantation grown) below decks she will take your breath away.  Brainchild of legendary naval architect W. I. B.  Crealock, this vessel has won a reputation for soft motion and stout offshore performance.  Scout is licensed and inspected by the state of Michigan to carry passengers.

Whether you prefer sipping a drink under the shade of the cockpit Bimini top, lounging below, or stretching out to sunbathe on deck, there is plenty of room for your group. Scout is well stocked with complimentary snacks, fruit and non-alcoholic beverages. We even have Moomers Ice Cream in the freezer!  There is also plenty of refrigerator room to store any alcoholic beverages you would like to bring aboard.

Sail on the Scout now!

Sailing Calendar

“A Fairly Epic Evening”

As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary we’ve started gathering some great stories and feedback from past guests and we are looking forward sharing them here on the website and over on Facebook, like this one from Philip:

Last summer, I rented a small sailboat on Lake Michigan, and had the pleasure of seeing the Manitou from the water early in the day.  That evening, I boarded for wine tasting and an evening sail with plans to stay aboard overnight.  It was a fairly epic evening with good wind, a bit of rain blowing in after the wine and snacks were put away, and a bright rainbow following us back to the dock.  That night, with perhaps a dozen aboard, the clouds blew away, and we were treated to a few falling meteors.  With breakfast on ship, and showers and land, and interesting company to visit with, I cannot imagine trading that night for one in an ordinary hotel.  The youthful energy and friendliness of the crew, including a lovely chat with a past crew member visiting, were greatly appreciated.
To your continued success,
– Philip S., Austin TX

Celebrating 30 Years


Traverse Tall Ship Co. is celebrating 30 years of sailing this season. To celebrate, we will be sharing photos and stories from current crew, former crew and we’d like to invite you to contribute to the season-long celebration.

Got a Manitou Memory to share? We’d love to see and hear it (photos, videos, stories).

If we put it to use during our summer celebration, we’ll send some Manitou swag your way!

To share your Manitou Memory, email us at or share on our Facebook page.


Manitou Owner & Captain Dave McGinnis with his lovely wife Mary – Circa 1993

We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing about your Manitou Memories!

Captain Dave and Brett & The Tall Ship Manitou Crew




The Manitou Floating Bed & Breakfast

“A True Adventure”

If you are looking for a unique and memorable way to experience Traverse City, consider our floating bed & breakfast.


Fresh air and starry nights abound from the decks of one of the largest traditional sailing vessels on the Great Lakes. You’ll experience one of the best vantage points on West Grand Traverse Bay. Join us on board for an adventurous overnight secured at our pier and a hearty homemade full breakfast cooked on our wood burning stove in the morning.

Learn more about the Manitou Floating Bed & Breakfast.

We did the bed and breakfast package with our four kids. It was incredible. The experience was something we will all remember. The crew was attentive, educated and interesting to converse with. They were able to include the kids, ages 9-16, in different activities, including a moonlight game on deck of Go Fish! Breakfast was incredible, French toast, scrambled eggs, homemade pastries. Great operation all around. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!

The Tall Ship Manitou Bed and Breakfast was the highlight of our tip around Lake Michigan. Our stay included a two hour evening sail (complete with dinner and live entertainment), overnight on board and a gourmet breakfast with the crew. The crew was knowledgeable, welcoming and always available. I was traveling with my teenage granddaughter and we had a blast!

Bed and Breakfast Tickets

Advance purchase highly recommended!
Questions?  (231) 941-2000

2017 Windjammer Cruises


As we write this, a cold October rain is beating down on the roof and a stripped down Manitou rolls at her dock in a big north swell. Within a week the winter house will be secured and she’ll be snug in her winter berth, waiting for the season to come.

We have a great line up for the 2017 Windjammer cruises, starting with the 3-Day Bay Getaway, September 6-9 ($595 per person). This cruise is the perfect “get acquainted” windjammer, for those who are intrigued by the idea of an overnight sailing trip but leery of a big time or money commitment. We’re confident you’ll be hooked after this! We’ll explore the beauty of well protected Grand Traverse Bay and its variety of anchorages. This three day experience is also a terrific option for anyone who wants to fit in a September cruise but is short on time.




By popular demand our newly renamed 4-Day Stories of the Stars (thanks for the suggestion Don DeMotte!) cruise is back from September 12-16 ($769 per person). Mary Stewart Adams, director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, will guide us through a journey of the night sky. Mary is a star lore historian, storyteller and author who has been immersed in the history of star knowledge for nearly 30 years. She led the initiative that resulted in International Dark Sky Park designation for the Headlands property in Emmet County, MI, which later resulted in the State of Michigan passing legislation to protect the night sky over an additional 23,000 acres of state park and forest land. Mary writes and speaks extensively to local, national and international audiences on our relationship to the night sky and its cultural consequences, and has received numerous honors for her work. In addition, she is a member of the International Dark Sky Places Committee of the International Dark Sky Association, protecting and designating dark sky sites around the world. Mary’s weekly radio program “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky” airs during Morning Edition on Interlochen Public Radio every Monday. Mary makes her home under the starry skies of Harbor Springs, MI.

Our biggest cruise of the season, the 6-Day Explorer, sets sail September 17-23 ($939 per person). This one is what windjamming is all about, taking the time to really immerse ourselves in this magical experience that takes us away from the frenetic pace of our daily lives. Join us on a longer cruise and fully embrace the rhythm of wind, wave, and shipboard life.

Finally, after a three year hiatus, we’re very excited to announce the return of the 4-Day Wine Cruise. Explore the great wine regions of the world with sommelier and restaurant proprietor Amanda Danielson. Each evening aboard the Manitou we will discuss the wine making histories and taste the varietals of different countries. Dinners will feature paired wines chosen by Amanda as a perfect complement to our meals.




Amanda and her husband Paul moved to Traverse City in 2000 with the intention of opening a restaurant. Their dream came true in July 2004 when Trattoria Stella in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons welcomed its first guest. In 2014 Amanda and Paul expanded their culinary presence to downtown Traverse City with the opening of The Franklin. Amanda was raised in restaurants and driven toward hospitality education early in her career. Her passion for training took her around the world to open new restaurants and upon arrival in Northern Michigan, worked for Grand Traverse Resort and Spa first as its training manager and then as fine-dining operations at the Trillium Restaurant and management of the Resort’s wine program. Amanda strongly believes in educating the community through a series of wine and service classes. She continues to pursue her own education and more certifications in the vast field of wine.

Whatever cruise you choose, you’ll enjoy new friends, the beauty of northern Michigan, a great sense of relaxation, and superb home cooked meals, made from scratch on our wood burning stove.

Call us at 800-678-0383 to make reservations.
All returning passengers receive a 10% discount on your reservation!

We look forward to sailing with you!

Captain Dave and Brett & The Tall Ship Manitou Crew

A Day in the Life of a Great Lakes Windjammer, Part 2

“Remember, she has a delayed response so you have to anticipate where you want her to go, not react to what she does.  If you do that you’ll always be playing catch-up.”  Wise words from our Captain, but who is the “she” he refers to?  Why, Manitou of course!  I’m getting my first lesson in steering a 100 ton schooner, and it’s quite a thrill!  We’re charging along under full sail in a fresh breeze, and I am awed by the power of this vessel vibrating under my feet as if she were a living thing.

Manitou sits at anchor in a tranquil harbor at day's end.

Manitou sits at anchor in a tranquil harbor at day’s end.

About a mile to my left lies the densely wooded shoreline of Beaver Island, broken here and there by a summer cottage nestled in the trees.  We’ve been underway for about six hours and the Captain says we should be “dropping the hook” (anchoring) in St. James Harbor by 5:00; just in time for h’ors d’oeuvres and wine tasting.  I guess I forgot to mention, but this is Manitou’s annual Wine Tasting Cruise.  Our host and industry professional, Tim Tibeau, guides us through a sampling of varietals from all over the world (including right here in northern Michigan) each evening at 5:00 pm.  Once that blessed dinner bell is rung we take those same wines down to the main salon and enjoy them paired with supper.  Good food, fine wine, fabulous sailing, and new friends; this can’t be beat!

The day has flown by in a wink.  It seems we were just cranking the anchor up and setting sail.  That was a bit of a workout, with everything being done by hand, but I could see our gaggle of greenhorns, from all different walks of life, coalescing into a cohesive group before my eyes!  Working together as a team has quickly formed friendships and a casual ease among these folks who, 48 hours ago, were strangers.

My shipmates are scattered about the vessel; reading, chatting in small groups, napping in the sun, and lounging out in the netted head rig, suspended above Lake Michigan as Manitou churns the azure blue water to a boiling white froth.  There are even one or two snapping green beans with the mess mate, in preparation for dinner.

As I ruminate on what culinary delight may be set before us tonight I can’t believe I could possibly be hungry.  It seems like we just ate lunch, and there was certainly no lack; chicken stew with rosemary dumplings, fresh baked baguettes, Greek salad, and lemon bars!  It must be the fresh air, that’s it.  Then again, I always wake up hungry from a nap, and that hour long snooze before steering duty sure hit the spot.

266454_658461043718_4924531_oAs we prepare to enter the harbor the Captain relieves me at the helm and sends me forward to help douse the sails.  I have to say, it’s kind of nice having gravity on our side at the end of the day as we lower each in turn.

Under engine power we glide through the narrow entrance to our anchorage, turn up into the wind and, with a clatter that reverberates off of the shore the anchor slips its bonds and we drift to a halt.  The lines are coiled, the headsails furled, and the awning goes up.  It must be time for wine and appetizers!

Dinner follows, of course, and once again I am not disappointed.  Poached salmon with lemon butter, rice pilaf and those “team effort” green beans, not to mention fine wine, leave us with a contented glow up on deck as we find room for maple pudding cake and whipped cream.

The deck crew lowers our inflatable dinghy into the water, and those who feel the need to walk off dinner head to shore for a bit of exploration.  Eager to get a closer look at that little lighthouse we passed when entering the harbor, I join the expedition.

It’s a peaceful stroll down a leafy waterfront street, lined with unassuming cottages, to reach the lighthouse.  The very occasional car, generally from another era, passes by with a wave.  One thing I learn quickly is islanders always wave.  I like that.  When did folks forget to wave back in civilization?

I reach the lighthouse and notice a stone monument with a bronze plaque mounted to it.  I’m reminded of the Irish fishing heritage of this island as I read the long (too long) list of names belonging to those who cast off their lines, never to return.  It’s a testament to a hard and dangerous life, even today.  I’m also struck by the fact that many of the family names are obviously the forefathers of today’s island community. Those same names are scattered about on mailboxes and storefronts. There’s a certain comfort in the thought of that common lineage shared by the members of this sleepy island community.

We return to Manitou under a broad blanket of stars.  I can’t remember the last time I actually saw the Milky Way!  As I step aboard I’m greeted by the warm glow of oil lamps scattered about the deck, and the low murmur of conversation.  Fiddle music drifts up from the main salon; First Mate Cory must have been coaxed into playing some tunes.  I have to remind myself that it’s 2014, not 1880.

For a moment I hesitate between joining the gathering in the salon and heading to bed.  Bed wins, but it’s just too beautiful out here to go below.  So I drag my sleeping bag and pillow up on deck, settle in to a nice cozy dark corner in the bow, and drift to sleep while searching for constellations.  Somehow, I know I’ll be up before dawn.

A Day in the Life of a Great Lakes Windjammer

Part 1

 For those of you who have yet to experience the joy, exhilaration and relaxation that are part and parcel of sailing a windjammer, we thought we’d give you a taste.  So let’s get a feel for a typical day aboard the Great Lakes windjammer Manitou.

For starters, what the heck is a windjammer?  The term windjammer has held somewhat different meaning over time.  The generally accepted definition these days is, a traditionally rigged passenger carrying sailing vessel offering participatory multi-day excursions.

Hmmm…..”participatory;” is that a euphemism for slave ship?  Not at all!  As we tell all of our guests when they come aboard, “You BX6A1888can do as much or as little as you like, but you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.”  Our goal in offering these cruises is to give folks a taste of what it might have been like to be aboard one of these majestic tall ships back at the turn of the 20th century.  Many people want to get involved in the operation of the schooner to really take full ownership of their time aboard.  We feel that you’ll walk away with a deeper, more rewarding experience if you become a part of the fabric of the vessel, but there is no wrong answer to how you should spend your time aboard.  This is your vacation and our number one goal is to make it one of the best you’ll ever have.

So, what’s a typical day?  The glimmer of pre-dawn filters into my cabin through the port light as my eyes flutter open.  What am I doing awake at dawn?  I’m on vacation; I should be sleeping in!  But I can’t; I’m too excited about the day to come and what may lie ahead.  Besides, I was so tired last night, after a full day of sunshine and a fresh breeze that I could barely keep my eyes open past 9:00 pm.  The captain was right, this is like camping on the water; early to bed and early to rise, but the food is way better and I haven’t had to cook any of it! 

After splashing some water on my face and brushing my teeth, I head up on deck.  The whispering swish of mops greets me as I emerge from below.  The deckhands are already hard at work.  These guys (and girls; yes, there are many women crewing aboard tall ships) never seem to stop; mopping, polishing, wiping, and scrubbing.  There always seems to be something to do aboard ship, and this cheerful bunch of twenty-somethings go about their tasks, large and small, with the single minded determination of a well-oiled machine.

Coffee,tea, and pastry greet us each morning.

Coffee,tea, and pastry greet us each morning.

But let’s get down to business.  I smell coffee and a number of my shipmates are already up on deck, sipping from a steaming mug and munching on something fresh baked and, no doubt, delectable.  Delectable indeed!  I scoop up a lemon poppy seed scone, grab my coffee, and find a quiet perch to watch the sun break the horizon.

Soon I’m lost in conversation with my new found friend Denise.  She and her husband Keith are teachers from southern Michigan.  It turns out these two are enjoying their tenth cruise aboard Manitou!  “It gets in your blood,” Denise muses.  “There’s just something about being on the water, a feeling of peace and connection that’s hard to tap into when we’re ashore.  This boat and her crew almost become like family.  We’ve known Captain Dave for over 15 years, now, and he’s become a good friend.  And it’s so exciting to see Captain Brendan move into a position of command.  We first sailed with Brendan when he was a deckhand, and now look at him!  It’s like watching your children grow up!”

“Captain Brendan; he strikes quite a figure,” I chuckle.  Our fearless leader cuts the image of a Hollywood pirate; an imposing six foot tall hulk with dreadlocks down to his waist and a patchwork of tattoos.  But beneath this intimidating figure lies a soft spoken, kindly soul with a passion for literature and a natural air of authority.  He directs his crew with an easy confidence that inspires respect.

A hearty breakfast!

A hearty breakfast!

Ding! Ding! Ding!  That’s the breakfast bell.  We anxiously file down to the main salon in anticipation of a hearty meal, and we’re not disappointed.  The tables overflow with an assortment of homemade goodies:  Bacon, blueberry pancakes, heaping platters of fresh cut fruit, yogurt, and, just in case that’s not enough, those ridiculously good scones have been brought below and added to the mix!  Oh, and did I mention that everything is cooked on a wood burning stove?  Yup, when they say, “Taste of the past,” they’re not kidding.  We dig in with gusto.  After all, we’re going to need our energy to pull up the anchor and set sail.

To be continued……

Lots to Offer on the 2014 Windjammer Cruises

As I look outside on this dreary, rainy November day, it’s hard to believe just how quickly summer flew by this year.  Captain Brendan and First Mate Brett spent a long day yesterday getting Manitou’s winter cover secured.  Before we know it we’ll be hoisting the Christmas tree up the mast!  But even though we’re hunkering down for winter our sites are already firmly fixed on next sailing season.  With that in mind, we are excited to announce our 2014 Windjammer Cruises! 

We kick off the Windjammer season with the 6 Day Explorer Cruise ($889 pp.), from September 3-9.  The 2013 trip was one for the history books!  Not only did it sell out in short order, but everyone had such a fantastic time that we’re already half filled for the 2014 sail.  Join us on a longer cruise and fully embrace the rhythm of wind, wave, and shipboard life.

September 11-15 we will head off on our 4 Day Wine Cruise ($739 pp.), back by popular demand!  Explore the great wine regions of the world with expert host Tim Tebeau. Tim’s lifelong passion for food, wine and travel has been realized in thirteen years as a retailer, distributor and importer of great wines from around the world. Tim holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and writes as Food & Wine Editor for Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine in addition to holding a partnership in U.S. Wine Imports, the Ann Arbor-based importer and distributor of boutique, family-owned wineries from North Manatou  kks (1 of 1)-2America and Europe. Tim hosts over thirty wine events each year to educate consumers and service industry professionals on regional wine styles and winemaking practices. He lives in Petoskey with his wife and two daughters. Each evening aboard Manitou we will discuss the winemaking histories and taste the varietals of different countries. Dinners will feature paired wines chosen by Tim as a perfect complement to our meals.

September 19-23 marks a new 4 ½ day offering for 2014; The Great Lakes Schooner Festival ($749 pp.).  Join us as we gather with tall ships from around the Great Lakes!  Board Manitou between 2:00 and 4:00 pm on Friday, September 23.  After dinner aboard we will set sail and parade around lower West Grand Traverse Bay, together with a fleet of visiting schooners!  Following the procession we will dock in company with the other vessels, giving everyone a chance to stroll the pier and view these majestic sailing ships.  We will depart Traverse City after breakfast the following morning, setting a course for…..who knows where?  We’ll let the wind and weather decide our itinerary!  This is a rare opportunity to step into the pages of history, and only five open cabins remain! 

Fear not, star gazers!  The 4 Day Astronomy Cruise ($739 pp.) returns from September 25-29.  Astronomer and Hillsdale College professor Mark Nussbaum will once again be our guide to the moon and stars as we study the brilliant northern Michigan heavens.

BX6A1888Interested in searching out the first bits of autumn color?  October 2-6 is our 4 Day Fall Foliage Cruise ($659 pp.).  This is a beautiful time of year to experience all that northern Michigan has to offer!  Kick back, relax and enjoy the view.

Last, but certainly not least, is the season wrap up, the 3 Day Fall Foliage Cruise!  Join us October 9-12 as we bid farewell to the 2014 season.  This affordable cruise is only $529 per person!  We’ll have the apple cider waiting for you.

No matter which trip you choose your cruise will be highlighted by new friends, casual fun, and phenomenal home cooked meals prepared on a wood burning stove.  Remember, ALL  RETURNING PASSENGERS RECEIVE A 10% DISCOUNT! 

We look forward to sailing with you!