Jessica Ferris can trace her interest in sailing back to her childhood in Chicago and northern Michigan, where she plied Lake Michigan's waters with her family. As she grew up, she expanded her boating territory to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As an adult, she brought her talents home to Chicago as an ASA-certified keelboat captain and the founder of Skyline Sailing School. Here, she passes on her seafaring knowledge in classroom courses that teach sailing principles such as basic terminology, rules of open-water travel, points of sail, knot tying, and choosing the right shoulder parrot. She also engages students with hands-on open-water classes aboard 26-foot keelboats, which begin with an exploration of basic sailing skills and progress to lessons in more advanced maneuvers.
Lake Geneva Cruise Line received the 2012 Service Excellence Award at the Conference on Tourism, recognized by Governor Scott Walker for its continued commitment to unique, memorable experiences afforded by their daily tours and private charters. Tourists can traverse the picturesque waters of Lake Geneva in their stylish ships equipped with bars, snack bars, and restrooms. During tours, knowledgeable guides dispense narration about local history and guests provide their own soundtrack during afternoon ice-cream socials and sundown cruises. Evening cocktail cruises keep libations flowing for two hours as musical notes played by local musicians float out across the dark, sparkling water before they're gobbled up by jumping fish.
The die-hard paddlers of Geneva Kayak Center stay on the move throughout the year—both in their watercraft and across the globe. From May to September, they are headquartered in and around Chicago, where they teach kayaking during courses, workshops, and quick orientations, and dole out kayaks, canoes, and tubes for those who want to explore the Fox River's whitewater on their own.
When cold breezes start to blow through the Windy City, they head to Saint Marys, Georgia, to lead kayak camps and sea adventures on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. They also lead curated adventures off the costs of Alaska and Maine and in Wisconsin's idyllic Door County, where kayakers might spot deer grazing on grass or nibbling on cheese curds.
Janée Matteson is a little wary of technology. The more ubiquitous it becomes, she finds, it has more potential to keep kids indoors (a trend she has dubbed “acute nature deficit disorder”). Janée, whose family’s roots have been growing in Morris for nearly 200 years, basically spent her entire childhood outside, learning fur trapping and duck hunting with her father on the banks of the Illinois River. So in addition to her deep passion for the outdoors, founding Kayak Morris was largely inspired by doing whatever she could to help kids, their families, and domesticated teddy bears spend more time in nature.
Kayak Morris offers kayak and canoe lessons, and in addition, patrons can borrow their largely new fleet for leisurely trips along the Illinois River, Mazon River, or Illinois and Michigan Canal, which are home to wildlife such as great-blue herons, bald eagles, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. The staff also lead guided ecotours, which teach kids and adults about natural resources and what they can do to preserve and protect them for future generations. Family-focused private campgrounds is adjacent to the State Park along the rivers’ sandy shores invite groups to stay for monthly Glampouts (glamorous campouts) and spend their days taking advantage of potluck dinners, hiking, fishing, bike rentals, or guided kayak tours and to spend their nights watching a movie on Morris’ outdoor projection screen as campfires crackle nearby.