Passengers on the Iroquois, Vista King, and Voyageur cruise ships have passed under century-old raising bridges and laid eyes on history-rich chunks of Milwaukee skyline. However, they've also sat under squadrons of F-18s performing barrel rolls over Lake Michigan. Licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to perform tours and charters on the lake, Jake Chianelli and his captains offer their passengers a unique perspective on the city's waterside events. They also partner with the nonprofit organization Historic Milwaukee by using their trained docents to lead history tours, which include facts and anecdotes from the arrival of the first fur traders up to modern day.
With kitchen facilities and a full bar on board, each of the three double-decked ships are equipped for tours as well as a range of corporate events, wedding-rehearsal dinners, and Moby Dick-themed improv shows. Climate-controlled lower decks give passengers shelter in all weather, and open upper decks house a stage space where local indie-rock bands play during a summer concert series.
Action Marine keeps cutters in wave-cruising order with its comprehensive boat-maintenance services. A recommended part of the summerizing process, boat tune-ups are overseen by Action Marine’s certified technicians, whose constant training keeps them up-to-date on techniques for stomping out nautical nuisances on ships from manufacturers such as Mercury, Yamaha, MerCruiser, and Johnson. A typical tune-up involves inspecting the fuel and wires, replacing overworked filters and rotors, and making sure spark plugs haven't been replaced with vintage Game Boys. Mechanics also take a deeper look at engines, preventing mean-spirited contaminants from spiking the fuel with water. Once properly tuned, boats shake off the rust accrued during a wintery off-season, smoothly navigating summer seas while providing the low harmonies in all-boat Beach Boys cover bands.
Refreshing zephyrs glide off freshwater lochs and onto SkipperBud's, an all-purpose marina on the shores of Lake Mendota. New and used boats from high-end brands such as Starcraft and Sea Ray bob beside the sprawling facilities, where savvy salespeople bring decades of know-how to the 40-year-old company. Engine parts, safety tackle, and watersports equipment are also on hand, as are adept boat mechanics trained to tinker on most boat models and engine types. Indoor storage facilities fend off the icy barks of Old Man Winter, and, in the summer, make for easy access to Lake Mendota's launch points.
Situated on Bangs Lake, Wauconda Boat is a full-service marina with certified and master technicians on staff. In addition to renting out paddleboards, kayaks, and pontoon boats, Wauconda Boat can also supply boat motors, parts, and mermaid repellent.
Stationed on the shores of Lake Mendota, SkipperBud’s staff pairs clients with their choice of vessel before launching them into the lake’s placid waters. Up to 12 passengers can lounge on the Sylvan pontoon’s wraparound couches as the vessel cruises past the university campus and circles Governor’s Island. The more compact Sea Ray, meanwhile, kicks up waves as it races to the dock.