Sailing season comes to an end as boats go into hibernation for winter at McKinley Marina

MILWAUKEE -- As temperatures drop, all signs point towards winter -- with any chance of an Indian summer likely long gone. On Friday, Oct. 26, an entirely different season also came to a close.

The rumbling sounds of a crane only mean two things at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center: the start of sailing season -- or to boaters dismay, the end.

"Well today is our big boat day," said Holly Church, Milwaukee Community Center director. "It means the snow is about to fly and unless you're a snowmobiler or a skier, I think you kind of dread this day."

A crane is brought in for the job, lifting vessels that weigh between 2,000 and 20,000 pounds.

"Each of the big boat owners will bring their boat to our dock," said Church. "This crane will reach in and grab those boats."

A team of experienced boaters were on hand to help as the crane director tried to avoid 'rocking the boat.'

"Communicating with the crane operator is very important that we're all synced in moving the boat so nobody gets hurt," said Al Schmidt, boat owner.

Nearly 25 vessels left the water Friday -- the process taking about 20 minutes apiece.

"It's tricky in that when we have winds or different issues with the environment," said Schmidt.

Packed side by side, they'll rest on cradles throughout the winter.

"The harbor freezes over in the winter months. So in a couple of months, if you came down here, you'll see ice fisherman standing out on the water," said Church.

Meantime, boaters are already thinking of spring.

"This is like another home for me -- to come down and sail," said Schmidt.

While sailing season may be coming to a close, the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center will stay open throughout the winter -- offering a series of boating courses.