'The best day of the year:' Milwaukee's Big Boat Day signals the return of spring

MILWAUKEE -- It’s a nautical rite of spring on Lake Michigan. Milwaukee's Big Boat Day took place on Friday, April 27.

“Today is the best day of the year," said sailboat owner Paul Baldino. "It’s Big Boat Day.” 

“I mean, just the idea of watching your boat hit the water," added Sean Campbell. "There’s nothing like it.”

Big Boat Day is an annual event at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, when a 20-ton crane is brought in get the largest vessels – mostly privately-owned – back in the water after the winter.

“We’re all really excited," Milwaukee Community Sailing Center Director Holly Church said. "Summer is a great time to be out on the water. We have this incredible resource in Lake Michigan.”

Milwaukee Community Sailing Center Director Holly Church

One member compared it to an old-fashioned barn raising.

“Everyone is just excited, we’re all helping each other out," Campbell said. "It’s a community sailing center, so it’s all about everybody helping everybody else get their thing done.”

Sean Campbell

That collaboration is what makes the Sailing Center such a treasure for Milwaukee. It helps steer all ages, abilities and incomes toward the maritime pursuit.

“Our lessons are about $500 with membership and lessons," said Church. "That allows you to reach a certain level of skill. You can then come back and take the boats out with your family and friends."

“It’s a wonderful community," added Baldino. "It’s just the greatest place. And it’s pretty unique in America.”

After 40 years, the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center continues to make quite the splash.