Two iconic figures in the rich maritime history of Door County and a local Coast Guardsman were honored at the annual Mariner Award Dinner held at the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club on Saturday evening, July 28.
Charlie Voight, long-time cruise vessel captainand renowned owner of “Charlie’s Smokehouse” in Gills Rock, received the award recognizing a living nominee. Posthumous honors went to local maritime legend C. Ray Christianson. Mr. Voight was presented the Mariner Award trophy, a hand-crafted original work by noted local wood carver David Frykman. The deceased recipient’s name will be added to the Mariner Award plaque that is prominently displayed on the second floor of the Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay.
For the second year, the award dinner also honored the Sturgeon Bay area Coast Guard Person of the Year. Sponsored by the City of Sturgeon Coast Guard Committee, Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club and Door County Maritime Museum, this award recognizes a local active duty Coast Guardsman who exemplifies the Coast Guard’s core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. The nominees for this year’s award were Petty Officer Third Class Anthony Abate from Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay, Petty Officer First Class Larry Hall from the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay and Petty Officer Second Class David Mann from Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Sturgeon Bay. Petty Officer Mann, who oversees and maintains all Coast Guard owned housing in the Sturgeon Bay area, was this year’s award recipient.
Petty Officer Mann received an impressive wooden plaque depicting the Coast Guard Seal and Sturgeon Bay Mayor Thad Birmingham read a proclamation declaring July 28th, 2012 “Damage Controlman Second Class David Mann Day” throughout the city.
Captain Charlie Voight has been a licensed merchant mariner for more than 48 years. A descendant of one of the county’s historic commercial fishing families, he has been the owner and operator a series of passenger vessels sailing from Gills Rock to Washington Island, Rock Island, the Garden Peninsula and other points in upper Green Bay and Lake Michigan. He has been at the helm of his newest vessels, the Yankee Clipper and Island Clipper for nearly all of their daily scheduled runs to Washington Island. Since beginning his career in the 1960s, Captain Voight has made over 20,000 round trips, exposing countless Door County visitors to the storied passages and breathtaking waters off the northern tip of the peninsula.
In addition to his prowess as a boat captain, Charlie Voight helped pioneer the retail smoked fish industry in Door County. In 1932 his father Roy opened a smokehouse on the Gills Rock dock at the tip of the peninsula, selling smoked chubs to summer visitors. Charlie worked alongside his father and took over the business after Roy’s death. Charlie and his wife Bonnie added locally caught whitefish, trout and salmon to the product offerings and developed the smokehouse into a year ‘round business. “Charlie’s Smoke House” is now synonymous with smoked fish in Door County and is a must stop for visitors to the peninsula.
Rising from laborer to general superintendent and eventually general manager at the Leathem D. Smith shipyard, C. Ray Christianson would go on to become one of the most important figures in the long and storied history of Sturgeon Bay shipbuilding. In addition to his accomplishments at Leathem Smith’s yard, he assisted Captain John Roen in creating a steel department at the Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. He would go on to create the Christy Corporation, sustaining Sturgeon Bay’s shipbuilding prominence after the shipbuilding boom of World War II. The sale of his yard to the Bay Shipbuilding Company ensured this legacy would live on. He continued to serve as the training director at Bay Shipbuilding, overseeing the development of thousands of workers in all fields of the shipbuilding industry. Mr. Christianson’s shipbuilding career spanned more than 50 years. Additionally, he was one of the “founding fathers” of the Door County Maritime Museum serving in capacities ranging from curator to President of the Board of Directors.
A joint effort by the Door County Maritime Museum and Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club, the Mariner Award is presented annually to recognize individuals who have had significant, positive and lasting impact on the Door County maritime community. One living and one deceased recipient are honored each year.
“As was the case with past years, the nominees for 2012 were once again a veritable who’s who of the iconic figures in the storied maritime history of the Door Peninsula.” said Maritime Museum Executive Director Bob Desh. “Each and every individual was highly deserving…the selection committee faced an unenviable task on narrowing the choice to just two. Their job was made doubly tough by the burden of selecting the Coast Guard Person of the Year from among the pool of three extraordinary candidates.”
The nominees for this year’s Mariner Award were Steve Brunstrom, C. Ray Christianson, John H. Purves, Richard Stern, Charlie Voight and Jerry Waite. “Our desire is that the Mariner Award be very inclusive,” said Desh. “We know that each year’s list is far from complete…there are scores of deserving candidates, both living and deceased. We hope the award continues to grow and that folks will be inspired to nominate their favorites.”
The Coast Guard Person of the Year and Mariner Award dinner was part of the second annual “Sturgeon Bay Maritime Week: A Salute to the United States Coast Guard”. This new festival brings together many long-standing annual events along with new and exciting activities to celebrate the area’s rich maritime heritage and honor local Coast Guard units. Maritime Week continues this weekend with a host of activities including the arrival of Wisconsin’s tall-ship, the schooner Denis Sullivan.