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Sturgeon Bay Shipyards Open Doors For Rotary Shipyard Tours


Hundreds of people took the opportunity to peek inside Sturgeon Bay’s shipbuilding industry Saturday during The Rotary Club’s 21st Annual Sturgeon Bay Shipyard Tours. It’s the one day a year when Bay Shipbuilding, Palmer Johnson Yachts and Great Lakes Yacht Services open their doors to the public.

The gantry crane, also known as "Big Blue," has a lifting capacity of 200 tons. The four legs support the transverse beam which is almost 160 feet above ground level. The operator sits in the suspended cubicle about 135 feet in the air as the crane travels the length of the graving dock, more than 1,200 feet.


Groups of guests were guided through the Bay Shipbuilding Yard on a tour that lasted about an hour. The groups were treated to an explanation of how the gantry crane, graving dock and floating dock work. Tour guide Jon Gast says he has been a guide for the past six years or so and none of the tours have been the same.

Jon Gast (left) explains how the graving dock works to a tour group. This is where ships are built and the winter fleet is worked on. A large steel gate seals out water so that workers can perform maintenance, then when the ship is ready they fill the 1,158 ft long x 30 ft deep x 140 ft wide hole with water so the vessel can sail out. Filling the dock takes about five hours and pumping it dry takes about eight hours.


Great Lakes Yacht Services welcomed visitors, allowing them to take part in either a 45-minute guided tour or a self-tour. Up in the loft Charlie Klein shared his life story and how he became the owner of Dorsal Sails.


The smell of paint greeted guests at Palmer Johnson Yachts where they watched workers paint a (very large) yacht.


At Bay Shipbuilding, tour groups learned how the gantry crane works.


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