TRAVERSE CITY — Wes Clanton and Melissa Gooch are people of intrigue as they make the community club circuit in their Great Lakes Maritime Academy cadet gear.

“People ask so many questions that we have to remind them we’re selling tickets, too,” Gooch said.

The curiosity reinforces Clanton and Gooch’s mission: to invite the community to a fundraising dinner and ship tour that sates inquiring minds and appetites both.

“People drive by the boat on their way to work every day but they don’t really know what goes on here,” said Clanton. “We’re proud of what we do and want to give people the opportunity to see for themselves.”

The idea started with one organization — Women on the Water — and a simple spaghetti dinner. Then it got underway — and gourmet.

“The idea kept expanding,” said Gooch.

Now the Great Lakes Maritime Academy will host its first Captain’s Dinner and Ship Tour on April 12 at Lobdell’s — the Great Lakes Culinary Institute’s practice restaurant at Northwest Michigan College’s Great Lakes Campus. Cadets will prepare a gourmet pasta meal with handmade sausages and breads under the direction of the Great Lake Culinary Institute chefs, then escort diners aboard the T/S State of Michigan for a ship tour. There are two seatings — one at 5:30 p.m. and another at 7 p.m. — and the $50 a head tickets are half sold, said Gooch.

Proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction benefit three cadet organizations: Women on the Water, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and the Great Lakes Maritime Academy Sailing Team. WOW and SNAME earmarked the funds to send members to upcoming conventions; the sailing team needs money to go to their annual regatta and make $8,000 in repairs to the boats.

Dinner guests will develop their own sea legs with a turn in the Academy’s new ship simulator, which features teetering horizons and an immersion effect, minus the water.

“It feels like the floor is moving,” Clanton said.

Plus, everyone will have the chance to walk through the ship — a good opportunity given that the T/S/ State of Michigan is often underway on practice cruises with the cadets during the warmer months.

“People will have a lot of fun,” Clanton said.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 231-995-1209.

Trending Video

Recommended for you