Meet the people and passion that bring Michigan Challenge to life.
Captain Bryan became interested in sailing in 1975 when a friend bought a sailboat, and he raced it with him. He got his captains’ license in 1994.
He was first mate, and then captain of the Appledore IV for 3 years. The Appledore ran an Outward Bound type program for youth aging out of the foster care system. The program involved sail training, life mapping, and counseling.
Captain Bryan joined MHA in 2002, and has been captain of the schooner Madeline since 2005. He has taken her to Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Michigan.
He was also captain of the armed sloop Welcome, and visited Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in Canada with her.
In 2008 Captain Bryan was instrumental in securing the donation of the gaff-rigged cutter Champion to MHA. The donation carried the stipulation that she be used to benefit youth. Captain Bryan developed the S.A.I.L. Champion program based on the Appledore model.
Captain Bryan started US Captains Training in 1999, which licenses master mariners. He also has worked for Great Lakes Sailing Company since 1990 teaching American Sailing Association sailing classes, and was awarded International Instructor of the Year, based on the comments of his clients in their post-class reviews. In 2015 he was awarded a life saving award from the Elmwood Fire and Rescue Department for actions taken in the saving of a life on Grand Traverse Bay.
Jason became interested in sailing the first time he stepped onto the deck of his parents’ sailboat as a child. He spent time in different ports and marinas from Saint Clair to the Mackinac Straits and west to Lake Michigan. Sailing stirred up excitement and adventure in him as a child and continues to do so today.
Jason had an early start in the construction trades with the family business. He painted houses on the side and ran his own outdoor property maintenance business until market and life changes made him take a look at following his passion for sailing and boats and make a career in the maritime trades.
This bought him back to school to study welding and machine tooling, and the preliminary studies for maritime trades. This also brought him to US Captains Training® in 2010 to get his merchant mariners license. His instructor, Captain Bryan Smith, encouraged him to get involved with the Maritime Heritage Alliance, a nonprofit which owns several classic boats and runs the S.A.I.L program for at-risk teens aboard the gaff-rigged topsail cutter Champion. He became mate, then captain of Champion, and became a captain-in-training on Welcome, a replica of a Revolutionary War-era armed sloop.
Jason then accepted a maritime welding job in Wisconsin and was contracted to work on the LCS (Littoral Combat Ships) vessels for the US Navy. He worked in the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard in Wisconsin on steel hulls and the Austal shipyard in Alabama, welding both steel and aluminum hulls, and pipefitting.
Jason returned home to Traverse City to captain Champion for two seasons and also served as a relief captain on Nauti-Cat, a tourist catamaran. He is currently working at MMC hull welding on the LCS vessels, and has started his own welding and fabrication business specializing in marine applications Keelson Metal Works. With Michigan challenge he hopes to spark interest in a younger generation for the many different maritime trades, and provide a workforce badly needed in the Great Lakes area.
Judy was social worker/rehabilitation counselor with degrees in social work from Central Michigan University for the State of Michigan for 34 years, helping transition students into employment. Her retirement adventures include cooking (woodstove) for Schooner Manitou guests & crew for 1 year, and crew/volunteer for Maritime Heritage Alliance for 10 years.
Barb grew up in Lansing. Her dad had a steel fabrication company, and built a 40’ steel gaff-rigged ketch, which was her introduction to sailing. The family had a cottage in Suttons Bay, where they docked the boat.
Barb graduated from CMU and taught high school English for 32 years in Hastings, MI. After retirement she and her husband Bill built a home on the site of the old family cottage. They both volunteered for several years with Inland Seas Education Association, an organization that teaches Great Lakes science to students aboard the schooner Inland Seas.
They joined Maritime Heritage Alliance in 2007, and volunteered in many capacities on the schooner Madeline. Barb also crewed on the cutter Champion with program for at-risk teens, S.A.I.L. Champion. She is now on the board of Michigan Challenge, serving as secretary.
Denny Ray started sailing in his teens. In 1983 while hanging out at the Traverse City coal dock he became influenced by the movement to restore classic wooden sailboats. This led him to purchase Mystic, a derelict 1939 Deering 30’ cutter sloop that was influenced by early Alden designs. Along with his lifelong friend and master woodworker Mark E. Martin, they restored and sailed her for 25 years, with trips to the Straits of Mackinaw and the North Channel. In 2008, after 25 years of being the primary care giver for the classic vessel, Denny sold Mystic and purchased Aleta, a 1970 Olin Stephens design Tartan 34C. He completely restored her, and she now resides on buoy 16 in Elmwood Township.
As a longtime friend of Captain Bryan Smith, Denny began volunteering on Perceptionto help restore and sail her on the pristine waters of the Great Lakes, and support the nonprofit’s mission to help Gold Star Teens, veterans, and their families. In addition to many hours of restoration on Perception, Denny has just earned his masters 25-ton certificate with sailing endorsement from US Captains Training.
Denny and his wife Mary have 2 grown children. To supplement his love of sailing he has worked for 30 years in the I.T. world. He owns and operates Accucomp Service, Inc., providing I.T. solutions, quality hardware, and dependable service to local county governments and small businesses throughout Northern Michigan.
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