The Sadie Ann Floating Classroom

The Sadie Ann

The Sadie Ann is a catamaran-style ship that leads both educational and research-based voyages into the icy waters of Lake Superior. The vessel – which is overseen by the Lake Superior Research Institute at UW-Superior – serves as a “floating classroom” and is designed with state-of-the-art technology to support research and education by any discipline.

Fast Facts

  • The 65-foot aluminum catamaran-style vessel will have capacity for 49 people.
  • The hybrid battery propulsion system is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Maximum speed of 18 knots and range of 690 miles at 12 knots.
  • The main deck is home to both wet and dry research labs, a moon pool opening and a hydraulic winch and A-frame.
  • The upper deck includes a 310 square foot classroom with internet and communication technologies.

Sadie Ann’s Namesake

The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Sadie Ann research and classroom vessel was named in memory of Sadie Ann (Bashara) Swenson, beloved mother and grandmother of the Swenson family whose generous support through the Jim and Sue Swenson Family Foundation has made this initiative possible.

The ship’s name honors Sadie Ann Bashara Swenson’s:

  • Commitment to education…both learning and teaching
  • Courage to face life’s challenges head on
  • Fierce love of family, friends and community

Following his older brother, Samuel, Jacob Bashara left Lebanon in 1897 and called Ironwood, Michigan, his new home. He could not read or write English, so times were difficult. His brother, however, had established himself as a grocer and had learned to read and write English.

Jacob became a travelling jewelry and watch salesman who catered to the needs of eager shoppers in remote lumber camps and mining communities.

Sadie was born January 1, 1908. After bearing five children, Jacob’s wife Mary died on June 9, 1911. Sadie and one of her brothers went away to live in a boarding house run by Mrs. Beck. One year later, a 32-year-old Jacob married a 14-year-old Asma George. She had not met Jacob until the wedding. In time, Jacob and Asma had five children in addition to the five from his first marriage.

Sadie had grown to a whopping height of less than five feet as an adult when she came to Superior, Wisconsin. From 1930 to 1932 she attended Superior State Teachers College. She worked at Kresge’s, one of the city’s dime stores.

Sadie met Irving Swenson at a summertime, open-air street dance in Iron River, Wisconsin. They married on September 21, 1935, by the justice of the peace in Carlton, Minnesota, for $2.25. The receipt for the marriage remains a family heirloom to this day.

Irving was working at Leamon’s Bakery in Superior, which later became widely known as Eddy’s Bakery.

Irving and Sadie had five sons (James, William, Robert, Richard and John), and three daughters who did not survive infancy.

Sadie was involved in the local school Parent Teacher Association, including serving as president. She had a powerful voice and was committed to improving the city’s schools. She single-handedly lobbied city hall to get the funding to add a gymnasium to Jim’s school, John Erickson Grade School.

For extra money, she handed out Hi-C drink samples at local grocery stores.

She instilled her love of learning in her boys, two of whom attended UWS. Jim thrived at UWS for his freshman and sophomore years (1955-1957) before transferring to the Madison campus for the first half of his junior year in 1957. He returned to UWS in the spring to finish the school year. Jim transfer to UMD and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry in 1959. A proud Yellowjacket and long-time resident of Superior, Bill attended UWS and earned his undergraduate degree in 1963 and his graduate degree in 1966, both in biology. From 1972 to 2001, Bill was a member of the UWS faculty. A countless number of students benefitted from his passion for biology and for the region’s vast aquatic resources.

After a long illness, Sadie died from ovarian cancer on February 14, 1955…yes, on Valentine’s Day.

On her deathbed, Sadie made Irving promise to raise and keep their sons together. He made good on his promise, despite aunts and uncles asking to split the boys up to live with them.

In all, Irving and Sadie left a legacy of 8 children, 11 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren.

Construction Continues

After a year and a half of planning, the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Floating Classroom has entered the construction phase. The state-of-the-art catamaran designed with a hybrid engine will be used for education and research on Lake Superior. The plan for a floating classroom became a reality after a successful fundraising campaign conducted by the UW-Superior Foundation.

The ship was designed by Incat Crowther and is being built by Midship Marine in Harvey, Louisiana. It is slated to be completed in 2024 and will be sailed to Superior where it will be docked at the LSRI’s ballast water research facility at Montreal Pier.