Stirring That Maritime Imagination

Kurt Krauss directs a scene in Southern Door School. Photo by Robert Maves Jr.

It started on a gray morning in Sturgeon Bay, much like the one outside when Kurt Krauss sips a cup of coffee at Glas in Sturgeon Bay.

“There’s just something in the air that stirs in side of you,” Krauss said, looking out the window. “You get that lake breeze, you’ve got the seagulls. It’s that cool air with the mist and the rain. I wanted to write something that captures that feeling… Something that stirs the maritime imagination. Something that makes you want to jump on a tugboat and see the beauty for what it is.”

In 2006 that foggy lake air stirred up a story in Krauss that has led to a feature-length film, Confessions of a Sailor, scheduled to release on June 15. He’s spent the last seven years writing, directing and producing the film with the help of actors, editors and musicians from Door County and beyond.

Confessions of a Sailor is the story of Michael, a young writer sent to Sturgeon Bay to write a series of features for a nautical magazine. It’s his big break, and he’s looking for inspiration. While locals are put off by his aloof demeanor, his girlfriend helps him befriend a local sailor who tells him the sea story that will make his career – the wreck of the Carl Bradley.

The Bradley sunk in 1958, and 33 of 35 crew members died in the wreck. Most of the sailors were from Rogers City, Mich., where overnight 23 women became widows and 53 children became fatherless and the community pulled together to take care of each other. As Krauss said, it was the Edmund Fitzgerald before the Edmund Fitzgerald – a mysterious, devastating Lake Michigan wreck that got national attention.

“I was reading the history of this [shipwreck] and thinking ‘how could this not be a movie?’” Krauss said. “You read through the historical context and think ‘this reads like a screenplay.’”

Actors prepare to film a scene of ‘Confessions of a Sailor.’ Photo by Robert Maves Jr.

But telling an interesting story wasn’t enough. Krauss wanted to send a message. And this was the opportunity – Confessions of a Sailor is an independent film, far from the mainstream movies that tell the same story time after time.

“This movie looks at this concept of love as sacrificial love,” Krauss said. “It’s really exemplified by those who make their living on the sea because they love their families, and this is why they do this back breaking labor on the water, and yet they’re separated from their families so many months out of the year.”

Krauss also wants the filming and production experience to be positive for everyone involved, and hopefully break the “superficial actor” stereotype. He wants to give the film business a better reputation.

“I saw a need to do something through media to really call out the good in people,” Krauss said. “You can change the world to get people to treat each other better, and you can do that through the arts.”

Although the film is distinctly local – much of it was shot at Wave Point Resort in Little Sturgeon Bay and local faces are featured throughout – Confessions of a Sailor drew talent from as far as California. Jennifer Cadena, who’s appeared in Days of Our Lives, Bring it On Again and The Roommate, stars as Michael’s girlfriend Michelle.

Not all the actors were so seasoned. Robert Maves Sr., who played the part of physician Dr. Frank Lubon, was a first-time actor. Maves is a retired chiropractor, and said he’s been practicing for the part for 55 years.

The practice didn’t prepare him for the long hours of taping his one scene.

“It was kind of surprising to me to see how long it took to do,” Maves said. “We started early, from 10 in the morning and we didn’t get done until 5 or 6 in the evening. They repeat, repeat, repeat, and finally they get it to where they want it, they conclude. Anyway, it was interesting but I was glad when it was over.”

‘Confessions of a Sailor’ contrasts Michael, a present-day writer assigned a series of maritime stories for a magazine, with the wreck of the ‘Carl Bradley’ in 1958. Photo by John Schakel Jr.

Krauss’s goal to make the filming process fun and positive worked on Maves.

“Everyone was quite pleasant to deal with and I would not hesitate to recommend them very highly to anyone that asks me, and certainly if I can help them again in the future I’d be glad to do it,” Maves said. “I won’t go out and seek that as a profession.”

Head to one of the local showings of Confessions of a Sailor and meet some of the cast and production crew. Look for local scenes and faces or for an insightful take on relationships, but don’t expect to leave the story behind when you leave the movie.

“It’s not a sad ending, it’s not a happy ending,” Krauss said. “It is an ending that sort of leaves you in a place where if you’re journeying with them in the beginning you’re going to be journeying with them at the end.”

Confessions of a Sailor will be shown at St. Joseph’s Retreat Center in Baileys Harbor on July 5, the North Ephraim Movie Theater on July 6 and Aug. 24, and in Sister Bay on Aug. 14. (Check upcoming issues of the Pulse for more specific information.)

For more information about the film, visit or email [email protected].