Ray Skelton Illustration

Annual Captain Ray Skelton

Ray Skelton was one of the founders of the St. Louis River Quest in the Port of Duluth-Superior. Ray began his career as a sailor in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service in 1961 serving in the Pacific Fleet. In 1964, Ray became a merchant mariner on the Great Lakes and rose through the ranks from seaman to captain. He earned his first-class pilot’s license in 1972 and his master’s license in 1976. Throughout his life, Ray was dedicated to the Great Lakes and the maritime industry, ending his career at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

Ray shared his passion for Lake Superior and the St. Louis River with friends, colleagues, and community members alike until his death on October 13, 2006. We continue to honor Captain Ray Skelton’s commitment to stewardship by naming the River Quest Writing Contest after him. In 2012, a poetry component was added to the writing contest.

To prepare River Quest students for the contest, teachers are encouraged to review the following suggestions:

  1. After your students have taken their River Quest journey, please encourage them to write an essay or a poem about their experience with River Quest and the St. Louis River/Duluth-Superior Harbor.

    Please distribute the guidelines for the essay and poetry writing to each student. Individual copies are delivered to your school along with the Presenter’s Packets.

    Please inform your students that these guidelines are used in the judging process.

    These guidelines, as well as previous essay and poetry winners with their winning entries are available on this page.

    Please make use of the RQ video produced to aide in your students’ preparation for the journey and the writing contest.

  2. Ask students to focus on their personal reactions to the information supplied at any or all of the 10 stations they visited, as well as the information packets offered by RQ sponsors. Ask students to consider reflecting on at least three ways they and their families might keep the river safe and healthy for today and the future.

    Using at least three (3) topics, encourage students to reflect on how industrial, environmental, and recreational activities going on in our harbor relate to the environmental and economic health of the entire St. Louis River ecosystem … plus the ways in which students and their families can help keep themselves – and our estuary – safe and healthy for years to come.

  3. Essay judges will be looking for a title, a minimum of three paragraphs, approximately 3-5 sentences in each paragraph, and a conclusion within the last paragraph. Please remind students to use the essay guidelines. Ask students to avoid listing stations or listing information from the stations. Instead, the judges will be looking for a burgeoning awareness of the roles we all play – area businesses and organizations as well as individual students and their families – in sustaining the environmental health, economic vitality and recreational appeal of our waterway.

    For the poetry writers, judges will be looking for a title, a minimum of three verses with at least four (4) lines in each verse (when appropriate), and an awareness of all the writing skills listed on the essay and poetry guidelines. The judges must be able to identify the type of poetry the student has selected, i.e. limerick, haiku, free verse, cinquain, quatrain, etc., therefore, please ask students to label the poem as to the type of poetry they are writing.

  4. Remind students to write their name, date, teacher’s name, and school at the top of their essay or poem. Please do not send the guidelines back to us with the writing contest entries.
  5. Each classroom may select six pieces of writing to represent their room. Essays/poems are due by Friday, May 27, 2022. All entries should be emailed to stlouisriverquest@gmail.com.
  6. The essays/poems will be judged the week of May 30th. Teachers will be notified of the results by June 1. The work will not be returned to students.
  7. First-place winners will be presented with the Captain Ray Skelton Awards to be housed at their schools for the following school year, along with a special prize package. Winning writers may be invited to present their work at various summer events around the harbor. Those events will be posted before the end of the school year. Please share that information with your students.