Smithsonian Journeys Experts

Robert Desh

photo of Robert Desh

Bob recently retired as the Executive Director of the Door County Maritime Museum, dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the unique maritime history of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. 

Prior to joining the Door County Maritime Museum, Bob served for over 36 years with the United States Coast Guard.  During his very diverse military career, he served on five Coast Guard cutters, including three on the Great Lakes.  He also saw duty in a wide variety of shore assignments including Commanding Officer of the storied International Ice Patrol, monitoring iceberg dangers in the North Atlantic Ocean.  

His Great Lakes Coast Guard duty included assignments in Buffalo, Sturgeon Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Detroit, and Cleveland. He has sailed all five of the Great Lakes, visited all of the region’s major ports, and served aboard two isolated offshore Great Lakes lighthouses.

His career began with his enlistment in Omaha Nebraska in 1971.  He rose through the enlisted grades to Chief Petty Officer, was commissioned as a Chief Warrant Officer, and later graduated from Officer Candidate School.  He progressed through the officer ranks, retiring from active duty in 2007 as a Captain (equivalent to Colonel in the non-sea services).

A long-time maritime and Coast Guard history buff, Bob’s entertaining, upbeat presentation style makes him a regionally popular lecturer on Great Lakes maritime history.  He has presented on a wide variety of topics ranging from the War of 1812 to the construction of the Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan Ship Canal. He has published numerous articles on various aspects of Coast Guard and maritime history and is a contributing author to the 2002 edition of The American Practical Navigator.  Charming and chatty, “Captain Bob” is known for having a ready sea story about nearly everything. 

What Our Travelers Say

Captain Bob was very energetic, friendly and eager to share his information with everyone.  He knows his material very well.

- Margaret T., A Cruise of the Great Lakes

Bob's friendliness, enthusiasm and knowlege about the region was wonderful.  His lectures were very organized and well presented.  He always welcomed questions and is the type of expert we look for with Smithsonian.

- Peter N., A Cruise of the Great Lakes