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Great Lakes CHALLENGE

Posted by calebpifer on June 8, 2006

The Tall Ships are making their return to the Great Lakes this summer, and I am lucky to be part of the ASTA TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE adventure for the third time. My first experience with the CHALLENGE occurred in 2001 onboard the tall ship “Brig Niagara”. We participated in both the
Cleveland and Detroit events. The CHALLENGE is a series of races and port events that is designed is foster understanding and cooperation among the various international crews. There are so many memorable events from the summer of 2001 that it gets hard to encapsulate everything. I find it ironic that the very purpose of the CHALLENGE is to foster camaraderie among crews, because some of my most memorable experiences had to with inter-crew interactions. Whether it was a barbeque on Kelly’s Island with two Canadian Schooners (Bluenose and Highlander Sea), or an all out crew party at the Detroit Yacht Club, I made friends that summer that have endured five years later.

I retuned to the Great Lakes again in 2003 as part of the ASTA Race Team. That summer, the crews hailed from every corner of the globe including Holland and India. Don’t get me wrong, the sailing was fantastic, but my memories are still rooted in the fascinating individuals that I was able to meet. Enjoying a bowl of traditional curry along with the Indian Naval Attaché is not an experience that I will soon forget! Another memorable event was after a long hot day of maintenance onboard the “HMS Bounty”. We were anchored just off of Chicago – the buildings in clear view, and pleasure boats abound – when the captain called a swim-call. I was using a block and tackle from the main yard (one of the horizontal pieces of wood from the mast) to swing out twenty feet away from the ship before plunging in the water! I remember how many boats were gathering around, taking pictures, and cheering every time I would drop. Upon our captain’s recommendation, I then proceeded to jump from the bow sprit in the front of the vessel – some 30 feet over the water. You should have heard the excitement of the onlookers as they blew their horns and cheered as if I were an Olympic diver!

The TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE is more than sailing; it is a rare opportunity to interact with people of diverse backgrounds, and cultures, in a shared environment – the sea. While I will not be physically returning to the Great Lakes this year, I will endeavor to share my experiences with you as the summer progresses. It is my hope that you will be involved with the CHALLENGE in some fashion this summer – whether you sail on a tall ships, attend a port event, or simply follow our regularly updated CHALLENGE Blog.

– Cal Pifer
American Sail Training Assn.

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One Response to “Great Lakes CHALLENGE”

  1. BrianH said

    I just wanted to say thanks to every one involved with the Great Lakes Challenge for putting on such a great event. I took my grandson to Green Bay to check out the ships and it was incredible. My young grandson was able to imagine himself as a sailor and learned a great deal of history about these ships. Every one was courteous and kind and took the time to talk to my Grandson when he had any question. I hope sometime in the future you will be back to do it again..

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