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Posted by Tall Ships America on May 18, 2010

~Ben Rogers

We have just completed a two-week marathon run of daysails, and it’s been a total whirlwind. Niagara is a well known institution here in Erie, and part of that relationship involves taking every 8th grader in the Erie school districts aboard for an educational daysail as a capstone field trip to their school year. 

Students get a look at life below decks

It’s an effort with its own unique challenges that remind me a lot of my happy summers working as camp counselor between college semesters. When the wind pipes up it gets really fun. All of a sudden we are wearing ship and tacking all around the harbor with shorthanded crew, because half of the crew are teaching sail theory, or sail setting, or steering and navigation. You learn very quickly how to handle a rig when you can wear ship with a handful of people. Bouncing to main braces and fore braces, passing fore-and-aft sails, and at one point the Chief Mate Billy and I wore ship by ourselves. Lots of fun, running around deck like that.

Sam teaches sail theory

 Saturday was a remarkable day. I’ve been falling in love with this ship and her rig for several weeks now, but it blossomed fully during our public day sail on Saturday. There were photographers in the harbor, and Captain Wes wanted to put on a show, so we shook out our reefs and set every stitch of canvas we had. Niagara‘s rig is unique from other square riggers I’ve seen in that her royals are set flying, which means the yard is sent up from deck, and received and crossed by crew on the t’gallant yard, who then attach the sheets and sheet home the clews aloft. Isaiah and I were the hands aloft for the setting of the main royal, and Isaiah walked me through it, since it was my first time setting royals like this. It was a lot of fun. I think the Niagara’s flying royals are my favorite new toy. I plan to be up there for as many of the settings as I can.

Learning how to steer

Once we had all the sail set, Rob scurried around the rig for a bit and ironed out some more wrinkles, then we enjoyed the sunset sail. Niagara is truly a magnificent ship. She’s rigged like a harp, and requires delicate capable hands by the captain and mates, and it is a  pleasure to be one of her caretakers and sailors.

Learning how to set sails

This round of daysails is over for now, and we are gearing up for a mini passage under the command of Captain Rybka to Port Colborne and Put-In-Bay, and other stops in between, which should be a lot of fun. I know the crew is ready to take Niagara out into some open water and stand night watches, and see what the beers taste like in other bars.

Until next time.

All photos taken by John Baker


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