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Of Pirate Bars and Day Sails

Posted by Tall Ships America on June 26, 2010

~By Ben Rogers

June 17, 2010 

            Last night was a spectacular sail from Erie to Cleveland. We took a group of Cleveland Sea Scouts from Erie for the overnight passage, and they got the full show, with all the pertinent stars and constellations making appearances, and the wind wasn’t too shy either. In Cleveland we discharged the Sea Scouts at the dock behind the Browns’ stadium, and Captain Wes held a press conference to promote the upcoming tall ships festivals. Though the Sea Scouts were only on for the night, they were extremely keen, and even took time to learn some of Niagara‘s 200 lines.

            Soon after the to-do, we tossed off our docklines, got into sea watches, and headed back for Put-In-Bay. More sweet sailing. When I came on deck for the 0300-0700 watch, t’gallants were still set and drawing well, pulling Niagara along at a friendly 7-8 knots. Though the wind was there for us, the stars were gone behind thick clouds and the morning was dark. With sunrise, the wind slackened, but not before Perry’s Memorial and Put-In-Bay were close off our starboard bow. I’ll take that any day. 

June 20, 2010           

            I am not naturally wired for daysails. I love all the sail handling we get to do, but the back and forth to the same dock can feel a bit like that unlucky Sisyphus. Today, though, we had probably the best daysail of the season so far. Getting out of the harbor we were faced with a headwind. A lesser sailor would motor out into open water before putting canvas on. What did Captain Wes do? He tacked her out. Back and forth, lee shore to lee shore, the conditions were perfect for us to play brig in. AB Sam conned us through several tacks, as she’d already proved her mately stock in other tall ships, and was no stranger to the rig. The crew handled the ship beautifully, and we  made pretty good progress to windward, something I am not wholly used to having only worked in Picton Castle and Harvey Gamage before this summer. Not particularly weatherly vessels. This was a lot of fun.

            We ran back into the harbor, secured the ship, and opened up to the public for deck tours. Out on the harbor the weather was perfect, but at the dock the temperature brought back those mythic allusions of the afterlife, and everyone worked hard to beat the heat, even our newest member of the crew, the ship’s cat, Dunnage.  He’s named that because Sam found him huddled among some dunnage at our home dock in Erie a few weeks ago, and we’ve been slowly acclimating him to being a shipboard cat. This is his first voyage along with us, and he’s been adjusting nicely, though everyone agrees the little fellow has gotten chubby since his latest operation.

Dunnage beats the heat

June 25, 2010 

            We’re back in Put-In-Bay for Pirate Weekend, which is apparently a boon to the local economy, if not culture in general. We fired our starboard gun to kick off the event, and when we returned from our daysail there were about 40 people on the dock, decked out like pirates. On this island of bars, probably the best one for the weekend will be Splash, a swim-up pool bar, complete with a big old pirate ship aboard which one of course can also obtain libations. Just keep your head above the water.

Pirate Ship at Splash Bar

            Soon we will get some good time at underway, with some long passages to Duluth and Green Bay, and the ship and the crew are ready for it. We spent the few days between Put-In-Bay weekends at Kelly’s Island doing some needed maintenance, and quiet time on the hook, and then a day in Loraine for a date with a blackwater vacuum. The long passages will offer some rhythm and work time. Port rots ships and men, and some extended time at lake should hone both the Niagara and her sailors for the better, but for now, looming, is the Welland Canal, Toronto, and the the work in the rig to make it happen.

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