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On the Denis Sullivan to Cleveland

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 10, 2010

The weather cleared in time for the sunset sails last night

It is now day two of the Tall Ships Festival in Cleveland, Ohio and there have already been thousands of people despite the intense heat yesterday and the rainy weather today. As you may know, Becca and I sailed over from Toronto a few days ago on the S/V Denis Sullivan, a beautiful three-masted schooner purpose built for education under sail. 

I knew going in that this trip would be a completely different experience than what I am used to on the St. Lawrence II, on what the Sullivan crew refer to as one of  “The Briglettes”. They don’t use this term disrespectfully, only to remind me how small the three brigantine sister ships STV St. Lawrence II, STV Pathfinder, and TS Playfair are compared to many of the other tall ships in the fleet. This, however, is an understatement. Everything on the Sullivan is bigger, heavier, and more spacious. Instead of hauling up the main peak halyard by yourself and maybe getting someone to tail near the end, almost all the working lines need a minimum of 2 or 3 people hauling, tailing and sweating it out. The living quarters are also quite spacious along with the galley, which might explain why we eat such amazing meals, or maybe it could be the cook Angela (we had quiche for breakfast this morning!) Also, coming onto any new vessel you almost have to learn an entirely new language and way of saying and doing things. Instead of tack the jibs, it’s cross the jibs, and instead of an after-peak, it’s a lazerette, and the list goes on and on. 

However, despite all of these differences the crew all share the same love of sailing, teaching youth through sail training, and swimming in a cool lake after one of the *hottest weeks of summer. 

*For those of you who have not been in the Great Lakes region this past week, the temperature has been around 33 degrees Celsius (or 92 Fahrenheit for the Americans out there) with 100% humidity. I don’t know about you, but for someone used to a cool climate, it has been H-O-T! It also reached up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit every time I went below to do an engine check, which I would find myself clambering back on deck drenched in sweat thankful for any breeze. It could be worse though, one day the engineer spent around 12 hours working in the engine room. 

Rain doesn't deter the crowds waiting for Bounty

As I knew from experience, the Welland Canal ended up being one of the hottest and longest days I’ve had in a long time. Although, it was pretty awesome going up with Appledore V and HMS Bounty, as well as seeing Europa, Unicorn, Roald Amundsen, Brig Niagara, and the many other ships sitting in the locks above and below us. The locks however were not the most memorable part of my trip on the S/V Denis Sullivan

One thing that many sailors will agree upon is that dawn watch, or roughly 0300-0800, is the best watch you can ask for. On the second night of our voyage, my ‘C’ watch  were woken up around 0230 to get ready for our night watch. Coming on deck, the cool breeze was a refreshing change from the heat below decks and the sky was clear enough that we were able to identify star clusters and constellations for most of the morning. As the watch wore on, the sky lightened and the sun started to peak out from below the horizon of Lake Erie, which, for the first time in my life, did not give us a single bit of rough weather while we sailed across. By the time the sun was fully realized in the sky, the next watch was woken and breakfast was served, ‘C’ watch was off watch and my warm bunk was waiting to welcome me. This is why sailors love dawn watch, and I believe it is one of those things that make the heat, the blisters, long hours and challenges of living aboard a tall ship all worth while.

Trying to stay dry in the booth

 Now, I am back on shore and the festival is in full swing. But the sea still calls my name and I can’t wait to get back on the water and sail in the first race where the stakes are high, the rigs are higher and the wind is unpredictable.


6 Responses to “On the Denis Sullivan to Cleveland”

  1. Parker said

    Hi … found your blog. I’m 11 and can’t wait to sail. Even think I may go to Kingston to get on the St. Lawrence because on the Toronto “Briglettes” you have to be 13. My brother is sailing with the Pathfinder right now. Don’t know where he is. He’s supposed to catch up with you but they had no wind after they left Toronto for a long time. Keep posting. Bye.

    • Marguerite said

      you can be 12 to sail with TBI, likely the same with the Kingston’sSL II – we are all Transport Canada regulated…

      • Julieanne said

        With the St. Lawrence II, you can be 11, but you’ll have less respect for your accomplishements. I’ve sailed with them for 2 years, and enjoyed it. The crew is amazing on the SLII. It was so fun that I’m going to become crew.

  2. Julieanne said

    Hey, what is the name of the writer of this blog, because if he/she was crew on the St. Lawrence II, I may know this person, having sailed for a while know and having heard stories of previous crew members and trainees! Please reply!!!!!

    • Erin said

      Hi Julieanne,
      This blog post was written by 2010 summer intern Libby Drew and I believe she still sails on St. Lawrence II occasionally.

      Fair Winds,
      Erin S.
      TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) Coordinator

      • Julieanne said

        I think that I’ve heard of a crew member with her last name! On the SLII, we call the crew by their last names, so yes, I’ve heard of a person called Drew.

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