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Ship shape and sailing to Duluth

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 31, 2010

~Ben Rogers

July 22 

Lake Huron, underway, making way. I’ve never been to Lake Huron before (never been on any of the Great Lakes before this summer, actually). We are headed across to the northwest, for the lock at Sault Saint Marie. We left Erie Tuesday morning, stopping in Algonac, Michigan along the way. I am a dayman this week, as bosun Rob’s huckleberry, so maintenance is the focus for me. We’ve gotten a lot done so far, and the ship is as clean and neat as she’s been in a long time. Inside and outside; top and bottom.

As I turn in tonight, we’ve set tops’ls, the wind is piping in fair, and we’re sailing for the first time since the parade into Cleveland. We tucked first reefs in, including a reef in the fores’l anticipating the wind. All hands were at it aloft, gamming, working and handing the sail. We’re feeling like sailors again here! Though the crew may be rusty, Niagara isn’t. She’s riding the breeze for all it’s got right now, with a head of steam and making better than 10 knots. 

July 25

We passed through the Sault St. Marie lock and are in Lake Superior. The narrow waterways leading up to it are gorgeous, recalling the lowland fjords in Denmark, but it’s Michigan! This is like that scene from Growing Pains where Mike Seaver is meets some hot babe and finds out she’s the same, once-frumpy girl who moved away a few years ago, but now she’s back, and ready to mash potatoes.

Old Fishery Cabin at Isle Royal

Anyways, the lock was no sweat – none is after the Welland – with the wind straight on the nose we are full steam ahead under diesel power. 

July 27

Bayfield, Wisconsin. We’ve stopped here for shelter, as rough weather is imminent. The German brig Roald Amundsen is tied up just astern. Niagara took some time yesterday and Sunday night for a little crew bonding, as Captain worked some charm and got us a spot alongside a dock at Isle Royal, one of the most pristine national parks in the country. We had our bosun’s court Sunday evening. Contrasted by the idyllic sunset and bonfire, Rob and I indicted our crewmates for their heinous encroachments on society. The charges were extensive. The next day, yesterday, was a hiking day, and we hoofed it all over the island, visiting the old lighthouse, the tower at the island’s highest elevation, and a research site, where a 50 year-long predator-prey study between the island’s wolf and moose population is still in full go. Lots of cool stuff, and a great way to climax the summer. Monet is leaving us in Duluth, and our crew numbers will be in a steady dwindle from here out. 

View from the tower on Isle Royal

The lighthouse

Moose Skulls at the research center

July 28

Aboard the Roald Amundsen for the day. It was decided last night at the bar, and my alarm at 0600 this morning reminded me. I grabbed my foulies and shower kit (because they have running water over here) and hopped aboard, along with Niagara shipmate, Audrey, one of our apprentices. Docklines came back in, Bayfield disappeared behind us and I tucked headfirst into learning a brig in German. Now, instead of being on a brig, I am on a brigg. One down; 5000 to go.

The crew here are as relaxed as any I have ever seen on a square rigger. They are all skilled sailors, and here as volunteers for their holiday, so the focus is on having fun, and keeping things at the play level as much as possible, though there is no doubt the ship is in capable hands. At the watch change, the on-coming watch rightly thanks the off-going for all their hard work and taking care of the ship.

We had a nice sail this afternoon, setting t’gallants (braum) and cruising to an anchorage outside Duluth where Andreas, one of the lead seaman onboard, and I were grill-meisters. We cooked up sausages and pork chops for everybody. Vegetables made an appearance, but only for silliness’ sake. Every party needs a pariah. 

July 30

In Duluth, MN now. The Roald Amundsen was second in the parade of sail behind Bounty, though the wind was more or less on the nose, and Roald, shall we say, is not a vessel built for acute points of sail; potato chips get to weather better. She’s a deep-sea ship built for trade winds, and the lakes are not to her nature. For us it was a parade of motor-sail, but the captain put on the best show he could considering the circumstances.

We settled ourselves alongside in time for me to run and catch Niagara‘s lines, and soon enough I was back in my denim Niagara crew shirt and aloft stowing sail, principally our royals, set now standing. A lot happened while I was away. It was a trick getting up and down on the yard, but once you’re up there, you’re the highest thing around not counting the staff at the coffee shop.

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