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Waving good-bye from shore

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 3, 2010

It seemed like only a few weeks ago that I was frantically packing up my office to go on the road. It was with nervous anticipation that I looked forward to the first stop of the series in Toronto. How would the interns be? Would they all get along? How will we make it through SIX ports without getting burnt out?  Luckily, I needn’t have worried. Brian, Patti and I bonded in the minivan for the five hour drive (and two hour wait at the US-Canada border) to the first port of Toronto. As Brian and I fought like siblings over the radio, Patti napped in the back of the van and I knew then that this summer was going to be OK.   Here is an example of what the minivan dynamics were like:

All too soon, we left the cool climes of Toronto and headed to the sweltering heat of Cleveland, where even 97 degree days and thundershowers couldn’t keep the crowds away from the ships. Thanks to Edgewater Yacht Club, we had a smooth race start and the ships were off to Pelee Passage for the first race in the Great Lakes United TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE®  Race Series. Read about the race start here.

Rain doesn't deter the crowds waiting for Bounty

Once again, Shirley Roberts and the Bay City team proved that they were the hostess with the mostess with an experienced and enthusiastic liaison team, and the entertainment of Alice Cooper.    Brian and I then drove up to Tawas City for the start of the second race which ended up north by Drummond Island. Read about the race start here.

Alice Cooper

Next stop was Duluth were I got to ride on an aerial lift bridge for the Parade of Sail and had the best seat in the house. It was a beautiful day for a parade of tall ships and the people of Duluth came out in the thousands to welcome the ships back to their city.  Race two awards were handed out, read about the race on the water here.  No rest for the weary, race three was started in Duluth Harbor and the ships were off across Lake Superior. By all accounts, it was the best sailing of the season.


The Race Team then donned their foam cheeseheads and headed to the land of the Green Bay Packers where we handed out awards for race three  and tried to not be blown away by high winds. At this point, the end was near… next stop, Chicago. But first, the final race from Sturgeon Bay down to Wind Point, arguably the most exciting race start of the season, with the ships all vying to get across the line. Usually, the ships stay pretty spaced out and it’s easy to see when each one crosses the line.  For the final race, there were six tall ships, canvas flying, crowded together that all crossed the line within seconds of each other. It was incredible. Read more here about the race start off of Sturgeon Bay Canal.  

GO! Denis Sullivan, Europa, Roald Amundsen, Europa

And then, finally, Chicago. It was bittersweet to be in the Windy City. Crews were already starting to change out and a lot of goodbye’s were being said. On the other hand, it was end of August and time to go home.  Brian and I got to go for our first sail all summer, a sunset sail on Denis Sullivan. Being out on the lake, with the skyline of Chicago twinkling before us, made the long hours and being away from home for two months totally worth it. 

Sunset sail on Denis Sullivan


Sunday night, Libby, Becca, Samara, Brian and I were having a moment on the dance floor. We had just left the crew party on top of Navy Pier where we were plied with drinks, food and the best vantage point in Chicago for the fireworks display. Emotions were running high and as we danced in the middle of the floor, we realized this was the last time we would be together as the 2010 Race Team.  As I looked around our group, I couldn’t yet comprehend that it was the last night of the last port of the Great Lakes United TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2010.  Reality came crashing down the next morning when I was waving good bye from the pier to Libby on Niagara, Samara on Lynx and Brian on Roald Amundsen. Becca had left for the airport early that morning and was already back to the real world with airport delays and college classes. Bah humbug.

When people ask me about my job, I tell them it’s kind of like summer camp –at some points you get homesick, the mosquitoes are ever present, the hours are long and hot, but you are surrounded by friends who are just as passionate as you about tall ships and sail training.  Every day we get to talk to people about something we love and hopefully inspire someone to break out of their comfort zone and join us on the water.  But it’s not just about the tall ships. It’s about preserving the Great Lakes for future generations and educating people about the role the lakes play in their lives. We couldn’t have done this without the support and partnership of Great Lakes United. Their dedication and passion to saving the lakes was inspiring to see and people walked away from them with a clearer understanding of their role in Great Lakes.  

Great Lakes United's Brent engages the public with some lampreys

Great Lakes United Executive Director Derek Stack

Back in the Newport office, we’ve already started working on TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2011 on the Pacific Coast.   However, I can’t forget the hospitality and generosity our fleet and our Race Team experienced on the Great Lakes. To the amazing people who donated their time and energy to ensure our race starts went off smoothly and safely, I thank you. It was a pleasure to be on the lakes with you and we absolutely could not have done it without you.

My very first TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® was on the Great Lakes in 2006 (click on the link to the left to read about it) and it was delightful to work again with old friends and to revisit ports that truly embrace the tall ships and sail training.   New ports embraced the fleet and welcomed them with open arms…and thousands of eager fans. This summer’s events  exceeded my expectations and it is with a heavy heart that I have to wait until 2013 to return to the lakes.

To new friends and old, fair winds and following seas. See you in 2013!

To see photos from the summer, click on our Flickr photostream on the right sidebar and be sure to check out the archives of the summer to catch up on what you missed.

2 Responses to “Waving good-bye from shore”

  1. Becca said

    I MISS YOUUUU! And I can’t believe I didn’t just jump on a boat. I feel so lame.

    • Erin said

      I am proud of you that you didn’t jump on a boat and decided to go home. When you graduate, you can run away to sea for as long as you want. Just send me postcards. Hugs!

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