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Goodbye from Erie

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 24, 2010

~Ben Rogers

With the dust settling here in Erie after the last tall ships festival of the summer, the Niagara crew are uncrossing their dazed eyes and taking some time to focus back on sailing and finishing the season strong. The festival circuit this summer has been wild, as these things always seem to be, with the winds cooperating and lending some action to our lives between port cities. Niagara made some of her peak passages since Duluth, keeping the crew energized and in love with their ship. 

The tall ships festivals offer an opportunity for ships to do two remarkably unnatural things. One is unhealthy, that is spending a long time in port, and the other is invaluable, offering the public a glimpse of some of human engineering’s finest masterpieces. Sailing ships are undeniable exhibitions of beauty and function combined, and the sailors who work in them are specimens in their own right as well. Though the peak age of sailing is past, the relevance of tall ships has not wavered at all thanks to the ingenuity of sail training and modern ship’s programming. Sailors are just as weird and baffling to landlubbers as they ever were, maybe even more since we are a bit of an endangered species these days. 

These open houses that we put on are, for this sailor at least, a chance to show the public that what we do is as accessible as it has been in three generations, and becoming more so. The sailor’s way of life is relevant, beautiful, and hard, and I met many green hands this summer who signed aboard one of the ships here in the Great Lakes between festivals and were quickly becoming hooked. 

My friend Chad, who came to visit during the Cleveland festival summed it up best. He said, “I’ve heard you talk about it, I’ve seen pictures, but being here and seeing them up close, it’s crazy. These are real. It’s totally different in person.” 

It’s been a good tall ship season, and now, in Erie at least, the sailing year is winding down. We have a few more daysails before we tuck our brig away, and we are making the most of our time with each other and our ship. I’ve been moved to Bravo watch, so rather than tacking the spanker and passing the heads’ls with Charlie watch, my station all summer, I am now the one who casts off the main braces for the always exciting mains’l haul! Lots of fun to flip the lines off the belaying pins and then see the main yards whip around to the other tack. 

It’s been a good summer, the ship has been good to us, and we’ve worked to be faithful to her, and everyone is in one piece and getting ready to put her to bed soon. Then, onwards and upwards, some of us to winter maintenance, some of us to our next job, and some of us to completely new adventures altogether. 

Thanks for reading. 

Ben Rogers out.

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