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Update from the road to Fairport Harbor

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 11, 2016

George furling the headrig lr

George, in the red shirt, helps to furl the headrig on Niagara

By Intern George

Sunday, July 3 

We traveled by car with Captain Billy Sabatini to Erie Pennsylvania to meet the U.S. Brig Niagara.  I was anxious because I do not have much sailing experience and I would like to be a worthwhile hand in this adventure. The crew was prepping to host an event for the 4th of July by cleaning the deck and coiling the ropes just perfect (making the ropes look nice and hanging them up). We went straight to work helping with all the tasks that make the ship ready for the festival. The experienced sailors were stationed aloft (overhead in the rigging), while others were under the direction of the mates. I don’t know what the crews impression of me is, but after spending the first part of my summer rehabbing a building I thought I was pretty tough skinned but after 30 minutes of coiling I received my first blister. I decided that it is best to stay away from hand lotion for the rest of the summer.

After the tasks were completed we ate a dinner together, filling our bellies with grub, which was followed by an introduction to the sleeping quarters. This consisted of over 30 of the crew hanging in hammocks and sleeping on the floor of the berth room on board the ship. I woke in the morning on the floor of the Niagara, with five feet clearance above me. Because of the low ceiling,  I was not able to stand and stretch fully, but it was the best sleep I’ve had since I’ve been in my own bed.

On the Fourth of July, the Erie Maritime Museum was having a free event with kid friendly activities and the premier exhibit was a tour on the Niagara that brought 770 visitors aboard to see the historic ship. Some were here to share their sailing stories and some traveled from out of state. For my first shift I shadowed a crewmember, Andy, who knew the answer to every question that guests or I could ask. When I was more comfortable with facts and history about the ship I joined in and answered questions of why the ship was so short down below or how many miles of rope were on the ship.

At the end of the maritime celebration we were given time to get to know the each other. A football game started up and the crew who were musically talented provided live music on the deck of the ship. This was a great way unwind and get us to bed early for a big day of sailing tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 5

I was able to wake up early enough to shower before muster at 0800. I assisted the crew to load the ship with all the supplies they needed for their 2-month voyage through the Lakes this summer.  Sails went up at around 1400 as we set out for Fairport Harbor.

Wednesday, July 6

From 2300 to 0200 the port side, division 4 was stationed on watch (the crew was divided into 4 divisions who run shifts supervised by a mate). The atmosphere got pretty exciting during our watch because the stars in the sky were bright but this quickly changed as pretty decent storm roll in. The Captain decided to change direction of the ship to get out of the way of the worst of the storm. Eager to help get away from the lightning in the sky we pulled up sails and motored through the violence of the storm to some docile raindrops.

Thursday, July 7

By 0300 the worst was over and we began opening hatches, putting sails back up. Finally my shift was over and I was definately ready to get a couple of hours of sleep before we get to port. At 0730, up and at ’em, all hands on deck was called and we are to get ready to go into port. I was stationed on the fenders (a bumper hung on the side of the ship to lessen the shock between the ship and the dock), on the port side. The Niagara was to do a Day Sail at 0900 that I did not take part in. I’ve had a week away from home so this gave me time to shower and to do a load of laundry. At 1600 we took about 40 passengers aboard the Niagara for the Parade of Sail. We fired off two cannons.

From Niagara, Ben and I headed over to Denis Sullivan, our home for the next leg of the trip. We had brief introductions and I am eager to help the Denis Sullivan with anything I can to get us to Bay City, Michigan.


Ben and George are currently racing on Denis Sullivan. We’ll reconnect in Bay City later this week. Stay tuned for updates from the race!


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