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Archive for the ‘NIAGARA’ Category

48 Hours in Quebec City

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 28, 2017

Quebec rest stops are the best. Gas? Check. Water? Check. Mini dinosaur park? CHECK!!!


Last Wednesday, Darlene and I road tripped up to Quebec City to see the Canada 150 festivities that we had been hearing about for so long, and to see some tall ship friends. Also, Quebec City is so pretty, especially in the summer. This was the view from our hotel room. It was OK if you like looking out on historic buildings and charming streets-


Hideous photo by Darlene

Forty ships sailed into Quebec City and were berthed along the waterfront. Our Rendez-Vous fleet was joined by Great Lakes tall ships including U.S. Brig Niagara, Denis Sullivan, Appledore V, Black Jack, Empire Sandy, Fair Jeanne, Pathfinder and Playfair, Mist of Avalon, and St. Lawrence II. Normally, we only get to see these Great Lakes ships every three years, so having the gang back together in Quebec City was particularly fun.  Not only that, but the Rendez-Vous fleet brought ships into the St. Lawrence River that don’t normally (if ever) come this far into the Great Lakes (or, rather, the St. Lawrence). As you can imagine, there was a lot of nerding out among the crew as they clamored all over each other’s ships and proudly showed each other around.

Thursday was the crew parade and awards ceremony for the race from Boston to Canada. Thousands of people lined the streets as the crew marched through Old Quebec. Three words – Maple. Leaf. Onesie.

Photo by Darlene

Black Jack

Niagara crew


US Awards recipients L-R
Geronimo -1st in Class C/D
EAGLE – 2nd in Class A


Spirit of South Carolina – 3rd in Class B

All too soon, it was time to drive home. Darlene and I had a whirlwind of a time in Quebec City and, based on what we saw, the ships did too. This weekend, the ships will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, two-time winner of Tall Ships America’s Port of the Year award, and one of my  favorite ports. From there, they will race to Le Havre, France, the final port of Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships(R) Regatta.

Our host ports welcomed ships from all over the world with open arms. People came down to the water by the thousands to see these ships and walk their decks. A lucky few even got to sail aboard (there is still time and berths are available!). It was a summer of new friends and new experiences, and we can’t wait to do it again.

Admit it Paul, you and the Sail Training International team are going to miss us.



Posted in 2017, APPLEDORE V, NIAGARA, Sail Training International | Leave a Comment »

Put it all together

Posted by Tall Ships America on February 23, 2017


Posted in 2017, Member Programs, NIAGARA | Leave a Comment »

Tall Ship City

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 13, 2016

Tall Ships(r) Erie 2016 started out with a joke. A local blog wrote an article about a cannon fire accident which deflated the large rubber duck that was supposed to be featured at the event. Most people didn’t catch that it was a written by a satirical news outlet. Combine that with the fact the duck couldn’t participate in the Parade of Sail because of the high winds…well, there were some confused public. We surprisingly spent a lot of time explaining that the duck was fully functioning and Niagara did not shoot it (nor do they actually have cannon balls in their cannons).  It was one of the funnier things to happen this summer. And that’s when I knew that Tall Ships(R) Erie was going to be a great event.

Fully inflated with no cannon ball holes

Fully inflated with no cannon ball holes

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2016, NIAGARA, Races | 1 Comment »

A long history

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 1, 2016

Erie's own U.S. Brig Niagara heads out to the final race of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) Race Series. Erie Insurance is the Official Race Sponsor

Erie’s own U.S. Brig Niagara heads out to the final race of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) Race Series. Erie Insurance is the Official Race Sponsor

While our history with Erie Insurance, Official Race Sponsor of  TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Great Lakes 2016,  is relatively new, the relationship between insurance companies and tall ships is anything but recent. Marine insurance is the earliest well-developed type of insurance . Erie Insurance wrote a blog post, with photos, about this very subject.

Read on for a quick history lesson, and you can see history come to life next weekend when the ships arrive at Tall Ships® Erie 8-11 September.

Slideshow: Ships and Insurance Go Way Back


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Race Updates from the Lakes

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 22, 2016

View from Niagara of Denis Sullivan Photo: Niagara

View from Niagara of Denis Sullivan
Photo: Niagara

A little known fact about the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE(r) Race Series is that, yes, the ships do race. Between each of the ports, in each of the Great Lakes, this summer tall ships will be racing each other for a shiny award and bragging rights. This year’s races are sponsored by Erie Insurance. To make the races between all these different ships and rigs more fair, we do use a handicap system so all the winners listed below are on corrected time.

So far we have had three races:

Lake Ontario
Participants – Pride of Baltimore II and Draken Harald Harfagre (read Captain Miles’ blog entry about racing with the Viking Ship)
1st Place- Pride of Baltimore II

Lake Erie
Participants – Appledore IV, Denis Sullivan, Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, When and If
1st Place – Niagara; 2nd Place – Denis Sullivan; 3rd Place – Pride of Baltimore

Lake Huron
Participants – Appledore IV, Denis Sullivan, Niagara, Playfair, Pride of Baltimore II
Pride of Baltimore II
was first across the finish line on the water. Winners (on corrected time!)  will be announced in Chicago next Sunday night.


Playfair approachs the start

Playfair approachs the start of race three – Lake Huron. Photo: Niagara


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Posted in 2016, Bay City, MI, NIAGARA, Races, Toronto | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tall Ships America on July 18, 2016

By Intern Ben

Sunrise Ben Niagaralr

“…but ye also want to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there… Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where you stand?”
– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

What is it about sailing? It cannot simply be nostalgia, the wonder of the lost golden age of sail. New vessels are still sold, people still learn to sail, and people still turn out in droves to see tall ships when they come visiting. Is there actually a wondrous, magical quality to it, or is it just humans who have the tendency to romanticize it?

Wednesday evening I was at the helm on Niagara when the weather started to turn foul. The change in the wind allowed us an easy reach towards the west. Unfortunately the rain had other plans. As the evening wore on the dark clouds grew on the western horizon. Every now and then the 2nd mate would come down off the bridge and bring up the Doppler radar. Each time the rain appeared a few miles closer on the screen but no sail was taken in and no change was made in the course.

In another hour the captain came on deck and gave the order to turn around. Sail was taken in and the brig started motoring back towards the east, running from the rain. Despite those efforts, it caught us soon enough. And lucky for us within a few minutes of starting it was our watch below.

The night went uneventfully, but unfortunately, having the first night watch meant getting up in the wee hours of the morning for the next watch. When we got out it was still dark, but the hum of the motor and lights from below deck created our little encapsulated world. The opaque black closed in like blanket, with only the distant lights on shore to remind us where we were.

Then suddenly — color. Blues, greens, reds, and oranges sprouting from the horizon and standing out sharp against Niagara’s rigging. The same experience gripped me days later as we crossed Lake Huron on the Denis Sullivan.

In that moment I felt wonder, in what I feel was its purest form. Where a moment before there was nothing, there was suddenly a wealth of being and experience that came out of seaming oblivion. Sailing is the action of change. Adaptation and improvisation are as common to the sailor as his own shipmates. To think there’s any wonder in just a boat is to only see one side of the coin. Decks, wood, lines, pin rails, cleats, tar and hemp — nostalgia these evoke, not wonder. Wonder is that state of being amazed and of being lost. The wonder of tall ships is in the changes the boat brings about, not what you bring to the boat. No matter where you live, you can’t be a sailor without at least walking out your door.


Ben and George are currently on their way to Pepsi(R) Tall Ships(R) Chicago 2016 aboard Playfair.


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Posted by Tall Ships America on July 12, 2016


Safely alongside in Fairport Harbor

Safely alongside in Fairport Harbor

By Summer Intern Ben

“Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel. Right now you could run faster and you can fight harder. You can jump higher than ever in your life and you are so alert it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a superpower!”

– Doctor Who

Fear is a strange thing to a sailor. The sailor is thought of as brave. There’s the whaleman, the navy serviceman, the marine, and even the merchant — all were regarded with a degree of respect for the simple act of crossing seas and braving oceans. But we have made passage over oceans for hundreds of years at this point, and to be on the water has become almost commonplace. But still, especially among tall ships, this feeling persists. Of all breeds of occupations, none is regarded as being brave as a sailor is.

It is paradoxical in that the sailor oftentimes has the most to fear. Rain, wind, weather, treacherous shoals and reefs, and worst of all, the simple professional mistake. A line mis-handled, slips, falls, all are worthy things to be weary of. And then there are the more persistent ever-present risks of sailing; falling overboard, fire, abandoning ship. when compounded these things make a cacophony of terror that should surely beget a higher salary for those who carry out the shipping that drives our very society. And yet, when asked if they are afraid, the average sailor would probably give an indifferent shrug.

It has been said that the only time a person can be truly brave is when they are truly afraid. I don’t think that truly describes a sailor. When I first climbed Niagara’s rig to the t’gallant yard with these thoughts a-flurry in my head, being brave because I was afraid simply did not make sense.

Historically, this is an explanation for this. Fear can be overcome by other threat. In the simplest case, an order would certainly drive a reluctant sailor aloft. Command could send him into a cutter in 10 foot seas. Duty could drive him to fire a gun and lose his hearing in the process, or board an enemy ships to risk grisly death. Money could drive him to fight for a prize, to haul the wind harder, or to lay out on a yard while rounding cape horn. The modern sailor on a tallship does not have such motivations.

It was last evening when we had set out from Erie aboard the Niagara. The first several hours of the day were a dull monotony of cleaning and prepping to get ready for her summer’s voyaging. Food, gear, and crew’s possessions all had to be loaded, and every pallet of firewood seemed to drag on forever. By the early afternoon it was finally ready to cast off dock lines and haul up fenders.

The wind out of the west made fore a difficult passage for Pennsylvania to Ohio along the Lake’s southern shore. We set out under topsails t’gallants and staysails, and tacked several times in the evening, but the leeway of the brig gave us precious little progress to westward. After dinner, the watches were sent below but me having my usual luck had been assigned to the first division which mustered to take the watch from 8 to 11. Dusk was just falling, and taking the first spell at the helm afforded a wonderful view of the sunset off the starboard bow.

Then the hour turned and positions rotated. I was leaning idle by the scuttlebut when the call came to take in and furl t’gallants. I lay aloft with one of the professional crew and climbed as fast as I felt safe, yet it felt the rig passed very quick. Before I knew it I was through the lubbers hole on the fighting top, through the gap in the crosstrees to the step of the t‘gallant mast, and out on to the line.

Certainly part of it was timing. When the order comes there’s seldom time for fear. But once I was up on the t’gallant yard, I could feel my heart pounding. It was exhilarating and terrifying. In that moment, just after the sun had set there was nothing surrounding us but lake — open water for miles. Nothing in the world but the dome of the sky and the plain of the sea. Even the vessel beneath me seemed to fall away as I felt myself lost to the wind and waves. But I was shortly curtailed, and again realized where I was and what I was to be doing. Reaching over the sail I saw the deck which seemed miles below me, and again my stomach was in my throat and I was holding on for dear life, but soon enough the sail was furled, and before I knew it I was back on deck. Fear was a guide in the end, not a threat, but a companion. I’m not one for horror movies, but obviously some people have the right of it — fear can be fun.


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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Posted in 2016, Internship Program, NIAGARA | Leave a Comment »

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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Posted in 2016, Bay City, MI, Internship Program, NIAGARA | Leave a Comment »

Arrival at NIAGARA

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 7, 2016

Blog 75

By Ben

Arriving at the Erie Maritime Museum is an intimidating experience. From more than a mile away along the lakeshore you can see Niagara‘s topmasts rising beyond the museum. As we pulled up to the pier on sunday evening, I couldn’t help but think how anyone ever voluntarily climbed its rig.  When the ships was revealed in its entirety, the second thing that was apparent was the  sheer quantity and complexity of its rigging fore sheets go aft, main sheets go forward, a mainstay that terminates past the step of the foremast, and a bowsprit more than half as long as the ship itself.

As we boarded the brig, the trainee crew descended on us out of the rigging. What followed was a sea of names and faces that by this morning have become familiar. All the while I busied myself trying to make head or tail of the rigging, which is no small task as the head rig by itself is comprised of several miles of line.

After dinner, unpacking, and a demonstration of how to hang a hammock, it was time for the evening muster where we discussed the upcoming day. The 4th of July on the Niagara is not an event to be missed. Over the next 24 hours, nearly 1000 museum visitors crossed Niagara’s deck. I had to take a crash course in Niagara’s history at superspeed to be able to lead a tour the following morning, but the crew and trainees were also very helpful in that endeavor.

The rest of the day passed with little event. The starboard watch was relieved of the deck tour duties at noon, and then relieved the port watch again in the afternoon. While the visitors were obviously excited to see a living piece of America’s history, there were quite a few knocks on the head by the end of the day. Few were ready for the little to no head clearance available below decks on Niagara.

Besides the birthday of the USA, the 4th also saw the birthdays of multiple members of Niagara’s professional crew. Following brownies served with dinner, was a cheesecake for the first birthday, and and astounding lego mechanized BB8 cake. It turned out as tasty as it was beautiful.

Blog 74All that remained was the shipping of the brigs provisions, as she would be leaving in the morning to sail towards Fairport Harbor. It is sure to be an exciting passage, and an even more exciting festival now that the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Great Lakes 2016 is finally coming to an American port.

Posted in 2016, NIAGARA | 2 Comments »

Kick off in Toronto

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 5, 2016

The stare down

The stare down

We are just back from a whirlwind four days in the city of Toronto. This past weekend, Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto, presented by PortsToronto, hosted El Galeon Andalucía, Draken Harald Harfagre and Pride of Baltimore II. In addition, local tall ships Pathfinder, Playfair, St. Lawrence 2, Empire Sandy, Mist of Avalon, Kajama and Challenge, were also docked along the waterfront. We had spectacular weather (with a brief thunderstorm to keep everyone on their toes) and thousands of people toured the ships.

Crowds Toronto


On July 1, Canada Day, the harbor was lit up with fireworks. It was a spectacular sight to see with the tall ships along the waterfront.

George on deck

The interns, Ben and George, had the opportunity to sail on the Toronto Brigantines for the race between Pathfinder, Playfair and St. Lawrence II. They will be sailing in Niagara for arrival into Tall Ships® Fairport Harbor 2016 on Thursday.

Off to the race


Sunday afternoon, the ships departed and graced the city of Toronto with one last look as they paraded through the Toronto Harbor and headed on their  way to our second TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Host Port, Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  Pride of Baltimore II and Draken Harald Harfagre headed to the start line for the first race of the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series, sponsored by Erie Insurance.

Thank you to the wonderful organizers of Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto! We had an amazing time in your lovely city.

Next stop, Fairport Harbor!


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