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Friday, July 22, 2016

Tallships Return to the Great Lakes

It started when I was little. My first memory of anything outside of our home is being on the dock at the marina. Mom and Dad took us to the zoo. It was just me and my sister so I had to have been about 3 years old. When we were done at the zoo we went down to the small little marina and looked at the boats. I was fascinated. For some reason, paper pirate hats had become a thing for Uncle Rich to give us when ever he came over. I guess he got them from Long John Silvers.
Then when I was about 12 a replica of Columbus' ships came to town. We got to climb all through the thing... as much as we could with all the "behave" admonishments. The Santa Maria was impressive, as was the Nina when it came nearly a decade later during an incarnation of the Tallship Festival. We saw HMS Bounty (O.B.M) when it came. And when any tallship came to dock we went. My sister was a galley hand on the Manitou, a ship formerly based in Northport which now does tours for the Traverse Tallship Company

And then mom went overboard. Everything became about the boats. She obsessed to the point where I didn't want to look at a ship for a long time, never mind get on one again. The Tallship festival went on without me. 
Last year, for whatever reason, I started thinking about tall ships again. DurinTs in the children's encyclopedia; a story of sea dragons, Indian Prince stuck on a raft, Old Man & the Sea, and a the story of privateer made mayor John Lafitte's cunning in defending New Orleans from pirates. The more swashbuckling the tale the more intrigued I became. Being a 10 year old girl and not a 10 year old boy, this was something of a shock to a lot of people. But Uncle Rich, as I said, indulged. And for a time so did my parents and grandparents. eventually my interests would swing to horses. Whenever we read anything for school pertaining to the sea my heart felt a special thrill. I loved the tallships in the security of the deepest part of my heart. 

Since this is the Summer of Sherry, and I am not saying no to the things that I love anymore, today was my Tallship Day. I've been so busy working for the last 10 Summers I didn't even noticed when we stopped having official tallship festivals. But it does explain the weird looks I'd get from front desk when I sighed my desires to go and not be stuck at work. Anyway... A couple of weeks ago news made it round facebook that there was a Great Lakes leg of the 2016 Tallships Challenge. It made a splash because Vikings. 

For the first time EVER a real Viking longboat has entered the Tallships Challenge. Draken Harald Harfagre, hailing from Norway, was schedule to sail the Great Lakes. You can well imagine the delight of the Norwegian-Americans in the region. Unfortunately, US Bureaucratic Red Tape nearly stopped it dead in the water at the St. Lawrence. Much complaining and some emergency fundraising let her underway. She has now rounded the tip of Michigan's mit at the Straits of Mackinac headed toward Beaver Island. None of the ships are scheduled to stop in Traverse City. Not officially anyway. The longboat isn't scheduled for any Michigan stops. Neither was the galeon Andalucia. But the minute that she was announced to stop, I got my but ready to go down and see her in. 

like a scene fresh outta Goonies
el Galeon Andalucia is a Spanish vessel out of Seville, Spain. The goal of the tallship festivals is to present history in a hands on setting. Spain, uses the Andalucia to teach topics from Old World sailing techniques to Spanish naval history. Galleons were shipping vessels that were pressed into exploratory service as circumnavigating the globe became a competition between European Kings. They represent  one of 10 types of vessels that comprised Phillip II doomed armada in 1588. Galleons are famous and most recognizable for being the ship of choice for self-respecting pirates in the Caribbean. Indeed, the little boy in front of me could barely contain his excitement at the thought of their being pirates aboard. That is until he remembered that his mom's phone could catch Pokemon. 

The official website does not list us as a stop. Apparently stops are being added along the way as cities issue invites and make docking a possibility. The announcement came on Wednesday. A storm system came through the region forcing the ships to stay on the Huron side. I didn't know that until I got downtown this morning and didn't see a ship. It was supposed to have been in Thursday night. It finally rolled in around 10:45. And the waiting and watching from Open Space was... entertaining?

I met a ship hunter down there and we chatted for a while. She told me that the Viking longboat was coming in to Frankfort Harbor for tours on Saturday and that today she was stalking the Galleon. She followed it in from Suttons Bay. We watched as several sailboats went out into the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay to meet it. It was just a tiny blip on the horizon, hard to make out between the haze and the the furled sails. As it came passed Power Island it made quite am impression. Following it into the harbor was both thrilling and terrifying as several boaters moored in the marina made some poor choices. One boater left his slip as the galleon rounded the break wall and was trying to enter the narrow passage to its mooring location. The Sheriff's department has to yell at him to go back to his slip as a chorus of "Moron" & "Lunatic" came from the elderly crowd of sideline captains around me. 

The docking process was amazing to watch as she turned and backed in to her spot. It was  truly one of the most majestic things that I have seen in a very long time. Andalucia will be here until Tuesday. I am employing all of my resources to make sure the Summer of Sherry includes a Viking longboat. And when she leaves Tuesday, my goal is to have video of her underway. 

I got some great shots while I was down there. 
this crewman was going about his business during the docking procedure. when he
noticed the camera he did stop and hold still. i didn't realize that is was quite on purpose
until i saw the photos enlarged & saw he made direct eye contact.
How cool is that? 

It was nearly high noon as she backed into
her slip. The haze of the day made this shot

Pulling up to the pier. Iconic Traverse City
landmark, theState Bank building
in the background

Pretty sure this was an unplanned stop. The parks department didn't
have a chance to cancel the sprinkles for the growing crowd. Though,
I must say, on this hot day it was a relief. 

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