Many visitors throughout the Great Lakes are touring the tall ships this summer as part of the Tall Ships Challenge® series of races and public maritime festivals, which are celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. With help from local port organizers, the non-profit organization Tall Ships America has been coordinating visits from a fleet of world-class tall ships to 22 U.S. and Ontario communities.
Green Bay crowds
At every port, maritime enthusiasts young and old have responded to the call of adventure and joined a tall ship to sail as volunteer crew and gain the 'experience of a lifetime.'
'When the ship is underway, you feel like you’re king of the sea,' said 16-year-old Anna Spring (Newport, R.I.), who participated as a student in the Class Afloat program earlier this season onboard Norway’s 210-foot Sørlandet, the world’s oldest full-rigged tall ship still operating.
16-year-old Anna Spring onboard Norway’s 210-foot SS Sørlandet when she participated as a student in the Class Afloat program earlier this summer.
'When the opportunity to sail on Sørlandet opened up for me I jumped at the chance. When I first stepped onboard it was kind of crazy, because I didn’t know where any of the lines were, but eventually I was able to learn a lot more about crew work, and the sailing maneuvers became less of a mystery. Like in any community as close as one on a ship, you learn trust, communication, generosity, and teamwork.'
On August 12th, Sørlandet along with three other participating tall ships kicked off the series’ fifth and final offshore race on Lake Michigan and joined the rest of the fleet at one of the two maritime festivals, this past weekend (June 16-18): Baylake Bank Tall Ship Festival in Green Bay, Wis. and Tall Ships® 1812 Georgian Bay in Collingwood, Ontario. Next up is Tall Ships® 1812 Georgian Bay in Penetanguishene, Ontario (August 24-25) followed by the Southwestern Ontario: Sails to See taking place in the ports of Windsor, Amherstburg, Kingsville and Pelee Island (August 30-September 2).
'Class Afloat not only provides its students with a full academic program but also with a very serious sail training program,' said Bonnie Rowan (Auburn, Mass.), the program’s shipboard director. 'The festivals have been going very well for us. We had thousands of visitors touring the ship and a lot of last minute interest from people who want to join this summer’s program, which is open to all ages.'
Tall Ships America Executive Director Bert Rogers added, 'Our organization’s main objective is to enrich youth education through character building and leadership programs aboard tall ships. Our goal is to get as many students as possible out sailing in these ships, so they can face the challenges and reap the rewards of adventure and education under sail.'
Tall Ships lined up in Green Bay
To promote the initiative, the non-profit posts sailing opportunities through its website, Tall Ships America. Opportunities for youth abound this summer, with programs available on the Norwegian vessel Sørlandet, the U.S. Brig Niagara, Appledore V, Unicorn, Denis Sullivan, Lynx and many others.