The US Brig Niagara was built in 1988 as the official Flagship of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and as a faithful reconstruction of the brig that Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led to victory during the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. A brig, simply put, is a two-masted sailing vessel with square sails on each mast.
The Battle of Lake Erie proved one of the most important naval victories in American history. Because the US achieved naval dominance over the western Great Lakes, we gained unfetterred access to transport troops and supplies and to expand our reach and rapidly settle the entire northwestern frontier. The Battle of Lake Erie, which led to several successful land battles, directly influenced the establishment of the US/ Canadian border, and peace as it continues to exist today.
Now on a new brig, we share and interpret Niagara’s great history and it’s national significance by sailing the ship and keeping alive the language, the knowledge, and the skills used onboard early American naval vessels. Niagara sails every summer to distant ports throughout the Great Lakes to serve as the premier attraction at maritime heritage festivals. To compliment her crew of 17 professionals, she carries up to 24 trainees who sign on as crew (in training) and live onboard for two to four weeks to delve deeply into the 19th century sailor’s experience. They learn the language, learn the way of a ship, and learn how to hand, reef, and steer under the tutiledge of the ship’s professional crew.
Since her initial construction, the ship has been improved with safety features that make possible the sailing programs offered today. The ship is inspected by the United States Coast Guard as a Sailing School Vessel. She has auxiliary propulsion engines and modern navigation equipment, but lacks modern amenities such as warm water, showers, and privacy. During the summer, she is sailed by a crew of 17 professionals, supplemented by 24 trainees who live onboard for a minimum of two weeks. During the winter she is maintained by five full-time staff and a corps of 50 to 100 volunteers from the Erie region who donate maintenance hours, which are valued towards their tuition to sail as trainees during the summer.
As a Sailing School Vessel, Niagara is prohibited from carrying passengers for hire. Sailing School Vessels adhere to different design, construction, and safety standards than do passenger vessels. Sailing School Trainees learn a sailing related curriculum while onboard, and unlike passengers, are expected to be responsible and active participants in the working and sailing of the vessel.
YOU CAN SAIL ON NIAGARA! Learn more by clicking HERE.
Niagara also conducts one-day programs for the general public. Click HERE for more information about Day Sails.