Exploring the Great Lakes – July 19th

Today was another day sail, which ended just in time as a storm came rolling through Cleveland and kept the Niagara docked for a couple of hours. But they were not hours wasted!  The crew popped over to our neighboring ship, the William G. Mather, which is now a museum.  Used from 1925 to the 1980s, the Mather was used in the iron ore and coal trades (or really, for any cargo that needed hauling).  She was retired eventually because at only 600+ feet she was too small.  To the Niagara crew she looked anything but small.  And what a luxurious ship!  There were lounges with fireplaces and real beds.  And lots of heads (bathrooms) with modern flush systems.  Ah, what fineries.  What a difference to the more rustic Niagara, and what a testament to the changes that maritime commerce and travel that the centuries have brought!

That night the crew was treated to pizza and pop (soda to the rest of the world), and a magic knot show by one of the ship’s guests, Captain Dave Bell, previous captain of the Amistad (another awesome ship with an awe-inspiring history.  If you have the time, look it up! Or there is a great movie about it starring Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, and Anthony Hopkins which is definitely worth the time).  Despite the confusion and amazement, and the mild frustration of not understanding how the trick was done) the crew had a great time with loads of laughs.

We sailed from Cleveland at sunset.  And that was one of those moments where the trainees and the crew remember why they are there.  Up aloft loosing out the sail as a perfect orange sun dips below the horizon, silhouetting lighthouses and ships on the horizon as it splashes pink and purple across the darkening sky.  It’s breathtaking to see the sunset from such a height and with nothing obstructing the view.  The crew working on the main topsail simply stopped and watched the last edge of the sun disappear before laying to deck, burning the image into their minds.

Standing lookout. (Photo credit: ship’s camera.)

It’s a moment that will not soon be forgotten.


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