Put-In-Bay, Ohio has always felt like a second home port for Niagara. Each time we dock port side to against the tires on the metal white dock, we’re greeted with “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flags on nearly all of the little boats and t-shirts, a vibrant historical community, and, of course, the 352-foot Perry Memorial. There is one weekend each season, however, where the crew participates in more explanation about the brig than any other visit to Put-In-Bay. This weekend is the Maritime Heritage Festival, otherwise known as Pyrate Fest. It’s three days of face painting, costumes, arr’s and matey’s, and, for the crew of Niagara, convincing the patrons that we are not a pirate ship. Last season I participated in a five, maybe six minute conversation with a grown man about why he couldn’t steal the ship.
This is a fabulous weekend for reenactors who fire the cannon fifteen times a day, for kids who are playing dress-up with grown-ups, but it tests our restraint. As the clerk, I was the person interacting with the public interested in touring or sailing on Niagara. More often than I care to admit, when someone approached and asked about the pirate ship, I responded with, “I don’t know if there are any tours available for the pirate ship, but you can go on our American Navy Warship for seven dollars.”
I have to keep in mind that these are still customers; these are still people who are eager to experience Niagara firsthand. Fortunately, a couple showed up that reminded me why it’s important to keep these thoughts close by.
Trinity and Stephen Hinton greeted me with words from the 21st century, and their cortege of friends followed behind them excitedly. This weekend was their 25th wedding anniversary, and our captain, Billy Sabatini, had agreed to renew their vows that afternoon. The couple walked together toward the ship, Trinity in a lace-covered white dress with a matching white hat, and Stephen in a vest, hat, and boots. Both of them were carrying period-style guns and swords. They were the prettiest pirates I’d seen so far.
I’d heard about their arrival before I met them. Part of me was excited to see the vow renewal, and the other part of me didn’t think we should do a pirate renewal on our American vessel. Thankfully, I was proven wrong about the latter.
When it came time for the couple to climb onto the bridge deck with Billy, he recited the vows they’d asked him to say. Their renewal touched on the hard waters they’d battled through together, and all of the happy sails they’d taken together. When Billy turned it over to Trinity and Stephen, they both had individual vows about how each other was the first mate, best friend, and closest confidante. They were reaffirming the vows they had taken twenty five years prior, only now on the Niagara, with Billy, their friends, and the crew that had wanted to watch (through tears, I’m told), the ceremony. The vows were each concluded that they would stay by each other’s side “until there are no more adventures left to chart.”
Billy concluded by sharing that the only other couple to be married on the bridge deck was him and his wife. “I’m glad I get to share it with you now,” he said. He instructed Stephen to kiss his bride, which he did, and everyone applauded. This ceremony taught me a few
things: first, not all wedding dresses have to be from this century. It has to fit your personality and wedding, and Trinity’s fit so perfectly, it blew me away. Second, the Hintons chose the Niagara to confirm a love that’s a quarter of a century old, and I was honored to have the privilege to be a part of a stop on a long journey that’s nowhere close to being over.
The Niagara wishes Mr. and Mrs. Hinton fair winds on their journey, and I personally would like to thank them for proving to me that not all pirates are trying to steal your boat. Sometimes, it’s okay to let them borrow it for an afternoon.