Tall Ships brings boatload of fun to Erie Bayfront, Maritime Museum


Tall Ships America has been celebrating 25 years of sailing with its Great Lakes 2016 series. This summer, the series has brought several tall ships to all five Great Lakes and multiple ports throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Included in these stops was Erie’s very own Bayfront.
Despite a delay due to rain on Thursday, the tall ships were able to reach Erie relatively on-time and the festival was blessed with beautiful weather Friday through Sunday.
The main stage of the festival was located at the Bayfront Convention Center. There, spectators could find four of the 10 tall ships on display at the festival as well as the world’s largest rubber duck, “Mama Duck”.
According to the Tall Ships Erie website, “Mama Duck” weighs about 11 tons and takes four hours to inflate. Prior to landing in Erie, she has made stops on both coasts of the U.S. including ports from Los Angeles to Rhode Island.
As for the tall ships, each was open to the public for a quick tour around the deck and featured actual crew members who could answer guests’ questions. Ships that could be found at the Bayfront Convention Center included Mist of Avalon, S/V Dennis Sullivan, El Galeon and Erie’s U.S. Brig Niagara.
The current U.S. Brig Niagara is the third reconstruction of the original ship that was commanded by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Perry led his fleet of nine vessels on to a victory that would mark a significant change in the tides of the War of 1812.
Naturally, the U.S. Brig Niagara’s homeport is at the Erie Maritime Museum and will stay open for tours at the museum through Thursday.
Tall Ships Erie continued at the Maritime Museum, which is just a short walk from the Bayfront. There, nautical enthusiasts could find the Pride of Baltimore II, Pathfinder and Playfair.
The Widget Financial “Kidz Zone,” which featured inflatable slides and obstacle courses, as well as several food stands, could also be found there, making it a popular spot for families.
For those who were not particularly interested in the seafaring but still wanted to experience the festival, live entertainment could be found at each location all day Saturday and Sunday.
Gannon student Jordan Fuller, a junior marketing and supply chain management major, described his experience at Tall Ships Erie.
“As long as I can remember, I have loved the idea of sailing on a tall ship,” he said. “It was like living out a childhood dream.”
Well, almost. Although Fuller was unable to purchase a ticket before they sold out, a select few lucky ticketholders could participate in one of the day sails on either Appledore IV or When and If.
Appledore IV, based in Bay City, Mich., strives to offer educational experiences to tall ships fans of all ages.
When & If, built in 1939 in Wiscasset, Maine, was the oldest ship to be featured at Tall Ships Erie.
The ships departed from Dobbins Landing near the Presque Isle Lighthouse each afternoon for a 90-minute expedition around Presque Isle Bay.
Although Tall Ships Erie 2016 came to an end Sunday afternoon, there are future opportunities for those interested in learning about sailing tall ships and experiencing a day in the life of a crew member.
The U.S. Brig Niagara will offer sailing programs throughout 2017 that will be open to students. The programs will include a combination of classroom teaching and hands-on experience. The History Under Sail training class runs from May 10-May 31 and offers a college level history program as well as a voyage around Lake Erie.
Two individual trainee programs are also available to those interested in more frequent one-on-one instruction.
The first course runs from July 7-July 21 and features a voyage from Kingston, Ontario, to Montreal and Quebec and a Tall Ships festival at each stop.
The second runs from July 21 –Aug. 1 and features a voyage from Quebec City to Erie through Thousand Islands and Welland Canal.
A passport is required to apply for and participate in either of the individual trainee programs.

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