Tall Ships and other Adventures
How many times have you gone to an event and something else ended up being the gem of the day? That happened to me during my trip to Bay City to see the Tall Ships. While the old vessels were impressive, what knocked my socks off was a presentation/documentary later that evening at the State Theatre.
STORM WARNING by Ric Mixter and Dan Hall was captivating with its original score, vintage footage, interviews and video of dives to some of the historic shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. It also told of the days when Bay City was a major ship building area that continued until the close of the Defoe Shipbuilding Company in December of 1976. Many of the sunken ships were built in Bay City or the boats that came to the rescue of their crews were built there.
The shipping industry began on the Great Lakes in the seventeenth century with the French Canadians using the water to move boat loads of animal skins. Then in the nineteenth century shipping iron ore that was mined in the Upper Peninsula began. It was followed in the twentieth century by the shipping of limestone that was mined in northern lower Michigan. Shipping is still an important industry today. Needless to say, the documentary was over way too soon.
I find that living in south-central Michigan, it is easy for me to become disconnected from my water-based heritage. Even though I’m surrounded by small lakes – I believe the local lore says that if you live in Michigan you are no more than six miles from a body of water – I need to visit one of the Great Lakes from time to time and experience their wide open waters. It reminds me that an important part of my Michigan heritage and the lives of Michiganders today are based on the vast freshwater seas that surround us.
Also that weekend, I was given the chance to visit the Saginaw River Rear Range Lighthouse. It is owned by Dow Chemical which is collaborating with the Saginaw River Marine Historical Society to preserve the lighthouse. Access is limited to special events, such as the Tall Ships and visitors must be accompanied by members of the Historical Society with representatives from Dow Chemical on site.
And, of course the chief attraction of the trip was the Tall Ships. I was able to get down to the dock early in the morning of the first day, before the crowds of visitors filled up the park and the walkway. Standing next to the Spanish Galleon was both awe inspiring and humbling. The crews that manned these wind driven vessels were courageous and daring; true pioneers of shipping on the Great Lakes.
The Tall Ships will also be stopping in Chicago from July 27th through the 31st, Green Bay, Wisconsin from August 5th through the 7th and Duluth, Minnesota from August 18th through the 21st.