A window into history

Posted July 2, 2013  by Niagara This Week Source

Tall ships thrill crowds in Port Dalhousie

When the tall ships sailed out of Port Dalhousie, the community had more than just memories to hang onto.

St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan was the recipient of a special gift to the city, courtesy of Jamie Trost, captain of the Pride of Baltimore II, during Saturday’s opening ceremonies of the 1812 Tall Ships St. Catharines event at Port Dalhousie pier. Trost handed McMullan a replica American flag from the early 1800s, featuring the 15 stars and 15 stripes. It was the same flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Maryland, during its bombardment in 1814, which was witnessed by Francis Scott Key — ultimately inspiring him to write the lyrics to the U.S. national anthem, The Star spangled Banner.

“This is a token of our 199 years of friendship to date,” Trost said to McMullan, who had just minutes earlier presented Trost and the captains of The Lynx and Unicorn with bottles of Niagara wines.

More than 8,000 people boarded the three vessels during their stop in St. Catharines on June 29-30, and many came aboard wide-eyed at the sight of the tall ships. They weren’t the only ones, however. Even the crew members themselves found themselves enjoying every minute of life on the water.

“It’s been amazing,” said Olivia Martin-Wirta of Vancouver, B.C., of her time on The Unicorn, an all-female crewed tall ship promoting leadership training for military daughters. “It has been a great way to get away from everyday life and spend time with people who you can feel supported by and comfortable around.”

Martin-Wirta is assisting with a wide variety of tasks onboard, much like James Wannell of Barrie, who is a volunteer crew member on The Lynx. Wannell spent some time with the Toronto Brigantine and fell in love with life on the water.

“It’s just really amazing — being out on the water and working with the crew. It’s hard, rewarding work,” said Wannell.

He describes himself as the “token Canadian” onboard The Lynx and says he had to submit an application for the opportunity to be a volunteer crew member for two months. Whether it’s cleaning, greeting visitors at various stops, or whatever, he is happy to take on any task.

“This is going to be a summer to remember,” he said.

The work includes an education on the War of 1812 for professional crew members on The Lynx like Samantha Imes. She said they have to have a strong knowledge of the war, prepared to answer any questions they might receive.

“You definitely need to know your stuff,” said Imes, a Vermont native. “We get asked all kinds of different questions.”

After leaving Port Dalhousie after the weekend, the tall ships still managed to draw crowds as they headed to their next destination. The ships from Port Dalhousie were joined by others touring as part of the 1812 Tall Ships events as they transited the Welland Canal on Monday, en route to Ohio. Vehicles were lined up along the roadside on Welland Canals Parkway to catch a glimpse of the ships, and the viewing platform at the St. Catharines Museums and Welland Canals Centre at Lock 3 was packed with visitors.