ST. CATHARINES – There’s nothing like the sight of varnished teak, polished brass and coiled rigging to bring out the pirate in all of us.
“Look at me, Mom! Pirates do this all the time!” said four-year-old Liam Semple of Waterloo, hanging from the rigging of the Pride of Baltimore II, during the two-day 1812 St. Catharines Tall Ships visit in Port Dalhousie. “Take a picture,” he instructed his mother, Roshan Dore Semple.
But no one looked more pirate-ish Sunday than five-year-old Wolf Phelps of Fort Erie, who used the occasion of the visit of the Pride of Baltimore, Unicorn and Lynx to don full pirate garb, including boots, hat, dreadlocks, and painted-by-mom goatee and mustache.
“He’d go to school like that every day if we let him,” said Debra Phelps, Wolf’s mother. Ever since Wolf watched the movie Pirates of the Caribbean two years ago, he’s been digging for treasure in the yard, she said.
Thousands of visitors toured the three ships, moored in Port Dalhousie, causing organizing committee chair Patrick Little to declare the event — with proceeds benefiting the St. Catharines and District United Way — a huge success.
“It was beyond our expectations,” Little said, with an estimated 8,000 people visiting over the two days, with the assistance of more than 150 volunteers.
On Saturday during the opening ceremonies, Jamie Trost, partner captain of Pride of Baltimore II, presented St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan with a 1814 replica Stars and Stripes flag that had been flown both at sea on the Pride of Baltimore and at Fort McHenry, MD, where the lyrics to the American National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, were first penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814 after witnessing the British bombardment of the fort.
“It was presented as a token of the 199 years, and counting, of the peace and friendship between the US and Canada,” Trost said.
Trost said the ships are sailed by professional crews, with space on the Pride of Baltimore for several guests. He said each sailor works eight hours a day, in two four-hour shifts, but has to be available in emergencies at any time of the day or night.
Trost said one of the most common questions posed by visitors on board is “what do we eat.”
The answer: “whatever the cook puts out,” with new supplies taken on board at each port.
Adding to the nautical and historical atmosphere of the tall ships visit were historical re-enactors from the 2nd Lincoln Militia of the War of 1812 and music by Niagara Regional Police Pipe and Drum Band and the Seasick Sailors.
And the allure of a life afloat was felt by many.
Emily Vancise of the Dalhousie Yacht Club sailing school said she enrolled dozens of children and teens in the club’s summer learn-to-sail program over the two days.
“And adults too,” she said. “Adult lessons have taken off like crazy.”
The tall ships visit also kindled the nautical dreams of James and Linda Mook of St. Catharines, who waiting patiently in line to climb on board their third tall ship of the afternoon.
“It’s amazing,” said Linda Mook, inspired by the “teamwork and confidence” of the all-female crew of Unicorn.
“We got the fever,” admitted husband James. After spending the afternoon in Port, “watching all the boats go by,” they’ve committed to buying another 30-foot sailboat of their own.
“We’re planning it,” James said. “Next year.”