Tall ships: a review

This past weekend the DH and I joined my mother in a trip to Canal Park in Duluth to tour the "tall ships." The lines were so long that in the end we only toured one of the three, the U.S. Brig Niagara, but the three of us agreed that it was definitely worth the wait and the thirty-five bucks. The three ships were reconstructed based on 1812-era brigs and schooners, but are more than just historical museums. The Niagara, for example, is a sailing school vessel. They each have modern navigation systems and power, but not modern amenities -- like showers.

In addition to feeding my mild fascination with life at sea, the ships prompted me to think about a few other issues as well. Issues such as...

The War of 1812. The United States declaration of war against the British was issued in part due to the British practice of stopping US trade ships from doing business with France, and in part due to British practice of "impressment" - taking US citizens as Royal navy crew. The fact that the British were arming Native Americans with weapons to defend themselves didn't sit well with the Americans at the time either.

Ship design. It never occurred to me that the masts would be built at an angle. They are not perpendicular to the floor of the ship as I had thought they would be.

. There was so much rope -so much rope- tied in so many different knots on the ship! Forget navigating the ship -- simply keeping track of the different knots and trying to prevent rope burn would be enough to keep me occupied.

Naval designations. Today's naval ships are simply designated USS (United States Ship) to indicate it is part of the navy, but in 1813 "ship" meant a vessel with three masts. The other rigs' names were included in their naval designation (frigate, schooner, sloop, brig, etc.) to indicate which type of vessel the ship was. So that's how we end up with "US Brig Niagara."

Scurvy. I noticed a huge bag of oranges in the crew quarters. I guess scurvy is still a concern, or at least vitamin deficiency. Incidentally, the crew quarters are teeny tiny. Each member had to fit all their personal belongings in a single canvas bag. We had to duck the entire time we were on the berth deck.

It was cool.

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