Date: Sunday, August 7, 2016

Position: Green Bay, Wisconsin

We started the Lake Michigan Race last Monday at noon. This race proved to be a tough one for all competitors. Sometimes the wind just doesn’t cooperate, and this was one of those times. No ship finished inside the time limit; it was very hot, and after two days of this we were all roasted like rotisserie chickens. Tall Ships America has a way of scoring these races even if you don’t finish, based on where you are on the course when the time limit runs out. If I had to guess, I would say When and If won, Pride came in second, Appledore IV was third, Niagara fourth. That’s a guess. What is a certainty is that this was one of the more unexciting, fly-slapping, sweating, complaining second-place finish I’ve ever experienced.

We then proceeded to Sturgeon Bay for the night, and thereafter to Green Bay. As we have experienced everywhere, our hosts have been very happy to see us, and very generous. We like to experience a little of what every region we visit has to offer so when our port liaison asked us, “What do you guys need?” we answered “Ummm……beer and cheese curds?” Believe me, everyone, the beer and cheese curds were delivered.

I’ve written a lot about the sailing part of the trip, but relatively little about the festivals themselves. The crowds have been huge – thousands of people a day walk our deck. When you see that many people in that many ports, patterns emerge. I feel I must stick up for my crew, here, by saying:

Don’t say “arrrr” to them. Please oh please. I know it’s well meant, done in a spirit of fun, but they are real sailors on a real ship with a storied history; the Baltimore Clippers of the War of 1812 and the construction and travels of Pride of Baltimore and Pride of Baltimore II are true and compelling stories of maritime prowess, travel, and adventure. Most of what the crew does at these festivals is patiently work to deconstruct what Hollywood pirate films have done to the public consciousness of what a sailing ship is and what a sailor is (it’s almost entirely nonsense).

Look at it this way: anyone who is proficient at and has devoted their life to anything is likely to despise the movie that is made about that thing. Firefighters hate “Backdraft.” Chess players hate the Bobby Fischer movie. Sailors hate pirate movies. If you are interested in a couple of pretty decent films that hit much closer to the mark reality wise, I can recommend “The Bounty” (made in the early 1980’s, with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh). This is a cinematic retelling of the true story of the famous mutiny on HMS Bounty in the South Pacific in 1789, and the strange and incredible events that followed. Also, the more recent “Master and Commander” film, with Russell Crowe, is the closest thing in sight, sound, and tone to what life aboard a warship in the age of sail likely was.

The real is always more compelling than the fictional, don’t you think?

Captain Jordan Smith