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Departing Sault Ste. Marie

23 July 2010
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Pride II preparing to shift to the Michigan side of the “SOO” for customs, then depart for Duluth.

Having finished race two of the Great Lakes Challenge Series in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Pride of Baltimore IIstayed on station near the finish line to fulfill our obligations as communications vessel until we needed to make way up the St. Mary’s River. In the lower river, off St. Joseph Island, we joined company with the Tall ship Bounty, and both vessels sailed past the ruins of Fort St. Joseph, a British military installation erected in anticipation of conflict along the United States and Canadian Frontier just before the war of 1812. Re-enactors lined the shore and the two ships sailed past firing salutes.

This unofficially marked the beginning of our visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as the re-enactors at the fort were part of the multi-faceted group who approached Pride IIabout coming to Sault Ste. Marie. Due to the cruise ship Celia II occupying the dock, Bounty and Pride II made slow steady progress up the river to arrive in the evening just as the dock was clear.

What a welcoming we received from the Canadian side of the St. Mary’s River! There were thousands of people lining the waterfront parks cheering and waving. The scene was a busy one out on the river as well, with Celia II departing to make room for our historic vessels, two 1,000 long lake freighters passing in the river just astern of us, the European vessels Roald Amundsen and Europa secured on the American side and a float plane landing just off to the Canadian side of the channel.

Once secure at the Bondar marina – a facility named after one of Sault Ste. Marie’s most famous natives, Roberta Bondar, the first neurosurgeon in space – we cleared customs and prepared for the next day’s events. The schedule was typical, with public tours through the day and a private event at night. But the themes were all encompassing. The point of the festival, as with many of the festivals this year, was to highlight Great Lakes United and their mission of promoting clean water on the Great Lakes. To augment this, Bounty was representing the ever popular “pirate ship” theme North American audiences have come to love so much, and Pride IIwas to provide the maritime portion of a War of 1812 exhibit that included re-enactors of British soldiers and Canadian Voyageurs. The combined event drew 2500 visitors over Pride II‘s deck in just five hours of public tours and a one hour private event for city workers.

It is a bit strange to have such a warm reaction to an American War of 1812 vessel in Canada, particularly in Ontario, where the contest was largely fought between Canadians and Americans, and where Canada inarguably came out as the victor. With an expressed declaration of taking over southern Ontario, our young nation launched no fewer than 13 invasions into Canada, but ended up back on our side of the border each time. So, from a Canadian historical perspective, we attacked, they defended, we retreated, they won. And just as the conflict helped America develop its identity and need to take itself more seriously, the call to arms against invaders forged a Canadian national identity as well.

But at the remove of nearly 200 years, all of them peaceful, we can certainly set aside the adolescent squabble between our countries, and with motivation from Great Lakes United, join forces to help preserve our shared resource of fresh water on the Great Lakes. And what better way to draw focus to clean water than with a sleek sailing vessel that tries like crazy to keep a low carbon footprint by using the wind.

All best,
Jamie Trost and the celebrity (at least in Sault Ste, Marie) crew of Pride II