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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 3 of 7)

Next stop: Buffalo, NY. Well, not quite.

There was the slight issue of the Welland Canal. Exactly. As we did not intend to climb Niagara Falls, Picton Castle had to do it all over again: Transform from a sailing ship into a triced up vessel capable of negotiating another eight locks to lift us up another 95 metres or so to the level of Lake Erie. Well, we had done it before, and we were getting better at it. The festival in Toronto ended at 6pm on a Monday, and at 0330 the following morning, we had a pilot boarding. We got underway just after 4am, across Lake Ontario towards Port Weller. A short delay waiting for downbound traffic, and Picton Castle entered the first lock of the Welland Canal at 1230. The transit upbound took us 11 hours. Emerging from the Welland Canal at Port Colborne at 2300, we came to anchor in the open roadstead in Lake Erie just after midnight.  BLUENOSE 2 made the transit later on the same day and came to join us. A beautiful sight, and a memorable occasion having this majestic schooner grace our anchorage.

A day at anchor saw more training and light day work, followed by another night at anchor.

Next morning, heave up and a short passage towards the muster point for a parade of sail into Buffalo. The parade of sail commenced at 1500, taking us past crowds of spectators ashore and a fleet of small craft in the approaches to the port, all there to welcome us to Buffalo. By 1800, we were alongside. Yes, you guessed it: the same procedure as before. Customs and Immigration, plus a US Coast Guard safety inspection scheduled for the following morning.

Buffalo put it on for us (and we for them!) over the July 4 long weekend. Having well and truly mastered our festival routine left us time to interact with the visitors more. Marvellous. And surprising what questions the public throws at you. The sailing ships that had been an integral part of everyone’s lives up until the early 20th century, still just within living memory, were now, only three generations later, a mystery to most.

Buffalo, as Toronto before (and most of the ports to follow), offered a mix of activities for visitors and some especially for the ships’ crews. Good fun. Self paced and self organised exploration of the host city was always an option, too. Niagara Falls was a popular destination for Picton Castle’s liberty watch.

Buffalo saw 3000 or so visitors across our decks daily, a number that remained our average all through the summer. That’s a lot of people. At 9,000 visitors per festival, multiplied by 9 festival ports gives us some 81,000 visitors across the deck, not counting those just walking up alongside for a little chat.

Buffalo was followed by Cleveland, OH. Another parade of sail. More Customs, Immigration and USCG inspections. You see a pattern emerging. This is not to suggest that all ports were blending into one blurry mess, kind of the same. Far from it. Every city or town, US American or Canadian, put their own individual spin and flavour on the festivals they organised. The summer never descended into monotonous boredom but maintained a fast paced and fascinating diversity of country culture. Good for us. And speaks volumes about the spirit and commitment of the host communities: Toronto, Ontario. Buffalo, NY. Cleveland, OH. Bay City, MI. Green Bay, WI. Kenosha, WI. Sarnia, Ontario. Kingsville, Ontario. Erie, PA.

Plus the ports we were lucky enough to visit besides the festival ports: Sturgeon Bay, WI. St James’s Harbour (Beaver Is), MI. Algonac, MI. and Clayton, NY. Great hosts all.

Do I have a favourite? You bet I do. And so has everyone else. And I bet it’s not the same.

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