This post needs a bit of an explanation. The American Tall Ship, the Niagara visited our harbour in Kingsville, Ontario last weekend and we were allowed onboard for tours. This is a bit of a local piece I wrote in my column for the newspaper I work for, but some of you may find it interesting. The Jiimann is a ferry which sails out of Kingsville for a few months of the year to Pelee Island in Lake Erie (about 1 1/2 hr “voyage”).
Majestic. That was my first impression of the Flagship Niagara, the Tall Ship that docked for the weekend at the Kingsville harbour. I first saw it in a clearing at the Mettawas Park parking lot, proudly sitting next to the dock—the sails neatly folded away and the rigging in full view and splendour.
Do not expect proper nautical terms from me—I am a full blown landlubber prone to seasickness even on short forays to Pelee Island, but even I understand the romance of the open water. I picked up a brochure that described the “Live-Aboard Programs” touting “an experience you will long remember.” Perhaps a few decades ago (I will not reveal how many, but more than one or two….) I would have jumped at the chance—but today, I cannot even go below deck as the stairs leading to the mess and sleeping area were just a bit narrow and steep for me. I seem to have developed a fear of steps that are not wide and generous of late—something I find limiting, but alas….
I enjoyed the shortened tour I took on the deck, the mounds of thick ropes, the beautiful wooden decking, the navigational apparatus, and every one of the guides/seamen and women were friendly and knowledgeable. I was allowed through some of the roped areas as I could not complete the tour. No one needs to see a woman go head first down a hatch. A man (much older than I) explained to me that the ship was not handicapped accessible—making me feel just a little bit more senior than I actually am. Oh well, that MRI on my knee cannot come soon enough…..
I noticed that in the middle of the ship there was a raised portion (skylight?) that had bars on the windows. A young father told his daughter that that was where they held the prisoners. I laughed, but then I looked down and saw a woman doing paperwork below deck. I pointed it out to my husband and told him that I felt like that when I did paperwork (trapped in case you are not getting my drift). I am a self-proclaimed creative (?) and I hate paperwork, especially when it involves math any higher that multiplication and division (I have adding and subtracting down pat; formulas not so much).
We met an older volunteer on the deck who was from Albany, New York. He listened very patiently and even seemed interested while my husband regaled him with (true) tales of my ancestor, Peter Geauvreau who was a ships’ carpenter on the Queen Charlotte involved in the same 1812 Battle of Put-In- Bay as The Niagara. We must not have annoyed him too much, as he caught up with us later as we were leaving and talked to us some more about ship history and life in general.
I took some pictures on the dock and then ventured over to one of the fishing boat docks and took some more. I caught the ship with the Jiimann in the background just leaving for its voyage to Pelee Island. I waited and caught the two boats nose to nose, the juxtaposition of old and new a wonderful metaphor for the day—the past and the present entwined for a moment.