The only “tall ship” I’ve ever been on is the USS Constitution. We were in Boston following a week of horse riding in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and it felt good to get my feet back on the ground. The main thing I learned touring the fabled vessel was that no matter how tall she is, the belowdecks are pretty compact. At 6-foot-4, I spent most of the tour bent over in an uncomfortable crouch. I wouldn’t have amounted to much as a sailor.
I first encountered tall ships when the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations included the 16-vessel Parade of Ships. And I made sure to pay attention when subsequent appearances of tall ships were scheduled.
This summer is another chance to see them when Tall Ships America will once again bring a fleet of 20 tall ships from around the world to the Great Lakes as part of the Tall Ships Challenge series. The ships will race across all five of the lakes while stopping at cities in both the United States and Canada. As of press time, ports of call included Toronto, Ontario (July 1-3), Fairport Harbor, Ohio (July 8-10), Bay City, Mich. (July 15-17), Chicago, Ill. (July 27-31), Green Bay, Wis. (Aug. 5-7), Duluth, Minn. (Aug. 18-21), Erie, Pa. (Sept. 8-11) and Brockville,
Ontario (Sept. 17-18).
According to its website, Tall Ships America was founded in 1973 as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching youth education through character building and leadership programs aboard tall ships. It is the hub for tall-ship activity, expertise and information in North America, and is commended by Congress as the sail training organization representing the United States in the international forum. Tall Ships America supports the people, ships and programs of sail training through grants, scholarships, conferences, education, publications, and public events and advocacy.”
For my part, I’m hoping to see the ships when they stop at the Great Lakes’ western terminus in Duluth. I’ll probably be up on the hill on the west side of town, looking down upon Duluth Harbor, yet standing tall myself and, most important, completely upright.