Ted read in The Town Crier that there were three boats that would be open to the public at St. Ignace this weekend. One was the armed sloop Welcome, a restored 18th century sailing vessel. The other two were the Pride of Michigan, a cadet training boat and research vessel, which discovered an ancient waterfall on the lake bed east of Mackinac Island several years ago, and the U.S. Coastguard’s 47-foot motor lifeboat, which has the capability to right itself if it capsizes.
First simple decision. We decided to go see those boats. We took the noon ferry over to St. Ignace (Blake had never been there) and used the boardwalk from the ferry dock to hike over to the new St. Ignace Marina, which is extremely nice and BIG! The breakwater is high and wide, protecting the marina from waves that would crash into the boats during severe storms on the Great Lakes. The breakwater rocks extend far below the surface of the water.
The skies were very threatening, so we were hoping to get the tours in before the bottom dropped out. The Welcome stood out immediately, its 73 foot mast towering over everything else in the marina. We arrived just as the crew was eating lunch, so we decided to go check out the other two boats and come back.
Much to our disappointment, the other two boats were not open on Sunday. I did take a few pictures of them though.
When we returned to the Welcome, it was open for business again, so we paid a very nominal fee and went aboard. The Welcome was originally constructed in Mackinac City in 1774 as a private trading vessel. In 1778, the sloop was purchased by the British military and was converted to an armed sloop. The crew at that time consisted of twelve sailors and twelve soldiers. In 1780, the Welcome was used to move the fort from old Michilimackinac to Mackinac Island and made many trips between the mainland and Mackinac Island to help move people and goods. The original logbook of these trips still exists. Late in 1781, the sloop was lost in a storm. Its final resting place remains a mystery, although it is likely in the Straits of Mackinac.
The replica Welcome was built by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission at Fort Michilimackinac for the 200th anniversary of Independence Day. It allowed visitors the chance to see a facet of American history often forgotten.
In 1992, the Maritime Heritage Alliance (MHA) in Traverse City, Michigan became her custodian. The goal of MHA is to rebuild the replica, make her seaworthy, and continue their mission of preserving and interpreting Great Lakes maritime history. MHA officially became the owners of Welcome on September 22, 2006.
Blake stood next to one of the rail cannons, which, on the original ship would have fired a 1.8 lb. cannonball. We both decided that we wouldn’t have wanted to be standing around in close range when they were firing those cannonballs, even as small as they were.
I went aft (the back of the ship) to the bridge and checked out the steering tiller. The boat’s direction was controlled solely with a tiller, which turned the rudder under the stern of the ship.
Of course, I wanted to check out what was below. I don’t much like ladders, especially ones you have to back down, but I did it without a mishap (amazing!) and found myself in the galley. Now I don’t believe the sailors in the 1700’s had White Cheddar Cheez-Its or Jif Peanut Butter on their daily menu, but the modern-day sailors who live on this ship periodically do . It was funny seeing our everyday food in the tiny little chamber that would have served as the kitchen.
The ship has bunks for 10, but originally carried 20 men. As one man’s shift would end, he would climb into the warm bunk of the man replacing him on watch topside.
When I got to the cargo hold, Russ explained that when the ship was first built and was being used as a trading ship, the hold would have been filled with beaver pelts going to Europe to be used for men’s hats.
Back on deck, I asked Jim and Russ if any of them ever has to climb to the top of the mast. They said a few of them do – on a ship that originally was powered only by the wind, sails have to be adjusted, and for that you have to go up. It made me dizzy just looking up there.
Second simple decision. I gave Jim (two Jims on the ship) my blog card as we were leaving and promised that the story of the Welcome would be online Monday.
Now what really great adventure could possibly come from those two simple decisions! Tune in Tuesday morning!