Tall ships visited Summerside harbour this summer
by Michelle René Sexton
Graceful, historic, and ghostly. Looking out on the Northumberland on an early Friday afternoon, I saw a dense fog brought on from heat slightly obscuring the majestic sails of three tall ships gliding towards Summerside harbour. Watching the ships in full sail I felt transported back in time when a sighting like this was common. I stood, mesmerized, hand over eyes squinting against the sun, catching glimpses of the cream colored sails disappearing then reappearing like ghostly ships, using the slight breeze to guide them.
Bluenose II, which had arrived the morning before, sailed out greeting Pride of Baltimore II, and not much later Playfair. Waiting in harbour was the Royaliste. All ships were anchored for the weekend, treating admirers to free tours. Each ship, dancing on the water tells a story about its history and life at sea. Bluenose II, hails from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and at one time had the largest working main sail in the world. Built to original plans in 1963, she still sails around the world ‘moving like the wind.’
The original Bluenose was first launched in 1921, and known for her racing expertise. She served in a fishing fleet for nearly twenty years, when normal life spans of wooden schooners were ten. Her crew survived ruthless storms where most ships would’ve perished. The death of the Bluenose was a combination of 1930’s depression, onset of World War II, and the invention of diesel powered fishing trawlers. She was sent off in 1942 to West Indian Trading Co., and spent four years as a freighter before her demise on a reef near Haiti in January 1946. Her ending fit any tall ship—death at sea.
The Pride of Baltimore II is a reproduction of an 1812 Clipper Privateer. Built in 1988 she’s used mainly to sail around the world as a ‘Good Will Ambassador’ from the state of Maryland and port of Baltimore. This ship also had a predecessor. Pride of Baltimore I was built in 1977, and the first Baltimore Clipper built in 150 years. She was sunk by an unexpected squall off the coast of Puerto Rico in 1986. The history of Baltimore Clippers is their involvement in the War of 1812, where fearless privateers helped begin the American nation.
The Royaliste’s history is brief. Hailing from San Francisco, California, a reproduction of an 18th Century gunboat and bom ketch, she is now a reenactment vessel complete with skulls garnishing her deck. She emphasized piracy and has a showbiz career, appearing in historical documentary films shown on Discovery and History Channels. She’s also flown colors of three nations; France during French Indian War, Britain at start of Revolutionary War, and the United States during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.
The Playfair is a training ship, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, and is the only Canadian ship commissioned by a reigning monarch. All ships still create new adventures for their historic log books.