A Schooner Appears, and Presents an Opportunity for Next Summer
On July 16th, Beaver Islanders were thrilled by the arrival of a Tall Ship. The Denis Sullivan pulled into St. James Harbor on Tuesday evening and tied up at the Boat Dock. Built by a team of volunteers in Milwaukee, the three-masted wooden schooner is modeled after the cargo haulers that plied Lake Michigan in the late 1860s.
Beside the six-man crew, sixteen teenage students were on board. They had embarked on a five day sail on this Teaching Ship, an expedition during which they would receive lessons on sailing, general seamanship, marine biology, ecology, and history. Even though the Sullivan is equipped with the latest in modern electronics (and a first-class galley, where a gourmet chef prepares meals), they learned some celestial navigation--still a requirement by the Coast Guard.
The schooner took five years to build, even with the help of hundreds of volunteers, and cost around four million dollars. Every component is a piece of highly-polished art. Initially, procuring the stately masts presented a difficulty. Calculations indicated 150-year-old trees would be required, which only grew on the Menominee Nation. When asked for six long and straight white pines, they took offense: "Don't you realize those trees have a spirit? To cut them down would be to deprive our land of its providence." Eventually a ceremony was conducted in which the spirits of the desired trees were transferred into six saplings planted by the Wisconsin Lake Schooner Education Association, and the mast stock was taken down and delivered.
The Association offers various length excursions, from three hours to several days. They work in conjunction with schools, and instruct their partners on how to raise the nominal funds needed for a trip ($695/student for the five-day trip.) Once ashore, the crew and their instructors toured the Museum and took in the Wednesday Museum Week events--thanks to a donation by Rich Gillespie. They found the presentations interesting, the afternoon talk on Celtic Culture and Native American life and the evening discussion of our mysterious stone circles. Coincidentally both were delivered by independent visitors who had come from Milwaukee.
When the ship left on Thursday, a party of forty spectators formed at Whiskey Point to wave her past. Cameras of every description clicked rapidly as the wind filled her sails and carried her out of the Harbor, and talk quickly turned to the natural topic for our civic-minded community to consider: "Why can't we arrange one of these trips for our school kids next summer?" The Beacon is looking into the matter, and will help organize it; contributions have already started to trickle in. The ship will be returning from a winter in the Caribbean and pass by Beaver Island in mid May; if we get on here, well have to pick the kids up in Milwaukee. Our second window for boarding is in Milwaukee the first week in July, with the trip ending here. Hopefully sixteen or so Beaver Island students will be on board the stately ship early next summer. Considering our rich nautical heritage, what more appropriate reward for a year's hard work could there possibly be?
The Real Beacon:
Search the Beaver Beacon Web Site & Archive: