By Jasmine Willis
BUFFALO — For a long time these vessels of the sea have been used to transport merchandise, conquer the wars, and provide safe travels abroad.
The Tall Ships of America Challenge came to the shores of Buffalo Waterfront on July Fourth Weekend. The Holiday weekend was packed with thousands of people wanting to get a glimpse of history and know what it was like to be on one of these magnificent ships.
My mother, Lisa Willis, and myself were lucky enough to become part of history. For the first time Buffalo held Basil Port of Call at its Canalside. There were 12 Tall Ships of America available (technically one was from Spain) and thousands of happy tourists.
An official passport was handed out to each ticket holder with a little information about each ship at port. My mother and I were there for opening day on July 5, and it was an intense adventure to say the least.
We only saw half of the ships that day as it was beastly hot, but it is something we will never forget. The true meaning of all our family adventures is to take a lot of photos, explore a lot of hidden gems, and get to the point of total exhaustion. It is safe to say this adventure was a complete success.
The Tall Ships of America we saw are; Denis Sullivan, HMCS Oriole, NAO Santa Maria, Niagara, Pride of Baltimore II, and St. Lawrence II. The others at port were; Bluenose II, Empire Sandy, Picton Castle, Appledore IV, Appledore V, and Spirit of Buffalo.
The Denis Sullivan is based out of Milwaukee, WI. It is one of the newer vessels on the list. It is a traditional Great Lakes topsail schooner, which was most common at one time. It is used for the general public and educational purposes as well as private charters. It offers programs on history, sailing, ecology, marine science, and professional development for educators.
HMCS Oriole is the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Canadian Navy, and the longest serving commissioned ship. It is based out of CFB, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was built in 1921, but now serves as a training vessel for the Royal Canadian Navy.
NAO Santa Maria is an exact replica of the flagship Christopher Columbus sailed in 1492. It is based out of Seville, Spain. This gorgeous masterpiece was built in only 14 months and takes you right back in time over 500 years ago. This deep-water tall ship was built on the 525thAnniversary of the original Santa Maria 1492 Voyage. She launched on March, 15, 2018 as part of the historic replica fleet of NAO Victoria Foundation in Seville.
US Brig Niagara is based out of Erie, Pa. It is a reconstruction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s historic wooden flagship that fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. This glorious reminder of our victory on the lake offers education and learning on the waters for the 22 trainees and 18 crew on board.
Pride of Baltimore II is a topsail schooner that serves as a sailing ambassador for the State of Maryland. It is based out of Baltimore, MD and supported by a non-for-profit organization. The Maryland Transportation Authority owns and supports the historic value of this vessel. This part of our seafaring history is a replica of the one that served in War of 1812. It launched in 1988 to replace the first Pride of Baltimore.
St. Lawrence II is a steel two-masted brigantine operated by teenagers for youth sailing programs. It is based out of Kingston, Ontario. She was one of three brigantines from the Canadian ports brought to Buffalo by the Buffalo Lighthouse Association in the 1980s.
Perhaps, my favorite ship I was able to see that day was the NAO Santa Maria. I am completely fascinated by history, as anyone who knows me will find out. I feel like this one embraces the true meaning of Tall Ship. It is wooden, huge, and looks ancient. It makes me feel like I am entering a period film where a bunch of pirates are going to make someone walk a plank or keep them up in the crow’s nest. I was determined to see this ship even if it was the only one, I saw that day.
It was my general feel of the public that they all felt the same way. I mean the other ships are beautiful, and I love them as well. However, the replica of Santa Maria is something that reminds us that there is still a little magic left in the world. I could feel the soul of the Christopher Columbus 1492 Voyage on that vessel as I wandered throughout its corridors.
Besides seeing the beautiful Tall Ships, which was the main focus of our adventure that day. We also were able to ride a double decker bus. I had 15 wonderful minutes to feel British. I even had The Beatles blasting through the radio as we drove through the harbor, and I sitting on the top could see the soul of the dark waters of Lake Erie.
Yes, despite major sunburn, possible dehydration, and extreme sun poisoning we both had a wonderful time at Basil Port of Call: Buffalo. It was the first time anything like this had been done in the shores near our humble homes. It is something we had dreamed of and thought never be possible in a million years. Just hope that next time they come to port we can see the other ships we missed that day on the rocky shores of Lake Erie.