Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sail Tracker

The Niagara after her initial restoration in 1913, at anchor with the USS Wolverine (a civil-war era gunship that for a long time was the only US warship on the Great Lakes) and a steam yacht.
I hate that traditionally rigged sailing vessels (from sloop on up to full-rigged ship) are known as “tall ships”. The term seems so anachronistic, something a lubber would use. But for people interested in seeing a ship under sail (or in port), this tall ship tracking map will be useful.
The Niagara today with a more accurate hull. She is a brig-rigged warship (a brig of war, I think), with two masts.
In the Great Lakes region, we have the brig USS Niagara, which has timbers from the original brig that fought the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813. Her sister, the flagship USS Lawrence, was also sunk for preservation after the War of 1812 (vessels were sunk in shallow water so that their timbers wouldn’t rot, so they could be raised and refitted if need be). Unfortunately, when her keel was raised for the US International Exposition of 1876, the expo hall burned down, destroying her remains. The Lawrence was first restored in 1913 for the Centennial of the battle, and again restored in 1988.
I think I’ve been aboard the Niagara once before. She’s a small and simple warship, with a single gun deck, and a cramped spar deck below for the crew. Her clean, utilitarian lines are typical of wartime shipbuilding by the Brown brothers (who also built the first steam warship among other designs). During the summer months she usually cruises to different port cities along the Lakes, and her home port is in Erie, PA, where she was laid down long ago.