The Tall Ships sailed into Chicago’s Navy Pier on August 7, 2013 and stayed to entertain throngs of tourists through Sunday, August 11, 2013. Fourteen majestic vessels, fireworks, a parade of sail and match cup races added to the five-day spectacle.
The turnout for the event was so great that all of Navy Pier’s parking lots were full. Add to that the thousands of fans attending a Taylor Swift concert at nearby Soldier Field the very same Saturday night and you had the prescription for a gigantic traffic jam after the 10:30 p.m. fireworks concluded.
Ships in attendance included the Norwegian SS Sorlandet, a 210-foot tall Class “A” square-rigged ship built in 1927 that appeared at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Her 100-foot tall masts and 22-foot tall sails now are home to Canadian Class Afloat, which offers fully-accredited senior high school and university programs.
The Lynx, a 122-foot square topsail schooner, is a replica of a naval schooner from the War of 1812. She was among the first ships to defend American freedom as a blockade runner. Now serving as a living history museum flying flags and pennants from the 1812 era, crew members wear period costumes.
The Denis Sullivan was positioned dockside to accommodate tourist cruises and serves as a goodwill ambassador for Wisconsin. She was built by 900 volunteers in 2000. Visitors to Milwaukee can commission the 137-foot three-masted sailing vessel for educational day sails and private charters.
The STV Unicorn, built in Holland from recycled metal from German submarines, was present. It boasts the only all-female crew in the world. The Unicorn delivers non-profit leadership development programs for teenage girls and women.
Two more “local” ships that took part were the Windy, Navy Pier’s own 148-foot traditional four-masted gaff topsail schooner. It is the official flagship of the city of Chicago and has been in operation since 1996. Also local is the Red Witch, which is a 77-foot gaff rig topsail schooner, built in the tradition of the schooners of 19th century America’s transportation system. She is named after the epic sea story “Wake of the Red Witch” by Garland Roark and her salon has posters from the 1949 John Wayne film. She can carry 49 passengers and is a charter passenger vehicle.
Ships coming from further away, in addition to the above, included the 85-foot Bay City, Michigan schooner Appledore IV; the Friends Good Will-USA, a replica ship built in 2004; the Hindu-USA, designed in 1925 and restored in 2012; the Madeline-USA launched in 1990 which has sailed on all the Great Lakes and visited more than 60 ports; the Flagship Niagara-USA, built in 1988, which was the tallest ship in the festival at 198 feet and was a replica of the ship aboard which Commander Oliver Hazard Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812; the Pathfinder-Canada, a 72-foot brigantine on which more than 15,000 students have lived and worked; the Peacemaker-USA, built in southern Brazil of the finest tropical hardwoods and launched in Avany in 1989; and the Pride of Baltimore-USA, a 157-foot reproduction ship from the War of 1812.