Friday, August 1, 2008
Tall ships: Swing and a misss
With great anticipation the VOR and I left the Twin Cities yesterday to see the tall ships sail under the aerial lift bridge and into Duluth harbor. The Duluth News Tribune, Lake Superior Magazine, visitduluth.com, and even a woman blogging from the Pride of Baltimore said the arrival would be between 5 and 6pm. We hit Duluth around 3:45, thinking we would have plenty of time. We stoppped at the Thompson Hill visitor center, in my opinion the greatest rest area in the country, to check the progress of the ships since from there you could see at least 30 miles up the Minnesota and Wisconsin shores. On the way to the deck we asked the woman manning the desk what she had heard about the arrival time. "I think one of them is in port already" she told us. Upon walking the 6 steps from her desk to the viewing area we discovered that they ALL were in port and tied up.
To say we were pissed off would be like saying that Josef Stalin was not a kind man; just a bit of an understatement. Most everyone I know was going or asked me to take lots of pictures. The plan was to launch from the sand beach on Park Point and paddle out for pictures. We tried to get down near Canal Park to take a look at the ships close up but it was a completely snarled traffic jam, not a Duluth traffic cop to be found. We finally decided to travel up the north shore, launch from Leif Erickson Park, and paddle into the harbor for some close up viewing. As we got geared up a number of people passed by, the majority of them commenting that they missed the ships because they got there too late. A lot of them, including an elderly quartet, had driven up from the Twin Cities especially for the event. One guy said he was working in his office in Duluth around 1:30 when he saw the ships heading into port from his window. He quickly called his son and they hurried down to the lakefront to watch. He then said that they sailed back out around 3 pm or so to 'officially' kick off the celebration. We paddled over, dealt with some major clapotis in the ship canal, and got right up under the ships. I took some shots of sailors ignoring us, rigging, stern plates, and furled sails. No wind filled sails however.
A number of questions arise. Why did they come in early? With all the publicity, didn't they figure that a few folks from the Twin Cities might take a half day vacation and head to Duluth? With a big time civic event like this I would think the coordination would be a bit better, including the folks manning the visitor center stepping those 6 steps away from the desk with a pair of binoculars for a real time report. Maybe the city would have a traffic cop or two available in Canal Park? And if they sailed back out, why the flock didn't they do it between 5 and 6pm like all the publicity said!? The glowing report in the Duluth News Tribune said nothing about any of this and, in fact, stated the ships arrived at 4pm. I can categorically say no way in hell was it 4pm because I was up on Thompson hill with a pair of 10x binoculars looking at ships in port furling sails.
I'm sure those fortunate enough to be in town really enjoyed the show, just as we had hoped to. I may dig a bit and see if someone 'in authority' has any idea why the timing was moved up. In the interim, we plan to lounge around Two Harbors, set up camp at Burlington Bay, and maybe scout the race course for tomorrows kayak race. I suppose we could hang around Monday and burn another day's vacation to watch em sail out. Who knows however, they may leave in the night, leave Sunday, or decide to wait until Tuesday. I don't trust em as far as I can throw a manhole cover at this point. Right now the brain has shifted to kayak festival and racing mode and we await the arrival of a number of the SKOAC Renegades as they drift into camp over the course of the day.