Down to the Sea in Ships

I’m pretty sure that there is only one real key to finding fulfillment in this

Flagship Niagara

Flagship Niagara, Erie PA

autumn season of life:  DO SOMETHING.  Anything.  But don’t just sit there waiting for your grown children to call (they may not.)  One of the things we are doing is spending a little time as tourists in our own backyard.  So we recently found ourselves in Erie, Pennslyvania on the weekend of the tall ships celebration.

Tall ships are spectacular!  They are simultaneously art, history, engineering, and magic.

This glimpse of the tall ships brought back a flood of memories of time spent on and around the water, and particularly a unique occasion when I briefly sailed aboard a tall ship.  She was the Sea Lion.  Created largely from one man’s dream, she was a replica of a 16th century, 3-masted English merchant vessel.

She was stunning, and when she was officially christened in September, 1985, the media was invited aboard.  I was a reporter at the time and went along for the ride!  My 28 year old photo of the Sea Lion really does not do her justice.

Sea Lion on Chautauqua Lake, September, 1985

Sea Lion on Chautauqua Lake, September, 1985

You can find a much better view here.

I felt lucky then, and still feel lucky now.  Not many had the opportunity to take a ride on the Sea Lion.  In fact, the ship fell on some very bad times.   Financial and legal troubles caused the ship to be moved to Buffalo in 1992, where it sank in Lake Erie in 1999.  She was raised the following year and towed to Barcelona Harbor,

Sea Lion dry docked at Barcelona Harbor

Sea Lion today dry docked at Barcelona Harbor

where she remains today.  Her majestic masts are gone, and her sailing days appear to be sadly in the past.

Of course I can swim, and I did learn to water ski during my teenage years thanks to some friendships built around Chautauqua Lake.  But this is not really about the water.  There is something about boats that draws me in.  Wooden boats are artistic.  They have been lovingly crafted and are both purposeful and beautiful.

Vintage Chris Craft

Vintage Chris Craft

At the age of eight, one of my first glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean was at Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the fisherman’s memorial stands ever watching into the waves.  The base is carved with the first line from a passage in Psalms:  “They that go down to the sea in ships…”

There are times in each life when we are docked or adrift.  Most of us work hard to remain anchored from day to day.  Like a carefully crafted wooden boat, powered either by sails draped from tall masts or by outboard motors, we are individual.  This autumn season finds me working anew to pull her out of the harbor and into full sail.  Since these waters are uncharted, I do not yet know where the winds will take us.  But that does not matter nearly as much as breeze in our hair and the spray of salt water on our skin.  It’s the trip that counts, not the destination.  Make it beautiful.

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One thought on “Down to the Sea in Ships

  1. So glad you were able to take in the ships in Erie. It was nice seeing it through your eyes.
    I love the majesty and elegance of a schooner in full sail. It is a beautiful reminder of a dream set in motion!

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