This summer there’s a new ship plying the waters of the Great Lakes. The ship stretches 101 feet from end to end and is a replica of a sloop that did battle in the War of 1812. Those on board are hoping to provide a glimpse of what it was like to sail the lakes in the 1800’s. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney takes us on board the “Friends Good
This summer there’s a new ship plying the waters of the Great
Lakes. The ship stretches 101 feet from end to end and is a replica of a
sloop that did battle in the War of 1812. Those on board are hoping to
provide a glimpse of what it was like to sail the lakes in the 1800’s.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney takes us on board the “Friends Good Will:”
There’s this famous phrase from the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of
1812. U.S. Commodore Perry sent a dispatch that read,
“We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
It goes on though, and reads “Two Ships, two brigs, one schooner and a
sloop.” That sloop was the Friend’s Good Will.
The sailboat looks like a pirate ship or something out of the movie Master
and Commander. 19-year-old Megan Blough and 75-year-old Bonnie Wilson are
loosening ropes from wooden pins so the ships biggest sail can be raised.
(Sound of orders and talking)
WILSON: “Being a crewmember, you get to go out once or twice a week on it.”
CHARNEY: “Now, as a crewmember, what do you do?”
WILSON: “Whatever the captain tells me to do. I just generally help; I try to let all the heavy stuff go to the men. I have gone out in the bowsprit, but I prefer to let the younger ones do that.”
That’s because she’d have to climb out on that piece that sticks out over
the water in the front of a one of these tall ships while wearing period
clothing to boot.
WILSON: “This is supposedly a typical uniform from a sailor in 1812. Wore the
plants with the flap in front and they usually wore a striped shirt and a kerchief and a
Replicating the Friends Good Will was Jim Spurr’s idea. He’s a lawyer and
an avid sailor. He worked with the Michigan Maritime Museum in South
Haven to research historic records and come up with a ship the Museum
could recreate and let people sail.
“It is the only ship sailing the Great Lakes as a tall ship that
served both as a merchant vessel, a Royal Naval vessel, and a United States
Naval vessel all in just three short seasons. She had penchant for being a
wrong place at wrong time, and it is really a great story. So it enables
the museum to educate visitors and school children about all three different
But this isn’t a teacher and classroom sort of education. The idea is
that people onboard will experience what it was like to sail at that time
in history. Barbara Kruiser is the executive director of the Michigan
“This will be a performance, and as the season goes on and we get
better at what we’re doing, it will be a performance and they will talk to
one another as they would have spoken 200 years ago, and we’ll try to be
using some of the same language of that day as well as just of this
She says Friends Good Will will take out school groups. There will be
sails for the general public including sunset cruises and overnight sails.
And while there are a number of places around the Great Lakes where you
can see a tall ship or even sail on one, Barbara Kruiser says Friends Good
Will is the only one where the crew is in costume.
Jim Spurr says he is thrilled his idea is now reality. But didn’t get to go
out on this sail. As Friends Good Will left the dock, he had to go back to
work. Which may be why he could best put his finger on what it is about
being out on the water in a ship at the mercy of the winds that so
captures our imagination.
SPURR: “Well perhaps all of us in our hearts wish we had more adventure in
our lives and there’s nothing more adventurous than setting out in a
historic tall ship for parts unknown going roving or exploring.”
And even if Friends Good Will will rarely sail out of view of its home
port, it’s still fun to pretend.
(Sound of singing)
For the GLRC, I’m Tamar Charney.