In the early 1920s, British poet laureate John Masefield wrote: )I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
It has been said that nothing is more majestic than a tall ship under a full wind leaving or entering a harbour, sails unfurled. After attending the festival in Halifax this past weekend, I can agree. Halifax hosted over 40 of these incredible visions and the crowds delighted in their glory.
Generations of fishermen and traders from our region were once familiar with vessels powered primarily by wind. The ships were for the most part working vessels that carried men seeking to provide a living for their families.
Times have changed and now these noble ships like Bluenose II—reminiscent of times past—are considered showpieces.
Many Tall Ships are helping to build the character of a new generation. These ships are training vessels that aim to build skills and character of the young people fortunate enough to obtain passage on such vessels.
As well, many of the world’s navies still use sail training as a way to enhance the skill sets of their personnel. Canada, home of many famous Tall Ships and equally famous wooden ship building communities, has just the navy’s 101-foot ketch ‘HMCS Oriole’ that is based on the West Coast.
Seastar, a Nova Scotia based, non-profit society established to help young Nova Scotians develop life skills and experience aboard Tall Ships, says: "Sail training combines adventure at sea with real-life lessons in team building, self discipline and leadership."
Trainees do learn to sail but more importantly they learn to challenge themselves.
Sailing ships are no strangers to Digby’s harbour. Our marina boasts many fine and beautiful small sailing vessels, and now with local control of the wharf we can try to attract larger sailing ships.
Digby Harbour Port Association is more than willing to make this facility available for the use of Tall Ships. And the experience of Lunenburg affirms that to avoid the traffic and the long walks associated with Tall Ship visits to major ports, many people will take the opportunity to visit the ships in a smaller port. Digby is just such a location.
The Bay of Fundy has a great deal to offer a training vessel, including remarkable tides, breathtaking natural wonders, fascinating sea life and historic links with the early settlement of North America. Perhaps we as a community should explore the option of attracting some Tall Ships to our harbour over the next few years.
Plans for ship itineraries are made well in advance, so it is time now for us to make contact with the various ships and associations for 2010 or 2011. What do you think?