Houghton waterfront welcomes 18th century sailing ship replica
HOUGHTON — The Houghton waterfront welcomed a visitor on Tuesday of a rare type: a tall ship built in 1953, designed in the style of traditional 18th century sailing ships.
The STV (Sail Training Vessel) St. Lawrence II, 72-foot brigantine, which hails from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, tied up at the waterfront while on its way to Two Harbors, Minn. for the Aug. 4-7 Festival of Sail. Previously celebrated on Duluth’s waterfront, the festival moved to Two Harbors for 2022 due to construction on Duluth’s waterfront.
While tall ships do occasionally appear on Portage Lake during the summer season of festivals, what makes the St. Lawrence II particularly rare, is that it is operated by a crew of 14- to 19-year-olds
Katherine Davison, one of the crew members, said the ship is on its way to the festival, along with nine other tall ships.
“We came up through the North Channel,” she said. “We didn’t want to have to go around the (Keweenaw) Peninsula, so we decided to stop in for a little bit.”
The North Channel is located at the northern side of Manitoulin Island, in Lake Huron. Sparsely populated and not often visited, the region is between Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes, anchored by its largest city, Sault Ste. Marie.
Davison said that while the absolute minimum number of crew members required to man a brigantine is six, the St. Lawrence II can handle up to 28. Currently, there are 23 aboard.
“We have 11 or 12 senior crew, 10 trainees, and then we have a Tall Ships American intern with us,” she said.
Jake Hebert-Potter, age 15, and has been sailing for two years, said the ship is one of three sister ships and is not a replica, but original. It was built specifically as youth training ship.
The St. Lawrence II was solely designed for youth sail training in 1952, by Francis MacLachlan and Mike Eames. The welded steel hull was built in 1953 in the Kingston, Ontario shipyards, with the rest of the ship finished by local craftsmen, Kingston sea cadets and enthusiastic amateurs. The vessel was designed with a level of complexity that requires a high degree of teamwork. When the St. Lawrence II first started out, it was affiliated with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps of St. Lawrence, but eventually her program was opened to any participants ages 12-18 for a summer of training cruises.
The ship sails mostly in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, but sometimes will venture as far as New York City. The success of the St. Lawrence II was the inspiration for the construction and launch of her Toronto-based sister ships STV Pathfinder (in 1962) and TS Playfair (in 1973), with both training vessels also being designed by Francis A. MacLachlan.
Aboard the ship there are three watches: red, white and blue. Each watch is under the direction of a watch officer; the remainder of the watch consists of a petty officer or chief petty officer and up to 6 trainees. Those who sign on to the St. Lawrence II for a course during the summer become trainees who comprise the basic unit of the ship and who complete most of the tasks, directed by petty officers.
On each watch the watch officer is the senior officer and is usually at the helm or plotting a course so it’s up to the petty officers to get the trainees to do their part. Other positions on the ship are the cook, the bosun, the executive officer and the captain.
The captain and the executive officer are usually the only people on the ship who are over 18 years of age, and they are the most qualified. The watch officers, cook, bosun and petty officers are often under 18 but they will have participated in multiple training cruises and completed further training during the winter training program.