Under a sunny sky filled with fluffy, regal clouds, they sailed along the Gulf Stream near Florida. It was the same course as last year so the scent of fresh salt water and the warm tropical breeze evoked a familiarity among most of the crew. As the schooner cut through the rough Gulf waters, waves hammered against the gangway of the ship and rolled over the deck, tossing mist into the humid air, which generally acted as a better air conditioner than the ones the crew left back home in Milwaukee.
It was a glorious day, one that reminded them of why they truly love the open sea and sailing upon it. By midnight, though, the weather turned ferocious, kicking up eight-foot waves that engulfed the schooner and began to submerge its wooden deck. It’s hard to believe that only a few hours before, the deck provided a place for students to relax or study the ocean, or learn how to help set the sails, coil the lines and steer the ship.
At that moment, however, no one was relaxing – the ship was sinking! Without hesitation, the schooner’s brave crew worked with conviction, hand pumping the six feet of water on deck as other shipmates successfully rescued three men whose boat had been swallowed by waves and dark waters. Later, this night went down in history as the vessel’s most exciting journey.
This was an actual account from Captain Hugh Covert of the S/V Denis Sullivan that I read at ExpressMilwaukee.com. Sure, I dramatized it a bit, but clearly sailing the open sea isn’t a walk in the park – it definitely is an adventure! That’s why after hearing a thrilling story like that, I was even more eager to see the Great Lakes schooner up close and in person at Discovery World.
A few Saturdays ago, on a day reminiscent of that winter voyage along the Gulf Stream, I joined thousands of excited people at Discovery World to celebrate the Denis Sullivan’s official arrival at its summer port at Pier Wisconsin. The homecoming had the prospect of being a grandiose gala; unfortunately, it was forced to end abruptly due to inclement weather.
Eric and I arrived exactly at 3 p.m., parked in Discovery World’s underground garage and signed in at a long table centered on the lengthy promenade. Here we were given a wrist band for access to all of Discovery World, along with a food voucher, and then we aimlessly wandered around not really knowing what was in store for us.