Tall Ships in Chicago: A guide to all 14 ships

Tall Ships in Chicago: A guide to all 14 ships
When and If captain talking to media before setting sail. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Why are the Tall Ships in Chicago? Tall Ships America organizes the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® annual series of tall ship races and maritime port festivals to celebrate their rich maritime heritage and traditions and to inform the general public about the transformative power of adventure and education under sail®.

This is Chicago’s 8th time hosting the tall ships.

It is no small undertaking getting the ships to Chicago. While a person can fly to Europe in a matter of hours, it takes 20 to 25 days for ships to sail from Europe to Chicago--and another 20 to 25 days to return.

Most tall ships, depending on size and sail configuration, travel at 4 knots, but can get up to 10 – 12 knots with a good wind.

Fourteen ships will arrive this afternoon at Navy Pier in a magnificent "Parade of Sail" between 3:30 pm. and 5 pm. The ships will then be docked at the pier through Sunday, July 31.

Visitors can view, board, sail and even watch the fireworks from the ships with tickets. The five ships that are offering sail aways can only be boarded by those who purchase a ticket to sail. The other 9 boats can be viewed and toured with a boarding pass.

1. Perhaps the most exciting ship in the 2016 Tall Ship Festival line-up is The Viking Ship, Draken Harald Hårfagre. The Draken is making its first visit to Chicago and traveling the longest distance of any of the ships to come to Chicago--over 3500 nautical miles.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre (English translation: Dragon Harald Fairhair) reproduction of a Viking Ship will be coming to Chicago for the first time at the PEPSI® Tall Ships® Chicago festival

The Draken Harald Hårfagre (English translation: Dragon Harald Fairhair) reproduction of a Viking Ship will be coming to Chicago for the first time at the PEPSI® Tall Ships® Chicago festival

Here's their story: The Vikings left almost no record of how they built their ships and how they sailed them. But in the summer of 2010, on a small island off Norway, a band of veteran boat builders, craftsmen, and artists took on a mammoth challenge to build the largest, most authentic Viking warship to set sail in more than 1000 years. They looked at at a variety of artifacts from archaeological records to bits of Viking ships they found to construct the most realistic, authentic, and accurate version of a Viking long ship that has sailed the seas for more than a thousand years.

2. Another first time ship to be visiting Chicago is the El Galeón Andalucía from Spain.The ship is a 170 foot, 495 ton, replica of a 16th-17th century galleon, the only one in the world that sails in present days.

El Galeon

El Galeon

3. The bright and colorful (of course, red) Fred A. Busse Fireboat, originally named after a mayor of Chicago, was built in Bay City, Michigan in 1937. It served the Chicago Fire Department for many years and now houses a small museum dedicated to Chicago’s firefighting efforts. The ship weighs in at 99 Gross Tons (67 Net Tons: 67) and is 90 feet long. Surprisingly, this is the ship,s first visit to Chicago's Tall Ships festival. It will be available for sailaways during the day as well as during the fireworks.

4. When And If

When and If

When and If

When and If is making its first trip to Chicago. The 83’ Alden schooner was commissioned by General George S. Patton in 1939.

Fun Fact: Her name is attributed to General Patton's quote, “WHEN the war (WWII) is over, and IF I live through it, [my wife] Bea and I are going to sail her around the world.” Thus the name, "When and If."

Sadly the general, although he survived the war never did get to sail it around the world. He died in an auto accident in December of 1945. But the yacht may still get its chance. With enough support and sponsorship, the Captain and crew intend to make General Patton’s dream for his sailboat come true. If you want to make a contribution or learn more about their plans visit the When and If website.

5. The "Mist of Avalon," flying the Canadian flag, is back in Chicago for the first time since 2001. The ship began her life in 1967 as the Motor Vessel “Liverpool Bay.” In December 1992 the ship began a new life as “Mist of Avalon”, named for the mystic Celtic island of re-birth.

6. Denis Sullivan

 Denis Sullivan

Denis Sullivan

Denis Sullivan, a 3-masted schooner out of Milwaukee, WI owned and operated by Discovery World Ltd., was completed by over 900 volunteers in 2000. The ship is a replica of a Great Lakes schooner, and Flagship of Wisconsin. It operates as a floating classroom and goodwill ambassador for the State of Wisconsin. The schooner offers educational day sails and private charters for people of all ages from May through September out of Milwaukee and offers three-hour educational programs for 5th through 12th graders.

7. Madeline out of Traverse City, MI is a reconstruction of a mid-19th-century schooner, typical of the trading schooners that once sailed the Great Lakes. Launched in 1990, the modern Madeline was built over a period of five years by volunteers of the Maritime Heritage Alliance (MHA), using traditional methods and materials.

8. The Erie, PA based Niagara is the most historically authentic tall ships in the United States. The ship is an accurate reproduction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victorious flagship from the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie. The ship represents both Pennsylvania and her homeport of Erie in ports throughout the Great Lakes.  She is a squared-rigged, two-masted warship originally armed with eighteen carronades and two long guns.

9. The "Pride of Baltimore II" is a reconstruction of an early 19th-century Baltimore Clipper. It is owned and operated by Pride of Baltimore, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit. Pride’s mission is to promote historical maritime education, foster economic development and tourism, and represent the people of Maryland in every port she visits.

Fun fact:  Pride II has sailed nearly 200,000 miles, and visited over 200 ports in 40 countries in North, South, and Central America, Europe, and Asia.

10. The "Playfair" Sail Training Vessel was built for Toronto Brigantine Inc. as a sail training vessel. The Toronto Brigantine Inc. operates two brigantines, the sail-training vessels Pathfinder and Playfair. Playfair, launched in 1974, Tall Ship was christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A brigantine is a two-masted square-rigged sailing vessel with fore-and-aft rigged sails on the mainmast.

Fun fact: She was commissioned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, and remains the only Canadian ship to be commissioned by a reigning monarch.

11. The schooner "Appledore IV" is owned and operated by BaySail, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Bay City, Michigan. Appledore IV was originally commissioned by Herb and Doris Smith and built by Mark Treworgy.

Appledore IV

Appledore IV

Fun fact: The Smiths’ adventures aboard the Appledores are chronicled in two books, “Dreams of Natural Places” and “Sailing Three Oceans.”

12. "Friends Good Will" is a square topsail sloop out of Homeport: South Haven, MI.

13. The Chicago-based, "Red Witch" is typical of the schooners that once plied Lake Erie and the Great Lakes. She was built in the tradition of the schooners which were the workhorses of America’s 19th century transportation system. The ship has full amenities for up to 49 passengers. She is docked in Burnham Harbor, adjacent to Chicago's Museum Campus, McCormick Convention Center, and Soldier Field.

14. Windy, traveled the shortest distance to get to the Tall Ship festival as she is docked at Navy Pier. A 4-masted Gaff topsail schooner, she was built as a modern interpretation of the last days of commercial sail. Her mission: to bring tall ship sailing to the public, for enjoyment, personal and spiritual growth, and self-discovery. She is available for public, corporate and educational sails throughout the season.

Fun fact: Windy is the first certified four-masted traditional sailing vessel built in the U.S.A. since 1921.

The Tall Ships Festival only comes to Chicago once every three years, so make sure to put this festival on your summer bucket list. Those of you going to Lolla this weekend, please note, the ships are nearby and could be a nice break to cool off on the Pier for an hour or two.

Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email

If you would like to keep in touch with what's happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the "create subscription" button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Follow me on Instagram

    Follow Show Me Chicago on Instagram

  • Meet The Blogger

    Carole Kuhrt Brewer

    Arts, entertainment and dining journalist..

  • Follow me on Twitter.

  • Recent posts

  • Monthly Archives

  • Categories

  • Google Analytics Stats

    generated by GADWP 
  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: