“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, Part II

Two days ago I posted the first part of this two-part post, “Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009, which chronicled the first day of our Tall Ships 2009 experience. Tall Ships, a maritime festival that occurs every two years at Halifax, was the culminating event for our reproductions. It allowed us to gather in uniform and dress, and enjoy the festivities on the piers and under the sun for a weekend.

Unfortunately the first day was rain-filled and dreary (as one will learn by reading the first part), but the second day was remarkable. The amount of fun we had on Sunday more than made up for the disappointments of Saturday. Our only regret was that the ladies could not get dressed up. Unfortunately the uniforms stole the show—next time I think we won’t so carelessly tread into rainy weather, given our Tall Ships experience.

We began the day with a hearty meal at the Waverley (which consisted of pretty much any breakfast food you could dream of). It was a good idea, because we wouldn’t get another bite to eat until later on in the day. The women dressed in casual clothing and took charge of our immediate superior officer, Little William (dubbed the Admiral as our respective OIC). My father Steve donned his bright red major’s uniform, trimmed in bright silver lace, while my brother-in-law Tim and I dressed in our British Royal Navy captain’s uniforms, arming ourselves with our gold-buckled belts, swords and laced hats. Having taken a few shots on the steps of the Waverley (which so happens to be a favourite picture of ours), the three of us began our trek to the waterfront. Johanna snapped an incredible photo, pictured to the left, which hearkened to an earlier day in Halifax where the rhythmic  stomp and cry of British officers was considered normal.

It was a bit disorientating as we made our way to the waterfront. This was the first time we really got dressed up and displayed our creations in public. What were we supposed to do, exactly? Roam the piers? Stage some historical conversation? Break into a spontaneous duel that would certainly satisfy someone’s wounded pride (and undoubtedly bring down the combined-might of the HRP and the RCMP)?

We unanimously decided on the first option, and began roaming the piers. The three of us in uniform stayed together, while the women trailed behind with the camera. Chance would have it that the first ship we encountered was the beautiful Unicorn, a tall-ship exclusively staffed by females. The Unicorn, paired with Sisters Under Sail, offers a leadership program for teenage girls interested in the art of sailing; like most tall ships, it is staffed by the youth of our generation, offering great opportunities to learn and grow on board a sailing ship from a bygone era. Even without our Tall Ships passes (we hadn’t gotten them yet at the time!) the women of the Unicorn intercepted us at the pier, and immediately offered us a tour of the ship. Very nice crew, and a beautiful ship.

We carried on in a north-westerly direction, quickly discovering that our progress was snail-paced (to put it lightly); we were stopped, it seemed, every ten metres by visitors and tourists looking to snap a few photos of the three British officers seemingly patrolling the piers of Halifax. It was a indescribable experience, actually; we felt like celebrities. We adapted quickly, however, and began putting on the smiles that the dozens upon dozens of pictures demanded of us. Steve warmed to it very quickly, having some experience in gallivanting about in a bright uniform. Tim and I found ourselves following his example.

One charming moment was when we found ourselves heading towards a small group of Mounties in full-dress. They were marching down the pier as well, probably experiencing the same fanfare we were. We smiled and nodded as we passed, but it was not meant to be: someone from the crowd shouted “Oh! We simply must have a picture of the two of you!” We quickly formed a group and found ourselves stuck in that position for a solid five minutes or so. It was a really classic photo opportunity!

Throughout the experience we met a handful of others in costume, but nothing quite like our three uniforms. Many reenactors and costume designers create reproductions that replicated day-to-day dress; many uniforms were styled in the undress fashion, that is without the 10-15 metres of lace that adorned our own uniforms. It meant that in that bright Sunday sunshine, we were a veritable beacon so close to the water. It wasn’t difficult to see us coming. As we passed by one actor (employed by the Tall Ships event itself) in a British R.N. captain’s uniform, we received a somewhat cold reception: we had happened across his photo booth, and very quickly were attracting more cameras and interest. Feeling a tad awkward and certainly not wishing to infringe on a fellow reenactor’s turf, we made an expedient retreat.

Hours later we finally made it to the most north-westerly point of the piers you could manage on foot (that featured any festivities, anyway). We were getting hungry, and decided to grab a bite to eat somewhere. We fixed eyes on a place called Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill, and made the decision to get in line. Yes, there was a line (a rather long one, too). So there we were, three men in full-dress uniform ca. 1805, and two women with a young child. The sun was hot, and Little William needed to get into the shade for a rest and something to eat. It wasn’t too long before we secured a table and readied ourselves for a meal.

It was a really awesome place to eat. The food was great, the staff was very helpful and at the top of their game that day; it was their Boxing Day, I’m sure (were they a retail outlet), and they shone. We were incredibly thirsty at this point (layered wool uniforms and July weather did not mix well), and were a bit surprised that we had managed to take care of several pitchers of beer over the course of a brief meal. At the end of the meal we had a nice conversation with one of the hosts, who indicated that there was a family from Britain that were visiting Canada that had been impressed with our uniforms; the host suggested we pay them a visit. So Steve, Tim and I gathered our uniform coats, hats and swords, and headed towards the table to say hello. It was a great experience; we learned where they were visiting from, we passed them one of our business cards, and wished them well when their food arrived. Having had a great experience at Stayner’s, we paid and took our leave.

We decided to take an alternative route back to the Waverley, travelling along the adjacent Upper Water Street. It was much easier passage, with fewer stops along the way for pictures. We passed by a Canada Forces recruitment bus with some naval personnel in uniform milling about, and couldn’t help but get a few pictures. Tim had the bright idea to wander over to one of the tables staffed by CF personnel and demand two-hundred years of back-pay (they were not as impressed as we thought they’d be). One of the naval officers there stopped us before we left, however, and asked if we could stick around for a few minutes—he had sent one of his men to grab a camera, as he wanted to have a picture taken with his naval colleagues along with the Capstan Crew. We of course couldn’t decline: they happily offered us a few bottles of water from their stock and we were allowed to tour their recruitment bus. Nice lads, all of them, and the resulting picture was just fantastic.

After the Canadian Forces encounter we made quick progress back to the Waverley, and from there began to pack to head home. It had been a really successful day, but we were all utterly exhausted. Dinner was pizza and beer graciously offered by Shara and Tim. After a quick review of the day’s pictures we headed home to the Annapolis Valley, where I immediately began writing up the posts that would chronicle the day’s activities.

Okay, that last part was a big giant lie, but hey! I wrote it eventually, right?

Keep in mind all of these photos and more can be viewed at our Flickr photostream! We update it more frequently than the blog, sometimes.

Until next time guys!


“Ahoy there!” Tall Ships 2009

Up Aloft Among the Rigging!

Long overdue, I know!

Our blog has accrued a few regular subscribers in the past two years we’ve been operational. They keep tabs on the blog updates as they roll through, and monitor our activities and progress with our reproductions. Those of you who are regular subscribers will know that the Capstan Crew’s culminating project was the display of our creations at Halifax’s Tall Ships, in particular the 2009 festival. That occurred just over 10 months ago, and was a spectacular success.

It’s a terrible tragedy that I hadn’t written anything about it afterwards, but we updated our Flickr account pretty quickly thereafter, and each picture is titled with an accurate description. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so here (they are organized into sets)!

Sea Chest

Tall Ships is usually spread over several days, beginning with the slow but steady arrival of wooden and steel ships of sail from all over the world. Due to work commitments, we couldn’t be there for the entire festival (and surely that would have been utterly exhausting). We made plans to arrive early Saturday morning, and depart Sunday afternoon. That would give us two full days in the sun, touring the ships and wearing-in the reproductions.

There would be six of us, all family members and founding members of Man the Capstan. My father, Steve, wore his early 19th century Marine uniform, styling himself a major. My mother, Johanna, planned to wear an ivory regency gown that would be appropriate for the era; similarly, my sister, Shara, wore a darker regency gown from the same time period. My brother-in-law, Tim, was garbed in a British Royal Navy, ca. 1805 captain’s uniform. I was dressed in the same.

The sixth was our newest member, Little William! He was dressed in an absolutely adorable sailor’s costume. The star of the show, he was!

Mom and Dad and I met at Shara and Tim’s (who lived near the city at the time) to get ready. We were in breeches and waistcoat, just needed the final touches, so we were on the road and rolling for the waterfront fairly quickly.

For the overnighter, we made reservations at the beautiful historic Waverley Inn. Folks, if you ever get an opportunity to stay at this lovely place, do so! The rooms are phenomenal, and of particular note (to me, anyway) the breakfast was stellar. The Waverley was located near the waterfront (a few blocks), so it was perfect. We had to book months in advance in order to secure lodgings. It was packed full.

The first day of our Tall Ships trip, however, was not very successful. For most of that day, July 18th, there was rainfall. Torrential rain is not a kind thing to woolen uniforms trimmed with gold, bias-and-stand lace. It is even unkinder to the regency gowns worn by our ladies. As soon as we arrived at the Waverley it was coming down hard; we stayed at the inn for a couple hours, hoping for it to let up.


It didn’t, naturally. Stubbornly, we dressed, grabbed some umbrellas, and made the best of it. We made a successful full circuit of the docks; it was raining so bad, though, that we didn’t really stop at any of the ships. We couldn’t really take pictures (and people couldn’t really enjoy our uniforms either, though a handful did take an opportunity to snap a few shots of us). Worst of all, it was terrible conditions for Little William.

We headed back to the Waverley, but not before we stopped in at Henry’s Pub. Steve and Johanna had scouted out the pub months before during an anniversary lunch, and it was a perfect place to detour for a warm meal. It is one of the oldest buildings in Halifax, and offers the rain-weary visitor a warm place to eat and refill his or her spirits; ours was in sore need of refilling, let me tell you.

Most of us had classic fish & chips; I had the cornish pastie, and let me tell you, it was delicious.

We quickly headed back to the Waverley, then, to dry our clothing, crack open the Pusser’s we had purchased, and make plans for the next day. Unfortunately, the lady’s gowns did not hold up as well as the men’s. The rain had made them unwearable, and they needed some TLC that Johanna couldn’t provide within the Waverley—for Sunday, the last day, it was decided that the men would get dressed up again (with some minor adjustments), and the women would dress incognito. The next day was bright and sunny, so there were no problems. The success of the second day more than made up for the misadventure on the 18th.

Stay tuned for a narrative on day two. July 19th!

Man the Capstan!