Monday, September 7, 2009

Tall Ships

Over the summer I begged Stephen to go to Sail Boston to see the tall ships. I’d never been to Boston to see them, though Sail Boston is a regularly occurring event. I’ve been to the Mayflower II, and Mystic Seaport. I’ve even seen tall ships sail into Portsmouth harbor up the Piscataqua river. I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to witness living history, and the tall ships most certainly are living history.

Stephen and I made it to one of the piers where some of the tall ships had docked, and we immediately noticed that though all these ship were indeed tall (being powered at least in part by sails, hence the need for tall masts) most of the vessels we saw were steel. This was slightly disappointing (wood is so much cooler) but not a historical inaccuracy. Ship construction progressed to partial (and almost total) steel construction long before the steam engine reduced the need for masts.

We only got to go on one ship, the Cisne Branco a Brazilian naval vessel that had been built in the late 1990s. Like most of the tall ships, the one we were on was a reenactment of an earlier style, an earlier technology. But this was not an educational vessel like the Mayflower II, not a vessel recreated for a movie like the Amistad, not even purposed for a training vessel like many of the US Navy’s tall ships (though there is some training that happens on the vessel.) The sign that we read shortly after stepping on the vessel said that the ship wais mainly used for ambassadorial purposes. The ship sails around the world representing Brazil.

As I read the sign I was struck by the fact that historical reenacting is often used for ambassadorial purposes, even if most of the reenactors I know don’t use it that way. Hula dances for visiting dignitaries, traditional recipes served at church fairs, performances of historical moments have been recreated to introduce the important bits of one culture to those of a different culture.

In fact, reenactments often serve nationalistic as well as ambassadorial goals, but that is a different blog entry.

Do you know of any instances of reenactment being used for ambassadorial purposes? Please leave a comment!

1 comment:

  1. I had the wonderful experience of guiding Prince Philip during his and Queen Elizabeth's visit to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, CA in 1983. We did it totally in 1846 first person. While we acknowledged that these people were part of the British royal family, and were very respectful, we knew that Queen Victoria was queen at that time. They were quite interested in everything and very pleasant people, and agreed to convey our best wishes to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their return to England.
    On your trip to Sail Boston, we have a couple sailing ships that come to CA every year. I had the great experience of sailing on one last year - only for a couple hours but we did it in costume. Those stairs below are an interesting experience in a long skirt!