Cutter Mackinaw returning to Chicago during historic 100th anniversary of sinking of Rouse Simmons
CHICAGO – The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, serving as this year’s Christmas Ship and loaded with 1,300 Christmas trees, is scheduled to return to Chicago Friday at 8 a.m., for a two-day event depicting what was an annual Chicago tradition in the early 1900s.
The re-enactment by the Mackinaw and Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee continues a treasured piece of Chicago’s maritime tradition.
The schooner Rouse Simmons was the original Christmas Ship that came to Chicago from Michigan for more than 30 years with fresh evergreens and wreaths for the holiday season during the early 1900s. On Nov. 23, 1912, while transiting from Michigan, the Rouse Simmons was lost in a storm and sank with a crew of 16 between Kewaunee and Two Rivers, Wis.
The 1,300 Christmas trees, purchased byChicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, will be offloaded on Saturday morning by members of the Coast Guard and local youth volunteers including the Sea Cadets, Venture Crews, Sea Explorer Scouts and the Young Marines, following a brief, public ceremony beginning at 10 a.m.
The ceremony will take place at the west end of Navy Pier near the Captain at the Helm Statue. The first three trees will be presented to three deserving families. The remaining trees will then be loaded onto trucks for distribution to more than 1,000 deserving families throughout Chicago, designated by Ada S. McKinley Community Services.
The ceremony will also include a Coast Guard color guard; a Coast Guard rifle squad; a wreath laying at the Captain at the Helm Statue by Capt. Dave Truitt and the president of Chicago Shipmasters; a wreath drop and fly-over by a Coast Guard helicopter; and music by the Taft High School Choir.
During its transit to Chicago this year, the crew of the Mackinaw will drop a wreath into the waters near the resting place of the Rouse Simmons, which was located in 1971.
Chicago’s boating community has been re-enacting the days of the Rouse Simmons’ landing in Chicago for the past 12 years. Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee is comprised of and supported by all facets of the Chicago’s boating community including: the International Shipmasters’ Association; Chicago Marine Heritage Society; the Navy League of the United States; Chicago yacht clubs; Friends of the Marine Community; Coast Guard Auxiliary; the Chicago Yachting Association and others.
Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee will also host educational programs for local area schools aboard the Mackinaw on Friday. More than 300 children from the Chicago area will learn about the role of the Coast Guard, the Christmas Ship tradition, observe a Sea Partners ecology presentation, and experience a ship tour by members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Members of the Mackinaw’s crew and volunteers from Chicago’s boating community will decorate the ship for the Christmas Ship event.
The Mackinaw, homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., was commissioned in June 2006 and has a crew of 60. It is one of the Coast Guard’s most technologically advanced multi-missioned cutters.
In addition to search-and-rescue and maritime law enforcement operations, this charitable activity takes place in conjunction with scheduled aids to navigation operations in the southern region of Lake Michigan to remove buoys for winter maintenance and replacement with winter marks to protect them from ice damage. Additionally, regular underway crew training and drills are being conducted in preparation for the ship’s primary winter mission of ice breaking to keep commerce moving through the Great Lakes.
Free, public tours of the Mackinaw will be available on Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.