Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw reenacts Chicago maritime holiday tradition

A crewmember of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw offloads one of the 1,200 Christmas trees onto Navy Pier in Chicago, Dec. 2, 2017. The Mackinaw once again served as the Christmas Tree Ship as Coast Guard crews partnered with Chicago's maritime community for the 18th consecutive year, reenacting the tradition of the original Christmas Tree Ship which brought trees to Chicago from northern Michigan for needy families more than 100 years ago. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Master Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf)

A crewmember of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw offloads one of the 1,200 Christmas trees onto Navy Pier in Chicago, Dec. 2, 2017.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Master Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf)

CHICAGO — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw and the Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee partnered to reenact a Chicago tradition dating back to the late 1800s, Dec. 1 and 2, at Navy Pier.

The Mackinaw, serving as the Chicago Christmas Tree Ship, arrived Dec.1 with more than 1,200 Christmas trees from northern Michigan purchased by the committee through private donations. They were offloaded Dec. 2 and distributed to organizations identified by the committee for needy families.

The original Christmas Tree Ship, the Rouse Simmons, delivered fresh evergreens and wreaths for the holiday season from Michigan to Chicago for more than 30 years during the late 1800s and early 1900’s. On Nov. 23, 1912, Captain Herman Schuenemann and his crew of 16 were lost in a storm between Kewaunee and Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

For the crew of the Mackinaw, this annual trip is part of “Operation Fall Retrieve” where Great Lakes crews swap out or pull seasonal buoys before the ice season sets in. Many are replaced with smaller, lighter and more buoyant buoys, known as winter marks or ice hulls, which are designed to ride underneath the ice when it comes, but still stay on location.

For more information on this year’s Christmas Ship event, click here.

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