CHEBOYGAN, Mich. – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw loaded more than 1,300 Christmas trees onto the ship Tuesday, in preparation for the 2012 Christmas Ship celebration.
The trees will be transported to Chicago, where they will be offloaded during a special two-day ceremony Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, then delivered to deserving families.
The Mackinaw’s re-enactment continues a 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 1900’s. 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.
To mark this 100th anniversary, a special collection of 100 trees from an area outside of Two Rivers, Wis., from where the Rouse Simmons launched, are included.
During the transit to Chicago, the crew of the Mackinaw will drop a wreath into Lake Michigan near the resting place of the Rouse Simmons.
“The crew and I are excited to participate in this year’s Christmas Ship activities,” said Cmdr. Michael Davanzo, the ship’s commanding officer, “especially considering the significance of the 100th anniversary.”
In addition to this charitable event, the Mackinaw will also be conducting seasonal buoy retrieval operations to remove buoys for winter maintenance and replacement.
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.
The trees were purchased with money raised by the “Chicago’s Christmas Ship” Committee. This 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 and the Chicago Yachting Association.
Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee will also host educational programs for local area schools aboard the Mackinaw. 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 Coast Guard Auxiliary. Members of the Mackinaw’s crew and volunteers from Chicago’s boating community will decorate the ship for the “Chicago’s Christmas Ship” event.