Duluth-based Coast Guard Cutter Alder assumes role of Chicago’s “Christmas Ship”

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder, acting as the “Christmas Ship,” departed Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., this morning and is scheduled to arrive at Chicago’s Navy Pier at 8:30 a.m. Friday for an annual event to distribute Christmas trees to deserving families on Saturday.

In conjunction with seasonal buoy retrieval operations in Lake Michigan, the crew of Alder will support the event this year, while the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, which normally handles those duties, takes Mackinaw to a Wisconsin shipyard to effect the repair of a leaking bow-thruster.

The distribution of the holiday trees to trucks from community organizations will begin off the decks of the Alder on Saturday at 10 a.m., after the first three trees are given to three families during the brief public ceremony.

Public tours of the CGC Alder will also be available on Saturday, from 1:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The Alder will arrive loaded with Christmas trees purchased by Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee to be distributed to disadvantaged families throughout the Chicago area. The Alder’s reenactment continues a treasured part of Chicago’s maritime tradition. The Alder’s crew is participating in the event while also performing their aids-to-navigation maintenance duties in southern Lake Michigan as part the 9th Coast Guard District’s Operation Fall Retrieve.

The Rouse Simmons was the original “Christmas Ship” that came to Chicago with fresh evergreens and wreaths for holiday season during the early 1900’s. Rouse Simmons was a three-masted schooner and was recognized by the Christmas tree tied to its mast as it entered port.

The Rouse Simmons was the principal means of bringing Christmas trees to Chicago for more than 30 years until, in 1912, the ship was lost off the coast of Wisconsin in Lake Michigan with all 17 men aboard.

Chicago’s boating community reenactment of the olden days of the Rouse Simmons landing in Chicago is now portrayed by the Alder. The trees will be taken off the Alder by local youth volunteers, the Sea Cadets, Venture Crews, Sea Explorer Scouts and the Young Marines and loaded onto trucks for distribution by Ada S. McKinley Community Services.

The Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee is comprised of and supported by all facets of the Chicago’s boating community: the International Shipmasters’ Association, Chicago Marine Heritage Society, US Navy League, 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 Alder. 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.

The Alder’s arrival is a culmination of efforts by the Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, working together with the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Sea Partners Program, Chicago Navy Pier, private individuals, and the hard working generous boaters of the marine community to help make Christmas special for Chicago’s families in need.

Alder is a 225-foot multi-mission buoy tender homeported in Duluth, Minn. The crew’s primary missions are aids to navigation maintenance, ice breaking, law enforcement, and search and rescue. Alder is one of the most advanced vessels afloat, integrating the latest technological developments in computers, navigation, environmental protection, and remote monitoring systems. The Integrated Ship Control System coordinates radar, satellite navigation, and computer generated charts with the ship’s controllable pitch propeller, rudder, and thrusters. Alder is also equipped with an advanced oil-skimming system known as the Spilled Oil Recovery System.

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