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Tall ship makes return voyage to Presque Isle

| Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, 9:36 p.m.

Larry Clinton, captain of the tall ship Peacemaker, remembers the long lines of people who waited to board his vessel at the 2013 Tall Ships Erie festival.

It was part of the first Great Lakes tour for Clinton and his crew aboard their three-masted, 150-foot-long, barquentine vessel.

“Our experience in Erie was great,” Clinton said. “We've never been treated better in any port we've ever been in. The folks at (the U.S. Brig) Niagara rolled out the red carpet, and we really enjoyed sailing with them last year.”

When Clinton scheduled the Peacemaker's summer sailing season, he wanted to make a return trip to Erie a priority.

Clinton guided the Peacemaker into Presque Isle Bay on Thursday morning and docked at Dobbins Landing, where it will offer public tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today through Monday.

“When our schedule allowed, I got in touch with the Dobbins Landing folks and the (Erie-Western Pennsylvania) Port Authority, and they were just tickled to have us come in and open up,” Clinton said.

Tour prices are $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 7 to 12.

“We really wanted to stop in Erie,” Clinton said. “Last year, Tall Ships Erie was a fantastic event. It was so well-attended, that people had to stand in line for two-and-a-half to three hours to get on our ship. I know that kept a lot of people from being able to come on and enjoy it. There's not going to be thousands of people here this weekend, so folks can really take their time and look inside and outside the ship.”

Clinton has a crew of 15, but expects 10 more crew members to bolster ship staff this weekend. He said his crew will play music on the deck each day during the ship's Erie stay.

The Peacemaker was built with tropical hardwoods in 1989 in South America and purchased in 2000 by the Twelve Tribes, a religious group that has about 50 communities in North America and South America.

It was christened the Avany, but began sailing as the Peacemaker in 2007. Crews spent several years replacing all of the ship's mechanical and electrical systems, and rerigging it. The ship's home port is Savannah, Ga.

“We spent the winter in Buffalo because we had such a nice time last year in the Great Lakes,” Clinton said. “It was our first Great Lakes trip.”

Peacemaker began its summer sailing season in June. The vessel has sailed more than 3,000 miles this summer and has visited ports in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, Clinton said.

The ship has appeared in tall ships festivals this summer in Michigan, Illinois and Ontario.

It has visited cities in those regions and in Wisconsin..

Clinton said the Peacemaker plans to depart Erie Monday night or Tuesday morning for a trip to Brockville, Ontario.

Looking from the ship's pilot house at Dobbins Landing, the Niagara could be seen docked nearby in its berth behind the Erie Maritime Museum.

The Niagara arrived in Erie on Tuesday after spending the month sailing the Great Lakes.

“The season was challenging but rewarding,” Niagara Capt. Billy Sabatini said. “We dealt with thick fog, big seas and heavy winds. The crew did incredibly well. I'm happy with the way the summer season went.”

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