Favorite Event Moments

Posted By on February 14, 2014

Walking Merganser along the shore.

Walking Merganser along the shore.

Over on the Heart of Oak Facebook page, we were recently talking about favorite events to attend. I’m not sure I have a favorite particular event, but I’ve got a few that I look forward to every year and fond memories of a couple of one-time events that were fantastic.

One of my favorite reenactment moments was up at an event on the Restigouche in New Brunswick in 2010. We were hanging out with the Sea Rats, a bunch of ragged young guys in an equally battered boat. There was a strong breeze blowing that day, and both the Sea Rats’ boat and Merganser got blown downwind. We towed them to shore and walked the mile or two along the beach back to camp. There was a lot of scrap metal on the beach, old wrought iron washed out from 19th century industrial sites, and the blacksmiths among us filled the boats. Okay, so it didn’t feel so much 18th century as post-apocalypse, but it still was a great time.

Members of the Sea Rats on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick.

Members of the Sea Rats on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick.

That was a really neat event for a bunch of reasons. The event featured a wreath laying and procession under sail up the river to a recreated fort site. We had a perfect wind for the way down (not so much for the way back) and were able to hoist every scrap of canvas Merganser could carry. She looked very impressive going downwind wing-and-wing with the square top sails flying. The locals were extremely friendly and glad to have the boats’ participation. This part of New Brunswick is tri-cultural – there are three communities, English, French, and Mi’kmaq surrounding the river. The event honored the cultural heritage of all three groups. I particularly enjoyed getting to explore some of the recreated traditional Mi’kmaq thatched buildings.

Memories of that event are also a little poignant for us, because this was the last event we were able to hang out with the Sea Rats. Their leader, Joe Ruggiero, was killed in an accident a few months later and the group faded away. They were a great group of enthusiastic young guys – the reenactment hobby needs more like them.

DSC04482Another favorite event memory was of an event that could’ve been one of our worst (though no fault of the event organizers) if it hadn’t been for the team spirit of the boat crews. At the Burning of Kingston event in New York, the site had a few problems going for it the weekend we were there, but every one pulled together and it ended up giving us some of our favorite anecdotes. It was a lunar high tide, so the parking lot flooded unexpectedly. Ekk took our dinghy for a sail over the neat rows of yellow parking spaces. The Hudson River is an active shipping lane at that point of the river, so we kept a watch system all night to keep an eye on the boats in case of cargo ships’ wakes or local curiosity. Each boat crew contributed to the shift system so we had at least one person each hour safeguarding all our craft.It was great to be able to sleep secure in the knowledge that the boats were safe and we’d be woken if there were any problems.

The weather alternated between rain and freezing rain all weekend. I spent much of the weekend keeping a fire going so we had hot meals. I’d made a batch of hardtack that had lived up to its name, and ended up wrapping it in a towel and thumping it with the back of a hatchet on our firewood pile. A couple of Redcoats wandered by and paused to see what I was doing. I explained I was breaking up the hardtack for our supper. One of them looked me up and down, raised an eyebrow, and said, “You Navy guys are tough.” And kept walking.

In the middle of the winter, it’s nice to think back on warm summer nights around a campfire with friends. I enjoy history (obviously) but the camaraderie of like-minded companions is one of the biggest perks to this hobby. Even the rainiest, most miserable events are still made special by a group of friends sitting under a spare sail and swapping stories until the weather clears enough to sail. Roll on, the spring!

About the author

I'm a museum professional with an MA in Museum Studies and Atlantic History. A lot of my research has been in colonial and maritime history, as well as material culture of the 16th - 19th centuries. I've held a lot of weird jobs covering everything from beekeeper to tall ship deckhand. I currently live with my partner on the Canadian border in Vermont.

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