Warships sweep into Detroit, Windsor

The Windsor Star

The 439-foot Canadian warship Ville de Quebec and a group of American warships, including a replica War of 1812 brig, will anchor across from each other on the Detroit River this week.

The ships sweep into the Detroit River as both countries celebrate their navies and commemorate the last time the two countries were at war. This time the fight will be for visitors.

“In Windsor we’ve not seen this before,” said Cmdr. Dan Manu-Popa, commanding officer of Windsor’s HMCS Hunter. “It will be a unique opportunity because people on both sides of the river will be able to see these ships.”

HMCS Ville de Quebec, longer than a football field and about 54 feet wide, is expected to arrive Wednesday and dock at Dieppe Gardens. It will be open for free tours Thursday to Sunday.

Detroit is celebrating Detroit Navy Week and is commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 from Tuesday to Sept. 10. It’s the first time the U.S. Navy has sent two of its warships into the Great Lakes, including a 179-foot coastal patrol frigate USS Hurricane and the 450-foot frigate USS De Wert, which helped save an Italian ship hijacked by pirates last year.

The frigates have proved so popular the navy has had to turn away thousands of people waiting to tour the ships this summer.

Then there’s the popular U.S. Brig Niagara, a reproduction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s relief flagship in the Battle of Lake Erie on Sept. 10, 1813.

The Brig Niagara has some original wood from the flagship that Perry sailed to victory in the Battle of Lake Erie.

In the naval battle near Putin-Bay, Ohio, Perry left his disabled flagship Lawrence, boarded the Niagara and attacked the British fleet, which surrendered. The original Niagara was scuttled in 1820 and later raised and rebuilt in 1913.

Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, isn’t sure how many visitors to expect from the events on both sides of the border.

Tourism information will be given to about 400 U.S. and 250 Canadian crew members. The Canadian Coast Guard Cape Dundas will also be in Windsor.

Orr said having the Ville de Quebec will have similar tourism spinoffs as a downtown convention.

The HMCS Windsor’s 150 members are eager for the visit.

“It will be spectacular. It will be a tourist attraction in and of itself,” Orr said.

The U.S. Navy has its frigates along with the Niagara and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay touring the Great Lakes for the 1812 bicentennial. There are lineups for the ship tours at every port. In Cleveland on the weekend there were more than 25,000 people.

“In Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, we’ve been other places we’re getting thousands a day and turning away another couple thousand,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flesvig, a public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy.

Seeing Canadian and American warships of this size on the Detroit River will be a rare opportunity.

“They were our enemies back in the war of 1812,” Flesvig said. “Now we’ve been friends for 200 years.

“It’s the longest unguarded border in the world and it’s one of those good byproducts of that event.”

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