The Restless Viking: At The Helm Of An 1810 Ship – Friends Good Will

This article was originally published on July 12, 2022 on The Restless Viking website.

My heart beat quickened as I walked along the wooden dock at South Haven’s Michigan Maritime Museum. There before me was a replica of the 1810 ship – Friends Good Will. Standing along the starboard side was Chuck, my strikingly handsome husband, dressed in era appropriate attire. After completing coursework, he’s been a volunteer crew member for just over one year. He has always gotten a kick out of maritime activities, so for him this is a duty of joy. I was finally able to secure my round trip passage for the hour and a half journey out to Lake Michigan. Several attempts had been made in the past, but the voyages were sold out or cancelled due to weather. I was excited, but I had no idea just how thrilling this ride would be!

The original “Friends Good Will” was built in 1810 at River Rouge, Michigan.
This replica was built by Scarano Boatbuilding, Inc. in Albany, New York.
She set sail in August 2004 heading to her home port in South Haven, Michigan.

Chuck, DaViking, wore this ship as if it was an accessory.

A Brief History Talk

Charlie, another crew member, met us on the dock and told us fascinating tales of the ship’s history. A family of three generations from Chicago and Bali eagerly absorbed Charlie’s delightful rendition as I quickly scribbled notes. Usually the ship can take up to 23 passengers. Today, there were only seven.

This is our view of the vessel from the dock.
The dingy on the back is lowered and used to guide the ship back into the slip.

Friends Good Will was built for Oliver Williams, a merchant who followed the Quaker beliefs which are based on the good will of people. Quakers’ gatherings for worship are called “Meetings” of “friends.” Hence, the name of the vessel, Friends Good Will.

“The ship would be loaded with beaver fur. Beaver felt hats were all the rage in the early 1800’s.” Charlie nonchalantly nodded to our small group. “Based at Fort Dearborn, a trip across land to Chicago could take up to six weeks, however in Friends Good Will the journey could be accomplished in only 4-6 days.”

When the war of 1812 started, Oliver Williams’ boat was “chartered” by the United States army to fight against the British. They never compensated Oliver with goods or money.

In the summer of 1812 the U.S. army sailed Friends Good Will to Fort Mackinac. At that time the British had just taken over the fort, but were still flying the American flag. “This is called ‘flying false colors.’” Charlie explained. “The British quickly captured Friends Good Will and renamed her Little Belt.

At the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, United States Commodore Perry took possession of the vessel. Friends Good Will was back in American’s hands.

Sadly in 1814 the British destroyed her with fire at Buffalo.

“This replica, complete with modern safety measures, was built in New York and sailed here in 2004.” Charlie led us down the dock to prepare to board the tall ship.

Safety Talk

Before we boarded, Captain Bob welcomed our group and had words of wisdom. There was a funny comment from one of the passengers, but Captain Bob continued on with the safety protocols.

Captain Bob, wearing the green vest, introduced the crew
and proceeded with the all important safety briefing.

Leaving Port

The draw bridge bell had just stopped ringing when the ship’s diesel engine started humming. Dock hands threw off the spring and aft lines. Captain Bob engaged the motor and we began to tiptoe our way through the South Haven channel. I admit. I was giving full arm waves to spectators lining the waterway.

The perspective was unique as I soaked in the views.

Beginning To Sail

Once we were in the open waters of Lake Michigan, Captain Bob steered us into the wind. The pennant at the top of the mast flopped toward the stern of the ship. Suddenly there was a call from the first mate, Amanda. The crew repeated her direction and scurried to their positions. They were preparing to unfurl the mainsail.

The engine’s hum ceased as the water lapped the sides of the wooden vessel.

The mainsail waved as it unfolded from the mast. Then it caught the wind carrying us forward.

Amanda shouted a command and the crew chimed their response as they began pulling the lines.

The Lines

As we bobbed on the waves I tried to imagine a restless storm and water crashing onto the deck. Feeling history and staring at it in action brings a solid understanding of past days.

The crew pulled on the lines with intense gusto.
The lines curled into a heap on the deck.

The lines needed to be carefully ballentined so they wouldn’t tangle.

Amanda called out again and the crew chanted back the command. The front sails were to be let out.

The forest of lines stood proud awaiting commands.

Going Below

The kids on board, a third grader and kindergartener, wanted to go below for a tour.
Charlie welcomed us all for a look-see of the crew’s quarters and cargo hold, which now has built in bunks.

Charlie explained the ship’s attributes.

As the tour of the cargo hold ended, the charming kids chattered about being a flower girl and ring bearer in an upcoming wedding. There’s a lot to be excited about in life! We climbed the companionway arriving back up on deck.

Captain Bob and Amanda, First Mate

This team rocked leadership and knowledge. Not only that, they were so outgoing and encouraging!

Notice the boards on the deck. They are footholds to use when the captain steers the ship with the tiller.
The tiller is the brown, curved wooden piece in the center.

The pair were clearly busy monitoring our journey, so I chatted with the other travelers on the vessel. I didn’t want to get in their way.


Unexpectedly, Captain Bob called me up to the helm. “Poppins, take hold of the tiller.” He nodded to the steering device. (Side Note: I do have my sailing certification.)

In my hands I held a power struggle between this vessel against the wind and the waves.
The wooden boat and rigging creaked under the pressure.
Now THIS was living history!

As I gripped the tiller with two hands, the tension of the wind and the waves pulled in the opposite direction. “You think I’m just standing here, but it’s a lot of work.” Captain Bob commented raising his eyebrows.

“You’re right about that!” I agreed. I imagined a boat loaded with furs and a crew under my command two hundred years ago. My mind drifted to imagining stormy weather. This voyage would have been challenging. I hold a new appreciation for ship captains of long ago, not to mention, Captain Bob!

“She always pulls into the wind.” Captain Bob explained. “Check the pennant. It will show you the wind direction.” We glanced to the top of the mast to spy the green flag flapping in the wind. “Now head toward the lighthouse.” He instructed.

We were checking the wind direction by watching the pennant.

This vessel with massive sails and a tiller was unlike anything I’ve experienced. “That’s a bit of a zig zag pattern you’re making.” Captain Bob noticed. I had definitely steered in a random course as I got the feel of the tall ship. “That’s kind of how I am.” I shrugged with a grin. “I’ll focus on the lighthouse.” I promised and peered toward the shore.

Chuck snapped some photos of us. Then, Captain Bob invited DaViking to the helm and took our picture.

I was beyond honored that Captain Bob permitted me to handle the helm!

I beamed at this opportunity! (Maybe you can tell from these pictures.) Captain Bob graciously sat back and allowed me to sail Friends Good Will!

Thank you, Captain Bob, for trusting me to sail your ship!

As we neared the channel, Captain Bob stepped up to the tiller. “I didn’t even know this was on my bucket list. THIS was INCREDIBLE!” I smiled. “Now it’s right at the top of my list with a line through it. Thank you!”

Later I commented to Chuck, “I can’t believe I was invited to sail the 1810 tall ship!”
Chuck chuckled. “I haven’t even gotten to do that yet. Everybody loves Poppins!”

Furling The Sail

As we came close to the channel everyone on the ship was invited to grab a line to assist furling the mainsail. Captain Bob positioned the boat into the wind. At the First Mate’s command, we all pulled and pulled and pulled. With lines heaped on the deck once again they needed to be ballentined. Bob, another crew member in the wide brimmed hat, instructed me on how to accomplish the task.

Bob, a retired history teacher, taught me on how to ballentine the lines.
(The bottom right photo are the lines I’d organized.)

First Mate Amanda, a high school teacher, along with the crew arranged the sails at the end of the day.
They needed to be carefully folded, “furled.”

Thank You, Captain Bob and Crew!

Thank you, dedicated volunteers and especially Captain Bob for putting history in my hands!

Chuck and Martha Hayden, aka The Viking and Poppins, enjoy going on adventures off the beaten path. They also like to share their explorations with others. The Viking is a retired expedition leader while Poppins is a retired teacher. The two offer independent views of their journeys showcasing places, people, and cultures as they explore the world. Visit and follow them on their website and social media accounts. Website | Facebook | Instagram |YouTube

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