THE EMPIRE SANDY
The Empire Sandy was one of 1,464 Empire ships built or acquired for war service by the British Government. Built in England in 1943 as a deep sea tugboat, she was tasked with Royal Navy work and salvaging merchant ships damaged in the Battle of the Atlantic and other naval engagements during the Second World War. She served in the North Atlantic Ocean from Iceland to Sierra Leone, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal during World War II.
In 1948 she was bare-boat chartered by Risdon Beazley who renamed her Ashford, together with their Bustler class tug Twyford Ashford entered the rescue towage market. Ashford was handed back to the Admialty in 1952. She was then sold to a Canadian firm, Great Lakes Paper Company, renamed Chris M (after Chris Michels, a senior employee of Great Lakes Paper) and came to the Canadian Great Lakes where she spent fifteen years towing timber rafts for Lake Superior logging companies. In the early 1970s the aged ship was to be sold for scrap, but the steel hull was still in very good condition and she was bought by Nautical Adventures Co. for a possible conversion. They completely rebuilt the Chris M as a three masted schooner in the style of the 1880s and she assumed her original name the Empire Sandy .
Empire Sandy began serving the Great Lakes as a tall ship in 1982 based in Toronto, Canada. The 200-foot (61 m) long schooner offers sailings for the public, chartered tours, including weddings and other events, on Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Licensed by Transport Canada to carry 275 passengers, she is Canada's largest schooner. Visitors are usually welcome onboard during the day.
Empire Sandy is believed to be the last Empire ship built during World War II to be still sailing. She began serving the Great Lakes as a cruise ship in 1982, and continues to this day.
Yesterday Aug 1st, 2011 Gary and I took our 3rd cruise, upon the tall ship (schooner) "Empire Sandy" at Canal Days. It is a 2 hour cruise, on Lake Erie, and is a wonderful experience. The first time we rode on the ship, in 2008, we spoke with the Captain, and learned a little of her history. The (female) captain, was a little more detailed in her information than the above prargraphs pulled from Wikipedia, and I would like to share that with you. The "Empire Sandy" was present as a tugboat, at the Normandy Beach campaign in a support role.
Some of you know that I am of Dutch Heritage. My Grandfather "Opa Joost Ruitenschild" was a Luitenant ter Zee 1ste klasse or a Luitenant Commander in the Royal Dutch Navy. I never met my Grandfather, he was killed in a car accident, while travelling home from Amsterdam 2 days after the war ended. My Mother was 10 Years old when he passed. His history was passed along to us, via our grandmother(Oma Kitty) and my mother, for we all knew of "Opa Joost" and his involvement with the Normandy campaign.
Kitty and Joost Ruitenschild on their wedding day.
Opa Joost was asked to orchestrate the Normandy Campaign, as he knew the waters in that area better than anyone. The "Empire Sandy" as a tugboat, was present at this campaign in a support role, I know that the possibility that he stood on the deck of her, is extremely likely.
So... each time I stand on deck of that ship I am standing in a complete circle of history... not only public history.. but personal family history. I feel so close to my Opa Joost, when aboard this tall ship.
It is amazing how something that happened across the ocean from me, before I was even born, has come now to fulfil the circle of life, for me and my desire to know more of my grandfather's story.
Isn't God amazing? He knew I would appreciate this connection and he made it happen for me, without my even knowing it was happening. God works miracles everyday and we are completely unaware when and where they will happen.
Thank you God for this miracle in my life.