Fathers Day 2014: Exploring the Naval Park by Buffalo Girl!

IMG_20140615_115811507   IMG_20140615_103231358On Memorial, I had made a quick trip through the Naval Park, but never explored the ships. So this year, when Father’s Day rolled around, I knew exactly where we should take Dad. I called my sister to see if she liked the idea, and she thought what I thought – it was a no-brainer. He’ll love it.

We picked him up shortly after breakfast and headed down to Canalside in the late morning. We lucked out and had yet another absolutely beautiful Buffalo day. Dad hadn’t been down to Canalside in years, and man, was he surprised and impressed! He was thrilled to see all the action, and couldn’t get over what a great job they’ve done revamping the area. We explored everything, and a lot of other Dads were out with their families doing the same. Canalside is dynamic in what it has to offer: from parties, concerts, and food trucks, to family outings at the museum, park, or pier.

IMG_20140615_101514240My father enjoys building model cars and ships. He’s always been crafty and patient. He’s very smart, and enjoys creating things. He’s built some beautiful model ships that I surely would have thrown at the wall about five minutes in. Naturally, I was really excited for him when there was a bonus ship in town to see: the Peacemaker.

The Peacemaker was a snooze-and-lose sort of thing. She was only in town for a few days before setting off for a summer tour of the Great Lakes. Buffalo was the first stop of the trip; the ship having been docked in North Tonawanda this past winter. (This year, after the winter we had, the crew said she’ll be spending the coming winter in Savannah, Georgia.) The crew was jovial and excited to talk to people about the ship. They saved her from being nearly junked, worked hard to rehab her, and now the rest of us get to enjoy her too. Click here to check out more about The Peacemaker. 

IMG_20140615_103445177It was fun to explore the ship, and Dad was thrilled. He loved looking at the rigging of the sails and comparing it to his own teeny-tiny work. I’m happy to report that the Peacemaker met Dad’s high standards. We also enjoyed watching the crew scale the rigging without hesitation. I’m quite alright with my feet here on the ground, thank you. The most interesting part of the Peacemaker was seeing the juxtaposition of modern technologies and a classic sailing ship – GPS navigation next to an old-time wooden helm.

IMG_20140615_112500213Next up, we headed over to the naval vessels, but we started off with a thorough walk through the museum. We took the time to appreciate every exhibit and I hope other people do the same. Don’t just blow past it to tour the ships – the museum is really moving. It was a great tribute to both our area’s history and our local heroes – dating as far back as the War of 1812 to present. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a soft spot for our servicemen and women. My late Grandfather on my father’s side was a hero both in his own right, and in my heart. He was a POW in WWII and received a Purple Heart. Calling me crazy-proud doesn’t began to describe it. So, I think  my Dad enjoyed our outing for that reason too – spending Father’s Day in a place that honors his Dad and men like him. It felt like Papa was there too.

IMG_20140615_115234515After the museum, we moved onto the grand finale: exploring the ships. I’d never had an opportunity to do so and was excited. The first up was USS The Sullivans, which was named for five brothers killed in the Battle of the Solomon Islands in WWII. It’s a Destroyer – and lived up to the name. The smallest of the ships at the park, it was still daunting to imagine being on it out in the open sea. The armaments, missiles, and guns were scary to see, but also fascinating to my inner “history nerd” (something I get from Dad!)

IMG_20140615_124016320On the deck of The Sullivans, we had a nice surprise. There was a local WWII reenactment group at the park that day with uniforms, equipment, and other cool displays from the era. They had authentic weapons as well, and provided a demo off the stern of the USS Little Rock. They shot blanks of course, but nonetheless, it was fun watching the boaters out on the Canal duck for cover each time they went off.

IMG_20140615_125909577The USS Little Rock is a missile cruiser, and–at over 600 feet long–is the largest of the ships. Dad commented that he never realized how, when walking from the stern up to the bow of these large ships, you are actually walking uphill. And it was quite a hike! Again, it was amazing to explore and imagine being on it in its glory days. The ladders are steep and not for the faint of heart. (Or the klutzy…. I definitely had to focus.) And the quarters were a stark contrast from that of the Peacemaker. They were very utilitarian. Cramped. The Navy is certainly not a Royal Caribbean vacation.

IMG_20140615_133510186Lastly, we toured the USS Croaker – a submarine. And, oh my, this is not for claustrophobics. I did not like this one at all! The tiny cramped doorways. The idea of being underwater. Not. For. Me. I have a renewed appreciation for the guys that do this work by choice. Bless them, because that is terrifying. I hurried through this ship as best I could until I ended up stuck behind a tour group. The guide was entertaining, but the group was even more so. One of the girls in the crowd tried delicately to touch on everyone’s submarine worst nightmare:

                “It must have been awful down here with all the smelly men”.

                “Yes, bathing was cramped and not a priority. War was going on. Showers happened when they happened”, politely said the gentlemen giving the tour.

                “No, I mean… all that… gas trapped in here.”

Of course that had more than a few of the fathers chuckling. But that was about it for me. I got out of the sub stat. I think I can officially check joining the Navy off my list.

We walked with Dad through the monument park area and down the pier. At that point, the three of us were exhausted. Touring the ships might not seem like a lot, but it took its toll. Between the heat and the hiking around on the ships, it was time to call it a day. We headed back home where it wasn’t long before Dad was out cold in his chair. Success!

IMG_20140615_102753666  IMG_20140615_132416916

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One Comment on “Fathers Day 2014: Exploring the Naval Park by Buffalo Girl!”

  1. buffalogrl25 June 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Buffalo Girl.

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