Bay City Michigan. I know the name from Scottish pop band The Bay City Rollers. I didn't know they were Scottish before coming to Bay City. I always thought teen idol band was actually from Bay City. I also know of Bay City from the soap opera, Another World. I watched it as a kid, and they all did their scheming in Bay City. As it turns out, neither had anything to do with Bay City, Michigan.
The Real Bay City
Bay City Michigan is a picturesque town located on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron and we were here to see the Tall Ships. Tall ships of all shapes and sizes form a regatta every summer and sail from port to port to show off their sails. Some have seen great battles others have not. Students help crew the boats and they stay onboard from a few days to several weeks learning the way of the sea. What a fantastic summer vacation.
Bay City is proud of their tall ships festival. They are the smallest city on the Great Lakes to host the event and they have a great turn out. Ships rotate towns each year and they make their stop here every three years. Once you enter the dock area, you can walk from boat to boat, touring them inside and out. The crew is there to answer any questions and there's entertainment on shore where you can duck into a tent to escape the summer sun.
If you are a sea lover, the Tall Ships festival is the perfect time to visit Bay City. Not only will you have the chance to explore the classic tall ships, once you are done there, you can pop over to see the Battle Ship permanently docked down the channel.
The USS Edson
The USS Edson is a destroyer that served in the Vietnam War. It had seen many battles and had been shelled by North Vietnam forces as well as friendly fire. But here she was, still chugging away. Even if you are not a history buff, the tour is interesting because of the guides. Our tour guide Mike, was a former retired marine who could tell us everything about living on a ship. He had been there and done that and had many stories to tell.
The living quarters on the battle ship were actually quite comfortable. I always envisioned battle ships and barracks to have the worst conditions for soldiers. Like, they had to suffer for some reason. What do I know, I get all my military history from movies! Battle ships were actually quite comfortable, they had small living conditions of course, but they did their best to make things as good as they could. Can you imagine what the destroyers or aircraft carriers of today are like?
If you hit the tall ships festival make sure to take a walk through Bay City. You can hire a guide to take you around town and it's worth the cost to just to hear about all the ghosts in town. My favourite ghost story was of Floyd, the Regent Theatre's resident ghost. There've been many sightings over the years. Floyd was the theatre manager in the 40's who was shot and killed for his bank roll. He was on his way to the bank to deposit the weekend ticket sales when he was shot and killed by Johnny Woo. I personally think Johnny Woo was framed, he was let off on a technicality 23 years later. If you believe in ghosts and watch a lot of horror films, you'll agree as Floyd is probably haunting the theatre because his real killer was never found. That's always the reasons ghosts haunted people on the Ghost Whisperer.
The Bay City motor company was an interesting stop on our walking tour. We had the opportunity to take a look at classic cars that sell for over $200,000. My brother and father would be in heaven in this place. Dad had a '63 Split window Corvette that my brother Jim now owns. Jim has been slowly building up his own little classic car collection with Corvettes and Firebirds and this shop is right up his alley.
If you've never sailed before, sailing excursions leave the port each evening to give you a taste of what it's like. It's a really mellow trip and if you've spent a lot of time on boats this trip probably isn't for you, but we talked to many people on the tour who had never been on a sail boat before. It's a perfect tour to feel what it's like to hoist the sails and have the wind propel you along in silence. You can even help out the crew if you like. Our crew of three were an impressive bunch. At one point a cooler lid (that should never have been brought on the boat by a naughty passenger – hehe, our guide) flew into the lake and the captain had to turn the boat around and do a rescue. The two young students who made up the bulk of the crew tied themselves on to the side of the ship and waited to retrieve the lid. It's not easy turning a sail boat of that size around and rescuing an inanimate object, but they made it look easy and within a few minutes we were back out to sea.
It's not often that the highlight of the day is at the bar, but the beer tent at the Tall Ships Festival was fantastic. Local bands played maritime music while drinking beer and telling tales. We could have stayed all night to watch the bands play. These acts were a talented group with a great sense of humour. We weren't much in the mood for going to the beer tent, but once we arrived, we didn't want to leave! People came dressed as pirates and maidens and joined the festivities to the full extent. It's a genuine party.
The Bay City Tall Ships festival may not be the largest on the Great Lakes, but something tells me it's the festival with the most heart. The people of Bay City are proud of their town and the most friendly people you'll ever meet. Dave and I always say that we love traveling through America. Everyone is quick to start a conversation, say hello and ask how you are doing?
Have you been to Michigan?
For more information on travel to Michigan, visit the Pure Michigan Website
Our trip was brought to you by Pure Michigan, showing off travel in our own backyard. Michigan is right next door.