Chicagoland Canoe Base


At the Chicagoland Canoe Base, we often get involved in some very interesting and unusual activities and the following is an example.

Ketch Nonsuch.  More pictures following this story...
The Capture Of The Nonsuch
In 1970, the Hudson's Bay Company celebrated its 300 years in business by building a replica of the first vessel trading into Hudson Bay, the tiny Nonsuch. On a public relations tour throughout in 1972, she visited Chicago and Ralph Frese and his voyageur friends made plans to visit her in a traditional fashion. Arrangements were made with Captain Adrian Small, the master of the Nonsuch, to visit her on a Friday evening after working hours and he assured us he would be prepared for us. Little did we suspect what he had in mind.
Three days of frantic telephoning brought together 75 voyageurs in costume to man the ten bark canoes which were launched at the mouth of the Chicago River. The Nonsuch was waiting for us upriver near the Merchandise Mart. As we approached the vessel, with our two 34-footers in the lead, we were surprised by the roar of the shipıs cannons firing at us. Now we knew what Captain Small meant by being ready for us! As we approached closer, his crew were stationed to repel boarders by hurling flour bombs down at us but we pressed closer and managed to board her.
One sailor stood outboard of the bulwark fending off a canoe when a voyageur loosened his grip on the rail, sending him plunging into the Chicago River. Some attempted to climb the mainmast to steal the flag flying there and others were content to explore the intriguing craft. Captain Small had suggested that no more than 15 or 20 persons come aboard at a time as it was a very small vessel. In fact, its keel was but a foot or two longer than our large canoes. But there was no stopping the voyageurs boarding her and the craft began to tilt from the load on her deck.
One of the wives ashore told of two businessmen on Wacker Drive, upon hearing the cannons firing,, ran to the scene, one exclaiming, Look! Look! MGM is filming something! No, the other said, itıs Warner Brothers that does the historical stuff! As they gaped at the scene unfolding before them. Of course, we had brought with us a cask of high wine, with which to regale the crew. And for Captain Adrian Small, the master of the ketch Nonsuch, we had brought a book about birchbark canoes, on the cover of which we had written, ''To the master of the ketch Nonsuch, upon his visit to the old fur post of Chicago.''
Reaching home in time to watch the late news on the old black and white television, we saw the newsman relate how the Hudson Bay Companyıs ship, the Nonsuch was going to leave Chicago after a brief visit. But before she left, he said, she was visited by a group of Chicagoans, and here the TV scene switched to the deck of the vessel, with Captain Small drawing his cutlass while giving his orders to fire! As the cannon smoke dispersed, one could see the flotilla of canoes getting closer, the voyageurs boarding, and the sailor falling into the river. While the cannons continued to fire, a bagpiper was piping a stirring tune on the poop deck and hilariously, someone at the TV station had dubbed in a bugle sounding the cavalry charge! It was a hysterical end to a fantastic Friday evening.


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