ERIE, Pa. -- With music in the air, 60 passengers return on the U.S. Brig Niagara Sunday from the last sail of 2017.
"We just celebrated having it back for the final time,” said Gary Johnson, chairperson of The Daniel Dobbins Leadership Giving Society, who opted to stay ashore.
The Flagship Niagara sailed in the waters of Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie for four hours. That comes after a summer of touring both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
U.S. Brig Niagara Capt. William Sabatini said, "It's a bit bittersweet, because it's a long season, and we work very hard in order to make the Niagara look good and to take all of these students sailing all throughout the summer."
That included some 900 eighth-graders that had a chance to experience it.
Shawn Waskiewicz, executive director of the Flagship Niagara League, said, "The ship will be available all winter for tours. But it's a special day for us. We've had about 30 sails when you include all the school sails we've done for the eighth grade kids, as well as the public sails."
The Brig Niagara is now docked for the season, but the work to winterize it was just beginning.
"There's six miles of running rigging, which is the rope. Two miles of standing rigging, which holds everything up. And we have all kind of carpentry projects that we get into every single winter," said Sabatini, who served as Chief Mate on Sunday.
He said the work would take weeks.
"So, that it'll take us about a week to bring all of the stuff down--all the rigging down that we normally take down,” said Sabatini. “Then, it's about a week or two to get the winter cover on. And once that's done, then we're really into our winter mode."
It is all part of the behind-the-scenes efforts to maintain a treasure.
"This is not just a treasure for the city of Erie. It's not just a treasure for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Johnson. “This is a national treasure."
Public sail days will resume in May.
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