I have no doubt that Columbus faced some obstacles in his time. No map. Inability to calculate longitude. The sinking of the Santa Maria. But we do face our own unique obstacles today.
When you approach a low bridge in a tall ship, this is what you hope happens:
When it doesn't, this is what you have to do:
We left lake Michigan via the Calumet River, and all the low bridges on the river necessitated taking the masts down. Even so, it was tight. With the masts down, the highest point of the boat is the stem, right up in the prow. I was standing in the prow as we approached the lowest bridge, and I was supposed to call out whether or not I thought we'd make it. Of course since it was so close, it was impossible to say until it was too late. Fortunately we cleared it with a good two inches to spare.
But the low bridges were the easy part. Next came the Asian Jumping Carp, an invasive species which escaped into the rivers in the 90's and has been making its way up the Mississippi since then. There's a reason they have that name.
People are trying to keep them out of the Great Lakes, and to that end, have electrified a section of the Calumet River, in an attempt to prevent the fish from getting through. Just before we arrived, the Army Corps of Engineers upped the voltage of the electric barrier, and stopped all river traffic while they evaluated the safety of the increased zapping power. After two days they started letting through ships with metal hulls, but they wouldn't let through wooden-hulled ships like the Niña and Pinta. After a week, they let us through as well, but they wouldn't let us go through under power, and they wouldn't let anyone stay on the boat while it went through. So we tied up to a tow boat and all piled on there while they pulled us along.
Having gotten past the bridges, and the fish, we put our masts back up in Beardstown, IL, and we are now returned to our full picturesque awesomeness.
Right now we're in Owensboro, KY, on the Ohio river. Next stop is Louisville, where we'll be from September 17th through the 22nd, and after that, Covington, KY from September 25th through October 4th.