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Aboard icebreaker, a very Coastie Christmas

Nov. 20, 2007 - 01:37PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 20, 2007 - 01:37PM  |  
Coast Guardsmen load Christmas trees aboard the icebreaker Mackinaw, which sailed from Cheboygan, Mich., on Nov. 19 bound for Chicago. The ship is carrying more than 1,000 Christmas trees that are to be distributed among Chicago-area charities.
Coast Guardsmen load Christmas trees aboard the icebreaker Mackinaw, which sailed from Cheboygan, Mich., on Nov. 19 bound for Chicago. The ship is carrying more than 1,000 Christmas trees that are to be distributed among Chicago-area charities. (Ensign Erin Chlum / Coast Guard)
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Coast Guardsmen load Christmas trees aboard the icebreaker Mackinaw, which sailed from Cheboygan, Mich., on Nov. 19 bound for Chicago. The ship is carrying more than 1,000 Christmas trees that are to be distributed among Chicago-area charities. (Ensign Erin Chlum / Coast Guard)

The icebreaker Mackinaw sailed from Cheboygan, Mich., on Monday, bound for Chicago and loaded down with more than 1,000 Christmas trees that are to be distributed among Chicago-area charities.

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The icebreaker Mackinaw sailed from Cheboygan, Mich., on Monday, bound for Chicago and loaded down with more than 1,000 Christmas trees that are to be distributed among Chicago-area charities.

Trees already gathered by Coast Guardsmen, their families and local JROTC cadets were distributed to about 200 Cheboygan families, said the Mackinaw's spokeswoman, Ensign Erin Chlum.

In addition to its Christmas cruise, the Mackinaw was also to conduct a standard navigational assistance mission, the Coast Guard said; the ship was to set and service navigational buoys in channels throughout Lake Michigan.

The Christmas tree cruise picks up a tradition begun in the early years of the 20th century, when the Great Lakes schooner Rouse Simmons made a cruise each year carrying a cargo of Christmas trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago. The ship disappeared in 1912 in a heavy winter storm, carrying a load of some 5,000 Christmas trees. Later, a message in a bottle from the Simmons washed ashore in Sheboygan, Wis., corked with a piece of a Christmas tree bark. Since then, "ghost ship" sightings and rumors about the wreck have become a fixture in Great Lakes lore.

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