TRAVERSE CITY — Maritime Heritage Alliance volunteer Bob Core comes from a long line of Grand Traverse Bay commercial fishermen and ice dealers.
His love for boats started as a boy growing up along Elmwood Avenue in the 1930s, when he and neighbor buddy Kenny Darrow used to race down to West Bay to play at Darrow's Marina, owned by Kenny's Uncle Ray.
He grew up with family stories about his great-great grandparents:
n His great-great English immigrant grandparents, Robert and Susanna (Holdsworth) Hopkins, settled on Old Mission Peninsula in the mid-1800s and built a dock along West Bay about six miles north of Traverse City that was called "Hopkins Point." They farmed and ran a commercial fishery.
n Their son, Will, had been a cooper, or barrel-maker, who sailed to India while serving in the British Navy.
n One of Will's sons, also a commercial fisherman named Will, lived in the row of fisherman houses along West Bay where the Traverse City Senior Center is now.
The other three sons, including Core's grandfather, John Hopkins, ran ice businesses along West Bay, at Boardman Lake and the river's mouth.
Today Core, 84, spends many of his mornings repairing and restoring historic boats with other volunteers at the Maritime Heritage Alliance workshop along M-22 across from the old coal docks. He was among the crew of volunteers who built the replica two-masted schooner Madeline from 1985 until its launch in 1990.
Volunteers also have reconstructed the replica Welcome, a 1700s armed sloop built by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission at Fort Michilimackinac for the nation's 1976 Bicentennial celebration. It is crewed today by mostly MHA War of 1812 reenactors.
The MHA also owns the restored ketch Arcturos and the Gracie L., a Mackinaw boat.
The Champion, a 39-foot cutter, was donated in 2008 by Henry Barkhausen of Harbor Springs to provide five-day educational sail training opportunities for at-risk youth and others in northwestern Michigan.
Core, a retired Consumers Power electrical engineer, is one of the original 17 members who founded the alliance in 1982 to preserve and promote historic Great Lakes boat and maritime history and also teach it.
"We owe it to the community," Core said. "We have had great community support and financial backing."
History in general is important to him.
"It's a building block for the future," he said. "Any lack of historical understanding only leads to mistakes."
The Maritime Heritage Alliance has about 300 members today and is located in a complex of buildings along M-22 that also house the Great Lakes Children's Museum and the Watershed Center
About half of its members crew on the vessels during summer ambassador voyages around the Great Lakes and MHA's 10-12 summer and fall Community and Heritage Sails on West Bay.
This year, the Madeline, now in its 23rd season, will participate in the 2013 Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge to Bay City, Chicago, as well as Penetanguishene and Collingwood, Ont., and in War of 1812 reenactments with other tall ships in Lake Erie.
It will take about 80 rotating volunteers to crew the schooner voyages this summer, said Laura Quackenbush, another longtime MHA member who coordinates crew training.
The alliance is conducting basic crew training courses this month and next for people who would like to join MHA and learn how to sail the historic vessels. Cost is $35 for MHA membership and $50 for training and the training manual. Trainees must be 18 years old, though training is offered to younger students if they are trained with a parent or other mentor adult, Quackenbush said.
The first social introductory class was held last month, but it's not too late to enroll by attending the next class Feb. 7, said MHA president Rod Jones. It will start at 7 p.m. on the fourth floor of the CenterPointe building at 12935 S. West Bayshore. Other winter class dates are Feb. 28, March 7 and March 28.
More details about training are available at www.maritimeheritagealliance.org or by calling the MHA office at 946-2647.