CHEBOYGAN, Michigan — The U.S. Coast Guard is preparing to set sail on a special holiday mission with historical roots.
A crew is scheduled on Monday to load 1,220 Christmas trees aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. The ice cutter will then travel from its homeport of Cheboygan down Lake Michigan to Chicago.
A public ceremony is planned for Dec. 7 at Navy Pier, where the trees will be unloaded and given to nonprofit organizations for distribution to needy families.
The effort carries on the tradition of the Rouse Simmons — known as the original Christmas tree ship. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of its sinking between the Wisconsin cities of Kewaunee and Two Rivers during a storm on Nov. 23, 1912.
The Coast Guard will lay a wreath near the site of the wreck to remember the Rouse Simmons and its crew.
"The crew and I are looking forward in participating in this year's event," Cmdr. Michael Davanzo, the ship's commanding officer, said in a statement. "We feel it's an extremely worthwhile cause."
The trip coincides with the cutter's annual efforts as part of the ongoing Operation Fall Retrieve, in which Coast Guard units across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System decommission buoys and beacons for the season. Mackinaw will tend to the navigational marks on Lake Michigan.