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So I noticed that today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, which I hope has been pointed out by many people in the media - I only knew because I read up on it, but it's the sort of thing which could pad out a news broadcast or newspaper article. And most of us are aware that Cinco de Mayo is a bigger deal in the US than in most parts of Mexico.

But the US has a neighbor to the north, too; why don't we have a Canadian holiday? This may bear pondering.
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As happens in my city periodically, a number of military vessels have come in to let the sailors get some R&R and to show the flag to the civilians ashore. This Sunday I spent a few hours going along the row of ships downtown and took a few tours.

I got to visit three USCG vessels of various sizes and one ship of the two Canadian Navy vessels down here (hello, HMCS Saskatoon and Whitehorse!) and let me say that I had a pleasant experiences aboard all four vessels. The crews - and the other visitors - were pleasant, the lines were not impossibly long, and I recommend the experience to anyone who gets the opportunity to try it.

You'll notice I don't mention the US Navy. There is a reason. Some years back, perhaps in response to 9/11, they started tightening up 'security' for such tours, and trying to keep such dangerous things as pocketknives off of their ships. Someone in the Navy has apparently visited an airport since then, as they now have metal detectors, armed guards (with rifles, that is, not just the ships' weaponry), and check ID. Also, the wait to get aboard is apparently longer.

This contrasts with the US Coast Guard and the Canadian Navy method, in which interested visitors line up in an orderly fashion and are shown the ship as sailors become available to escort them through and answer questions. The Canadians might be granted some reasonable concern, as they're in a foreign nation, but they seemed happy with a warning sign (essentially, 'we reserve the right to search you if we think we need to') and a quick safely lecture ('hold onto the rail on ladders, and speak up before you touch any buttons'). I'm unclear about the USN attitude towards photography - I was passing as an officer was warning a woman about something involving her camera but got too far away to hear details - but the USCG and CN invited folks to take pictures, and crewmen would even pose with tourists.

I'm happy to report that every sailor I talked to was quite happy with their time in Portland. It seems we're being good hosts in turn.


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