The Tall Ships are coming, the Tall Ships are coming-to Boston. “Big deal” some may mutter. “Big deal?” others may query. For those in the know it is an unequivocal “BIG Deal!” But don’t take my word for it; here’s the details, you decide.
Two world-class regattas; a race between sail boats, one from Europe another from South America, will converge enroute to Canada at only one USA city. Yes, that city is our city: TitleTown, BeanTown, Boston! This armada of peaceful vessels may exceed 50 fascinating sailboats and already includes 15 Class A vessels. This official designation, ‘Class A’, is reserved for mega yachts of gigantic proportions, or having a particular type of riggings such as Massachusett’s very own, and only, Class A vessel the brigantine Formidable. Several of these ocean behemoths enjoy lengths overall exceeding 300 feet; they are also some of the world’s most beloved and charismatic sail vessels.
Take for instance the USCG Cutter Eagle, second only to the USS Constitution as one of America’s most respected vessels; she’s like the Julian Edelman of Tall Ships- fast, slender, and handsome. And just like the Patriots legendary wide receiver, everyone remembers the first time they saw the rugged three-masted Eagle cut elegantly across a bay under full sail. She’s an 1,800 ton, 295’ training vessel for the men and women who protect our shoreline, assist mariners in distress and maintain safety protocols at sea. As is any barque she is also resplendent under full sail. You will gasp.
However, although she has the distinction of leading the Grand Parade of Sail- more on that in a moment- she is not the oldest, widest, longest or newest vessel in the fleet that will be visiting Boston in June. The honor of oldest goes to the Netherland’s Europa built in 1911; the widest vessel is the regal Russian Nadezhda with a broad beam of 46’; the prestigious Union from Peru is the longest AND newest; built in 2015 at 379 feet she is longer than a football field. (FMI visit www.sailboston.com)
Okay now that I’ve given you the balcony perspective let’s descend from the crow’s nest and take in the view from the dance floor or rather the main deck.
- The vessels arrive en masse on Friday, June 16 th , they lay clustered, at anchor, just outside the inner harbor. Each vessel displaying the required anchorage lights, and anchor balls, their sails furled and with the setting solstice sun in the background it is a sight to behold. Some have described it as peering back centuries into another world, an early and innocent America. Others have said the sensation coupling the viewing is comparable to witnessing the near mythical Aurora Borealis.
The following day, Saturday June 17th is Sail Boston’s signature event, the impressive Grand Tall Ships Parade. Although various tall ships have come to Boston every 6-7 years, in much smaller numbers, the Grand Parade of Sail- is an event seen only once every two decades or so and is reserved for occasions such as this whereas a significant number of the world’s finest vessels will be in attendance. To be aboard a vessel when she enters into Boston Harbor as part of the parade is to sit in a box seat at the Super Bowl, most people will be content to have a rail aboard one of the few commercial vessels authorized by the USCG to lay anchor at a specifically designated area- an area with extraordinary view corridors! Massachusetts Bay Lines has six vessels, the aforementioned Formidable and five motorships, each has been given anchorage rights and are available for public and private charters. (Yes, that was a shameless plug for my employer).
- Another reason Tall Ships 2017 will be extraordinary is the fact that there will be two Gray Hulls, a whimsical term for US Naval vessels, an LSD and a DDG, the latter being a Destroyer. These ships of war will be available in Charlestown Navy Yard for public tours. Always a crowd pleaser these will complement well the Blue Angels Air Show the US Navy intends to produce for Saturday, June 17th . It is rumored they will do a flyover as the Eagle majestically sails into Boston Harbor during the Grand Parade of Sail.
- There are several ways in which you can witness these vessels at dock: One is to wait in line, for hours, to walk aboard one or more ships. This privilege is FREE and I strongly suggest this approach for people who have an abundance of time and patience. However for those who melt under a sweltering sky I’d suggest instead that you consider a 90-minute cruise aboard a passenger vessel from one of the local ferry boat operators (including Mass Bay Lines) who offer very inexpensive AND narrated tours. Most also have full bars and allow food to be brought aboard- can you say great CHEAP date?!
- There is also three designated ‘Festive Regions’ and they include Charlestown Navy Yard, the Fish Pier in the Seaport, and Black Falcon Terminal. One can expect plenty of subordinate activity such as live music, food trucks, and maritime presentations to animate these areas enabling spectators to fill an entire day with fun-filled and informative activity between their ship-hopping.
- On Monday, June 19 expect another jaw dropper! The wildly popular Cadet and Crew Parade, will take place at noon, it is estimated over 400 young sailors will traverse downtown Boston in uniform, as ambassadors to their respective nations and as sentinels to the maritime tradition that built this nation and many others. Shutterbugs will not want to miss this most colorful bespoke nod to discipline and honor.
The last time Boston hosted an event such as this was in the year 2000. The Tall Ships week that year saw an estimated 5-7 million visitors. It was pandemonium. The city was still rung by a hulking industrial era overpass. The Seaport district was still a dusty parking lot. Prosperity was elusive; the city was fifteen years from finding itself in its third greatest economic epoch, and Tom Brady had not yet run away with five Super Bowl trophy’s. Needless to say, although the event was by all accounts a huge success, it was unprepared for the rush of people from away. 2017 will be different. Not so much in the number of attendees over the course of five days but in how the entire city has come together to prepare for their arrival and the influx of ships, their crews and the spectators.
It is estimated that 4-6 million people intend to make Sail Boston’s 2017 Tall Ship event a priority this summer; that’s almost ten times the population of the city! The temperatures hover around a delicious
75 degrees; the restaurants will be packed, with many staying open later; and the taverns will be competing with each other, offering live music and drink specials. If you plan on staying at one of the myriad terrific hotels in Boston you may want to make that call today- as of mid-February many were reporting unprecedented interest for that week. And another thing: You may want to consider public transportation that week- regardless of whether you’re commuting to work or play.
So did you decide? Does Tall Ships sound like a BIG deal?! We think so. If you plan to do nothing else this summer or if you’re visiting Boston for only a few days, touring the tall ships, by land or by sea, should be at the top of your to-do list. Don’t forget a camera, a selfie stick, some sunblock and water, lots of water.