Friday, August 14, 2009

Tall Ships Visit Seacoast

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
Tens of thousands of people were drawn to the Seacoast last weekend to see, admire and/or tour tall ships. The Piscataqua Maritime Commission sponsored the festival, hailed as one the biggest events in port history.
It all began Friday morning when people lined both sides of the Piscataqua River to see the ships, the USCGC Eagle, the Spirit of South Carolina, the Spirit of Massachusetts, and Delaware’s Kalmar Nyckel arrive.
They were welcomed to the harbor by a flotilla of small boats that accompanied them to their berths at the docks of the New Hampshire Department of Ports and Harbors, off Market Street Extension in Portsmouth.
Saturday and Sunday saw long lines as people from throughout New England stood in line for lengthy periods to tour the ships. Scheduled rides on the ships were cancelled due to tricky currents.
The Eagle, a 1800-ton steel hull, three-masted sailing ship with more than 21,000 square feet of sail and more than five miles of rigging, left the area Monday morning followed by the other ships.
Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing ship in the United States Military, and is home ported at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Originally known as the Horst Wessel, it was a training vessel for German Naval cadets in the 1930s before being captured by the United States. It carries a crew of six officers and 48 enlisted men and women.
Kalmar Nyckel has served as an outreach platform for the State of Delaware since 1998.
The Spirit of South Carolina descends from a line of swift, able schooners that served the coastal and harbor pilots along the southeast coast from the mid 1700’s to the early 1900’s.
The Spirit of Massachusetts is based on the design of the Fredonia, a famous Massachusetts schooner of the late 20th century. She was commissioned at Boston in June 1984, and works as a sail training ship for Boston’s New England Historic Seaport, a unique school under canvas.
The Piscataqua Maritime Commission is a non-profit community organization dedicated to promoting awareness and education of the New Hampshire seacoast’s rich maritime history through Tall Ship port calls.
Proceeds from ship tours and marketing fund a variety of sail training scholarships for area students and other educational programs.
Photo caption: The USCG Eagle leaving port Monday morning after a weekend stay in Portsmouth. (Larry Favinger photo)