One of the most exciting events of the Greenwich Bicentennial Celebration of 1976 was the parade of Tall Ships passing the Greenwich shoreline. The Bicentennial marked 200 years of United States independence.
These vessels were headed to Operation Sail 1976, which was held on Saturday, July 3rd, in New York Harbor. Ships sailed up the Hudson River, passing the Statue of Liberty. The Greenwich Bicentennial Committee, with the cooperation of various local boat and yacht clubs, arranged for 11 ships to anchor in Greenwich (Captain's) Harbor, and members of the respective clubs provided room and board to crew members. Other towns along the Connecticut shore - such as Norwalk and Stamford - offered similar accomodations.
The "Greenwich 11" arrived late Friday, July 2nd. Local boaters tried to get a look at the Tall Ships. The boats were not open for public visitation. They were left early on Saturday, July 3rd, to sail up the Hudson. A Maritime Parade along the Greenwich coast was arranged to begin at 4pm on Sunday. At the end, the boats would anchor off Island Beach and watch a fireworks display that night at 9:30 pm. The vessels came from all over the world. They included:
"St. Lawrence II" from Canada
"Gypsy Moth V" and Outlaw from England
"Sayula" from Mexico
"Tina IV", "Meteor" and "Kukri" from Germany
"Zenobee Gramm" from Belgium
"Appakispic" from the Panama Canal Zone
"Unicorn", "Regis Maris" and "Deliverance" from the United States
The Greenwich Bicentennial Marine Parade included a total of 165 vessels. Resident Fred Mason's 72-foot boat "Lion's Share" led the parade. It began at Buoy 32A off Greenwich Point, and ended at Byram Shore. The boats displayed many colorful flags, and some crews wore revolutionary garb. John Bartol's boat "Gambit VI" served as a Judges' Reviewing Boat. This was anchored just south of Indian Harbor Yacht Club. The judges included: Alfred Varner, Moderator of the RTM; Ruppert Vernon, First Selectman; Stacey Orphanos, member of the Belle Haven Club; and some other dignitaries. Prizes were awarded in several categories.
Thousands of people travelled to Greenwich Point and Grass Island to view the parade. The gates were closed early when the parks were filled to capacity. Richard Schlosser's boat "Muffin II" served as a press boat. As a safety measure, the US Coast Guard, Greenwich Marine Police and various boat clubs helped patrol the harbors and course. Outside of a brief, 10-minute thunderstorm, the weather was ideal.
After the parade, the boats anchored off Island Beach. A Dixieland Band on the "Islander III" ferry serenaded the crews. There was a series of parties all over the harbor. By the time the fireworks display was over, there were 600 boats in Long Island Sound!
As the events of the evening ended, one viewer commented on the string of lights that stretched from Byram Shore to Old Greenwich Cove as happy residents returned home in their boats after the historic celebration.
There have been other occassions when Tall Ships sailed in local waters. Greenwich resident Tom Watson, the Curator for the Maritime Museum in New York City, was instrumental in OpSail programs. Twenty-two Tall Ships participated in Operation Sail 1986, which was part of the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Several ships were guests of the Indian Harbor and Riverside Yacht Clubs. These included "The Bounty", the Danish ship "Elinore" and the Irish ship "St. Patrick". In 1990, two-hundred ships helped celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Town of Greenwich. One included a Soviet ship, which encountered a great deal of difficulty from US Customs officials. OpSail '92 commemorated the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to the New World. Approximately 200 ships participated in this armada. OpSail 2000 was a special Milennium event for Connecticut. The parade was held in New London, which provided a somewhat more centralized location for local travelers. The SoundWaters "Clear Water" vessel sailed up the coast to participate in the armada.
Over the years, additional activities were added to raise funds for worthwhile causes.. One such event was the Tall Ships Ball, which began around 1995. This was held at one of the local yacht clubs, and raised money for the non-profit environmental group SoundWaters.
There's something majestic about Tall Ships. As the wind quietly fills the sails and propels the imposing vessel forward, it projects an image of this country's strength and fortitude. They've been critical to our history. Early settlers crossed the ocean in ships. Sailors used ships for whaling and fishing. They were used for transporting local agricultural and manufactured products to market. They were used to transport people to faraway ports. Tall Ships have played an important part in our history.
I, for one, hope there will be more Tall Ships passing our shores and seeking shelter in our harbors in the future.
SOURCE: Greenwich Time