Connecticut Welcomes OpSail

Jul 8, 2012

The tall ships of OpSail will take their leave of New London this morning after a weekend of celebration. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

The Coast Guard Barque Eagle, a familiar sight on the Thames River, lead the parade of sail into New London Saturday as 23 ships berthed at the final port of call for OpSail. Joanne Broat is the medical officer and the cook aboard the Amistad.

“It’s good, it’s good to be back here – it’s been 2000, so 12 years – everybody’s happy.”

This was a slimmed down event compared to OpSail in 2000, when the state kicked in more than $6 million for the celebrations. In more straitened economic times, the state grant this year was $500,000, with matching funds from private donations. But visitors at Fort Trumbull enjoyed the spectacle just the same. Charles Lipsey came from Bristol with his family to tour the ships.

“It was great, really great – very enlightening. It’s a lost art, it’s a lost art, it’s a total teamwork operation. And it’s the history of our country – everybody should take part in it.”

Just one international ship, from Brazil, was part of the event this year. Ron Atwood from Groton visited with his daughter Emma.

“Ah, it’s gorgeous. Both the ships we went on were nice. She got a little hat souvenir from the Brazilian Navy ship. We got pictures of her with the Brazilian Navy. It’s great – they’re so nice, it’s unreal!”

New London’s annual celebration SailFest was also in town this weekend. Tony Sheridan is President of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

“It’s a great economic boost for the entire region. It was a very smart decision to combine both. It guaranteed a really very successful weekend. All in all, I think a huge number of very happy people, which is great.”

Organizers had been projecting 800,000 visitors for New London over the OpSail weekend. They’ll be tallying up now to see just what the economic impact is for the city and the region.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.