Sail Boston to Land in Charlestown, Thousands Expected on June 17 to View Parade of Sail

April 29, 2017
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By Seth Daniel

Charlestown’s Navy Yard will be one of the key landing points for Sail Boston 2017 this coming June, and is expected to be a prime viewing location for many thousands of people expected to come during the June 17 Parade of Sail – where some 52 sailing ships, some as long as a football field – will parade through the Harbor and turn around right in front of the Navy Yard.

Sail Boston has been on the horizon for some time, but at a long-anticipated public meeting on Thursday, April 20, in the Spaulding Rehab Hospital community room, Dusty Rhodes and David Choate of Conventures Events appeared with a cadre of officials to talk about everything from the best viewing areas to what ships would dock in Charlestown to the daunting security plan that will be in place on June 17.

“These ships are spending a very, very long time at sea,” said Rhodes. “We’re a perfect port for it and we’re proud to be part of it…The reputation and legacy (from previous Sail Boston events) of Boston is extraordinary. First, we have a narrow port and it lets off right in downtown Boston, which is exciting for the crew. We have an unusually great port for something like this. Plus the hospitality shown to these crew and sailors in the past has been wonderful for them. In year’s past when they came to the Warren Tavern or to Faneuil Hall, they never had to open their wallets – they were treated very, very well. People opened up their homes and it’s now a legacy worldwide. We’re known as the finest port a crew or cadet could come to.”

Sail Boston has a long history in Boston, starting in 1976 and continuing in 1980. The non-profit Sail Boston formed in 1988, and put on a great show in 1992, one that really cemented the city as a place that could hold a worldwide sailing event. That gave way to another event in 2009 that found great success, and now Rhodes said they are expecting this summer to be the best ever.

There are 52 tall ships from 13 nations represented, and the European contingent left from their port in England to head to Bermuda on Sunday, April 16. In Bermuda, they will meet with their South American counterparts and begin the race portion of the program.

The overall goal for the ships is to reach Quebec, Canada on July 1, which is Canada Day. That’s where the very big hurrah will happen, but the stop in Boston is expected to be just as memorable. Following the July 1 celebration in Canada, the ships will race to France, where the event will end in September. All in all, crew members will be at sea for more than six months.

For Sail Boston’s portion, the ships will arrive and anchor in Broadsound off Nahant on June 16.

At that point, the race will be put on hold and the pageantry and fun will begin.

The Parade of Sail will take place on Saturday, June 17 – which, yes, is Bunker Hill Day (see separate story). Up to 10,000 or more people are expected to descent upon the Charlestown Navy Yard to view the parade of ships that will sail from Broadsound into Boston Harbor, turn around almost directly in front of Pier 5 and 6, and then head to their docking points.

The Parade of Sail begins at 9 a.m., but ships aren’t expected to the Charlestown location until 10:30 or 10:45 a.m. A main grandstand for viewing is going to be at Fish Pier and Castle Island in South Boston. Charlestown Navy Yard, however, is expected to also be a secondary, prime viewing point.

“They will be coming very close to Charlestown,” said Choate. “They will take the North Channel in, turn right in front of Charlestown and go to their berths. Every 15 minutes you’ll have a Class A ship coming in to the Harbor and each Class A will have several other ships with it.”

Added Rhodes, “We expect that Pier 1, Pier 4 and Pier 5 in Charlestown will be really great viewing spots…We don’t think (Menino Park) will be a particularly great view area though. We wish we could make better use of it, but it’s probably a B-rating for viewing compared to these other places.”

Choate said that Pier 1 will host the US Coast Guard Flagship ‘Eagle’ during the overall event, which will end on June 22.

“We’re also planning meaningful Class B ships, up to 150-feet in length, at Pier 6,” he said. “The ‘Impossible Dream’ will be at Pier 8 (a custom ship that caters to disabled individuals).”

Other Class B ships that will be in the Navy Yard are Bloodhound, Hindu, Geronimo, Brilliant, and Fame.

He said they are trying to position a major Navy ship on Pier 4, but that’s still in flux. If it doesn’t come through, they will look to berth five to six schooners on Pier 4.

All of those ships, plus ships docked throughout Boston Harbor at Fish Pier, Fan Pier, Boston Harbor Hotel (Rowes Wharf), and World Trade Center.

A major point for residents of Charlestown, and specifically the Navy Yard, to get used to is the extreme security precautions required for the June 17 Parade of Sail.

There will, first and foremost, be no parking on the streets and no traffic allowed in or out of the Navy Yard starting at 6 a.m. that day. An alternative for residents who need to come and go would be to park at Spaulding or in that area and use 16th Street as an exit point – as it will remain open.

Chelsea Street, however, will close at City Square.

There will be two screening points for pedestrians coming into the Yard, one at 5th Street and the other at 9th Street – both at the intersections of 1st Avenue.

“Your car will have to be out of the area from 9th Street to the federal park by 6:30 a.m. on June 17,” said Boston Police Capt. Frank Crossen. “They will be towed after that if they’re on the street, and no one will be able to drive in those areas.”

Some of the prohibited items will be coolers on wheels, backpacks, bicycles, cans, glass containers, alcoholic beverages, wagons, pets and drones.

Many residents at the packed meeting tried to reconcile how they might have parties and how they can be prepared with the knowledge that they are likely at home to stay for the day. There is likely not going to be any running in and out of the Yard on June 17.

“The issue will be when people start bringing lots of alcohol,” he said. “We’re going to try to be as reasonable as we can. If people can get there early before we set up at 6:30 a.m., that would be the best thing. Stock up now. That’s why we’re out here so early…This isn’t going to be a secure zone like if the president were to come, but we’re looking at this as enhanced security…If this were 2012, we’d do things much different. After the Marathon of 2013 and the other things happening in the world today, this is essential to protect people. We’re going to do the best we can and minimize your inconvenience, but sometimes you have to do this for the greater good.”

He said the event has no immediate threats right now, but if there were some intel to suggest a threat on the event, he said security could be ratcheted up significantly in the Navy Yard.

Because the Navy Yard is expected to get around 10,000 or more visitors, there will be an express bus from Sullivan Square to the Navy Yard during the entire event (June 17-22) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Buses will let out on Constitution Avenue, which will be closed to regular traffic, meaning those shuttle will be the only way for people to access the Navy Yard.

There will be no ferry service from the Navy Yard on Saturday, June 17.

The National Park Service expects to have events all week long in the Navy Yard, including a dance party on the pier Saturday night, June 17, with a live band. They plan to have maritime events and other amenities as well, including a maritime craftsmen, blacksmiths and other historical learning centers. They said they will be partnering with the Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard to have a special event in Shipyard Park.

The ships will pull up anchor on June 22 and head to a spot off of Gloucester, where the following day they will resume the race up to Quebec City for Canada Day.

The entire presentation is expected to be put on the Sail Boston website within the week, organizers said.