New London trying to line up tall ships for waterfront event

New London - Those who might not be able to attend OpSail2012CT, the national tall-ship event scheduled to stop in the city the first weekend in July, might have a second chance to get their fill of all things nautical.

City officials and Barbara Neff Productions are moving forward with plans for "Don't Miss the Boat,'' a celebration on the waterfront that would be held the following weekend.

Some of the participating boats in Ocean State Tall Ships Festival 2012 in Newport, R.I., which will be held the same weekend as OpSail, have been invited to New London on the second weekend in July.

"We're working on trying to get some of the Newport tall ships to stop in New London after OpSail,'' Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Wednesday. "It will be a limited Sailfest-esque event,'' he said, referring to the city's annual Sailfest festival. "We hope it all comes together.''

Neff, who was hired by the city to stage at least six events on the waterfront, said "Don't Miss the Boat" would include two tall ships from Newport, the Mystic Whaler, privately owned tugboats, a fleet of antique Chris-Craft boats and a contingent from Bay State Woodies, a club for wooden-boat enthusiasts.

Performances on the Parade that weekend would include the Nimble Art Circus and music by Rebirth Brass Band, a funk-jazz group out of New Orleans that won the 2012 Grammy for Best Regional Roots Album.

And in keeping with the nautical theme, the Custom House Museum would offer boat rides down the Thames River and tours of New London Harbor Lighthouse on Pequot Avenue. The iconic white lighthouse, which the museum obtained from the federal government several years ago, has limited land access. Visitors would be dropped off by boat on rock outcroppings at the foot of the lighthouse.

"It's all pretty exciting,'' said Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the Custom House Museum. "I think the idea of being on the water is something that people don't get to do often, and we would love to be able to provide that opportunity for them.''

Tamulevich said Project O also would be part of the festival, offering tours of Ledge Light.

Finizio, who spoke at Wednesday's Council of Governments meeting, said he reached out to Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, who pledged to cooperate on interstate events.

"This is a plan,'' Finizio said. "We're working on it as diligently as we can."

OpSail2012CT, which will take place July 6 to July 9 in Niantic and New London, will include the city's annual Sailfest celebration. The committee planning Opsail has not announced how many tall ships will visit New London as part of event, which includes ports of call in New Orleans, San Juan, New York, Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston.

Neff, who receives $20,000 from the city to stage waterfront events, said something would be happening every weekend in July and August and on several other weekends in the fall. She is seeking corporate sponsors.

Some of the events include a Coast Guard Appreciation Day, Caribbean night, a bike fest, grinder fest and barbecue cookoff.

"We're working really hard to fill the waterfront with things to do,'' Neff said.

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