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Chris Dodd misses Connecticut

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 15. 2012 4:00AM

I wrote Friday that a lot of people in Connecticut were glad to see Chris Dodd go as one of the state's two senators, and that many probably don't miss him.

The former senator called me up midday Friday and said he has no doubt a lot of people don't miss him.

He misses them, though, he said.

Recalling some of the successful battles he helped wage over the years, like funding the Seawolf submarine and keeping the submarine base open, he suggested he misses at least some parts of his old job and he misses the people of Connecticut.

Dodd called from the Washington offices of the Motion Picture Association of America, where he is the chairman. He said he likes to get back to Connecticut as often as he can and especially enjoys getting out on the water on his boat, which he keeps moored in North Cove on the Connecticut River.

Mostly, though, Dodd called to respond to a long-lost inquiry I had made about his involvement in OpSail 2000.

He took a few minutes to reminisce about putting together the successful OpSail 2000 in Connecticut, which, in the end, had to compete with a conflicting event in Boston.

Dodd said he first proposed New London as a stop for the ships in OpSail 2000 because there seemed to be a geographically appropriate opening in the schedule then, between New York and Canada.

He said he had first agreed to be co-chairman of the national OpSail event because it seemed like it would be fun.

"How hard could this be?" Dodd recalled telling himself then.

But the competing event in Boston soon surfaced and became a giant headache, Dodd said, with his old friend Sen. Edward Kennedy on the other side of the fight, trying to lure ships away.

"Here you had Ted Kennedy calling up heads of state," Dodd said, adding it was hard to compete with that star power.

Dodd said he was a much less known senator trying to convince those same heads of state to send their ships to a place they may have never head of: New London, Connecticut.

Fortunately, Dodd said, he had gotten then-President Clinton to sign on for New London as an official OpSail port, before Boston surfaced with its competing plans and attempts were made in Congress to change the event venues.

"It was a rip-roaring competition. I mean rip-roaring," Dodd recalled.

By the time the successful event began unfolding in Connecticut, eventually drawing 1 million visitors, Dodd said he remembered heading out to Niantic the night before the parade of tall ships into New London.

Tossing around in a small, inflatable boat, he recalled turning a corner and seeing all the magnificent tall ships at anchor off the Connecticut coast.

"I will never forget that sight," he said Friday.

Dodd also recalled that the ships' captains told him they liked visiting the Coast Guard Academy and enjoyed the warm welcome and small town atmosphere they found here.

"Every single ship's captain who made that trip said it was their favorite port of call," he said.

Although Dodd is on the OpSail 2012 Board of Trustees, he said he doesn't have much time this year to devote to planning the event because of the press of motion picture business.

I say that leaves a void in Washington that members of the Connecticut delegation ought to be working to fill.

Even if they can't get some heads of state on the line to add to the current roster of two of the largest class of tall ships now scheduled to visit New London, they ought to work on the Navy to dispatch at least a few impressive war ships here.

They don't even have to compete with Ted Kennedy.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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