Ships to shore for OpSail

The Barque Eagle led  the 2000 parade of sail in New London, an honor the tall ship will retain this weekend when it leads  the 22-vessel parade  of sail into its home port  of New London.
The Barque Eagle led the 2000 parade of sail in New London, an honor the tall ship will retain this weekend when it leads the 22-vessel parade of sail into its home port of New London. Day file photo

Here they come, that bevy of ships that will be floating their way here this weekend for OpSail.

The parade of sail promises to be an awesome sight, as the Coast Guard Eagle leads 22 vessels from Niantic into New London harbor on Saturday morning.

First, though, a Navy amphibious landing craft will "storm" the Hole-in-the-Wall Beach at 4 p.m., and the OpSail fleet will spend Friday night in Niantic. The crews will have a cook-out at McCook's Point Park and will join the public for a food tasting and display of plein-air painting starting at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Niantic.

The ships leave East Lyme around 9:30 a.m. Saturday and head to New London. There are plenty of places - from the shores of Niantic, Waterford and Groton - for people to get a good view of the grand procession before it arrives in New London.

The official opening of the festivities happens around noon at Fort Trumbull, where the Eagle and the 250-foot Cisne Branco from Brazil will dock and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will lead the proceedings.

The vessels will be docked at Fort Trumbull, State Pier and City Pier until they all head back out on Monday morning.

While they're here, they're offering free tours. So stop by between 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday to get onboard. Among the vessels: the USS Whidbey Island, a dock landing ship, at State Pier; the Ticonderoga, a tall ship, at Fort Trumbull; the USCG Cutter Ridley, at City Pier; and the AJ Meerwald, a Delaware Bay oyster schooner, at Fort Trumbull.

OpSail, by the way, is a national celebation of America's maritime heritage, and it also marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

- KRISTINA DORSEY

OpSail, ships arrive in New London by late Saturday morning and remain through Monday morning; free tours for most ships 2-6 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.; opsail2012ct.org.

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