Your guide to OpSail/Sailfest fun

From left, Dave Putnam, director of East Lyme Parks and Recreation, Kevin Cavanagh, vice chairman of OpSail, Paul Formica, first selectman of East Lyme, and Bruce MacDonald, public relations spokesman for OpSail, meet Thursday at McCook Point Park in Niantic to discuss locations for the events that get under way today with the "storming" of Hole-in-the-Wall beach.

With OpSail and Sailfest sharing the stage in New London this weekend, there's a lot going on. Here's a guide to a fun weekend.

The ships

Almost two dozen ships will arrive this afternoon for berthing off Niantic. If you're interested in size, the three biggest are the 295-foot U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle, the 256-foot Cisne Branco of Brazil and the 609-foot USS Carter Hall.

The Carter Hall, a U.S. Navy amphibious landing craft, will "storm" Hole-in-the-Wall beach this afternoon about 4 p.m. when a Humvee will drive onto the beach. The best place to watch is McCook Point Park. A food stroll in downtown Niantic will follow at 6:30 p.m.

The ships, led by the Eagle, will leave Niantic Saturday morning around 9:30. The best locations to watch the Parade of Sail include Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Ocean Beach Park in New London and Avery Point and Eastern Point in Groton.

The parade up the Thames River will begin at 10 a.m., when Eagle rounds New London Ledge Light at the mouth of New London Harbor. At 11 a.m., there will be a flyover by U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. All of the ships will motor or sail up the Thames River approximately to City Pier, from which they will disperse to their assigned berths at State Pier, City Pier and Fort Trumbull.

Ships will be open for visits from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, except the Eagle, which closes at 4 p.m. at Fort Trumbull, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, except for Carter Hall at State Pier, which will be open to visitors noon to 6 p.m.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will officially welcome the fleet at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Fort Trumbull.

Monday is sail-away day, with ships scheduled to leave between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Sailfest

The city's annual street festival of food, amusement rides and crafts runs from noon today until 6 p.m. Sunday. The beer tent, at the Custom House Pier, is open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. today, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Fireworks

The annual fireworks display, sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequots, is scheduled to begin about 9 p.m. Saturday. The fireworks are viewable from various spots on the New London and Groton shore.

Music

Neither Sailfest nor OpSail are music festivals per se, but festival-goers will be able to hear live performances in multiple venues Friday through Sunday. The Hygienic Art Park and the Custom House Stage on City Pier will host music all weekend, and there will be a Lawn Stage and a Pier Stage featuring live entertainment on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, many downtown and New London clubs and restaurants will have bands or DJs at various times during the weekend.

For the full music schedule, go here.

Parking, getting around

You can park at a series of satellite parking lots and take shuttle buses to the various venues. For locations and more information, see box at right.

1

Special Report: OpSail 2012

2

OpSail website

3

Sailfest website

Parking, road closures

Free parking for OpSail2012 Connecticut is available in a series of designated satellite lots, with shuttle service to Fort Trumbull, City Pier and State Pier. The satellite lots and their drop off/pickup points are:
New London High School, 490 Jefferson Ave.; Destination: Fort Trumbull
Waterford High School, 20 Rope Ferry Road; Destination: Fort Trumbull
Crystal Mall, 850 Hartford Turnpike, Waterford; Destination: Fort Trumbull
Ocean State Job Lot, 128 Boston Post Road, Waterford; Destination: Fort Trumbull
Connecticut College, 270 Mohegan Ave., New London; Destination: Union Station, City Pier, Waterfront Park
Yellow school buses will take visitors to and from the lots from 8 a.m.-11 p.m.today and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Blue SEAT buses will loop between Waterfront Park/Union Station, Fort Trumbull, State Pier and the courthouse on the corner of Huntington and State.

Street closings in New London
Saturday, 6 a.m. through Sunday, 7 p.m.
State Street between Eugene O'Neill Drive and Bank Street
Bank Street between Tilley and State streets
South Water Street: Traffic flow on South Water Street will be reversed (northbound). Only emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, business owners (east side of Bank Street), Amtrak and Fishers Island traffic will be allowed to use this street.

Fort Trumbull
This location will have control-access points at Trumbull Street at Nameaug Street and East Street at Walbach Street. Only authorized vehicles going to Fort Trumbull will be allowed past these points.
Walbach Street will be limited to parking on the south side of the street only. Signs will be posted.

State Pier
State police troopers will be at the intersection of State Pier Road and Crystal Avenue. Only authorized vehicles will be allowed access to the State Pier and state boat launch.

Eugene O'Neill Drive, between Gov. Winthrop Boulevard and Tilley Street, will be closed Saturday night between 6 and 11.

Eugene O'Neill Drive will be closed from Gov. Winthrop Boulevard to State Street on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. for a road race.

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