Ships depart New London after weekend of mostly smooth sailing

Garret Page, right foreground, 19, of Salem, a full-time lifeguard at Ocean Beach Park in New London, looks on as the Brazilian tall ship  Cisne Branco heads passes by Ocean Beach as it heads out to sea after departing Fort Trumbull at 6 p.m. Monday, July 9, 2012.
Garret Page, right foreground, 19, of Salem, a full-time lifeguard at Ocean Beach Park in New London, looks on as the Brazilian tall ship Cisne Branco heads passes by Ocean Beach as it heads out to sea after departing Fort Trumbull at 6 p.m. Monday, July 9, 2012. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

New London — Perched under a giant umbrella early Monday afternoon at Fort Trumbull, Deborah Hoppe took a well- deserved break from the sun and heat.

A volunteer for OpSail, the Russell, Mass., resident was busy throughout the weekend assisting those who traveled to the city to see nearly two dozen visiting ships.

Hoppe said she was a volunteer for OpSail in 2000 when the event last came to the city. She returned this year for another opportunity to help out and mingle with others.

"You get to meet so many people on the ships and to talk to them," said Hoppe, whose sister lives in Groton. "I met a lot of wonderful people."

The majority of the ships that were docked at piers here throughout this weekend were gone by early Monday afternoon. Many took off ahead of schedule.

Just after 11 a.m., about 40 people stood on City Pier and soaked in the surroundings during the last few moments of OpSail. The pier was starting to clear with all the ships having departed.

An hour later, the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle and the Cisne Branco were still docked at the pier at Fort Trumbull. The 250-foot Brazilian ship left in the early evening. The Eagle opened for public tours at 1 p.m. and about 50 people headed for the ship.

OpSail did have its rough moments, according to Karl Kohler, a New London resident who was standing on a pier Monday at Fort Trumbull.

Kohler said parking was an issue Sunday at Fort Trumbull and he pointed to the issues with Saturday's Parade of Sail, which was delayed considerably in part because the Eagle's anchor chain became tangled.

"The Parade was all messed up," he said. "But the organizers can't do anything about that."

Randy Cutler of Thompson also visited Fort Trumbull to catch the final moments of OpSail. Cutler said he was in Newport over the weekend to take in Ocean State Tall Ships, the similar event that OpSail competed with.

He said OpSail compared very favorably and he criticized the Newport event for charging for parking and for tours on the ships there. He said the easy access to the ships here was a pleasant surprise.

"It was much better here and open to the public," Cutler said. "I should have known better than going to Newport."

Cutler spoke as he sat on a bench a short distance from the Cisne Branco. He called the ship marvelous and wonderful, and a few moments earlier a lively dance song blared from a sound system located toward the rear of the ship.

It seemed at least some crew members were in good spirits following a weekend in which the same could be said for many who visited OpSail.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

The schooner A.J. Meerwald passes Fort Griswold in Groton as it departs New London Monday, July 9, 2012.
The schooner A.J. Meerwald passes Fort Griswold in Groton as it departs New London Monday, July 9, 2012. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo
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