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Amistad America: 'Working around the clock' to prepare ship for Sailfest

By Ann Baldelli and Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published July 11. 2014 9:22AM   Updated July 12. 2014 12:09AM

Amistad America is "working around the clock” to prepare the ship for New London’s Sailfest, according to a 12:45 p.m. Amistad America press release.

“We’re close to meeting the requirements that will allow us to safely move The Amistad to New London, but it’s still too early to say we’re going,” said Hanifa Washington, executive director of Amistad America, in the press release.

The festival’s organizer, Barbara Neff said Friday morning that Washington called her around 9:30 p.m. Thursday to ask whether Sailfest would still be able to accommodate the ship if it could make it to New London for the three-day summer festival.

“She said she is trying her hardest to get the boat here,” said Neff, adding, “And I told her we would do whatever we had to get them space at City Pier.”

Amistad was originally scheduled to arrive Saturday and be open for dockside tours and sailing excursions. But Tuesday, Washington sent messages backing out of the commitment and blaming the decision in part on The Day’s coverage of Amistad America’s financial troubles.

On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy intervened, making it clear in a letter to Washington that the vessel funded in large measure by the state to help tell the story of the Amistad slaves who won their freedom in a Connecticut courtroom in 1841 should be in New London this weekend fulfilling its mission.

Heavy wooden benches at the pier have to be moved once tall ships arrive and it is determined where their gangplanks will be dropped, Neff explained. She said that requires heavy equipment from the city’s public works department and that is what Washington was asking about.

Until the boats arrive and are tied up, there is uncertainty about which benches have to be moved and where, Neff said.
In addition to the Amistad, the schooner Virginia also is scheduled to visit the city this weekend.

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