The Tall Ships.

Imagine a time before the advent of steam engines, when ships plied trade routes around the world using nothing but the power of the wind. Envision Boston Harbor, a major commercial center of America since the founding of the thirteen colonies, filled with schooners, brigantines, barques, and brigs. Sails suspended tautly from their masts, flags fluttering in the wind, and the sounds of sailors yelling to one another as they work the ropes and riggings that control the sails. On Saturday the age of tall ships returned to Boston, as Sail Boston 2017 began, vessels from fourteen countries entering Boston Harbor.

Sail Boston is one of the destinations for the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ship Regatta, a sailing competition that began on April 13th in Royal Greenwich, England and will end on September 3rd in Le Havre, France. Along the way, the vessels will make port calls in Portugal, the Canary Islands, Bermuda, Charleston, South Carolina, Boston, Halifax, Quebec City, and Hamilton. The event marks the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. The ships entered Boston Harbor on Saturday morning an hour late due to fog, and the weather would remain overcast for much of the day. I met up with friends to head to Boston Harbor in the afternoon and witness the festivities. Held during June 17 – 22, Sail Boston is a free event that is open to the public, allowing visitors to interact with these beautiful sailing ships. In addition to the vessels themselves, there are plenty of outdoor restaurants, live music, street performers, and some great people-watching as well! The organizers of Sail Boston expect over a million visitors to come to Boston Harbor during this event.

Map of Boston Harbor from 1775.
A British map of Boston from 1775. Boston Harbor was (and still is) one of the primary port terminals on the East Coast of the United States. During the American Revolution, British forces blockaded the harbor to try to starve the revolutionary forces into submission. (Image available for free reuse via Wikipedia).
Google Map of Boston Harbor in 2017.
Boston Harbor looks a little different today! Man-made fill has created areas of the city that did not exist 150 years ago. Vessels participating in Sail Boston were docked all around the harbor.
View of Route 24 in Massachusetts, with vehicle dashboard in foreground.
Heading to meet up with friends to go to Sail Boston. Along the way, I passed the 84,000 mile threshold.
2012 Honda Accord in front of apartment building.
Due to the crowds in the city, I left DH in a parking lot near my friends’ home, and we took a public transportation bus the rest of the way.
View of the Charles River. A swan is in the foreground.
My friends and I took a nice walk along the Charles River to get to the bus stop.
Boston Tea Party Museum, in Boston, MA.
Walking to Boston Harbor, we passed the Boston Tea Party Museum. The location of the Boston Tea Party (when American colonists dumped boxes of tea into the harbor to protest British taxation in 1773) has since disappeared, as man-made fill covered over that part of the harbor in the late 19th century. This museum was built as close to the original Tea Party location as possible. Note the ship: it is one of two replicas of ships involved in the Boston Tea Party at the museum.
Display window of Boston Tea Party Museum gift shop.
The museum was closed when we stopped by, but the display window of the gift shop was full of fun trinkets. This museum will definitely get its own post in the future!
View of Boston Harbor.
Boston Harbor, site of Sail Boston 2017. In addition to being the major port of New England, the harbor is also a significant commercial district in the city.
Entrance to Sail Boston, with a tall ship in the background.
Sail Boston! The steel-hulled barque Europa is in the background. 
Several ships from Sail Boston in port.
Several of the ships participating in Sail Boston. In the center, looking like it sailed in from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, is El Galeon, a replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon warship. This vessel was built in 2010. 
Sailing vessel Oosterschelde at port.
The Oosterschelde, from the Netherlands. Built in 1918, it has been sailing the oceans for almost 100 years!
Rigging of Europa, with a sailing vessel in the background.
The rigging of the Dutch barque Europa, which was built in 1911. The complexities of operating sailing vessels has always fascinated me.
Vessel with sails extended, in the harbor.
One of the vessels, navigating the harbor.
Figurehead of Europa and Bull at front of vessel Europa.
At the bow of the Europa is the ship’s figurehead of the goddess Europa, being carried by away by a white bull. In the myth, the god Zeus took the form of a white bull and abducted Europa.
Dog figurehead on Schooner Atyla.
The Spanish schooner Atyla has a less classical figurehead, a dog with a bone in its mouth. Originally intended to bring a blessing to the vessel, figureheads later would be used to demonstrate the power and wealth of a ship’s owner. Built in the early 1980s, the Atyla’s figurehead is meant to be more humorous than intimidating. 
Ship's wheel on the Atyla.
The ship’s wheel of the Atyla, which controls the rudder.
Ship's ropes on the Atyla.
So many ropes! Each of these is responsible for a different action upon the Atyla’s sails. 
Vessels docked for Sail Boston.
Several of the vessels, at port. To the left, in the distance, is the US Navy’s contribution to Sail Boston: the USS Whidbey Island, a modern amphibious assault ship responsible for delivering US Marines to the shores of distant lands. 
Schooner Roseway making its way through a crowded harbor.
The schooner Roseway, built in 1925, makes its way through a crowded harbor. The tall building in the background is the control tower for Logan International Airport. To the right is the lightship Nantucket. Essentially a floating lighthouse, this vessel was built in 1950 and sat off the coast of Nantucket Island to keep vessels from running aground.
Barque Picton Castle.
The barque Picton Castle, built in 1928, moored beside the Boston Harbor World Trade Center.
Sailing School vessel Oliver Hazard Perry.
The Oliver Hazard Perry, the largest sailing school vessel in the United States. Built in 2016, this ship is a floating classroom that teaches you to sail. It can accommodate up to 32 guests overnight.
Peruvian vessel Union.
The BAP Union. This barque is a training vessel for Peru’s navy.
Bowsprit of the BAP Union.
Before the invention of radio communication, nautical flags were used to communicate between ships. Sails and flags wait for use on the bowsprit of the BAP Union
Looking up at one of the masts of the BAP Union.
Looking up at one of the BAP Union’s masts, I’m left with a question: how do you remember which rope does what?
Peruvian flag and aft of BAP Union.
The skies began to clear, and the BAP Union’s Peruvian flag flutters in the breeze.
View of the foremast, bowsprit, and flags on the Chilean barquentine Esmeralda.
The skies cleared, and the colors of the nautical flags aboard the Chilean barquentine Esmeralda came alive.
Two sailing ships in the harbor.
Sailing vessels making their way through the harbor.
Two sailing vessels in the harbor. A motorboat is in the foreground.
Quite the peaceful scene.
MBTA Bus parked beside road.
The Voyage of the MBTA Bus? Disembarking from our ride at the end of the night. Not quite as comfortable as my Accord, but certainly more convenient than fighting for parking in a city full of people!
Odometer of 2012 Honda Accord, reading 84,064 miles.
Returned home, with 84,000 miles now in the rearview mirror. 

Since we arrived too late to witness the Parade of Ships as the vessels entered Boston Harbor, I am including this short vide from Channel 5 News in Boston, which shows many of the ships sailing toward the docks:

Finally, an interesting bit of news for anyone who has ever fought for parking in a crowded city. In Hong Kong, where space is at a premium, a parking space sold for $664,000, a new record. I told this story to my friends yesterday, and they assured me that Boston was not far behind. A quick internet search showed that they were correct. In 2015, a parking spot in the space-constrained Beacon Hill neighborhood sold for $650,000. That’s just the parking space, excluding the home itself! Maybe if I emptied my savings account and liquidated my retirement… I could park there for a few days.

Sail Boston is a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime event that is a must-visit for anyone that loves ships and the sea. It runs through June 22nd, and is open to the public. The vessels stretch the length of the harbor, so make sure you wear comfortable walking attire! I had a great time, and would highly recommend this celebration of life on the sea. Thanks for coming along on another journey along the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

3 thoughts on “The Tall Ships.

  1. Hey Tim, your email notifications are working again! So that’s good news. This post gave me a nice way to pass a few minutes as I’m awaiting a flight back to Phoenix from southern Utah. I can’t believe one of those ships has been sailing for almost 100 years! Surely it’s a testament to how well it was engineered back in its day. Congrats on the 84,000 milestone.


    1. Thanks Tyson! I’m glad to hear the alerts are coming through (and that the post was enjoyable!). The ships were very cool, and yes, it’s impressive how well engineered some of the older vessels are.


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