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Spy Tall Ships on the Horizon

Posted on 30 October 2008

Sag Harbor’s history as a port that has welcomed sailing vessels of all stripes  — from clippers and schooners to brigs and barques — is a good reason, some believe, for the village to host a tall ship or two (or more) next year.

Thad Koza of the American Sail Training Association (ASTA) spoke to a group of local business people and members of the sailing community, suggesting that the village may want to take advantage of a number of U.S. and international vessels that will be plying the waters of the East coast beginning in the spring of 2009. The roughly two dozen tall ships, such as the 265’ Coast Guard training vessel Eagle and the 157’ Pride of Baltimore, will gather in Hamilton, Bermuda in mid-June, before sailing the coast, racing and attending events at ports including Charleston, S.C., Boston and Halifax, Nova Scotia throughout the summer.

Koza, who has written books about the world’s tall ships and is frequently called on to speak about them, was hosted on Tuesday night by the Sag Harbor Business Alliance. He told the audience of about 40 at the American Hotel, that tall ships are regularly available to ports for festivals, and serve many purposes, in addition to being simply an attraction.

“Each one of them has an educational component as well,” said Koza. And indeed the crews on most of the ships are students who are learning the maritime trades.

Behind Tuesday evening’s meeting was Alan Rice, a professor at Stony Brook Southampton and recent resident of Sag Harbor, who has sailed on many of the ships that will be cruising near here next year, and imagines Sag Harbor as a World Heritage site, in the same way the Lunenburg, Nova Scotia has become, with a burgeoning economy based on the maritime trades. He believes, also, that Sag Harbor could become a port of call for tall ships that cruise the coast — or at least the smaller of the tall ships.

Class A tall ships like Eagle and the HMS Bounty — which home ports in Greenport — need 16’ and 13’ of water, respectively. In most cases, Sag Harbor can only accommodate ships with drafts of 12’ or less.

But, suggested some at the meeting, larger vessels can moor off beyond the breakwater in deeper water.

The next step would appear to be a meeting of individuals and groups interested in bringing one or more tall ships to the harbor, possibly to coincide with the annual HarborFest in September, or for a separate event.

“I think we’d be very much for it,” said Jim Laspesa, commodore of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, who attended the presentation.

“We’ve become much more community oriented over the past ten years,” said Laspesa, who added he thought there were some educational opportunities the ships could offer. He said the club had not met to discuss the tall ships, but probably would consider them in the coming year.

Former commodore Rob Camerino, who also attended the meeting, said the club has a keen interest in sailing and the community and felt the tall ships would be a good fit.

“As a waterfront community,” said Camerino, “this is the kind of thing we do.”

The cost of bringing the vessels to Sag Harbor runs a wide gamut. The Bounty, for example, costs between $40,000 and $50,000 for a three or four-day visit, said the ship’s director Margaret Ramsey. Other vessels, such as the Eagle and ships owned by countries, are generally free, said Koza, as their owners see them as ambassadors.

Among the vessels Rice is interested in is the Roseway, a 137’ schooner that is essentially a floating classroom, which he estimates would cost about $3,000 for a three-day visit. On many of the ships, money can be made back by offering tours of the vessels, or hosting dinners or parties aboard ship.

Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen agreed that having a tall ship in the harbor would make an impressive “viewscape.”

“This is an excellent way to make a connection with our maritime past,” said Evjen.


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