On Sunday, crowds filled New London for OpSail and the city’s annual Sailfest.
“It’s a magnificent day here in New London: plenty of blue sky, nice wind, and phenomenal ships,” said Bruce MacDonald, a spokesman for OpSail. “It’s part of a national celebration; it was a great weekend for New London and a great weekend for Connecticut. It was breathtaking today out on the water.”
More than 900,000 people were expected in New London from Friday through Sunday for both events, participating in activities that included live music and historical encampments and re-enactments from the Revolutionary and Civil wars and the War of 1812.
The stars of OpSail were the Coast Guard’s barque Eagle, a 295-foot-long training ship, which led the Parade of Sail into its home port on Saturday, and the Brazilian Navy’s 256-foot-long Cisne Branco, known as the White Swan. Hundreds of people lined the Fort Trumbull pier to step on board the three-masted tall ships, which were moored alongside the reproduction of the Amistad.
On board the Eagle, visitors were allowed to explore the deck of the ship and interact with its young crew of Coast Guard Academy cadets. The Eagle, which was acquired from Germany as reparation following World War II, serves as a seagoing classroom for cadets entering their second semester at the academy, giving them a six-week taste of life at sea.
“It was a beautiful ship; they both are really beautiful. What I liked about the Coast Guard ship was there was a lot of history that was demonstrated or you could read about and some hands-on stuff,” said Judith Gill, who was visiting OpSail with grandson Archer Warren and son-in-law Brad Warren. “You really don’t think much about that. You see a boat out on the ocean and think ‘Oh isn’t that nice,’ but that boat has a lot of history.”
OpSail coincided with Sailfest, an annual waterfront celebration with rides, live entertainment and an art festival. On Saturday night, a fireworks show put on by Garden State Fireworks — the company behind the botched San Diego fireworks display — went off without a hitch.
“They lit up the night sky, it was colorful, everything you would expect – it was an absolute delight,” MacDonald said.