OpSail2000 Chronicles—Miami, FL - SailNet Community
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OpSail2000 Chronicles—Miami, FL

Coast Guard Eagle—Sailing this ship is a 200-person affair.
After fair breezes and five to seven days on the open ocean, the 13-strong fleet of Tall Ships that left San Juan, Puerto Rico, arrived at the shipping port in Miami on June 6. The passage was noteworthy in that it was without incident for the hundreds of crew and officers involved—a testament to the degree of readiness of these vessels in the OpSail2000 events. Among the ships moored alongside in Miami harbor were several Class A Tall Ships and scores of smaller vessels on view for the thousands that were able to climb aboard these sailing monoliths.

The US Coast Guard barque Eagle and its 295 feet of grandeur was dubbed the "Flagship of OpSail 2000" by organizers. This barque, or three-masted ship, flies square sails on the two forward masts, and can carry up to 28 sails totaling more than 20,000 square feet, all managed by 12 officers, 38 crew, and 150 cadets. Sailing on Eagle, cadets handle five miles of rigging, and over 200 lines must be coordinated during a major ship maneuver, so cadets must learn the name and function of what appears to be a spider web when looking aloft.

The Dewarcuci, hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia, was another ship on hand to grace this coastal city. Her homeport half a world away makes its journey the longest of any Tall Ship participating in the OpSail event. The ship is a 191-foot barquentine—similar to a barque in that it has fore-and-aft sails on all but the front mast (foremast) which is square-rigged. The square sails are raised and lowered by crew in the spars up and down the mast. On deck, crew members control the aft sails, which have the appearance of the triangular sails of modern vessels. This ship featured Indonesian dancers who recreated some of their nation's maritime dance celebration. Its faraway culture was further evident in the ornately carved wood decorating the outside of the pilot house. The name Dewarcuci is derived from the name of a sea god in Indonesian folklore symbolizing honesty and bravery, represented in the ship's intricately carved figurehead.

The Venezuelan-flagged Simon Bolivar in the full-and-by position.
As in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chile's' massive 371-foot ship Esmerelda was also on hand, as was the Guayas of Ecuador. The Rose, a brilliant replica of the HMS Rose built in 1756, was also in port, although onboard preparations kept the crowd from touring that ship.

There were not as many boats as there were in San Juan, making the lines in Miami refreshingly shorter—50 to 75 people comprised a typical line to get aboard as compared to the 300 and more in San Juan. The feeling in Miami was no less exciting for the visitors touring these sailing giants, and the larger dockside space made for a less-hectic venue than in San Juan. As impressive as the ships are, it is the people, the onlookers, crews, and officers, who made the Miami event special.

A fear of heights disqualifies potential cadets immediately. Crew members aloft furl the square sails.
Talking with the men and women aboard these vessels, one senses the pride they take in this unique training opportunity in what is the otherwise lost art of sailing Tall Ships. They have managed to secure a place among some of the world's last training icons of true exploration, a sentiment visible in their faces, the long expanses of spotless bright work, and the meticulously coiled ropes adorning the decks of each ship. The sailors humanize this event and make it real. If we were to simply be granted access to the vessels themselves, without the crews, we would miss the element of life that these vessels can capture.

Each sailor seemed to have the same experience of being part of a larger project or team. Seeing the crews stationed high above the decks, standing on the spars, I could see the pride in each sailor's taut stance and the gift of personal growth and achievement that only sailing and the sea can impart.

"We have made sail in all conditions, to places around the world, and each leg of our journey is a learning experience," said one ensign from the US Coast Guard vessel Eagle as it rested surrounded by huge private power yachts on all sides. "Working together is the only way we have been able to make these successful trips...which I don't think any of these guys get to really experience," he said, waving at the expanse of power vessels docked around the ship.

The 294-foot Legacy underway.
The distinction of sailing ships is seen and felt in the crews who are actually an integral part of the ships' operation. Perhaps that is what has always made going to sea under sail a remarkable experience. It is difficult to put into words the feeling of being under sail, of working with theelements such as wind, current, and sea conditions, in harmony with the constant sail trim and correction of course, the easing of lines for the most efficient sail shape. Nuance separates sailors from crews of powerboats. Sailors have to be constantly aware of the feel of their vesseland take action accordingly. They don't just set a course and relax. Working together, with each other and the boat, they operate as one organism, reacting to the elements upon which they rely, and the varying methods of efficacy which only a sailing vessel can provide to move them across the ocean.

The more I talked to these sailors from other countries, the more I was greeted by people eager to share their experiences at sea. Whether in halting English or in an excited flourish of Spanish or other language, the sailors tell of earning their positions and of their voyages with pride. "My first day of rough seas in a huge gale was the first time I realized what it was going to be like on board a sailboat," said one Dutch sailor of his experience on board the vessel Oostersheilde, a Class A vessel of over 200 feet.

The Guayas in the foreground, and Oosterchield leaving Miami.
This cadet was first trained aboard a Dutch navy pilot vessel that performed the more mundane tasks of patrol and law enforcement in European waters. "You can't compare the experience between a sailing ship and a traditional powercraft from our duties aboard, to the experiences under sail," he continued in fluent English, imparting upon me the awe of the sea he finds only tangible under sail. A young Ecuadorian sailor named Jose later related to me that "You don't work with the boat as you do under sail, when you are on a vessel powered by engines only."

Miami was an excellent port to see the tall ships depart in the parade of sail. To leave the port, the ships motor, or are towed by tugs out to sea. A front moved through the South Beach area, the breeze quickened, and the ships said good-bye to a city that not only hosts one of America's busiest harbors today, but was a founding port in our country's shipping trade.

The graceful lines of the hulls and the full sails are testament to the majesty of these classic vessels as they move on to their next port up the East Coast—a port with roots in some of America's most significant naval history, Charleston, SC.

Tune into Sailnet.com for the next chapter in the OpSail2000 Chronicles as they make their way toward the pinnacle of the celebration in New York City, during the July 4th weekend. The celebration in New York will boast, among other activities, the largest pyrotechnic display offireworks ever assembled in the world.


Frank Falcone is offline  

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