Wednesday, July 24, 2024

After the departure of the Niña and Pinta, when will the Port City see more Tall Ships?

Could more tall ships like these be coming to Wilmington? (Port City Daily photo)
Could more tall ships like these be coming to Wilmington? (Port City Daily photo)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington maintains strong ties to its maritime past, both as a bustling Port, and as a berthing for the United States Coast Guard. Recently, the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust brought replicas of Christopher Columbus’s Niña and Pinta into town, and, looking down the road, they aim to bring in more.

According to WHET President Stephanie Fornes, the recent tall ship visit went over extremely well.

“The Nina and Pinta visit to Wilmington was a huge success. We received a lot of positive feedback from the ship’s crew members, as well as the people that toured the ships,” she said.

The Pinta approaches the Port City Marina for a visit this past month. (Port City Daily photo/BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
The Pinta approaches the Port City Marina for a visit this past month. (Port City Daily photo/BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

So, when will we see more?

According to Jefferey Parker, Tall Ships chairman to WHET, the original goal was to host part of the “Tall Ships America Challenge” fleet, in 2018. However, due to ongoing construction on the waterfront, and uncertainty of berthing and sponsorship funding, they have decided to postpone plans until 2020.

“We just couldn’t work with that level of uncertainty,” Parker said.

According to the official Tall Ships America website, the non-profit organization is the world’s largest sailing training association, an international organization with more than 350 tall ships and training vessels representing 25 different countries and navigating all the worlds ocean’s.

The Tall Ships Festival

WHET still plans to work to bring individual vessels to the Port City in the interim, but, Parker says that the end goal is a little bit different than having one or two vessels come in occasionally.

“There’s a difference between having the occasional vessels come in, which WHET is always trying to do, and we’ve done things that help advertise Wilmington, and are in touch with a number of tall ship operators,” Parker said. “But the event we’re talking about, ‘The Tall Ship Festival,’ is part of what Tall Ships America calls the ‘Challenge Series.’”

“The Challenge is a series of races that takes place in different parts of the country each year. This year it was on the Atlantic, and the festival was just held and finished last Sunday, in Charleston," Parker said. (Port City Daily photo/CORY MANNION)
“The Challenge is a series of races that takes place in different parts of the country each year. This year it was on the Atlantic, and the festival was just held and finished last Sunday, in Charleston,” Parker said. (Port City Daily photo/CORY MANNION)

“The Challenge is a series of races that takes place in different parts of the country each year. This year it was on the Atlantic, and the festival was just held and finished last Sunday, in Charleston,” he said.

The 2018 series will begin in the Gulf of Mexico, and the original hope was that some of the ships would be able to stop by Wilmington on their way to Philadelphia. However, that idea was abandoned last week.

“In 2019, it will be in the Great Lakes, 2020 it will be back on the Atlantic Coast. So, we’re hoping we’ll be able to get ourselves designated as a host port for the Tall Ships Challenge series and be able to do the whole schmere.”

The Challenge fleet as a whole, features over 30 vessels from around the world, Parker hopes that Wilmington would be able to host three or four, if this effort can be put together.

Much of the fleet would split off for other ports. Some, like the Argentinian Naval Vessel the Libertad, are too tall to fit underneath the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.

But as Parker puts it, “There are plenty of more modestly sized square rigged tall ships that can get it.”

While the plans for 2020 are far from finalized, Parker says that things look hopeful.

“It’s close, from a planning point of view we usually have a three-year planning cycle,” Parker said. “We know it’s going to be on the Atlantic, and it’s been noted that it will be the 400 Anniversary of the landing of the ‘Mayflower,’ so part of it will take place in Massachusetts.”

“But beyond that, and what else will happen in the Atlantic, I don’t think anyone knows yet,” he added.

Parker hopes that with the ongoing construction in the North end of town, there may even be potential for additional vessels.

“With the bulk head repairs, and I still don’t know whether or not new bollards have been put in that would be sufficient to tie a ship to, but the North Park that was recently developed has the potential to be a very good spot to host the festival.”

If all goes as planned, the Port City may see this dream brought back to life.

“So, what kind of ability there might be to dock or provide mooring of that sort in that area is something we’re exploring, but I don’t think it’s quite been determined by the city yet.”

For more information on Tall Ships America, visit the website sailtraining.org.

For more information on the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust, and to find out how you can help bring the Tall Ships Festival to the Port City, visit its website at wilmingtondocks.com, or follow its Facebook page.

Related Articles