Opsail, New York City


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by Jason Wiggins

OpSail 2000 and the International Naval Review offer you a chance to climb on and around tall ships and meet people from all over the world. The sight of the ships' masts and rigging gathered at the New York waterfront is beautiful and the event is free. While OpSail is taking place up and down the New York waterfront, the major spots to visit the ships are the Intrepid Museum and South Street Seaport. There are also ships docked on the Hudson and East Rivers, at Staten Island, the Brooklyn Port Authority Pier, the World's Fair Marina in Flushing, Queens and at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

Many of the ships that are in for OpSail 2000 are modern training ships including:

  • The Cisne Branco, or White Swan in English, is a beautiful, new training ship for the Brazilian Navy with hardwood decking. She was launched from the Damen shipyard in the Netherlands on August 4th 1999 and commissioned as a Brazilian naval vessel on March 9th 2000. She was built for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil and is based on the plans of a 19th century clipper ship. Even though the inside of the ship is off-limits to visitors, you can peak in at the plush interior from the deck.

  • The Simon Bolivar, built in 1980, is a Venezuelan Navy training ship named after the man who led the revolution in South America against Spanish colonial rule. The ship is a pleasure to visit, with music playing and tents drawn over parts of the deck for shade. The crew is friendly and willing to tell you all you could want to know about the ship, but only in Spanish.

  • The Dewaruci, a training ship for the Indonesian Navy, was built in 1952 and is adorned with intricate carvings. Although it is one of the smaller tall ships at OpSail, it carries a fairly large crew, 150 people total. The crew members are probably the most friendly of any I met; they are very proud of their ship and happy at the chance to show it off to visitors.

When you actually get on board the ships, there a few important things to be aware of; first and foremost, these ships come from different nations and not everyone speaks English, so if you have any knowledge of foreign languages, here's the chance to use it. Second, remember that ships, even big ones, don't have a lot of elbow room and sometimes there are ladders instead of stairways. These are narrow and steep and can be hard to climb; people who are claustrophobic could have a hard time with the small cabins. There are vendors around selling guides that provide a brief description of each ship. If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of boats, a guide can help you decide which ones to visit.