When tall ships came to Maine

The Tall ships visiting Portland this July are not the first fleet of tall ships to visit the city. In fact, Portland harbor had the  honor of being the final stop of OpSail 2000, a multi-city tall ship parade that was Portland’s last encounter with these beautiful vessels.

The USCGC Eagle at Portland Headlight. Photo by David MacDonald, Friday, July 28, 2000. © Portland Press Herald

The USCGC Eagle at Portland Headlight. Photo by David MacDonald, Friday, July 28, 2000. © Portland Press Herald

What is OpSail?

OpSail 2000 was an event sponsored by Operation Sail Inc, a organization that was created by none other than President John F. Kennedy. The organization, which is focused on recognizing the rich maritime history of the US, as well as teaching Americans about sailing, was founded in 1961 and has been operating since 1964. OpSail 2000 was the fifth major Tall Ship gathering held by the organization; Called the “Summer Millennium Celebration”, the event had Tall Ships sail from Genoa, Italy to Puerto Rico and then up the East Coast, with Portland as the final stop. The event featured not only ships from the United States but also vessels from Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and Venezuela. 

Why Portland?

OpSail 2000 chose Portland as the final stop to such a large and impressive event to highlight the rich maritime history of our state and city. After all, Maine can claim many maritime firsts, dating back to the earliest occupation of North American by Europeans. One of these notable firsts was the construction of the Pinnace Virginia of Sagadahoc in 1607, which was the first ship built by English settlers in the North America at colony on the mouth of the Kennebec River. With such a proud naval history, Maine (and Portland) make perfect sense as the site of a celebration of sailing like OpSail 2000. The event was a success too! Figures collected by the Associated Press found that the event was watched by more 135,000 people across the Portland waterfront, the South Portland and Cape Elizabeth areas. 

Schematics for the Pinnace Virginia of Sagadahoc

Schematics for the Pinnace Virginia of Sagadahoc

    The success of OpSail 2000 shows Portland’s continuing connection to a rich maritime history. This strong link will be demonstrated again this July at Tall Ships Portland, an event that will feature some of the same beautiful vessels in Portland harbor. For anyone interested in History, Maine’s maritime heritage or just the breathtaking sight of tall ships, Tall Ships Portland 2015 tickets are on sale now!