PORTSMOUTH — The United States Coast Guard’s Eagle, known as America’s Tall Ship, will dock at the state pier Aug. 2-4 for the annual Sail Portsmouth event.
The announcement was made Monday by the Piscataqua Maritime Commission, long-time organizers of Sail Portsmouth.
The Eagle is a Coast Guard training ship, and because it is owned by the United States, tours of the ship are free to the public.
When the Eagle last came to Portsmouth four years ago, about 12,000 people toured the ship.
Larry Job, vice-president of the PMC, said with a shortened schedule this year, they expect between 8,000 to 10,000 people to turn out.
The Sail Portsmouth event will also feature all of the other maritime amenities visitors have come to enjoy, including sea shanty singers, pirates, maritime exhibitors and the ticketed captain’s reception on Saturday night.
The Eagle is scheduled to arrive in Portsmouth late in the afternoon on Friday, Aug. 2. A Parade of Sail will commence at around 4 p.m. and sail under the new Memorial Bridge to the state pier, where a welcoming ceremony will begin around 5:30 p.m.
Donald Coker, president of the PMC, said the best viewing areas are the New Castle Common, the causeway in New Castle, Peirce Island and Four Tree Island in Portsmouth, Prescott Park and the state pier itself. Gates at the state pier will open at 4:30 p.m.
Usually the boat parade is held Friday morning, but Coker said for the first time in 25 years the tides are against them, delaying the Eagle’s arrival.
Tours begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and continue through 7:30 p.m. Tours will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday and continue through 5:30 p.m. There will be no tour opportunities on Friday.
Coker said Portsmouth is one of the only small harbors at which the Eagle docks.
Because tours are free, Coker said the PMC will take a hit financially this year. The event uses no state, local or federal government funding and relies on sponsors and ticket sales. Coker said they have a small contingency fund that will help offset this year’s visit, but Coker said it is worth it.
“It is quite an honor,” Coker said.
Job said the Eagle is historically beautiful with it’s ability to put up 23 sails and travel at speeds up to 17 knots because of it’s shape and square-rigged design.
It is the nation’s largest tall ship and travels around the world as an ambassador.
About 80 crew and a cadet trainee complement of 120 work the five miles of rigging and 22,000 square feet of canvas sails aboard the 300-foot long ship. The main mast stands at 148 feet tall.
For more information about the event, and for ticket information for the captain’s reception, visit www.sailportsmouth.org.