Tall Ships Challenge Sails to the North Fork

Kalmar Nyckel at the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge.
Kalmar Nyckel at the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge. Photo credit: Wendy Peterson

Over Fourth of July weekend, Greenport Village hosted six tall ships and thousands of visitors who came out to view the awe inspiring sailing vessels at the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge.

Lines wrapped around the docks. Visitors crowded tents that served homemade baked goods and bread and Greenport saw a boom in business.

Locals beat the crowds and milled around the docks at night when the first several ships arrived before the official event.  The Sagres, a Portuguese owned ship, was brilliantly lit up becoming a spectacle that could be admired at several vantage points around Mitchell Park.

The replica of the Marquis de Lafayette’s L’ Hermione appeared on Monday morning.

Visitors received the opportunity to tour all six ships and learn bits about each one’s history.

Many stopped at the A.J. Meerwald first—a schooner that had been employed as an oyster boat and fire boat in it long line of usage after the tall ship had been bought and converted several times. The A.J. Meerwald’s crew sat on the deck and explained the gallery of photos of the ship’s past. At one point, the ship had been sitting, abandoned, in a dockyard and a woman saved it, salvaging the run-down body of the ship and then raising money to restore it to its former glory.

The inviting, vibrant colors of the Kalmar Nyckel caught guests’ eyes upon its early arrival. Touring the deck, individuals received a glimpse into how the crew performed their jobs—steering and raising the sails. One of the crew pointed out the weather dogs on the railings of the ship. He explained that the carved dogs—there was a mirroring pair, one on each side of the ship—had one eye open to watch the weather out at sea while the other was kept closed so as not to view what the crew was up to on the deck.


The Sagres was an intimidating vessel. Many guests lined on the dock voiced their astonishment that, “It’s all one ship!” The Sagres not only took up space with a length equaling that of several ships combined, it also towered with a height between two and three stories. The Portuguese crew stood onboard to greet visitors and make sure no one slipped climbing down backward on the steep stairs and ladders. It was an adventure to climb to the top deck and it offered a stunning view of the harbor —one that instilled a whole new appreciation for the East End of Long Island.

The Hermione was popular among the patrons. Stumbling up the gangplank made the crawl back in time even more enjoyable. Onboard, guests were immediately struck with the fresh smell of wood. Many asked about the natural fibers used for the ropes and the materials they had needed for the replica’s construction. Others took an enthusiastic interest in the functioning cannons which one crew member explained could be used on targets. The French crew obliged visitors with samples of their native dialect. Monday night, the crew gathered in Mitchell Park. Dancing, singing, and bagpipes were a treat for those who stopped by to watch their celebration.

The Lynx, a U.S. ship, was docked separately and allowed individuals to walk around the deck and drop down for a quick look into the below cabin.

The Picton Castle, a Canadian ship, was also stationed separately on the same dock as the Fire Fighter, which has a temporary residence in Greenport Village. The Picton Castle’s crew spoke excitedly about their coming transatlantic voyage to Europe, Africa and the West Indies.

When the tall ships left, there was an unprecedented peace as Greenport settled back into its usual routine—but this wasn’t without a feeling that something was missing. The docks seemed a bit hollow without the grand ships that had been there for almost a week. The maritime atmosphere of the Greenport Tall Ships Challenge 2015 is one that won’t soon be forgot.

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