14 tall ships – including the Providence – dock in Newport
The America’s Cup World Series has just left town, but the summer sailing season is far from over. This week brings the arrival of the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival, which will run from Friday, July 6, to Monday, July 9. The festival includes 14 tall ships, which will be berthed along the Newport waterfront, and is timed to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
The tall ship Providence was America’s first warship. It was built in 1768 by John Brown – for whom Brown University was named – and became the first ship commissioned by the Continental Navy. It was also the first command of the legendary John Paul Jones.
The Providence became the most famous ship in the Revolutionary War by capturing or sinking 40 British ships during the conflict. It was the first ship to land U.S. Marines, which happened in Nassau, Bahamas, and also traveled to Canada. The Providence was later burned to evade capture by the British, and sunk near Bangor, Maine. Parts of the ships have since been found.
Two centuries later, John Nicholas Brown, a descendant of the original boat builder, decided to build a replica of the Providence. The new boat was built in Portsmouth in 1976 and has traveled more than 100,000 miles since then, including several visits to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. The replica has also appeared in both the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
The tall ship Providence is 110 feet long, and 96 feet, 6 inches to the top of its mast. It is a gafftopsail sloop with 13 working cannons. These days the ship sails with a crew of between five and eight, depending on conditions and its destination. The original ship carried 50 to 100 during the American Revolution.
The city of Providence owned the ship for 15 years before abandoning it in Providence more than four years ago. Thorpe Leeson purchased the ship about a year ago and has returned it to Coast Guard-inspected condition.
The Newport Shipyard will be home to the Providence during the Tall Ships Festival. While the ship will not go out on day sails, visitors will be welcome on board after purchasing a boarding pass. One-day passes are $12.50 for adults, and $7.50 for children. There are also two- and three-day passes available. The passes allow visitors to board all of the ships in the festival.
Other ships that will be in Newport this weekend are HMS Bounty, Mystic Whaler, Unicorn, Picton Castle, Lynx, Gazela, Tree of Life, Summerwind, Sir Martin II, Lark, Pride of Baltimore II, Bowdoin, and Peacemaker. Mystic Whaler and Lynx will offer day sails during the festival.
The festival will end on Monday with a Parade of Sail, as the majestic ships head out to sea. Several of the tall ships, as well as some local craft, are offering tickets for sale for those wishing to be part of the parade on the water. There will also be a variety of food and entertainment options along the waterfront as part of the festival.
Vendors will include The Pampered Chef, Tallulah, Ben’s Chili Dogs, Kettle Korn Express and Del’s Lemonade. Bowen’s Wharf will feature several local nonprofits including Potter League for Animals, Oliver Hazard Perry, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Newport Gallery Organization.
A number of bands will also perform during the festival at Bowen’s Wharf and Waite’s Wharf. They include Strictly Sinatra, the Matt Farr Band, Slippery Sneakers, Good Will & Them Apples, and Abbey Rhode. There will also be an appearance by Carol Newman Cronin, Olympic sailor, author and Jamestown resident.
The Providence will participate in the Tall Ships Festival here, and lead the Parade of Sail as the flagship of the state of Rhode Island. It will then head to Portsmouth, N.H., with another tall ship, the Pride of Baltimore II, before moving on to Nova Scotia with the rest of the tall ships fleet, finally returning to Rhode Island for the balance of the summer.
“I am proud that Newport will be an official host port for the Tall Ships Challenge Series on the Atlantic Coast in the summer of 2012,” said Gov. Lincoln Chafee. “2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, a defining event in the national history of the United States and Canada, and our citizens are excited to commemorate this important bicentennial.”