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Getting to Tall Ships sometimes a tall order
By Christopher A. Szechenyi, Boston.com Staff
BOSTON –- Peering out their cabin windows, Cindy Thomas and her family watched the Tall Ships sail into Boston Harbor from the air as they landed at Logan Airport on Tuesday.
That was a treat, Thomas recalled today as she walked from one dock to another trying in vain to find a ship they could board.
“I thought the boats would be open,” said Thomas, a Denver resident standing on Fan Pier. “We’re just passing through. We thought this would be an opportunity of a lifetime.”
The Lord Nelson was closed unexpectedly and there was no gangplank to get to the Bel Espoir, a French schooner built in 1944.
Another 15 smaller boats bobbed along the water across from Anthony’s Pier 4, but security personnel said they could not be boarded because the docks were not safe.
“I thought there were a few you could walk on, but I guess not,” said Mark Nelson, a Belmont resident who was relaxing on some rocks. “We’re going to keep going.”
As visitors like the Thomas and Nelson families discovered this morning, it takes more than a map and a little luck to get on board one of the 137 tall ships anchored in Boston Harbor.
It takes persistence to get past the gridlock of pedestrians in front of the World Trade Center and to find a ship that’s open to the public.
Never mind the hours most people have waited to get on the USS John F. Kennedy, the giant aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000.
It may be difficult, if not impossible, to even get on some of the other boats visiting the seaport as part of Sail Boston 2000.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Linda Magnuson, a Malden resident who took two hours to get to the Lord Nelson, a British ship with a crew of able-bodied and disabled sailors.
Staring at a sign saying the ship wasn’t open today, Magnuson stood on the docks with her daughter, Cheryl, sitting in a wheelchair, crippled by cerebral palsy.
“You don’t know what it took for us to get here,” Magnuson said. “This is the only boat we wanted to see today. I don’t believe this.”
But others have learned to go with the flow and find the path of least resistance. Some of the boats, such as the Arctic Schooner Bowdoin, had lines that lasted only 15 minutes to get on. Others had no lines at all.
Patti Zecher and her two children tried to get on the Kennedy this morning at 9 a.m.
“They said it was a four-hour wait,” the Marshfield resident recalled. “So we left. We never saw it, except from a distance. It’s huge.”
There were other problems at the Kennedy today. A bomb threat at 11:18 a.m. forced officials to briefly evacuate it, although it quickly re-opened to the public. The ship, open today until 5p.m., will be open tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Instead of waiting for hours to get on the 1,052-foot-long aircraft carrier, Zecher, her son Nicholas, and her daughter Courtney, got on the USS Vicksburg and the Dar Mlodziezy, this morning with little wait.
“It’s super,” she said. “They really did a nice job.”
Steven Waiterkaitis and his son, Trevor, also found alternatives to the giant aircraft carrier.
They walked right on the Soren Larsen, one of the smaller sailing vessels from New Zealand.
“We walked over to the JFK,” he said. “Forget that. It was a three hour wait. We’ll see it from a friend’s boat on Sunday, when the ships leave.”