t 11:51 a.m. yesterday, a pair of ear-splitting cannon shots literally shook Rowes Wharf. Sail Boston 2000 had begun! Begun with a wincing jolt that put just a tiny bit of air between the dignitaries and the chairs they had occupied at the front of the ceremony.
Those lifted from the dais included Senator Edward M. Kennedy, US Representative Joseph Moakley, Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift, US Navy Rear Admiral Louis Crenshaw Jr., and Dusty Rhodes, the event's maestro.
Moakley put it this way: ''This event has the spirit of the Olympic games, and celebrates the rebirth of Boston Harbor - once a refuge to millions of immigrants, now the city's biggest park, and becoming ever more accessible to the public.''
Aesthetic accommodations for the Ikar?
It's not all smooth sailing, according to Boris Nemirov, captain of the 55-foot schooner Ikar, hailing from the Ukraine port Nikolajev. Ikar was assigned a docking spot at a rusty barge just off the Fan Pier grandstands erected for today's parade.
Nemirov said he doesn't mind people admiring the steel boat he helped build in 1985 - he's just not sure about a thousand pairs of eyes seeking Tall Ships but peering down the schooner's companionway and into the crew's living quarters. A nautical version of a Martha Stewart living space it ain't.
But won't he be part of the parade?
''I do not know,'' he said in his Ukrainian-accented English. ''I have no instructions.''
He was hoping for a passing thunderstorm last night that might clean some of the dirt off the barge.
Vendor drops anchor at Aquarium spot
Of the thousands of people nudging for space along the waterfront this morning, John Fiske may be the only one who actually plans to chain himself down to defend his turf - most likely with his back to the tall ships.
The city is trying to eject the souvenir vendor from his usual spot outside the Aquarium MBTA station for failing to secure the required Sail Boston 2000 permits. But Fiske says he will not surrender the ground he has held for the last 12 years.
''If they are going to take me, it's not going to be easy,'' says Fiske.
Fiske says he has tried to apply for the appropriate permits, but no one, including Boston Redevelopment Authority spokeswoman Susan Elsbree, seems to know whether his property belongs to the BRA or the Marriot Hotel.
''Everybody seems to pass the buck when it comes to whose property it is,'' Fiske says. ''I've been trying to handle this correctly, but they put up so many roadblocks that it's like I'm an uninvited guest.''
110 Tall Ships, 10,000 short ones parade
In 1992, the Coast Guard expected 10,000 private boat owners to line the parade route, but only half that number showed up. That event was on a Saturday. This year, officials also expect 10,000 boaters - who must be anchored by 8 a.m. and stay put until 6 p.m. - on a weekday, no less.
''I like big boats,'' said Warren Powers, owner of an 18-foot runabout called Goose's Run that he keeps in Winthrop, ''but to play hookey for a day for a 10-hour sun bake? I think not.''
Last night, observers estimated that more than 100 boats had already staked claims in three overnight anchorages abutting the parade route.