October 15, 2014

Old City Seaport Festival 2014

Pride of Baltimore II at Old City Seaport Festival Philadelphia Tall Ship

Last weekend I went to the Old City Seaport Festival hosted by the Independence Seaport Museum at at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. Ships in attendence were Gazela and Jupiter of Pennsylvania, Mystic Whaler of Connecticut, A. J. Meerwald of New Jersey, and the Pride of Baltimore II from Maryland.

Saturday was cold, wet and rainy but didn't stop some people from wanting to tour the ships. It really is a fantastic sight to see tall ships together. It makes you think about the times when tall ships were the form of shipping and travel and harbors looked like forests.

Gazela Tall Ship Philadelphia

If you have never seen a tall ship in person, it is well worth it. We see them in movies but can't quite imagine the size or the smells or the motion of a ship. It's a direct link to the past.  All of the dangers of a ship are still real and all of the work to keep a ship floating still need to be done. Historical ships are not a hobby that can be put away once summer is over much like many historical sites that can close their doors until the weather breaks. They are special sites that are almost living. 

Jupiter Tugboat Philadelphia Old City Seaport Festival

The Old City Seaport Festival is special because it is an event for kids. It is pirate themed so you can expect lots of cheery pirates. There are games for kids to play, scavenger hunts, crafts and comedy acts.  Many sailing events are not designed for child audiences as many maritime events are focused on and run by, well, sailors. :)

Father and Son working on Gazela Tall Ship Philadelphia 
Father teaching his son to climb in the rigging.

The festival is a lot of fun and it is an opportunity to see a lot of ships in one place. Wooden ships don't last forever and are constantly under threat so it is great to see them while you can. As many know the Bounty sank in 2012 and Argus (click to see horrible photo of poor Argus) sank back in January, while waiting for the same work that Gazela has been waiting for for years but costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Leon on Gazela, Dressed like a Pirate

Maritime Heritage funding has been cut recently and the National Maritime Alliance is fighting to get the funding back to its original levels. I'm not asking everyone to write their committee members but if you know someone who really likes boats, please send them this link.


  1. Beautiful pictures! I love the first one - it should be a postcard!

  2. This was a really fun festival. Even though a lot of stuff was geared toward children, there was enough for adults to see and do. Just being able to see the ships together was great, and being able to go on board, explore a bit, and talk to the crews is something you can't do very often.

    Two other vessels that were present are always on-site (they don't go anywhere anymore). USS Olympia, a beautiful cruiser that fought in, and was a flagship during the Spanish-American War, and the USS Becuna, a submarine that fought in WWII. I'd like to mention that they are able to be seen through the Independence Seaport Museum.

    Great pictures, and I love the part of the post about losing the ships. People don't realize that the boats can't just sit in the water indefinitely without maintenance or periodic work. It takes a lot of work and money to keep them afloat. Unfortunately, I think they're low on everybody's priority list. Many of the ships that were there are originals. They're very old, and require that much more maintenance.

    Even newer ships are having a hard time. Amistad, the ship we sailed on a while back, is in trouble financially and is in the middle of bankruptcy negotiations. The ship is not very old and was even able to take on paying passengers. Ships like Gazela, which do not have a license to do that, or like Olympia, which are not even able to move to other places, have an even harder time "staying afloat".

    1. Andy, you're absolutely right. I enjoyed my self-guided tours of both Becuna and Olympia, felt some connection because I had a grandfather who served aboard a submarine in World War II, and actually his father was also in the Navy, on a steam warship in the same fleet as Olympia. Though the WWII sub my grandfather was on is a Gato class and Becuna is a Balao class sub, I think they're very similar. The Becuna is a year newer.

      Between them, you see a glimpse of life aboard two very different Navy ships half a century apart, and how much the technology advanced in that amount of time.

      It was not a cheap event, between the food, the admission and the parking, but if some of that money went towards preserving these beautiful ships than it was well spent. The public doesn't realize how much work and finance goes into keeping these things afloat, and no job aboard a boat is a one-person job. It all takes teamwork, care and respect.

    2. Each boat at the waterfront that day was very different and unique, and it was a real treat to pay one price for a ticket and see all that. Thanks so much to both of you for telling me about this.

  3. Also, that is so sad about the Argus! I wonder how they could ever raise enough money to fix her up enough to sail again. I heard tragic things about it but didn't realize how bad it was until I saw the picture.

    1. Yes. Old boats can't wait around for money like historic sites sometimes can.


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