June 29, 2015

Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden 2015

Schooner When and If, owned by General Patton

Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden was one of the most anticipated history events of the year. Tall ships would be visiting from all over the world, centering around the visit of L'Hermione, a reproduction of the frigate that Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, used to aid the Continentals during the American Revolution. The other big draw was the World's Largest Rubber Ducky, the 11 ton duck hoping to promote wetland protection. 

Even before the festival started issues were cropping up. I heard that Colonial Reenactors were wanted for L'Hermione. I considered going but heard reenactors were being turned away at the gates. Then the website stated that all parking for 2 miles surrounding the event was already reserved. We were stuck taking public transit into the city. I would spend most of the day leading tours on Gazela, Philadelphia's tall ship.     

The festival was special as we had two ships visit with a lot of history. Barques Eagle (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite ships) and one of her sister ships, Sagres were reunited. The Eagle was built in 1936 as the Horst Wessel in Germany. She was dedicated by Rudolph Hess in the presence of Adolph Hitler as a training ship. She was taken at the end of WWII by the U.S. as part of the reparations. Sagres has a similar history but hit a mine in 1944 and eventually ended up in Brazil but now sails under Portugal's flag. They are both now training ships for their respective navies.

Barque Sagres
Barque Sagres
Barque Sagres
 In the middle of the day crazy rainstorm hit but it wasn't the only disappointment that day. The giant rubber duck was torn during the previous sail and the 61 foot duck acquired a 60 foot puncture. Even though crews tried to repair it and inflate it most of the day, the duck still fell flat.  You could still see the baby giant duck on Camden's shore but it wasn't anywhere near as big as the giant mother duck. 

Above visitors take cover on Gazela during a torrent of rain. A belly of water formed on the tarp every 15 minutes and needed to be emptied before it hit the visitor's head. I ended up getting caught on Sagres during a particularly wet spot later in the day, my clothes soaked through as I tried to protect my camera. The deck of Sagres contains wooden buckets that were used to swab the deck in the 1940s. They are just for show now but were all full of water.

The Eagle

L'Hermione next to Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild's Jupiter
Andy and I only saw L'Hermione for a few minutes as the French were throwing some sort of gala during the downpour. I would have loved to give a more detailed account of the ship as this was the main attraction. I was really disappointed to not get to see her, especially since her crew came to Gazela while we were working. Maybe next time. Our disappointment was assuaged by getting to see the schooner When and If, which was commissioned by General George S. Patton. He planned to sail it with his wife "when the war ended" and "if he survived." All in all we had fun even with the crazy walk in the downpour and experience being soaked for quite a long time on public transportation.        


  1. Wow---very cool, and very interesting.
    Unfortunately, it seems the rain has been taking center stage this year!
    But I appreciate your post and photos.

  2. Thanks Ken! Yes, it seems it's raining every time I go out. But we really do need it out here and sometimes a break is good.

  3. I was bummed out about the Mother Duck, but I was happy to see the Baby Duck. The Baby Duck was just too cute!

    I had a massive headache and Sunday was very crowded. I enjoyed the ships, though. :)

  4. Oh I'm sorry I missed you. I thought about just going out Sunday to try to see L'Hermione but I figured with the lines, we'd never see her anyway.


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