A Debut For Rhode Island's Tall Ship
A local nonprofit group is now building us a world-class tall ship of our own, and they're ready to introduce the Oliver Hazard Perry to all visitors with a series of events in Newport, July 5, 6 and 7.
Many Rhode Islanders have visited Newport over the years to admire visiting tall ships – most memorably, back in 1976, when the biggest ships from around the world came to celebrate our bicentennial. A local nonprofit group is now building us a world-class tall ship of our own, and they're ready to introduce the Oliver Hazard Perry to all visitors with a series of events in Newport, July 5, 6 and 7.
The ship, which will be operated by OHPRI as a nonprofit education vessel, has been under construction at Senesco Marine at Quonset, where local shipbuilders have created an impressive all-steel hull, 196 feet from stem to stern, starting with a partial hull acquired from Canada. An upper deck has been added, along with three deckhouses and an extended Great Cabin. The lower thirds of the three masts have been stepped home, and the bottom half of the bowsprit is in place. There's still a lot of work to do before the ship sails next year, but there's been enormous progress since the public last saw the ship three years ago.
At 6:30 Friday morning, I met up with the ship and her crew at Senesco, to make the trip across the bay to Newport Shipyard, where the OHP is getting a fresh coat of paint before her debut. Volunteers and board members helped with the docklines and fenders, and the calm and competent crew of Hope, our tugboat, did all the work, expertly guiding us away from the dock, under the Newport Bridge, through the crowded harbor, and into the slip, where a mighty hoist lifted the huge ship onto dry land. Hope proved a fitting companion for our state's official Sailing Education Vessel – it was hope, after all, that created the OHP, inspiring all the hard work required to travel from dream to reality.
Already, many Rhode Islanders have been inspired by the ship. Last summer, a half-dozen teachers sponsored by OHPRI sailed for a week on Gazela, a ninety-four-foot barkentine, to explore the possibilities of education at sea. They returned from a week on the water overflowing with ideas for using the OHP to teach science, literature, oceanography and history, and to inspire students to think beyond their everyday lives and explore the infinite possibilities within their reach. One educator, Kathy Vespia of Salve Regina University, created a video about her experience. You can watch it online here. At Chariho's Career and Technical Center, students in Michael Jarret's marine-trades course already are learning about the ship. Jarret, who has spent time on ships at sea, is eager for his students to have the same opportunity. This month, they started working on a pile of black locust logs that will be turned on a lathe to create belaying pins for the ship's rigging (more on this in the slideshow below).
By the time the ship sails next year, hundreds of Rhode Islanders will have played a part in bringing her to life, and thousands of us in the future will have a chance to walk her decks, hoist her sails and experience life at sea on a tall ship.
Everyone is invited to Fort Adams in Newport on Sat., July 6 at 11 a.m., for a public dedication ceremony for the OHP, free and open to all. Public tours of the ship will be offered immediately following, until 4 p.m. on Saturday, and on Sun., July 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking at Fort Adams is free and plentiful. On Fri., July 5, a fundraising gala will be held in a tent at Newport Shipyard at 6 p.m.; tickets range from $75 to $200. The fundraiser honors the leadership of OHPRI chairman emeritus, Vice Admiral Thomas R. Weschler, USN (Ret.), who has been a driving force behind tall ship events in Newport since he volunteered to help manage the 1976 event. Click here for more details or to buy tickets.