Philadelphia: Tall Ships at Penn’s Landing

This past weekend, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania welcomed a fleet of tall ships to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River for the first time in fifteen years.  The star of the show was L’Hermione (2012), a replica of the french frigate aboard which J.K Rowling the Marquis de Lafayette traveled to America during the American Revolution.  Rachel and I went spur-of-the-moment on Sunday afternoon, June 28, after dropping her mother off at Philadelphia International Airport.  I booked tickets (via Ticketfly) and parking (via Parking Panda) from my phone en route, which prevented us from standing in long lines and driving around looking for parking, respectively.

Philadelphia's own barquentine Gazela (1901) at Penn's Landing
Philadelphia’s own barquentine Gazela (1901) at Penn’s Landing

We only had a few hours there so we didn’t splurge for the tours of the ships, which was an extra fee.  (It was just as well, since only two were accepting visitors that late in the afternoon.)  The admission price includes access to the ferry to the Camden waterfront, where a portion of the fleet, including a galleon replica, was docked.  However, the line to access the ferry looked like about an hour wait.  No thanks.  They’re not dinghies…we could see them just fine from across the river.

Tall ships across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey as seen from Penn's Landing
Tall ships across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey as seen from Penn’s Landing. Click for larger view. Lowell Silverman photography, 2015
Lynx taking visitors for a quick trip on the Delaware River
Lynx taking visitors for a quick trip on the Delaware River

Unfortunately, from the dock, it really is difficult to fully appreciate the ships’ beauty.  You’re just too close.  It would have been the perfect afternoon to take one of those expensive Duck tours of Philly.  We did get to see a few smaller vessels like the schooner Lynx (2001) go out for quick jaunts around the river, but I suspect (based on the sails) that they were cheating with their backup engine.

Sagres III getting underway
Sagres III getting underway

The highlight of our visit was when the Portuguese navy’s NRP Sagres III (1937) got underway, its sailors in their white uniforms waving their caps at the crowd along the shore.  The crowd cheered back.  It was neat seeing some crew members climbing the rigging to the top of the masts.  As a volunteer firefighter, I’ve climbed 100′ (30.5m) aerial ladders many times before, but can’t imagining doing something like that when the ladder is swaying to the degree that the masts at sea can!

Portugese sailors bidding farewell to Philadelphia
Portugese sailors bidding farewell to Philadelphia

There’s nothing quite like seeing a powerful ship unfurl its sails.  I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and decided we might catch the ship around sunset back near home in Old New Castle, Delaware.  Unfortunately, the ship was nowhere in sight when we arrived.  It was only then that I looked to see if any website had information on its position.  As it turned out, it had moored near Philadelphia International Airport for the night.  I might have better luck catching sight of it this morning instead!

Sagres III slowly heading out to towards Delaware Bay...very slowly, as it turned out.
Sagres III slowly heading out to towards Delaware Bay…very slowly, as it turned out.
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