Tourists and boating fans should take public transportation to downtown Baltimore from June 21 through June 29 to avoid the traffic congestion expected as part of the largest tall ship sailing festival ever in the city, officials advise.
A million visitors might crowd the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Canton and Locust Point as part of Operation Sail 2000, a waterfront celebration that is attracting 30 ships from 15 countries.
The flotilla, which includes tall ships from Italy, the Ukraine, Uruguay, Denmark, Indonesia and Venezuela, is sailing up the East Coast from Miami to Maine, with stops in Norfolk, Va., Baltimore and New York.
President John F. Kennedy organized the first Operation Sail event in 1961 to promote international unity. This will be Baltimore's first year as an official host city for the festival.
Bill MacIntosh, board president of Sail Baltimore, the group coordinating the event locally, said at a news conference yesterday that the concerts, dances and crab feasts could bring the city about $55 million in business.
"The event is labeled as the world's largest maritime and tall ship event ever, and you can't coordinate something this large without spending a lot of time planning the logistics," MacIntosh said.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland State Police and police and fire boats from around the region will help corral the 6,000 to 8,000 recreational boaters expected to follow the ships.
Boaters are invited to watch the ships from the water, but they must stay more than 150 yards away to create a moving safety zone, said Capt. Charles Miller of the Coast Guard.
People who want to watch the tall ships cruise into the harbor are urged to view the event from the Harborplace Ampitheatre, the Canton Waterfront Park or Fort McHenry.
Annapolis-area residents who want to watch the ships sail past can watch from Sandy Point State Park.
The first ships, the Amerigo Vespucci from Italy and the Guayas from Ecuador, are expected to cruise into the Inner Harbor about 11 a.m. on June 21.
All 30 ships will cruise out of the harbor in a parade June 29. The ships started in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 19 and will continue sailing through much of the summer, ending up in Portland, Maine, July 31.
While they are docked at the Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Marine Center in Canton, Tide Point in Locust Point and the North Locust Point Marine Terminal, the ships will be decorated with strings of lights. Tour guides will offer free tours to the public.
Here are some festival highlights:
At 6 p.m. June 23, Mayor Martin O'Malley and Gov. Parris N. Glendening will open a welcoming ceremony and concert featuring Maja Jama at the Harborplace Ampitheatre.
On June 24, some of the 2,500 sailors from around the world will participate in soccer and volleyball tournaments at the Du Burns Arena in Canton and basketball tournaments at Patterson Park in East Baltimore.
From Noon to 8 p.m. June 23 and 24, bands and dancers from around the world will perform at an International Festival at Power Plant Live Plaza, across from Port Discovery.
At 7:30 p.m. June 28, the mayor's band, O'Malley's March, will open for Los Lobos and the Chieftains during a concert at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion.
From 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 29, the ships will sail out of the harbor in a parade.