Sailfest kicked off on Friday with various food, drink and entertainment booths lining the piers along the Thames River and along State Street. On the Pier, it’s hard to miss the tall ship Gazela, moored alongside a music tent. Tours of the grand ship began on Friday afternoon.
The Gazela is normally docked at Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. However, during the summer, she sails up and down the East Coast of Canada and the US to various festivals. Rick Woerkheiser works on the Gazela, one of a number of volunteers who crews the ship during the summer months. “The Gazela is crewed by all volunteers,” says Woerkheiser. “They fix her and keep her restored. From May to November she sails around, from Canada, Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut, to Virginia.”
“We have been to Sailfest five or six times,” noted Workheiser.
On the ship, visitors can see the area above board, but are not allowed below deck. Information about the Gazela’s history and the history of cod fishing are presented, while volunteers are available to answer questions. On board, one can also learn about the problem of overfishing, particularly in the Grand Banks. The Gazela, built in Lisbon, Portugal in 1882, was a fishing ship in the Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland, for much of the 20th century. However, new technology made tall ships like the Gazela obsolete and her last season as a fishing ship ended in 1969. In 1971, philanthropist William W. Smith brought the Gazela to Philadelphia, where she is maintained by the Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild.
If you plan on attending Sailfest, make sure to head down to the Custom House Pier. The Gazela is open for tours from noon to 5 p.m. through Sunday.