Renovated floating docks and upgraded utilities at City Pier will enable schooners and yachts to berth there comfortably during OpSail 2012 Connecticut.
New London officials dedicated the newly renovated City Pier and its docks on June 16. Cost of the work, which included construction, engineering and maintenance, came to more than $5 million, New London Purchasing Agent Bill Hathaway said.
“What it’s allowed us to do is put a fleet of schooners on the north side of City Pier,” said John Johnson, chairman of OpSail. “Before, the dock was broken up. Now, we have a marina with concrete docks, electricity and water. The schooners will have a dedicated section they wouldn’t have had before.”
During OpSail 2000, the floating docks were not as sturdy nor roomy, Johnson said during a recent visit. Now there are “finger piers” extending from a longer dock, Dock Master Barbara Neff said in a phone interview.
Built-in utilities were limited back then, said Neff. Now, white stanchions house the utilities, enabling boaters to get water and power. Boaters can just “plug in” to get electricity, instead of having to be wired into electrical boxes by hand, she said.
Heavy-duty tie-downs dot City Pier’s perimeter. Bathrooms also have been added, Johnson said.
OpSail 2012 Connecticut will showcase 24 U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and tall ships, led by the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle. The ships will arrive in Niantic Bay on July 6 to prepare the next day’s Parade of Sail into New London Harbor. They leave on July 8.
Ships will also dock at the Waterfront Park adjacent to City Pier, as well as State Pier and Fort Trumbull, Johnson said. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected over the summer weekend.
At City Pier, U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels, including the cutter Sailfish, will be on hand, according to the most recent schedule. At the floating docks, visitors will find New Horizons, a home-ported Boston 60-foot motorsailer; a 74-foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner; and a 59-foot Marconi-rigged schooner.
This OpSail will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the bicentennial of the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
At the docks recently, city residents could be seen enjoying the new digs and nice weather. Kareem Brown of New London, said he used to walk on the docks in the past but they shook.
“Now, it’s pretty steady,” he said.
Twelve years ago, some 40 ships sailed to New London Harbor for OpSail 2000, with an estimated 900,000 people visiting, according to past news accounts.
To date, fund-raising for OpSail 2012 is approaching the $800,000 mark, Johnson added. The target is $1.5 million, he said.
Eventually, Johnson said, the improved pier and docks may attract 200-foot and 300-foot coastal steamers and small cruise lines, which sail along the East Coast.
“This venue was very limited prior to the renovation,” said Johnson. “Clearly, the city believes its future is marketing the waterfront. It’s New London’s greatest asset.”