Invasion Of Niantic Kicks Off OpSail 2012 CT On Friday

Where to see the Parade of Sail and tour visiting ships

It’s an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and it’s getting a fitting start with the landing of troops on the Connecticut shore.

OpSail 2012 Connecticut officially arrives on Friday with the “invasion” of Hole-in-the-Wall Beach in Niantic. Ships in the flotilla will begin arriving at 2 p.m., and at 4 p.m. the USS Carter Hall will deploy a series of L-CATs—jet-powered amphibious landing craft—to land on the beach. There, these landing craft will deploy Humvees.

“This is a sight to behold,” said John S. Johnson, chairman of OpSail 2012 Connecticut.

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Sailfest, an annual New London waterfront celebration, will also begin on the same evening. Events include musical performances starting at at 5 p.m. and amusement rides.

Some schooners will also arrive in the city on Friday to dock at City Pier prior to the Parade of Sail on Saturday. The MJ Meerwald includes five New London students who have spent five days and four nights at sea on the vessel.

Parade of Sail

Organization for the Parade of Sail will begin at 6 a.m. on Saturday, and the fleet will weigh anchor at 8:30 a.m. to sail into New London. The Coast Guard barque Eagle leads the parade and is expected to reach Ledge Light at the mouth of the Thames River at 10 a.m.

Johnson said will charge $20 for admission on Saturday, but said it is an excellent vantage point.

“That’s probably the best place to watch the Parade of Sail,” he said.

Other suggested locations include Harkness Memorial State Park and points along the New London and Groton shorelines. A flyover of Coast Guard aircraft will occur at 11 a.m., and the ships will head upriver to the area of City Pier before going to their assigned berths.

Ship tours and sails

Johnson said the Carter Hall is open for tours for a slightly shorter period than the other ships, and visitors will have to go through two Navy security checkpoints. Tours of the ship will take place at State Pier from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“They won’t turn anyone away, but people should know that it’s not open to as many tours as the others,” said Johnson.

Fort Trumbull will include the “Class A” tall ships, Eagle and the Brazilian Navy training ship Cisne Branco, with tours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Eagle tours close at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Fort Trumbull will also include several Coast Guard cutters and schooners, although visitors may not board the schooner Brilliant.

City Pier will also include some of the participating schooners, as well as the scallop harvester Regulus. Tours will be available during the same times as the Fort Trumbull ships.

During the sail into New London, guests aboard the Eagle will include Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Rep. Joe Courtney, and Cynthia McFadden of ABC News. Six schooners are also offering sailing outings during the weekend, and Johnson said visitors can still reserve a spot by contacting the participating vessels.

Boating during OpSail

Due to security restrictions, private boats may not sail alongside the Parade of Sail unless they have been approved by the Coast Guard. Unauthorized vessels may not use the Parade of Sail route between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Two zones at the mouth of the Thames River will also be reserved for boats carrying passengers to view the parade. These areas are restricted from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, while the area off City Pier will be closed to allow ships to turn and reach port from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Navy has set up an exclusion zone around State Pier, which will be in effect until 5 p.m. on Monday.

There will also be a safety zone around a fireworks barge to be used in Saturday’s display. This will be in place from 8:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday.

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