By Mariano Andrade (AFP) – May 23, 2012
NEW YORK — A flotilla of tall ships from around the world sailed Wednesday into New York Harbor, kicking off annual Fleet Week celebrations and marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
The first masts visible over the horizon at the bay entrance early Wednesday belonged to the "Juan Sebastian de Elcano," a four-mast Spanish navy schooner.
It was followed by the three-mast "Dewaruci" from Indonesia, and two French naval tall ships, "La Belle Poule" and the "Etoile."
Nine navy tall ships sailed into the bay under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge including the "Cisne Blanco" from Brazil, Mexico's "Cuauhtemoc," the "Gloria" from Colombia and the "Guayas" from Ecuador.
It was the first time in 12 years that tall ships participated in New York's Fleet Week.
Some 14 modern navy warships also joined the parade, included the JS Shirane, a helicopter-carrying destroyer, the Canadian destroyer HMCS Iroquois, and several mid-sized US navy warships.
After sailing past the Statue of Liberty, the flotilla entered the Hudson River, where they were met by the US Coast Guard barque, the "Eagle."
The "Eagle" was built in Hamburg in 1936 and used to train German naval cadets during World War II. The United States took it as a war prize in 1946.
"The ships are a visual experience. There's nothing like this," said Paulette Nedrow, from the US Coast Guard.
Heavy security for the event included police in helicopters hovering above and officers in swift vessels on both sides of the flotilla.
"This kind operation is very strict about what you can do and what you cannot do. Here the US Navy is involved as we have war ships in the parade," Nedrow said.
The ships sailed up the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge, and then returned to dock at piers in New York and nearby New Jersey, where many will open to the public over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
New York's Fleet Week has been an annual event since 1984 and includes visits by Navy and Coast Guard ships, as well as thousands of sailors and marines on leave.
This year the focus is on the bicentennial of the War of 1812, in which the young United States fought Britain and its native allies to consolidate US independence.
As dramatic as the parade was, Nedrow said she has seen more spectacular ones during her 30 years with the Coast Guard.
"We used to have larger parades. It seems today's economy has an impact and countries think twice now before sending them," she said.
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