OCEAN CITY – More tall ships and similar vessels will be sought to come to Ocean City in the future as a result of the significant success of the El Galeon.
At the conclusion of Tuesday afternoon’s Recreation and Park Commission meeting, Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller proposed to the commission the idea of Ocean City hosting other tall ships in the future and a concerted effort being made to lure them to town.
Last month Ocean City hosted El Galeon, which was berthed at the bayside boardwalk between 3rd and 4th streets. The tall ship is a replica of the 16th Century ships that Spanish explorers sailed on to discover much of the new world.
With much fanfare, El Galeon arrived in Ocean City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, from where it was previously stationed in New York and made its departure Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Galeon’s next stop was Puerto Rico.
According to National Sea, Air & Space Foundation President Brian Lilley, there were between 14,000 and 15,000 people who visited the ship while it was in Ocean City, and at least 13,000 boarded the vessel for a tour.
“The success of the Spanish Galeon here in Ocean City was added proof that this can work,” Miller said of other vessels coming to port at the same location. “The success of the vessel only enhanced the desire to continue to have other vessels here, such as tall ships or submarines, whatever it may be. There are plenty of vessels that are a good opportunity to bring here to town. That success not only showed is it an additional attraction for people that are here in town and local residents but it is also helps to make an Ocean City a tourist destination.”
Miller has been in contact with the US Coast Guard (USCG) in what requirements would be necessary in accommodating other vessels when they come to port as well as the permit process.
Before EL Galeon arrived, the town prepared by installing cleats into the pier and two concrete pads to hold the ship in maximum current and a 50 mph wind load positioned east of the bulkhead. It was designed to take on the entire load of the ship instead of the bulkhead. The total cost to the town was about $3,000.
Miller is researching the USCG Eagle as an example in the accommodations a tall ship seeks in choosing a port. The Eagle is one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German navy. At the close of the war, the ship was taken as a war reparation by the U.S. and re-commissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard CutterEagle. The tall ship is far too large to port in Ocean City.
“We had it pretty easy with the Galeon. The Galeon was very accommodating, a much laid back style of arrival and on-site needs. I suspect we will find other vessels will have expectations over and above what the Galeon required, which is why I want to look at the US Coast Guard Eagle because they will have the strictest requirements most likely out of any vessel that will come to port. If we eventually meet all those qualifications, we are sure to meet the needs of any vessel that would come here,” Miller said.
Miller added one other aspect to explore is the possibility to extend the 6 mph no wake zone past 2nd Street to past 4th Street when the vessels come to town. Miller said the USCG supports that change.
“The wake of other boats passing by moved the vessel but only slightly. The concern comes down to it is still a fishing location and with vessels there, and fishing and boats moving at a higher speed you have more opportunity for incidents, so there is some safety concerns there,” he said.
Commission Chair and Councilman Joe Mitrecic cautioned Miller over expanding the no wake zone, remembering when it was expanded to north of 2nd Street years ago and the amount of backlash from the community.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Mitrecic said. “Most boats whether they thought about it or not slowed down when they saw the Galeon there … just because it was there and they thought it was the right thing to do.”
Councilman Dennis Dare, a proponent of having tall ships port on the bayside in Ocean City, was impressed to find out the Galeon had more visitors in its first day in Ocean City than it had in New York all together.
“There really is an attraction there,” Dare said.
Miller will focus on exploring other vessel opportunities and accommodations as the special event season begins to slow down following the conclusion of Sunfest this month.
Miller pointed out no funding is allocated in the current fiscal year for accommodating other vessels and will look to include money in the next fiscal year.
“If there is a way I can do something before during this fiscal year, great,” Miller said. “If not we will look at next June and forward in 2014 but the goal would be to make it ahead of time.”
Miller was excited over what certain vessels could bring to Ocean City, such as the types of themes that could come along with a vessel and the prospective vendors to match, for example, the start of a pirate festival.
“This is still a learning experience and I am sure there are a lot of questions. I don’t know what to ask at this point but we will learn as we go,” said Miller as the concept is in very early stages of discussion.