OpSail 2012 Virginia

It was an impulse decision to come to Norfolk for the OpSail Parade of the Tall Ships, but it was a good one. This was the first visit of Operation Sail to the Hampton Roads since 2000. It was one of six stops along the East Coast. First, I found the perfect location at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth next to the ferry landing. The view from my 17th floor room was spectacular, and I could see all the way up the Elizabeth River. I had as good a view as the TV helicopters hovering over the river.
I came up the day before and saw the Portsmouth Lighthouse, the Portsmouth Shipyards Museums, and took a long walk along the Norfolk river walk where the vendors were setting up. I had supper at the Outback at Waterside Marketplace and loved their lobster. It had been a long time since I had had one. I saw a Brazilian frigate and the USS Wisconsin but didn’t go onboard either. The Taiwanese Pagoda that I had missed on prior visits surprised me, but I skipped the Nauticus and Hampton Roads Naval Museum since I had seen them before.
The weather was perfect, and everyone was in a holiday mood. There were lots of private pleasure yachts as well as the 37 ships in the official flotilla that arrived in Hampton Roads a couple of days earlier. I commented on the weather to a lady as we got off the elevator, and she said she was also really glad since they had 15 people onboard their boat to watch the show! She was an example of the lifestyles of the rich who can afford to shell out $250/night for a room and still maintain a yacht.
The Tidewater metro area of Hampton Roads, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach really is cosmopolitan with something for everyone. Of course, the US Naval Base and Portsmouth Shipyard are big employers, but there are lots of commercial businesses and industries farther up the Elizabeth River. I would have loved to stay for the full week of activities, but that was beyond my budget.
I could imagine myself in one of the high-rise condos adjacent to the large marina with a boat of my own, but that is a fantasy that will never happen. I didn’t see the huge mansions like I did along the New River in Fort Lauderdale, but I did see miles of upscale condos along the Elizabeth River that replaced old warehouses and piers. In fact, they had to bring in barges to accommodate the visiting ships to tie up at the Waterside Market that only has space for a small number of pleasure boats.
I didn’t tour the Naval Base or any of the other sights in Norfolk that I had seen on prior visits. Since the events were spread out over multiple locations over several days with water taxis plying among the locations the waterfront didn’t seem overcrowded. I’m sure there were lines to go onboard the individual ships, but I didn’t have the time or the stamina for that.
I still am stunned at the sight of sailors perched high in the rigging of the tall ships. The sails were dropped as the ships prepared to dock, but after the sails were dropped the sailors stood at attention while tugs pushed them into the dock.
I watched the parade of ships for an hour, but it went on another hour. They will have another parade as they exit the ports so it is a lengthy procession that dwarfed the Queen’s 4 ½-hr. Jubilee procession up the Thames.
OpSail 2012 moves to Baltimore next week. If you get a catch to see it, don’t miss it

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