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Where to watch the tall ships in Boston

Posted by Nicole Cammorata  June 28, 2012 06:17 PM

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Bill Brett for The Boston Globe

The view from Castle Island in 2000.

Whether you prefer catching the sights of the tall ships by land or by sea, we've got you covered. Here's our round-up of some places to watch the tall ships and naval vessels in town. And for more about the event, like where to park, information on the ships, and guidelines for touring the vessels, here's our guide to the tall ships in Boston.

Lovells Island
Not that easy to get to – you have to take a connecting ferry from Georges Island or a direct ferry from Hingham or Hull – and rather rustic, Lovells nonetheless is a favorite of campers. It also has hiking trails, picnic areas, and restrooms. It’s the island closest to the sites of legendary Boston shipwrecks; hopefully there won’t be any as you have a front row seat to the arrival of the Navy and Tall Ships.

Spectacle Island
Spectacle is the closest harbor island to the mouth of the Inner Harbor, and it’s just a 15-minute ferry ride from Long Wharf-North in Boston, next to the Aquarium and the Marriott. Hiking, swimming, boating, snack shack, marina, visitor center, restrooms, picnic areas, sunset clambakes, music, and lots of activities.

Castle Island, South Boston
Great spot located right at the entrance to the Inner Harbor. It’s not really an island; take Day Boulevard out to this green spot, dominated by Fort Independence. The Harborwalk encircles the island, and there’s lots of lawn to spread out a blanket and chairs. Parking for about 250+ cars; more parking back on Day Boulevard.

Deer Island, Winthrop
You can drive from the mainland to Deer Island Park on Tafts Avenue; it should provide a good viewing spot, but bring binoculars. And don’t be put off by the wastewater treatment plant next door.

Summer Street Bridge, South Boston
Five Navy ships will pull into the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal to dock: The USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer; the FGS Hessen, a German air-defense frigate; the HMCS Preserver, a Canadian auxiliary oiler replenishment ship; the HMCS Iroquois, a Canadian destroyer, and the RFA Argus, a British primary casualty receiving ship. You’ll have to park somewhere on Summer Street and walk out onto the bridge. Assuming the police let you lollygag there, you’ll have a good view of the ships.

Seaport Boulevard/Northern Avenue

Two piers along here will host ships:

>The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault carrier, is the biggest ship to arrive and will dock at Massport’s Marine Terminal/North Jetty, which is on Kennedy Avenue off Northern Ave.

>Two piers north of that, the Fish Pier will feature four of the five Tall Ships that are coming as part of OpSail: the Cisne Branco from Brazil, the Guayas from Ecuador, the Gloria from Colombia, and the Dewaruci from Indonesia.

Piers Park, East Boston
You’ll be able to watch the ships against an absolutely gorgeous view of the Boston skyline in this clean park on Marginal Street. Benches, tables, trees, playground, parking, lots of grass. If you want to take the T, it’s about a 10-minute walk from Maverick.

Harborwalk on Battery Wharf, Burroughs Wharf, and environs
The Coast Guard Station on Commercial Street in the North End is hosting three Navy ships: The HMCS Moncton and Summerside, two Canadian coastal defense vessels, and the USCGC Marcus Hanna, a coastal buoy tender. To see them arrive, set up on the Harborwalk on adjacent Battery and Burroughs wharves. Don’t let the fancy hotels and private condominiums put you off; the red brick Harborwalk is public land.

Charlestown Navy Yard
This is the spot to be to see the fifth Tall Ship, the Coast Guard’s Eagle, join our own Tall Ship, the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) at Pier 1. Adjacent to that at Pier 2 will be two Canadian coastal defense vessels: the HMCS Goose Bay and the Kingston.

At Pier 4 in the Navy Yard, you’ll find the HNOMS Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian frigate; the HDMS Esbern Snare, a Danish command and support ship; NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, a hydrographic survey vessel, and the USCGC Juniper, a lead seagoing buoy tender

Private cruises

Of course, if you own your own boat, you can be sitting pretty out in the harbor itself. But if not, and you’d still like to see the ships waterside, then consider a private cruise.
Bay State Cruise Company
200 Seaport Boulevard

Bay State has an Entrance Day Brunch Cruise on Saturday morning for $90 a person, daytime cruises all week for $35, a USS Constitution Turnaround Cruise on July 4 for $125, and private evening charters.

Boston Harbor Cruises

One Long Wharf

This company has scheduled a Tall Ships Arrival Cruise with brunch on Saturday morning for $95, a Luncheon and Viewing Cruise through the berthing channels Saturday through Tuesday and again Thursday for $75, a 90-Minute Viewing Cruise Saturday through Thursday for $35, a Sunset Viewing Cruise Saturday through Thursday for $40, and a Turnaround Spectacular on the 4th for $175.

Boston’s Best Cruises

Long Wharf North

There’s a Greet the Fleet Party on Spectacle Island on Saturday for $15, with service starting at 7 a.m., Jasper White Summer Shack Sunset Clambakes on Spectacle island Thursday through July 5 for $80, a 90-Minute Ships Tour from Saturday to Friday for $35, a Two-Hour Ships Tour with Island History Saturday through Friday for $35, and a Special Turnaround and Air Salute Viewing Event on July 4, including lunch, for $75 to $125.

Harbor Queen Cruises – Groupon deal

Marina Bay, Quincy

The Harbor Queen will ferry passengers onto the high seas for a 90-minute tour of the ships visiting Boston. $50 for two ($100 value).

Hestia Cruises – BostonDeals


Sargents Wharf
269 Commercial St., Boston


Seaport World Trade Center – East Side
202 Seaport Boulevard, Boston


Rowes Wharf
340 Atlantic Ave., Boston

Your choice of four different boats – a yacht, a catamaran, a small adventure tour boat for six, or a sailboat - to cruise past the docks of South Boston, downtown, the North End, and Charlestown to view the visiting Navy and Tall Ships. Various sailing times Friday through July 6. $45 ($90 value).

Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships

67 Long Wharf

Liberty’s schedule includes a Tall Ships Entrance Day Brunch on Saturday for $100; a Tall Ships Viewing Sail on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for $45; a Tall Ships Sunset Sail on Saturday through Tuesday for $50; a Tall Ships Viewing Brunch on Sunday for $80, and a USS Constitution Turnaround / Blue Angels Flyover Cookout on July 4 for $175.

Massachusetts Bay Lines

60 Rowes Wharf, Boston

Mass. Bay has a Tall Ships Arrival Breakfast Cruise on Saturday morning for $45, 90-Minute Tours all week for $15 to $25, a 90-Minute Sunset Cruise to View the Tall Ships and Navy Ships all week for $15 to $25, and a USS Constitution Turnaround Cruise on the 4th for $100.

Revolution Charters & Tours

Winthrop Landing
707 Shirley St., Winthrop

The Revolution is offering a Tall Ships Entrance Morning Cruise on Saturday for $55.

Seacoast Sailing

Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina
256 Marginal St., East Boston

Seacoast (which is accepting all Groupons for these special cruises) is offering a Parade of Tall Ships Sail on Saturday morning for $149, Boston Harbor Tall Ships Viewing Sails all week for $99, a USS Constitution Turnsaround & Blue Angels Flyover Sail on the 4th for $149, and a Fireworks and Tall Ships Sail also on the 4th for $149.

Spirit of Boston Cruises

Two ships at two different Boston wharves:

The Odyssey
Rowes Wharf, Atlantic Ave.

The Odyssey’s cruises include a Star-Spangled Tall Ships Brunch Cruise Saturday morning for $84.90, an Afternoon Tall Ships Buffet Cruise on Saturday through Tuesday and Thursday for $76.90, a Tall Ships Buffet Dinner Cruise all week for $122.90, and a July 4th Blue Angels & USS Constitution Turnaround Lunch Cruise on the 4th for $170.90.

The Spirit
World Trade Center, Northern Ave.

The Spirit will feature a Star-Spangled Sail Tall Ships Breakfast Cruise Saturday for $66.90, Tall Ships Viewing Lunch Cruises all week for $56.90, a Tall Ships Dinner Cruise all week for $89.90, and a July 4th Blue Angels & USS Constitution Turnaround Lunch Cruise on the 4th for $151.90.

--Teresa Hanafin, Staff

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Stephanie Callahan is a native Bostonian who loves cooking, traveling, spa treatments, and being on the ocean.

Meghan Colloton is a Bostonian who loves traveling, channeling her inner Julia Child, and trying weird things -- from food to bungee jumping.

Milva DiDomizio is a New England native who's fond of cooking, singing, and Boston's arts and culture scene.

Rachel Raczka is a Bostonian who enjoys buttercream frosting, gin cocktails, and conquering cobblestone streets in high heels.

Emily Sweeney is a Boston native who goes out all over, from Irish pubs in Southie to the roller rink in Dorchester.

Emily Wright is a native Cape Codder who enjoys exercising, baking, and the occasional guilty pleasure action movie.


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