From time to time, I enjoy playing tourist in my own city. Last week was the perfect opportunity to take a two hour harbor sail on a clipper ship replica. Booking was simply a matter of making a phone call the day before. Since it is September and I was not picky about sailing time, there was room on a sailing the next day. Even so, some Saturday salings were sold out, and I would imagine that at peak summer tourist season, you should book well in advance.
I want to go on a week tour, or even attend the many Clipper ship events where guests are stayaboards. Sailing on a Clipper ship gives the opportunity to share a love of the sea and nature with those who do it professionally. The crew of the Liberty evinces that love; they spend the summer months in Boston, and will depart around October 1 for the Bahamas and BVI to provide tours while we suffer through another New England winter. While quarters are very close below decks, not a place I'd want to stay for days on end in wet or stormy weather, I could imagine sleeping above decks in a hammock on a hot summer night. This is not a luxury cruise, but would be a fun adventure akin to camping out for a weekend or a week. A two hour cruise and a chance to explore the ship allow my imagination to run.
I took a late summer sail on a brilliant, windy Saturday. The Liberty Clipper is a replica of a ship owned by Boston Merchant, Patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. If you are looking for speed or bells and whistles, not your ship...Try the Codzilla. If you want a taste of what it is like to be on a colonial era merchant's sailing ship, to work at hoisting the sails at the direction of captain and crew, or just to bliss out being on the water and watching the wind work its magic to move the ship through the water, you should get on board.
Please be aware that this ship may be difficult to board, or get to the "head" or bathroom, which is two levels below deck via narrow stairway, for those who have difficulty with mobility.
Also, there is a photographer who wants to take your photo as you board, you are not obligated to do so, nor are you obligated to purchase said print for $20 on your return. This is the only item that is available for sale if you want a memory of the excursion; there is mercifully no shilling of T-shirts, caps, etc. on board. You can purchase on ship, at a reasonable fee, water and soft drinks. Alcohol is also available. The captain made an announcement about tips being acceptable. The staff is genuinely grateful if you put a dollar or two into the bucket that one of them holds, as they thank you for sailing with them when you come down the gang way at the end of the trip; watching them hoist the sails and do the work required to sail rather than motor is well worth money beyond the ticket price.
Best way to arrive is by foot, public transit (The MBTA or the "T" as locals call it, find your way to the Aquarium stop, OR walk from State Street stop, across Congress, through Faneuil Hall Marketplace, across Atlantic Ave/Greenway) or cab, probably in that order. Hubway bike rental is nearby too. Parking in downtown Boston at any garage is pricy too; probably the same as a decent take out lunch for two! Bring cash and a credit card, a lot of downtown lots only accept credit card to pay for parking. Some lots only accept cash.
The experience begins at the ever-crazy-busy Long Wharf, over by the New England Aquarium, which seems to be the start location for everything nautical. Make sure that you go to the correct ticket booth, or you could end up at the wrong attraction.
Once aboard ship, the captain gave safety directions and then we began to attempt to leave the dock. There are whale watches, other motorized tours, Codzilla, ferries to the harbor islands, all leaving this congested wharf. Our captain made up for any delay by allowing us a little extra sailing time.
Once we backed away under motor power, the captain cut the engine and the sail raising began. Guests are asked to participate, answering the crews' "heave," with their own "ho," as they pull on the ropes to get us ready to use wind power. This was not a guided tour, there was no music playing. Because the captain and crew are working on the same deck with their guests, there is ample opportunity to ask questions about the ship and about what we are seeing. Of course, ample opportunity for guests to be social and talk about where they are from, what they are seeing, the rest of their visit to Boston, etc.
We sailed toward the mouth of the harbor, past Long and Spectacle Islands, we never left the inner harbor, but there was enough of interest to look at: The South Boston side lined with new tall buildings and industrial sites, Logan Airport, the East Boston side of the harbor, the Nantucket Lightship, the view back toward the city and boats of every size and description.
Follow the sail with a visit to another historic site (I will go inside Paul Revere's house some day!), or grab a lunch to sit on the Greenway, and think about the history of commerce with other parts of the world when the only transportation was a ship such as the one you were just on. Also the part that John Hancock played as a founding father of this country, his participation in the Boston Tea Party, and signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was another Braintree boy, (Like the Adams' father and son) who was orphaned at an early age, taken in by an uncle, and at one time was the wealthiest man in the forming new country. Go to the website ushistory.org for a brief bio. Visit the Adams Historic sites in Quincy MA too.
The cruise was a satisfying afternoon on so many levels, and an excellent way to relax for a while during a Boston visit. I hope that you enjoy your time in my city!
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