Each summer and fall, Provincetown honors its maritime heritage and coastal identity by hosting a number of tall ships, also called schooners, that come to visit the harbor. These historical vessels were once emblematic of the high seas and their visits bring with them both the beauty and majesty of a bygone era of sailing as well as educational opportunities. Most tall ships offer recreational sailing excursions for those wishing to experience the beauty and grace that makes these sailboats uniquely elegant in the modern age of seafaring. In addition to being fully operational sailing vessels, many serve as floating museums, with tours and talks designed to inform the public on the history of sailing and fishing on the east coast.
Provincetown has two local schooners that spend summer and fall in port, Hindu and Bay Lady (departing October 1st and 14th, respectively). The Hindu and the Bay Lady each have two afternoon outings as well as a sunset trip, particularly notable for the uncommon opportunity on the east coast for viewing of a sunset over the water. Each ship is also available for private charter for those looking to celebrate an event or just to enjoy the luxury of a private sailing outing.
The Kalmar Nyckel will arrive on July 21st and offers two sails a day until her departure on July 29th. The boat is a recreation of the flagship from the first voyage to the Delaware Valley in 1638, complete with intricate carvings and authentic painting. In addition to the chance for a historical sailing experience, guests are given the opportunity to aid the crew in managing the ropes, to sing along in sailing songs, and to inquire with their well-educated staff on the vessel and its mostly unknown role in the origins of our nation.
Next, the Santa Maria, a reconstruction of the flagship from Christopher Columbus’s world-famous voyage to North America, will be in Provincetown from October 3rd – 6th. This visit is focused on the history of the vessel instead of offering sailing outings. The boat is open from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and tickets can be purchased for a self-guided tour that includes walking along the five decks of the ship, reading the many informative plaques recounting the history of the ship, and discussions with the current crewmen about the lives of the Spanish sailors who originally operated the ship almost 500 years ago.
In addition to the opportunities to engage with individual tall shops coming to town, the Great Provincetown Schooner Regatta is from September 3rd – 5th. The event begins with a race from Gloucester to Provincetown on the 3rd and leads into a series of races on the 4th and 5th, which are held in and around the waters of Provincetown Harbor. Not only are there the historic schooners but the races include all classes of modern sailing vessels. Spectators of the races have the option to purchase seats aboard a racing schooner or on a spectator boat. There are also a number of advantageous viewing locations throughout town for those wishing to watch from dry land.
Although the tall ships depart Provincetown in October to sail for warmer waters, there is already exciting news for the summer of 2020. The Mayflower II, currently under restoration efforts, is already scheduled to visit from September 7th-14th, 2020 to celebrate the commemoration of the first landing of the Pilgrims in Provincetown’s harbor and signing of the Mayflower compact and to continue the legacy of maritime culture in Provincetown!