by Richard Campbell

At noon this past Friday opening ceremonies for Sail Boston took place under the rotunda at the Boston Harbor Hotel, with a series of fitting tributes by stakeholders as well as presentation of the colors by different regimental outfits, and speeches by distinguished guests. The US Coast Guard Band played the national anthem and patriotic songs, as dignitaries from around the world saluted Boston.

Maria Stephanos was the MC for the event, providing humorous anecdotes along with gracious introductions. After an opening salutation and prayers, the Vicar of the Old North Church, Reverend Stephen Ayres, gave his blessing of the ships and included an urgent plea to protect us from our enemies that gave a momentary solemnity to the occasion.

Michael Mooney the chairman of Sail Boston mentioned first the 2,000 crew members from international ships, the millions of visitors, and stressed that Bostonians go all out to make visitors feel at home. He thanked all sponsors, especially lead sponsors Bank of America and the greater Boston Convention Bureau- and in particular, emphasized the cooperation between Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin Walsh for making the event possible.

CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Chairman emeritus of Sail Boston, Patrick Moscaritolo, had a comical moment with his script blowing in the wind, but once he recovered his speech, he sang ample praises to Martin Walsh for the mayor’s dogged pursuit as chief strategist and recruiter to bring Sail Boston home.

When Mayor Walsh stepped to the podium his joy at the opening of the event was evident, and he gave special thanks to all the city employees and staff for their dedication. He mentioned the fact that Boston is the only American port to receive this honor, while thanking sponsors and the hospitality industry for their work in putting the event together- as well as Massport and Federal Agencies. He emphasized showcasing our harbor, and for Bostonians to explore world culture. With the expectation of two million visitors, and an estimated value for the city of a hundred million dollars, the mayor jokingly emphasized that when we give directions to visitors to speak slow and to pronounce our R’s, as otherwise: “they have no idea what we are talking about.”

Senator Ed Markey called Sail Boston the “United Nations General Assembly of Sailing” recounting that since 1992 Sail Boston has been celebrated, and waxed poetic to certain limits. Navy Vice Admiral, Richard Breckenridge, defined the sacrifices by Navy troops, speaking of the DNA of the Navy being rooted in Boston, as well as the USS Constitution. His rousing “Go Red Sox, Beat the Yankees, Go Sail Boston”, was a nice little audience participation piece. Rear Admiral Steven Poulin of the Coast Guard thanked everyone and brought immediate attention to all the 85,000 Coast Guard standing watch, while saluting the Boston Sector Commander, Claudia Gelzer for her hard work.

Christine St. Pierre, Quebec Minister of International Relations spoke with a graciousness that warmed hearts, as she emphasized how important it is for our nations to work together. The friendship link between the city of Quebec and Boston was felt when she thoughtfully mentioned one of the Canadian Tall ships was built in Dorchester. The coming celebration in Quebec on July 18th will be a dedication to the 150 anniversary of the Canadian federation.

Douglas Prothero, chairman of Sail Training International, (a UK based global charity dedicated to training young people sailing and preservation of ships), talked about Boston as a special place. He explained that Boston is among the few partners that can be relied upon to host these large events- and thanked Sail Boston specifically. Thomas Glynn of Mass-port gave Dusty Rhodes, President of Conventures, a special call out for her hard work pulling off the whole event, and mentioned the importance of Massport’s set-up up of viewing areas in both East and South Boston.

Roger Boucher from Bank of America closed the event, and spoke about the honor of being a major sponsor for Sail Boston, detailing the long Massachusetts history of Bank of America. This kind of opening event gives one a clear idea of how massive the undertaking was, and how many people and organizations are needed to make it happen. Sail On Boston!