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Anchors Aweigh: OpSail, Swing, and the War of 1812 Bicentennial

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CUAUHTEMOC from Mexico
(Image by OpSail 2012)
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NORFOLK, VA. Several historic U. S. ports are commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the birth of The Star-Spangled Banner during OpSail 2012. The festivities are currently in Norfolk, Virginia, primarily at the Waterside Festival Marketplace.

Previous events were held in New Orleans (April 17-24) when 121,000 people visited nine ships during the week-long commemoration. Seventeen tall ships and 10 warships marked the official beginning of OpSail 2012 during New York City's Fleet Week, May 23-30.

Jamestown Settlement's Godspeed
(Image by Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
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Jamestown Settlement's Godspeed, a replica of one of the three vessels that brought America's first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607, is participating in OpSail 2012 Virginia, with visits to Yorktown and Norfolk this month.

OpSail logo
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Norfolk and the Port of Hampton Roads host the OpSail flotilla from June 6-11, 2012, in conjunction with Norfolk's annual Harborfest celebration.

Lindsay Eure, Gabriela Gomez as the Bronoski sisters, with Danny Gardner.
(Image by Photo: Mack Johnson for Virginia Stage Company)
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During the OpSail events, and continuing through July 8, Nauticus and Virginia Stage Company (VSC) are offering Swingtime Salute: An On-Deck Revue.

USS WISCONSIN, now docked in downtown Norfolk
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The show recreates the mood of a 1940's USO show on the deck of the Wisconsin, Thursdays through Sundays. An additional show will be offered on Wed., July 4.

Night at the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront.
(Image by Photo by Keith Lanpher for Norfolk Festevents, Ltd. 2011.)
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I took my dad, a WW2 veteran, to see the show a couple of nights ago, it was a magical experience under the stars and against the backdrop of a colorful sunset.

American Rover
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We even saw the American Rover sailing by. It should be a stunning view from the deck of the Wisconsin this weekend, with the tall ships in the harbor.

Swingtime Salute's Lianne Marie Dobbs as sultry singer, Lorelei Leigh
(Image by Virginia Stage Company)
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Even though he served in WW2, Dad had never seen a USO show. So nearly 70 years later, he finally got his chance! And it was worth the wait - he got a big kiss from gorgeous Lianne Marie Dobbs as sultry singer, Lorelei Leigh. If you like swing music, you don't want to miss this great evening addition to the sailing festivities.

The focal point of the 1964-65 World's Fair in NY: The Unisphere
(Image by Photo by Ralph H. Butler, used with permission)
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The first Operation Sail event was timed to coincide with the 1964 New York World's Fair. It brought tall ships from around the globe to New York Harbor for a grand parade of sail up the Hudson, led by the USCG Eagle as the host ship. At that time, it was the largest peacetime gathering of sailing ships: 12 Class A vessels, 11 Class B and C vessels, and thousands of spectator craft.

USCG Eagle
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OpSail was the 1960's brainchild of the late maritime historian, artist and author, Frank Braynard, and IBM'er Nils Hansell. They shared a vision of fostering global goodwill in an era of global uncertainty by bringing together the world's remaining windships; a nautical spectacular planned to culminate in a parade of sails in New York Harbor.

Frank liked to say, "World peace through world trade is the purpose behind OpSail."

President Kennedy, Frank Braynard is directly to the right of the president.
(Image by Frank Braynard Estate)
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According to, "Operating on little more than contagious passion, the two traversed the globe to rally support and recruit participants. Their efforts eventually gained the attention of President John F. Kennedy, an ardent seaman who enthusiastically offered his endorsement of the idea in May of 1963."

I was one of Frank Braynard's Sunday School students back then, and it was always inspiring to listen to this modern-day Renaissance man's visionary ideas, and especially to discover that he had a meeting with the President!

"I am looking forward eagerly to Operation Sail," Kennedy wrote. "The sight of so many ships gathered from the distant corners of the world should remind us that strong, disciplined, and venturesome men still can find their way safely across uncertain and stormy seas."

The first Operation Sail was met with such success that plans for a second event were soon set into motion. There have been four Operation Sails since the debut sail, each larger than the last and each tied to a landmark American historical event, such as the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

Norfolk Waterfront Living History Events. Public ship tours are free.
(Image by Photo by Keith Lanpher for Norfolk Festevents, Ltd. 2011)
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Currently, the ships can be seen at Waterside in Norfolk.

All public ship tours are free.

Upcoming OpSail 2012 events   will be held in Baltimore (June 13-19), Boston (June 30 - July 5), and New London CT (July 6-8).

Swingtime Salute Tickets are on sale now. Call 800-982-2787, visit or visit the VSC's Box Office at 110 Tazewell Street in downtown Norfolk. Tickets will are also available day of show at Nauticus beginning at 5:00 pm. 

Jamestown Settlement explores the world of America's first permanent English colony. An introductory film and expansive exhibition galleries describe the Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultures that converged in 17th-century Virginia. Outdoors, historical interpreters depict 1600s life at re-creations of a Powhatan Indian village, three 1607 ships -- Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery -- and a colonial fort. The museum is located at State Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway, adjacent to Historic Jamestowne. (GPS: 2110 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185) (757) 253-4838 or (888) 593-4682 toll-free.

Frank Braynard   was a Renaissance man. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 91. Read more about him in his NY Times Obituary at click here

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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