A jubilant procession of sailors marched through downtown Boston Monday, carrying flags from around the world and delighting crowds on the third day of Sail Boston festivities.
Roughly 1,500 sailors — some in carefully pressed uniforms, others in more casual attire — left their ships docked at the Boston Fish Pier, World Trade Center, Fan Pier, and Charlestown Navy Yard to parade through the city center, a celebration hosted by the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.
Dressed in heavy wool uniforms, similar to the ones worn in George Washington’s Continental Army, volunteers played “Yankee Doodle” and “Cape Cod Girls” on fifes and drums as they marched alongside the sailors in the stifling heat.
Professionals on their lunch breaks and curious tourists paused to take in the scene. Some pulled out their cameras and requested photos with the sailors.
After the parade, Mike Digiovanna, 26, who sailed into Boston Harbor on The Shenandoah, recalled marveling at the Tall Ships as a kid growing up in Chicago. He felt privileged to be a part of the event.
“I was just a little kid, and I was completely blown away by it,” he said. “You get to learn a little bit of culture from the different ways people sail.”
Digiovanna said he lives on the sea full time, moving from ship to ship as the seasons change.
Joe Barrett, 21, marched in a pristine white uniform with his class from the US Naval Academy. He had enjoyed meeting crews from other countries, proving that the language of sailors is universal.
“Regardless of whether or not we can speak the same language, I can still communicate with you,” Barrett said.
A crew of Englishmen who sailed from Bermuda aboard The Rona II said they thoroughly enjoyed the parade.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Edward Ireson, 25, who lives not far from London. Ireson said he would never forget seeing the white sails break through the fog during Saturday’s parade of ships.
Jose Estay, 21, of Chile, stood on the mast of The Esmeralda as it sailed into Boston. He walked in the parade with a thin ornate sword sheathed in his belt.
“I’ve never seen something like this,” he said.
Cynthia Lage, 33, held a gleaming silver trophy. Lage’s ship, The Spaniel from Latvia, finished in second place in its division in the race from Bermuda to Boston.
“It’s just a hobby,” she said. And an escape.
“Being on the sea gives you a chance to be away from land issues, small issues like meetings and e-mails, but also big issues like the news and terrorism,” Lage said. “It was a crazy thing to realize that being in the middle of the ocean is a safer place to be than any big city at this time.”
During the race, The Spaniel endured a severe storm, with winds blowing as high as 52 knots, Lage said.
“The storm broke the ship’s storm jib, but our captain is very calm and experienced so we were able to get through it,” she said.
When they finally made it to Boston, Lage said she was moved when the Latvian anthem was played. She and the crew were overwhelmed to see so many spectators welcome them to the city.
The crew of 17 aboard The Atyla, from the Republic of Vanuatu, wore pirate costumes to the parade, a reflection of their ship’s red hull and black sails. The crew hailed from 13 different countries.
“Sailors are a very special kind of people — they’re happy, a bit crazy, and totally honest. It was cool to meet people like that from all over,” said Jan Reiners, a 26-year-old from Germany who is studying to be a history teacher.
Reiners said he was most excited to see the American ships, which rarely cross the Atlantic.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.
The public can board the Tall Ships between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday before the crews pull up anchor and head home.Maddie Kilgannon can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaddieKilgannon.