(Feb. 28, 2014) Ocean City will likely play host to even more tall ships this coming summer – if it can convince the Army Corps of Engineers to help dredge out the channel under the Route 50 Bridge to fit deeper-hulled vessels.
“I’m expecting to have a ship announce they’re coming for the summer in the next couple weeks – if we can get the dredging worked out,” city Special Events Director Frank Miller said this week.
In August, the resort welcomed El Galeon Andalucia – a fully-functional replica of a 16th-century galleon owned and operated by the Spanish non-profit Nao Victoria Foundation.
Replica vessels from the age of sail, often referred to as “tall ships,” are major attractions wherever they berth, since only a handful worldwide are touring at any given time. But with the success of the Andalucia event last year, Ocean City is trying to book as many as possible.
The Andalucia, and likely all future visiting ships, docked at the city’s bayside boardwalk along Chicago Avenue, between Third and Fourth Streets. Two factors thus restrict the size of ship than can be brought in, as it must fit through the Route 50 drawbridge, and not run aground given the depth of the channel that runs up the bay.
“The bridge isn’t actually that big of a deal,” Miller said. “We brought in one of the largest vessels that we could to start with.”
However, despite its great size, the Andalucia had a relatively shallow draft.
“The galleon last year was large but it also had a fiberglass hull, so it didn’t sit as deep in the water as a true wooden reproduction,” Miller said. “At least two of the other vessels I’m talking with right now have over 12 feet of draft, so we don’t have the depth to bring them in.”
Fortunately, federal contractors with dredging equipment will soon be in the area for beach replenishment, conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The city is coordinating with the Corps to allow the contractors to also dredge additional depth into the bridge channel.
“I’m just waiting to hear from them if we’re going to be able to get that done,” Miller said. “We have to get it dredged before I can really look at getting other ships in here.”
The city also has plans to install additional tie-down cleats along the bayside walk, Miller said, although this is a relatively simple operation. Ideally, the town would also like to be able to provide water and electricity hook-ups for visiting ships as well.
“When the galleon was here, they actually ran their generator the entire time, and we connected them to a garden hose out of the fish-cleaning station,” Miller said.
“We have looked into a connection system, but the price tag is upwards of $20,000, so that probably wouldn’t happen until we get more events locked down and know we’re getting a return on investment.”
Additional problems may also come from electrical incompatibility. Like the Andalucia, many tall ships are built and based in Europe, which typically uses a higher voltage and a lower alternating current frequency than American electrical systems.