NEW YORK -- Twenty-two tall ships will sail into New York Harbor on July Fourth for a national birthday party almost double the size of one in 1976, Operation Sail officials said Monday.
'We're giving a party and we have asked the nations of the world to come,' said Howard Slotnick, director of the non-profit organization planning Operation Sail 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. 'We want to thank them for sending us the people that make up our nation.'
Sixteen tall ships cruised through the harbor and down the Hudson River in the 1976 Operation Sail, drawing an estimated six million people and 20,000 private boats to the New York area. This year, an estimated 11 million people and 40,000 private crafts will attend the four-day event.
Slotnick said many of this year's tall ships -- from Oman, Israel, Indonesia, Europe, Canada and South America -- have already set sail toward New York Harbor's newly rennovated Statue of Liberty and should arrive sometime in June.
Another 230 sailing ships representing 30 nations will also participate in the parade, which will be lead by the U.S. Coast Guard tall ship Eagle on the morning of July 4.
The massive parade has created sizable problems for the volunteers who are planning Operation Sail 1986. There is less pier space at which to dock the large ships than a decade ago because much of New York and New Jersey's waterfront has been developed, said Slotnick.
The tall ships and sailing boats from the around the world will manage a tight fit at piers along the Hudson River and the tip of Manhattan, said Coast Guard spokesman Marc Wolfson. But the expected 40,000 private boats will be left out in the water where they will be able to anchor overnight on July 3 and 4 to watch the fireworks planned for both nights.
Giant cruise ships such as the Queen Elizabeth II, garbage scows and commercial barges will be asked to stay out of the harbor during the parade, according to the Coast Guard.