What you need to know about the tall ships celebration in Saint John

Eleven tall ships are about to join the Saint John Festival of Sail this weekend, offering visitors a dramatic spectacle, onboard tours and sail-related activities ashore.

11 tall ships will be on show in at Festival of Sail from Friday through Sunday

The Saint John Festival of Sail takes over the harbour this weekend, and organizers expect thousands of people will come out to enjoy the spectacle, onboard tours and other offerings. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Ahoy, New Brunswick! Eleven tall ships are getting ready to parade in the Saint John Festival of Sail this weekend.

Ships from around the world will arrive in the Port City on Friday.

Ten of the ships are part of Rendez-vouz 2017, which has brought more than 40 tall ships to Canadian waters in celebration of Canada 150.

The eleventh ship is HMCS Oriole, the sail training vessel of the Royal Canadian Navy, based in Esquimalt, B.C.

"It's a wonderful way, particularly for communities in Eastern Canada, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation," said Kurt Peacock, visitor experience team lead for the Carleton Martello Tower National Historic Site.

Nine of the ships will offer onboard tours throughout the weekend. 

"This is an incredible … Canada 150 event everyone should come out and appreciate," said Victoria Clarke, executive director of Discover Saint John.

The 22-metre schooner Mists of Avalon, built in Mahone Bay, N.S., in 1967, arrived at Pugsley Terminal on Thursday. (Julia Wright/CBC)

The tall ships will arrive around 10 a.m. A viewing party will also start at the Carleton Martello Tower at that time.

"If the weather co-operates, it'll be quite spectacular," said Peacock, who recommends visitors bring sunscreen, lawn chairs and their binoculars. "It overlooks the entire outer harbour as well as uptown Saint John."

These are the tall ships of your dreams.-Victoria Clarke

The pier will also open to the public for dockside viewing on Friday, along with live entertainment.

"The exciting challenge in what makes tall ships different here: we are battling and appreciating the highest tides on the planet," said Clarke.

Over at the New Brunswick Museum, a pirate party will get underway at 1 p.m., when visitors will learn how to "walk, talk, work and play like a pirate."

The museum will also offer a "Wind, Wood and Sail" gallery tour, which will include tales from New Brunswick's shipbuilding past.

The last time the tall ships were in Saint John was in 2004, and organizers are expecting thousands of people to come out to see them.

Tours on Saturday

On Saturday, visitors will be able to have both dockside and onboard tours of the ships starting at 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Saturday is also a family theme pirate day and people will be able to get on board between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Afterward, Clarke said, the tide will be going out.

"Ships that are …125 feet tall are all of a sudden going to go down 25 feet below the horizon, which is so cool," she said.

At the bottom of the harbour

On Sunday, the land activities include two presentations by local historian Harold Wright.

The first, at 10 a.m. in the mainstage tent, is about the Elgerie, which the festival program describes as Canada's sole surviving 19-century ship in the South Atlantic. It was built in Saint John in 1859.

Wright's next talk, at 11 a.m. on the pier-side stage, is called "Meeting Davy Jones's Locker in Saint John Harbour," and is about the hundreds of sailors who have died in the harbour and its approaches.

Spread among terminals

Over the weekend, six of the tall ships will be in front of the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal and the Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal.

Five of those ships will be about 35 metres or longer.  

St. Lawrence 11, a brigantine built in Kingston, Ont., in 1953, will be among the 11 tall ships taking place in the Saint John Festival of Sail this weekend. (Saint John Festival of Sail)

"These are the tall ships of your dreams," she said.

The Pugsley Slip Terminal will have five Class B and C ships.

"They're smaller but spectacular," she said.

Everything is free with the exception of a music and masts concert at 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Know the ropes

Because of large crowds, Water Street will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, so people should park accordingly, Clarke said. 

Accessible parking will be available at the Coast Guard Parking Lot but people will need disability parking permit displays.

She said there will also be a security checkpoint.

"Things are weather-dependent, things are crowd-dependent so make a plan," she said.

To find out more about the event, visitors can visit the festival's website for more information.

"This is a once in a lifetime activity," she said.