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Sails, ho! Tall Ships scheduled to arrive in Duluth today

Tall ships

Sail fanatics, today is the day.

Nine tall ships are scheduled to enter Duluth this afternoon in a spectacular parade of towering masts, straining sails and floating wood.

"If it all goes as it should, it will just be fantastic," said Gene Shaw, spokesman for Visit Duluth, which is helping sponsor the Tall Ships festival.

Thousands of people turned out two years ago to watch three tall ships enter Duluth. Shaw's advice to anyone coming to watch today's Grand Parade of Sail is to come early.

The larger number of ships has changed the structure of today's parade from 2008's.

Rather than enter all at once, the tall ships are scheduled to enter the harbor three at a time, with the Lift Bridge to close between each trio. Planners hope the closures will prevent road traffic to and from Park Point from backing up too far. And spacing out the arrival of the ships will give each trio time and space to maneuver to their docking locations before the next trio arrives.

"They don't turn on a dime and they are intending on having their sails set," U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Aaron Gross said.

The Grand Parade of Sail should begin about 2 p.m. and run to about 3:30 p.m., Shaw said. But the weather and other factors could change the schedule.

"Some people got caught in the storm last (Tuesday) night, and we just hope they all get here in time," Shaw said.

Organizers' best estimate for the start of various events today is:

# 10-10:30 a.m.: Tall ships already in Duluth depart to rendezvous with arriving ships.

# Noon: Tall ships rendezvous in the lake off Brighton Beach.

# 2 p.m.: Tall ships and their escorts begin entering the harbor. The plan is to have four separate flights of vessels. The first will be law enforcement and volunteer escort vessels. The second flight will include the HMS Bounty, S/V Denis Sullivan and Roald Amundsen. The third flight will include the Barque Europa, Roseway and U.S. Brig Niagara. The fourth flight will include the Pride of Baltimore II, Zeeto and Coaster II.

# 3:30 p.m.: The final tall ship should enter the harbor.

# 4:30-4:50 p.m.: American Indian Dancers on the Main Stage, Bayfront Festival Park.

# 5 p.m.: Opening ceremonies on the Main Stage, Bayfront Festival Park.

# 6 p.m.: "Pirates of Penzance" performance begins on the Main Stage, Bayfront Festival Park.