2017 Festival Info

Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival returns with U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels joining traditional tall ships

Helping celebrate the Thames River Heritage Park

coleNEW LONDON, Ct. — The proud fighting ship USS COLE, an Arleigh Burke Class guided missile destroyer, and USCGC THUNDER BAY, one of the Coast Guard’s powerful fleet of ice breakers, will headline the 2017 Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, Sept. 8-10 in downtown New London, Connecticut.

They will be joined by two other Coast Guard vessels, USCGC ALBACORE, an 87-foot coastal patrol boat homeported in New London, and 65-foot small harbor ice breaking tug BOLLARD out of New Haven and security patrol craft from Sub Base New London, plus others.

In what promises to be a spectacular first for the festival, the Coast Guard will stage a Search and Rescue (SAR) Demonstration on Thames River with a MH-60-T Jayhawk helicopter and small boat participation in full view from Waterfront Park. This is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, the 9th.

The announcement was made by festival chairman, John S. Johnson who said the military vessels will be joined by a number of schooners and other ships, plus the annual Great New London Chowder Challenge and dockside maritime educational displays, and an off-shore race among participating schooners, including the defending champion, Columbia, out of Panama City, Florida.

“I’m excited about the ships both the Navy and Coast Guard are sending to our festival,” he said. It will be an honor to host them all, but I think the COLE will be a strong draw, given her history fighting terrorism in the Middle East.”

The COLE was severely damaged, with 17 of its crew killed and another 39 injured in a suicide bombing attack launched in Yemen by al-Qaeda, in October, 2000, nearly a year before the 9/11 attacks.  The ship was returned to the United States and underwent extensive repairs before being returned to duty.

“The Officers and Crew of USS COLE are looking forward to visiting New London after recently completing a highly successful 7-month deployment to the Middle East. We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to experience the historic port city that has such a rich story with long ties to the United States Navy. We are excited about to display our culinary skills at the New London Chowder Challenge as well as the opportunity to show off the national treasure that is USS COLE.”

“We stage this event each year to highlight our state’s important maritime heritage, but also to show people how that tradition continues today, with both military and civilian ships,” Johnson added.“We want people to visit and see the vibrant waterfront city that New London continues to be with its varied mix of restaurants, museums, galleries and recreational opportunities.”

Once again this year, the Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island, a 200-foot sail-training vessel homeported in Newport, Rhode Island, will attend and take students from New London, Groton and Ledyard on a five-day sail training education adventure that will end in Newport.  OPSAIL CONNECTICUT is one of four sponsors to help fund this special event.

“We are proud of our Navy and Coast Guard and the contributions they make to our national security, and we are pleased to give people a chance to see the ships and meet some of the brave men and women in uniform who serve on them,” Johnson added.

There will be additional ship announcements in the coming weeks.

The COLE and THUNDER BAY will be berthed at Fort Trumbull State Park and will be open for tours, as will the other Coast Guard vessels docked along the New London waterfront.

This year, festival attendees can take advantage of the water taxis that run on a regular basis with stops at City Pier, Fort Trumbull and Fort Griswold.