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Other port cities enticing tall ships from Baltimore


Baltimore is looking for a few tall ships -- but the competition is pretty fierce.

Naval officials in Uruguay say they will send a tall ship here July 2. But in what may be an off year for the popular attractions, most of the world's stately tall ships will be setting sails for port cities competing with Baltimore.

So far, Uruguay's Capitan Miranda is the only tall ship scheduled to visit Baltimore this year. Typically, from two to six tall ships have visited the Inner Harbor each year since their initial invitation in 1976.

"There may still be others who decide to come before the end of the season," said Carmel G. Locey, executive director of Sail Baltimore. "Part of it is that Baltimore isn't the only city trying to bring these ships. Competition has greatly increased."

The private, nonprofit organization woos ships for cultural and commercial reasons. While plenty of warships, schooners and smaller vessels will visit the Inner Harbor and Fells Point this year, the showcase-quality tall ships are in shorter supply.

Only 26 Class A tall ships -- those with deck space more than 160 feet long -- are listed in world naval directories.

Baltimore was one of the first American cities to bring tall ships into port as a tourist centerpiece, but today, East Coast competitors include Boston, New York, Miami and Charleston, S.C.

"Other port cities have gotten very competitive. They all seemed to have picked up on the great idea," said Anita Rasmussen of the Danish consulate in New York. Ms. Rasmussen said the Danish tall ship Danmark, which came to the Inner Harbor for a weeklong stay last year, is stopping this summer in Norfolk, Va., Washington and Philadelphia.

"Baltimore is great and our captain likes it very much. But the Danmark is a very beautiful ship and so many cities want to see her," she said.

Tall ships have drawn as many as 10,000 visitors a day to Baltimore's Harborplace promenade. As a result, they are welcomed by downtown merchants and politicians.

The sailors are treated to baseball games and outings to the National Aquarium. Area restaurants and hotels often sponsor welcoming parties and dockside dancing. City officials donate docking services, trash collection and power and water hookups.

On Tuesday, Sail Baltimore is holding a daylong event for dozens of naval attaches from around the world, featuring a boat tour around the Inner Harbor. The purpose is to promote Baltimore as a popular spot for tall ships and other vessels.

Francesco Legaluppi of the Italian consulate said Baltimore representatives regularly request visits from the Amerigo Vespucci, one of the world's most popular tall ships. The ship has visited Baltimore three times since 1976.

"Everyone requests the Vespucci," including Philadelphia, San Francisco and New Orleans, not to mention South American ports, he said. But the ship won't visit North America again until the year 2000.

The Spanish tall ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano visited Baltimore in June and has booked again for 1996. But this year, said Cmdr. Francisco Rios, an assistant naval attache with the Spanish navy, it's going to Pensacola, Fla., Miami and Boston.

"But I must say, Baltimore is a very attractive port," he said. "They attend to us very well there, and the sailors love the Orioles games. We'll definitely be back."

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