Five U.S. Navy tall ships sailed into Freeport this week, carrying dozens of Naval Academy students in an annual summer tradition.
This weekend, the U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen will explore the Village of Freeport, which has hosted a naval squadron for 19 years.
The ships — 44 feet long and more than 60 feet tall — left Annapolis Monday morning with 40 students and 10 coaches and docked in Freeport on Thursday morning.
Each year, coaches take midshipmen on a trip to a destination port to build their offshore sailing and leadership skills, said Rick Robey, a Naval Academy squadron commander and retired navy captain.
After sailing to their destination, midshipmen explore the area as a reward for their hard work and training, said Lt. Osei Asante, a coach on one of this year’s ships.
“It’s a great experience for the midshipmen,” Asante said. “This is their first taste of seeing a place they’ve never been and getting to enjoy some liberty out in town in a different port.”
The midshipmen undergo two weeks of training to learn basic seamanship skills before taking off. Then, the coaches let the students run the boat, Robey said.
“It’s crazy how we pretty much went from knowing nothing about sailing to doing a long trip like this in two weeks,” said Jordan Jones, 21, a senior at the academy from Colorado Springs.
Thursday morning, Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, local veterans and residents welcomed the midshipmen at the Woodcleft Avenue Esplanade, their vessels resting in the Woodcleft Canal.
Midshipmen will be giving tours of their boats Friday and Saturday before leaving for Annapolis on Sunday morning.
“As an ex-Navy man, I’m proud to see all of our midshipmen here,” Kennedy said. “We wish you a safe, enjoyable trip in the Village of Freeport.”