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Tall ships arrive in Greenport Harbor

The Pride of Baltimore coming into Greenport Harbor.

The Pride of Baltimore coming into Greenport Harbor. (May 25, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

ABOARD PICTON CASTLE -- The tall ship glided past the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, barely visible through the fog, with only two of its 21 sails set, but still traveling 4 mph Friday afternoon.

Soon it was entering Greenport Harbor flanked by a dozen spectator boats. The Picton Castle's captain, Dan Moreland, used the engine and one sail by the stern to make a left turn and bring the 179-foot square-rigger up to the pier without the slightest bump.

As crew members threw dock lines ashore and others climbed the masts to tie down the sails, the Nova Scotia, Canada-based sail training vessel was in place for the holiday weekend tall ship festival in the seafaring North Fork village.

Several hundred spectators watched from the dock even though the six visiting ships don't open for tours until Saturday.

Michael Kaufman of Smithtown said he brought his family because his sons -- Donald, 7, and Joseph, 5 -- "are hoping to see pirates."

Greenport will take on a festival atmosphere this weekend, as part of the Tall Ships Challenge, a bicentennial race commemorating the War of 1812.

The ships pulling in include the HMS Bounty, built for the 1962 film version of "Mutiny on the Bounty."

The Picton Castle had started the day anchored off Gardiners Island in a cold fog and drizzle, but that didn't stop the 35 crew members from eight countries -- many of them barefoot -- from scrubbing the ship from the masts to the cabins to get ready for the weekend visitors.

About 11 a.m., 10 crew members raised the anchor with a manual windlass, or winch, and began setting sail with the foghorn blaring.

Picton Castle was built in 1928 as a motorized fishing trawler. In 1992, Moreland found it in Norway and in 1996 converted the hull into a barque with two square-rigged masts and one mast with fore-and-aft sails.

"We tried to recapture the original sail training experience, which is a square-rigged ship on long voyages," said Moreland, who has taken the ship around the world four times and is headed to the South Pacific this fall.

Siri Botnen, 26, of Norway, the third mate, said part of the appeal of tall ships is "the camaraderie of your shipmates and learning seamanship."

The youngest crew member is Natalie Loubier, 17, of Quebec, who signed on in March having never sailed before. She said an uncle who has a sailboat "pushed me into it."

She left high school and said she'll worry about getting her diploma later.

"I've learned a lot of things," she said. "Like how to set and furl sails, and all the lines."

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