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U.S. Navy sailboats, academy midshipmen arrive in Freeport

The U.S. Naval Academy's midshipmen will be offering tours of the vessels through Saturday.

Freeport's Nautical Mile got some special visitors on Thursday -- five U.S. Navy sailboats that had set sail from Annapolis, Md. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Five U.S. Navy sailboats arrived Thursday morning on Freeport’s Nautical Mile, each carrying a crew of 10 that will call the village home for the next few days.

The 65-foot tall, 44-foot-long vessels arrived shortly before 8 Freeport, as part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s annual summer sailing training program. The trip marks the 20th year the academy’s midshipmen have made the voyage to Long Island.

The squadron of 50 sailed 280 miles from Annapolis, Maryland, over four days.

Jackylyn Domingo, an incoming sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy, made the trip to Long Island for the first time.

“Four days on a sailboat make you appreciate the simple things in life,” said Domingo, 20, of Lemoore, California. The crews faced some rough weather during the voyage, she added.

“There were a couple of storms that we sailed through that made the trip interesting,” she said. “But it was good; it kept us on our toes.”

The sailboats will dock at the Long Island port until Sunday. The 40 naval students, ranging in age from 19 to 25, will take turns giving boat tours to Long Islanders through Saturday.

Jim Wetzel, an executive officer on the Brave, said it felt good to help the young midshipmen grow as leaders and better understand life on the sea.

“It’s quite a challenge to have [never] sailed a week before getting on a boat and sailing 280 miles,” said Wetzel, who is second-in-command.

As part of the four-week training program, the midshipmen learn sailing and leadership skills. After a week of in-class training, they started off sailing in the Chesapeake Bay, and then in week three the squadron set sail for Freeport. By the fourth week of the program, the midshipmen will sail the boats themselves during their return to Annapolis.

“The bigger part of this training is about leadership, small group leadership,” said John Formisano, who oversees the entire squadron.

The midshipmen will march in their summer whites in a parade Saturday celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Freeport Fire Department. The parade starts at Casino Street and Branch Avenue at 6 p.m. and will travel through the village to Sea Breeze Park at the end of the Nautical Mile.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy also welcomed the Annapolis crew Thursday morning.

“We are very happy they’re here,” he said. “As a Navy veteran who served in Guantánamo Bay, I’m just a little partial of having the Navy come to Freeport.”

Long Islanders can tour the five sailboats — the Renaissance, Honor, Courage, Brave and Warrior — Thursday through Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Freeport Esplanade.

CORRECTION:   An earlier version of this story misidentified the type of vessels on display.


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