Newburyport readies for arrival of Nao Santa Maria

Nao Santa Maria will spend nine days docked in Newburyport.Courtesy photo

NEWBURYPORT — Clearing skies and temperatures in the low 70s are expected to greet Nao Santa Maria when the tall ship arrives at the waterfront Friday morning.

The Custom House Maritime Museum is bringing the 200-ton replica of the famed Christopher Columbus sailing vessel to Waterfront Park on Friday morning’s high tide.

The Spanish-flagged tall ship is expected to arrive at roughly 10:30 a.m. on Friday and is scheduled to depart Monday, June 10.

Custom House board member Ken Jackman said Nao Santa Maria is currently "on the high seas" sailing north from Virginia where she spent the Memorial Day weekend.

"They are far offshore and are making good headway on the way to Newburyport," Jackman said. "I had an update this morning that they are exactly on schedule."

Jackman said an advance crew from Nao Santa Maria recently arrived at Logan airport. Members of that crew are expected in the city by Thursday afternoon.

"From the Harbormaster Paul Hogg to (Police Marshal Mark Murray) and (Public Works Director Tony Furnari), the city has been exemplary in coordinating the details to make this happen," Jackman said. "I can't say enough positive things about how the city's officials have pulled together to support this and have really made it all possible by working with the Custom House to do this."

According to Marshal Murray, police expect plenty of traffic to be headed into the downtown area over the next 11 days but that is something his department is used to.

"It will probably be like it was over (the Memorial Day weekend)," Murray said. "I'm sure the parking garage will be full like it was on Sunday and all the parking lots will be filled. There will be a lot of people and it will be here for 10 days so I think people will have the opportunity to maybe come down at times where it might be a little less busy."

Jackman also pointed to the Custom House's two prior Maritime Days events (which saw the Spanish tall ship El Galeon docking in Port in 2016 and the American tall ships Alabama and Adventure sailing into the city the following year,) as examples of what to expect during Nao Santa Maria’s stay.

"This is typically an enjoyable, low-key family event," Jackman said. "It might take an extra drive around to get a parking spot but, once you park your car, you've got the delight of being in downtown Newburyport with tall ship rigging in the background and the ability to get on a ship that no one in New England has ever been able to board previously."

According to the National Weather Service, Friday morning could see a slight chance of showers before 10 a.m., but the weather should become mostly sunny with highs near 71 degrees.

Saturday also looks promising with mostly sunny conditions and highs in the mid-70s. Sunday may see some showers with temperatures in the upper 60s.

"Two years ago, we had torrential rains and the turnout was surprisingly low," Jackman said. "Three years ago, we had beautiful, sunny weather and the attendance was spectacular. People were coming from as far away as Maine and Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Based on the fact that we have two weekends, I think we have a better than previous odds of having at least one good weekend."

Nao Santa Maria is expected to make her way to the docks between 10:30 and 11 a.m. Friday. Public tours will begin Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

Tour ticket prices are $10 per adult and $5 for kids older than 5. A special "family ticket" will also available for a family of four at $25.

"If it is a nice weekend, it should be similar to a Yankee Homecoming type of thing," Murray said. "There will be a lot of people coming around and visiting the restaurants and I think we will have the same type of traffic."

As of Wednesday, Murray said his department does not plan any road closures during Nao Santa Maria's stay.

"Obviously we will play it by ear, like we do with everything," Murray said. "But we are prepared for that. We can detour traffic in a heartbeat if we have to but I don't think we're going to have to. If traffic really starts to get bad, we will deploy a couple of our cruisers to assist with whatever we have to do."