on April 14, 2013
ALLIANCE TALL SHIP DAY SAILSA few years ago we spent just over two weeks in the USA with my daughter and her partner. We spent a week in Virginia and this was one of the activities that my daughter was keen to do while we were there.ALLIANCE AND WHAT THEY PROMISE"Four centuries ago, Capt. John Smith explored the waters around Yorktown aboard a small sailing vessel while trading with the Powhatan Indians. As you pass Yorktown battlefield and the Victory Monument along the banks of the York River, you'll relive sailing's golden age, when a young America clambered aboard vessels similar to Alliance to find adventure. If you like, lend a hand hoisting a sail the traditional way-no electric winches here, just block, tackle and a little elbow grease. Alliance is so much more than a sailing ship-it's an opportunity to experience an exciting and unique time in America's history."A BIT ABOUT THIS RATHER BEAUTIFUL SHIPShe is a three masted gaff topsail ship with a steel hull. She spends the summer in Chesapeake Bay and the winter in the Caribbean and her home port is Yorktown, Virginia. Her sail area is 2,778 square feet and her length is 105 feet, beam 20’ and draft 8’.PRICES AND TIMESAlliance sails 3 times daily from Riverwalk Landing Pier in historic Yorktown from April to November.11:00 am to 1:00 pm $35 adults, $18 children 12 and under(no morning sails offered in March, April or late October)2:00 pm to 4:00 pm $35 adults, $18 children 12 and under2 hour Sunset Sails $35 per person (no children’s discount) OUR EXPERIENCEWe arrived early as we always do and so filled in a bit of time in the rather touristy and expensive shops in the harbor area of Yorktown.Once we were actually allowed on board we had our online printed tickets taken by one of the staff member and made our way onto the ship. We were lucky in that there were only about a dozen of us on board which was lucky as we were able to walk around easily. Had it been full to capacity I am not sure how pleasant the trip would have been.There is a shop on board selling drinks and you are not allowed to bring your own food or drink on board. If I remember rightly the drinks were not horrendously expensive, but not a bargain either. There were several places to sit so that you could enjoy the views as we sailed along and we were all given the chance to raise a sail but it was a bit ‘have ago’ as they just raised and lowered on of the smaller sails. We were all a bit disappointed as that was the only sail raised and so the ship motored up and back down the river and we didn’t ever see the hip under full sail. That was disappointment number one. This may have been because the sails are set the traditional way with block and tackle, there are no winches aboard so it obviously require quite an effort so I don’t think they ever put them up for these short sailings.The next disappointment was that despite the advertising blurb of sailing along the river while having the chance to ‘look for dolphins and osprey’ this did not happen as we saw no wildlife at all which was not something we did actually expect but you always have the hope of being lucky.Moving on we read that we would be sailing towards the coat and sailing past the Yorktown Battlefield and we imagined we would see a lot more of interest along the river. "Our knowledgeable crew will harmonize past with present as you view the Victory Monument along the banks of the York River, sight dolphins or osprey, sail by working watermen, or perhaps cruise past a naval warship or submarine" What actually we saw was a lot of industry and lots of trees, the battlefield was not pointed out nor indeed was anything much else.Instead of the flap of sails we had the motor chugging and to be honest there wa not a lot to see. We raised one sail and were able to enjoy the breezes while trying to keep warm despite the fact in was June. We chugged up the river for about 45minutes then back again seeing the same rather dull views again on eth way back. We didn’t go closer to one shore one way and then the other shore in return so basically we saw the same either way.I am not sure that my husband and I would have chosen to do this if we had been by ourselves but my daughter was keen so we thought we would give it a try.We thought it was expensive or what we got, no food or drink was included and the ‘joining in’ of putting up the sails was not exactly real life as they just let us all have a pull on the same sail. The fact that it is billed as a sail to me means that we should have had the sails up. They said it was because of the weather but in truth it was pretty breezy but hardly blowing a gale and I would have thought wind might be useful for a sailing boat. If it was blowing the wrong direction then surely it would have been the right direction on either the outward or inward journey. I don’t believe they do put them up for the short sails so if you want to see the sails up you may need to go for a longer sail.All the flowery descriptions and romantic language in their blurb is rather an exaggeration of what actually takes place and personally unless you are very keen to sail an hour or so up and down the river in a boast then I would save your money. There are plenty of more interesting things to see and do in the area.You are hardly " reliv(ing) sailings of the golden age when a young America clambered aboard vessels similar to Alliance to find adventure" Nor did we find ourselves . … ‘ listen(ing) to the sound of the wind as we glide along under a cloud of canvas." Sadly we didn’t find that "Alliance was so much more than a sailing ship – it’s an opportunity to experience an exciting and unique time in America’s history!"It is a very average sail up and down the river with not that much to see either side and certainly the promise of dolphins was unlikely where we were. The fact that you are in a sailing boat is a bit mute of the sails are not set and all in all we found it an expensive disappointment. Having said that my daughter said she enjoyed it but as we paid I am not sure whether she was just being polite.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009