Harbor Fest 2008 kicks off in style

Charleston's annual celebration, previously known as the Charleston Maritime Festival, got under way Thursday night as the Amistad was escorted into Charleston Harbor by the other tall ships being featured in the festival: The Spirit of South Carolina, the Virginia, and the Corwith Cramer. The Post and Courier's Bo Peterson describes the scene:

The mammoth container ship disappeared under the Ravenel Bridge. The thrill-boat ride shot away. The sun sank into clouds and the mists came up. And out of the mist came the tall sails. It looked like something from another time.

"Sweet," said Logan Johnsen, first mate of the Amistad, as he got his first glimpse of the Spirit of South Carolina heeling by. "The trim, the sails, the way she's cutting through the wake. She's just a nice sight."

Around him the crew members from Sierra Leone took up the ship's Creole song, dancing and pattering the beat on deck barrels.

The festival runs through Sunday, and many of the events are free. To tour the ships, however, you'll have to buy a boarding pass at one of the various booths downtown or at Patriots Point.

For the first time, the festival is taking place on both sides of Charleston Harbor, with several attractions at Patriots Point, as well as the usual array of events downtown. The Charleston Harbor Fest Web site gives more details on the events in both places:

Attractions downtown will feature tours of tall ships including the Amistad, Schooner Virginia, the Spirit of South Carolina and the Corwith Cramer, an authentic pirate camp, wooden boats, a children’s village, family boat building, an education village, food, music and more. Across the harbor at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant attractions will feature extreme wake boarding demos, an aerobatic flight demonstration, the Water Action Village Expo (WAVE), a static boat display, helicopter harbor tours, a children’s village, food, music and more.