Alongside the World Trade Center

Today J and I went downtown to see the Tall Ships that are in town for this week’s Sail Boston festivities. It was a warm and sunny day, and there were thousands of people strolling along the waterfront, many of them queued to board the ships in port. J and I didn’t board any ships, but we walked alongside them, admiring and taking pictures from shore.

Happy kid

Security for the event was tight: earlier this week, I heard a radio interview with the Massachusetts Undersecretary of Homeland Security, who explained Sail Boston had received the highest possible risk rating from the Department of Homeland Security given the large number of people it was expected to attract to a variety of land and sea venues over a large area. Today, J and I saw local and state police everywhere, a mobile Homeland Security command center, and massive plows and salt trucks parked at every intersection to prevent unauthorized vehicles from gaining access.

Our Lady of Good Voyage

On our way home, J and I stopped at Our Lady of Good Voyage, a new church built in the Seaport neighborhood to replace a tiny chapel that once bore the same name. The new church is on a now-busy corner with new skyscrapers, upscale offices, and luxury apartments on all sides: an island of calm in the city’s hottest (and rapidly developing) new neighborhood.

Inside Our Lady of Good Voyage

One thing that traditionally Catholic cities do well, I think, is provide places for contemplation in otherwise bustling neighborhoods. Our Lady of Good Voyage was open to passersby today, so Jim and I went inside to sit a spell, admiring the maritime-themed decor and relishing the chance to sit somewhere quiet, apart from the bustling crowds.

Ship models and stained glass

When I lived in Beacon Hill as a stressed and over-worked graduate student, I occasionally visited two Franciscan shrines in the heart of downtown Boston: the St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street, and the St. Francis Chapel in the Prudential Center. Although both shrines offered frequent Masses for nearby workers to attend on weekdays, I never actually went to Mass at either. Instead, I appreciated them as open and available spaces where anyone could step inside, take a seat, and enjoy a quiet moment of private contemplation.

At a time of my life that was busy and bustling, those sacred spaces provided a safe and reliable harbor in the midst of my own personal storms, and I trust Our Lady of Good Voyage will do the same for its new neighbors.

Police lineup

Checking out the motorcycles

Although there had been some concern that budget woes would prevent the city of Boston from providing security for Sail Boston 2009, the event happened regardless this weekend, with plenty of police officers on the waterfront to make sure everyone stayed safe while checking out the tall ships during their annual visit.

On Sunday afternoon, crowds at the Charlestown Navy Yard were well-behaved, giving several motorcycle cops a chance to take a rest in the shade while a throng of kids and camera-wielding parents admired their wheels. At least one little boy even got to live out every kid’s dream of climbing astride one of the big bikes while mom snapped pictures and dad waved to get Junior’s attention. Say cheese, son!

Boston PD's littlest rookie

Lest you think that Boston police officers were the only Good Guys on hand to garner positive PR by making friends with kids and parents, check out this picture of a Boston firefighter helping one little guy use a fire hose as an impromptu lawn sprinkler to cool off a handful of grateful kids.

It will probably take me a while to go through the hundreds of ship-pix I took this weekend; in the meantime, you can re-visit my photo-set of the Argentinean Navy training vessel La Libertad, which J and I toured in 2007. Enjoy!