Navy dock-landing ship arrives for Sail Boston

Marines and sailors prepared to disembark from the amphibious dock-landing ship USS Whidbey Island. US Navy Lieutenant Vincent Ferretti marveled at the beauty of the Boston skyline as the USS Whidbey Island eased into the harbor Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t get over how glorious this day is,” said Ferretti, the 28-year-old dentist on the ship. “What a beautiful sight.”

Ferretti was among more than 400 sailors and Marines who arrived in Boston with the Whidbey Island, a dock landing ship that will serve as the reviewing stand for Saturday’s Grand Parade of Sail, a stately procession of the 54 tall ships participating in Sail Boston 2017.

The Whidbey Island, deployed in 1986 and old by Navy standards, also is the Navy’s sole representative for the five-day extravaganza. Its officers and enlisted sailors said they had worked hard to make sure it looked its best for the occasion.

“It took a lot of sweat to get this ship ready,” Ferretti said.

As it arrived in the harbor, the Whidbey Island received the equivalent of a maritime red carpet. A Boston fireboat celebrated its arrival by launching sprays of water high in the air. Recreational boaters slowed or stopped to admire the 609-foot gray workhorse.

The sailors and Marines returned the compliment by standing at parade rest along the decks of the ship — arms held behind their backs, faces turned outward — in a collective show of respect for their hosts.

The formalities were important, but the crew had other things on their minds — such as lobster rolls, North End cannoli, and visiting the USS Constitution. After a deployment last year to the Black Sea and the Middle East, this was a time to relax.

“I want to explore,” said Marine Lance Corporal McKenna Stiles, a 19-year-old from Lubbock, Texas. “I’ve never been to a big city before.”

Many other sailors and Marines had never been to Boston before, either, and Master Sergeant David Williams gathered a cluster of his fellow Marines to lay down the law.

“We’re here to have a good time,” Williams said. “But if you’re walking by me and you’re acting stupid, I’ll put you back on the boat.” The message is “to respect that you’re still in uniform,” Williams said with a smile afterward.

Marine Gunnery Sergeant Callum Pearson had his sights set on a game Friday night at Fenway Park. When told that the Red Sox would be out of town, the Marine rolled his eyes in disappointment.

“Oh, no!” the 31-year-old said. “It’s funny how we can be so disconnected from what’s going on in the world.”Another treat for the military arrivals will be the chance to mingle with 2,000 crew members from the dozens of tall ships tied up in the harbor and admire their vessels. Command Master Chief Brett Menne, the top enlisted crew member on the Whidbey Island, said those sailing ships still inspire respect in the high-tech Navy.“I think of the amount of work that goes into making those ships go,” said Menne, a Minneapolis native who has been in […]