As the year 2000 approached, everyone wondered if the turn of the century would bring with it massive infrastructure problems. Computers and computer software, the mainstay of most business, government, military, and nonprofit operations, had to be retooled for the new century. People feared that when the clock struck midnight, computer systems would fail to recognize the “00” and create havoc worldwide. Banking establishments, utilities, government, and other entities spent millions of dollars during the later part of the 1990s preparing for “Y2K.” Consumers reacted either nonchalantly or in a quasi-hysterical mode, stocking up on canned goods and batteries and fresh water supplies, withdrawing money in advance from automated teller machines, and filling their bathtubs with water in case faucets failed to work. Employers demanded that key management and support staffs work the night of December 31, 1999, or at the very least, remain on call.
Yet as the world celebrated a New Year's Eve like no other — with massive parties, fireworks displays, and galas — it appeared that most of the preplanning had paid off. Y2K-compliant institutions far outnumbered the few that experienced glitches. There was no havoc in the headlines. It was just another new year, only this time ushering in a new century and relegating the 1900s to history.
In honor of the new millennium, OpSail 2000 attracted curious onlookers and sea-loving fans of the tall ships. The official ports for the ships included San Juan, Puerto Rico; Miami, Florida; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York, New York; New London, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine. The official national celebration occurred in New York Harbor during the Fourth of July weekend.
This was dubbed the “greatest event in maritime history”; the last time the tall ships had assembled together was for the Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Operation Sail was founded by President John F. Kennedy, who said in 1962, “The sight of so many ships gathered from distant corners of the world for Operation Sail should remind us that strong, disciplined, and adventuresome men still can find their way safely across uncertain and stormy seas.” Of course, Kennedy, being a naval hero, was a little partial to those who plied the seas!