Sitting on a park bench looking out at Halifax Harbour, Jennifer Meynell was simply amazed at what she was seeing.

 

Going past her was tall ship after tall ship.

 

“I had no idea how big these sailing boats would be,” Meynell said. “Enormous. I’m impressed.”

 

While other people crowded different areas of the docks to snap photos of the ships sailing in for Thursday’s start of the Halifax portion of Nova Scotia Tall Ships Festival 2009, Meynell snagged one of the best spots to watch. It was a bench at the end of a dock near the old Nova Scotia Power building on the Halifax waterfront.

Meynell moved to Halifax from Alberta last summer, and this is her first time enjoying the tall ships festival.

“I want to see the Parade of Sail when they go out, too” she said.

The waterfront was bustling with people enjoying beavertails, ice cream and french fries as they watched the tall ships arrive. Most people were dressed warmly in jeans or a sweater, as a protection from the light wind coming from the harbour.

Ottawa residents Jackie Patten-Richens, her husband Jamie and their two children, Rhys, 2, and Annabelle, 10 months, were among them.

“We’re really enjoying it - the kids love the boats,” Patten-Richens said. “Rhys went on the H.M.C.S Sydney this morning. He thinks that’s fantastic.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to be at the waterfront at some point for the five-day festival, which runs through Monday and is expected to draw roughly 40 ships.

Organizers are also expecting a direct economic impact of around $40 million on the provincial economy.