SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fleet Week weekend kicked off with San Francisco’s waterfront packed by thousands of people who witnessed the commissioning of the Navy’s newest ship and the acrobatics of the Navy’s precision flight team.
Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the Embarcadero enjoyed an airshow by the Blue Angels, who returned to San Francisco on Saturday after Fleet Week was suspended last year because of federal budget cuts.
Families sat in beach chairs, some wrapped in black and orange Giants blankets, and waited Sunday for the Blue Angels team to soar over the city and perform their signature climbs, stunts and rolls.
This year’s highlight was the commissioning of the USS America, the U.S. Navy’s newest addition to the Pacific Fleet, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The 844-foot amphibious assault ship is designed to land a force of U.S. Marines by helicopter and plane, and it can provide help in case of a civilian disaster. There is a hospital aboard, food and provisions for thousands of troops.
After a centuries-old naval ceremony and a modern-day flyover by tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, the vessel officially entered service Saturday.
The ship was then turned on and radar dishes started to spin as the ship’s horn blew.
“It never gets old,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said after the ceremony. “I get a huge lump in my throat. To have a ship named after our nation, that is so incredibly cool.”
Because the vessel is too wide to go through the Panama Canal, it had to sail around South America from Pascagoula, Mississippi, where it was built. Several of the 4,000 Mississippi shipyard workers who put together the ship also attended the ceremony.
Restaurants and bars along the Embarcadero were packed with sailors and Fleet Week visitors this weekend.
“Fleet Week is great for us,” said Rafael Porras, Red’s Java House manager. “Fleet Week and baseball — they generate a lot of money.”