Back in the 1960s, a group of people including sailing enthusiasts, journalists, President Kennedy, royals, and Walter Cronkite had an idea. They wanted to invite all the tall ships — the high-masted sailing ships that had been supplanted by ships with steam engines and then combustion engines — to New York for a parade.
There were not that many such ships around the world, but there were enough that were still in good trim to make a parade. Not only would this be a wonderfully memorable event, but it would encourage global cooperation and sail training. Learning to sail has all kinds of advantages for young people, for the military, and for people interested in the history of sailing. President Kennedy wrote that sailing “taught me something of the courage, resourcefulness and strength required of men who sail the sea in ships.”
The organization, Operation Sail or OpSail, was spearheaded by Frank Braynard of the American Merchant Marine Institute and Nils Hansell, IBM’s art director. They were able to gather the tall ships to coincide with the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and the event was a great success.
OpSail held similar events roughly every ten years after that, with the most recent event taking place in 2012. Another event will be planned at some point post-pandemic.
Meanwhile the organization’s website was no longer online. OpSail came to us for a new website which would provide an online presence for the organization until it was needed to promote their next event. They wanted to maintain as much as they could from the old website, while also having a modern look and functionality for their new website.
We were able to gather the content from the old website from the Wayback Machine, the web archive which houses many websites from the beginning of the internet until now. That gave us an excellent starting point.
We optimized the content for search and worked with the organization to make sure that all the information was up to date.
Adding additional fresh content and making it easy for the site owners to add more in the future was a priority.
SEO always matters to us, but in this case the authority of the organization and the domain gives us a real step up. We’ll still watch and make sure the site has the rankings and traffic it deserves, but we’re confident.
The nature of the site and of OpSail meant that the website needed plenty of great pictures. Fortunately, we were able to access the photos from the old website. Unfortunately, most of the photos were small and wouldn’t look as good on modern devices as they had back when the original website was built.
We discussed the possibility of using stock photos, but since the website was based on actual historic events, that was not a suitable plan.
In the course of our research for the content we were able to find more photos. Bloggers who had documented the events over the years were kind enough to give us permission to use their photos, and we were able to find pictures from the events which were in the public domain or owned by the organization.
We combined the images from the old website with the additional shots we found and were able to recreate the Gallery page showing the beautiful ships that have participated in the OpSail events.
We took advantage of WordPress video functionality to bring multimedia into the site.
The new website doesn’t yet need an event calendar or a donations page or a shopping cart, but we went ahead and built those elements into the back end. The specialized pages are drafts, and can be published and added into the menu when they’re needed.
This will be more efficient and more cost-effective than waiting until later for a Phase 2. Sometimes building in phases is just what you need. You might not know exactly what kind of functionality you will want in the future. If you know what you’ll want, however, it’s handy to build it ahead of time.
We included one authority page — a page explaining the basics of tall ships. Since this is a WordPress website, it will be easy to add more authority pages in the future.
The site is simple and fresh in design, so it should give OpSail a positive online presence for the foreseeable future. Since it’s well planned for future use, too, we’ll just make sure it gets the regular updates it needs.