Howard Slotnick (1930-2020)

Howard Slotnick, (center), Charles J. Urstadt (left) CEO Battery Park City Authority, sign OpSail ’76 parade of sail public viewing agreement as Frank Braynard (right) looks on.

The Trustees of Operation Sail, with heavy hearts, mourn the loss of a dear friend and former OpSail Trustee, Howard Slotnick.  Howard was one of the guiding lights of Operation Sail during the early years, beginning with OpSail ’76 where he helped lay the foundation for the next 25 years of grand Tall Ship gatherings in New York and beyond.  Howard is survived by his daughter, Sharon Slotnick. 

Howard, a native of Brooklyn, NY, was a lifelong sailor, maritime history enthusiast, and unstoppable force within the tall ship community.  Howard not only saw the great beauty and majesty of the tall ships, but he selflessly sought to share the historical message and inherent international goodwill associated with the newly invented phenomenon, “the grand tall ship gathering.”  In the run up to OpSail ’76, along with Frank Braynard, Howard enthusiastically journeyed abroad to recruit the great tall ships of the world for America’s 200th anniversary,  July 4th, 1976, “The greatest Birthday Party in History.”  

Frank Braynard’s sketch of Kruzenshtern made while sailing with Howard aboard the ship.

The Soviet Tall Ship, Kruzenshtern, was at the top of the list, being the largest and grandest of its day.  During their courtship, famously, Howard puffed his cigar walking the deck while Frank sketched nautical scenes for her Captain as they crossed the English Channel to Saint-Malo.  It was in the wardroom during that short voyage that Howard and Frank sealed the deal. Kruzenshtern was going to attend OpSail ’76. 

Due to the efforts of Howard and others, OpSail ’76 was such a success that the event catalyzed an idea of rebirth among the major eastern port cities of America.  This rebirth went even further as to develop new friendships and goodwill among seafaring nations in a time of much need.  This is the true legacy of Howard Slotnick and those that came together to plan and execute those early OpSail Events.

Howard went on to continue his work with OpSail, as the Director of OpSail 2000 in Miami, and in decades-long support of other maritime organizations such as the National Maritime Historical Society where he served as Trustee and Treasurer, and the South Street Seaport Museum where he served on the board for nearly thirty years, to name a few.  Howard laid a strong keel and built upon it. His contributions will be forever etched in the memories of the sailors of tall ships as they enter a port in formation with their counterparts, in unison, as part of something bigger, as an International Parade of Sail.