Dozens of spectators boarded the Coast Guard Cutter Spencer on Saturday to watch a helicopter search-and-rescue demonstration over the Hudson River as part of Fleet Week. Coast Guard personnel used a metal caged gurney and later a harness to safely lift crew members from the river into their helicopter.
The Memorial Day weekend celebration at Manhattan's Pier 92 is giving the public a close-up look inside U.S. Navy vessels.
"It just makes me proud to see them being so professional in their work and the technology they use," said James Masella, 60, a Navy Vietnam War veteran from Farmingdale, who watched the demonstration with his wife and daughter.
"To see the pilot's shear control that kept it [the helicopter] steady was amazing," said Denise Masella, 56, a retired Suffolk County police officer.
"Being here makes me feel good. We are supporting our military which protects our freedom," said Danielle Masella, 22.
The Spencer has rescued seven people over the past two years using the same search-and-rescue procedure, said Coast Guard Capt. Anthony Williams, 42. He said nationwide about 16 lives are saved daily by the Coast Guard.
"It's good for folks to come aboard and meet the crew and see what we do," Williams said, adding that the Spencer recently stopped a cargo ship off the Dominican Republic that was carrying $20 million worth of cocaine. He said it also rescued about 80 Haitians who were traveling to the United States in an overloaded cargo ship that was in danger of running aground.
"We were able to escort it out of dangerous waters. The first ship had already overturned and lives were lost," Williams said.
Tours of the Navy and Coast Guard vessels will continue through Memorial Day. All tours are free.
Hundreds lined up to board the San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock for the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that lands Marines in war zones. The public has access to the Osprey, which operates like a helicopter and an airplane.
"It's an amazing piece of equipment," said Laura Marino, 42, a retired NYPD officer from Brooklyn.
"This is a great tradition -- Fleet Week," said Anthony Marino, 42, of Brooklyn. "We can see the forces that defend our freedom here in New York where people from all over the world can see that these ships are unparalleled to any other," Marino said. He made the family trip with his son Anthony, 11, and daughter Briana, 19.