KODIAK — Under a brilliant blue sky with a skim of white clouds, the Russian tall ship Pallada docked at Kodiak’s Pier 2 Wednesday morning.

It was greeted in the harbor by a handful of escort boats and at the dock by a crowd of well-wishers. There was music, dancing, laughing and photos. Everything, it seemed, but a working gangway.

“The tide’s too low for their gangplank to work,” explained Kodiak’s deputy harbormaster Lon White, before hurrying off to find the port’s gangway.

After some quick metalwork, White had time to reflect on the last time the Pallada visited Kodiak, in 1990.

“There’s more fanfare, the weather wasn’t quite as nice, and we didn’t have St. Innocent’s Academy,” he said,

nodding toward a group of brightly dressed people setting up sound equipment.

As customs officials flown in from Anchorage examined the Pallada, the singers of St. Innocent’s Academy had ample time to use that sound equipment, singing Russian-language songs to the 102 cadets onboard the Pallada, who responded with music of their own.

Both groups combined to sing happy birthday to Thelma Johnson, who celebrated her 90th birthday by taking in the celebration.

“We were just so excited to see the ship that we wanted to come down, and there was so much excitement we decided to stay,” Johnson said.

By 12:30 p.m., the inspections were done, the gangway in place, and the official welcoming ceremony began. Harbormaster Marty Owen was master of ceremonies as Kodiak Deputy Mayor Gabriel Saravia awarded the Pallada’s captain the key to the city.

Historian Dawn Black was on hand with a traditional Russian bread-and-salt greeting, explaining that “salt represents friendship … bread is the staff of life, meaning you will take care of guests.”

Janet Buckingham of the Kodiak Convention and Visitors Bureau and Lt. Matthew Zinn of the Coast Guard each offered their respects, and the welcoming ceremony concluded with a series of dances and songs by St. Innocent’s Academy students.

The whole program was greeted with smiles and laughter by the cadets and crew of the Vladivostok-based Pallada, a training ship for the Far Eastern State Technical University of Fisheries.

The Pallada left Vladivostok on July 1, and all onboard have been eagerly awaiting Kodiak, the first stop on a 3 1/2 month tour of Pacific ports, said information and education manager Natalia Borodina, who is both teacher and translator for the cadets and crew onboard ship.

“Most of them are for the first time in a foreign country,” Borodina said.

They’re not members of the military, nor will many of them enter the Russian Navy, she said. To become a navigator or marine engineer requires practical training as well as a diploma, and this cruise will help satisfy part of the practical training requirement, she said. Sixty of the cadets are from Kamchatka, while the other 42 are from Vladivostok.

Half the cadets have leave ashore today, and the other half on Friday, she explained.

The Coast Guard and various community organizations have scheduled activities for the cadets during their time away from ship. At 10 a.m. at Pier 2 is a Coast Guard air and sea demonstration, and cadets will have the opportunity to enjoy hiking, swimming or touring Kodiak.

The Kodiak public also will have a chance to get involved, as the Pallada opens for tours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Friday. At 1 p.m. Saturday is a farewell concert on deck, and the Pallada departs for Sitka at 2 p.m., part of its continuing voyage to commemorate the 270th anniversary of the first Russians in Alaska and the 50th anniversary of the first person in space.

For both the crew of the Pallada and people in Kodiak, the ship’s stop promises to be a unique experience.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for 21 days,” Borodina said. “Considering the welcome, it should be something wonderful.”

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at jbrooks@kodiakdailymirror.com.

Today

10 a.m.: Coast Guard demonstration, Pier 2

10 a.m. - 7 p.m.: Cadets given shore leave

11 a.m. - 8 p.m.: Public invited for tours of the Pallada

Friday

10 a.m. - 7 p.m.: Cadets given shore leave

11 a.m. - 8 p.m.: Public invited for tours of the Pallada

Saturday

10 a.m. and 11 a.m.: Film showing “Discovery of Russian America”, a Russian look at Alaska history (in English)

1 p.m.: Cadets and St. Innocent’s Academy present a farewell concert

2 p.m.: Pallada departs

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