The dreamers come out when the tall ships sail in, Gill Bibby says.

Little kids — their eyes the size of saucers. Ship lovers, in awe of the majestic woodwork on the 200-foot beasts. History buffs, imagining the ships sailing these same waters hundreds of years ago.

"A piece of the past is going to sail into the harbour. When you go aboard and see the height of this monster, you're looking 100 feet up and there's people up there working … it's a shaker," Bibby says with a chuckle.

The 72-year-old Hamilton boat builder never tires of the tall ships. He runs his own company in Stoney Creek and has been building boats since he was a child in England.

"My wife says I eat, sleep and breathe boats."

When the ships sail into the harbour Friday afternoon, Bibby — decked out in themed wool pants, waste coat and overcoat — will narrate their grand entrance for curious spectators.

You'll get a good view of the parade from the T.B. McQuesten High Level Bridge on York Boulevard, La Salle Park Marina, Pier 8 and the Bayfront and Pier 4 parks. There will also be free nautical activities for families each day and live music each night.

Once they're docked at Pier 8 (at Discovery Drive), you can get a closer look from shore or take a tour aboard all five with the purchase of a $10 ticket — strongly recommended by Bibby.

If you want to experience what it was like to sail in the 1800s, Bibby says, climb aboard the 198-foot-long U.S. Brig Niagara, a 99 per cent replica from the War of 1812 — one of the most historically authentic ships in the United States.

"That will take you right back in history … all the modern material is hidden, you're looking at the real old thing," he says.

Today, the ships function as vessels training young sailors to work as part of a crew. The "smaller" ships, like the St. Lawrence II, a sprawling 72-footer, take about 12 or 15 people to run. The 210-foot SS Sorlandet, from Norway, needs a crew of almost 40.

"The Sorlandet can sail around the world, it probably has," Bibby says. "It is a schooling ship. You can actually take a world trip on this and come out with a degree at the end of it.";