A flotilla of hundreds of tall ships and other boats of all shapes and sizes has sailed from the North Sea into Amsterdam for a five-day festival celebrating the Dutch capital's maritime history.

Sail 2015 started Wednesday with the clipper Stad Amsterdam surrounded by throngs of small pleasure boats leading a convoy of vessels along the North Sea Canal into the heart of the harbor area close to Amsterdam's central railroad station.

Thousands of people packed the waterfront in Amsterdam where the ships moored and lined the canal leading to the city to watch their arrival, some with their crew members standing in the rigging.

The festival lasts until Sunday and organizers say it is expected to draw some 2 million visitors.