Camden Windjammer Festival celebrates maritime history, tradition

CAMDEN -- Pennants fly high and masts bristle at this weekend's Camden Windjammer Festival. Twenty four historic boats participated in Friday afternoon's parade of sail, including the Camden schooners Mary Day and Lewis R. French. (Bangor Daily News/Abigail Curtis)
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CAMDEN -- Pennants fly high and masts bristle at this weekend's Camden Windjammer Festival. Twenty four historic boats participated in Friday afternoon's parade of sail, including the Camden schooners Mary Day and Lewis R. French. (Bangor Daily News/Abigail Curtis)
Posted Sept. 01, 2010, at 6:13 p.m.

Sail ho! The windjammers are coming.

More than a dozen historic sailing vessels will make their annual pilgrimage to Camden Harbor on Friday to kick off this year’s Camden Windjammer Festival. They’ll be joined by other commercial cruising vessels and other boats for the event.

The annual weekend festival commemorates the mark the windjammers have made in the history of Maine and the continuation of the working sailboat tradition in the midcoast region, according to Dan Bookham, executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.

“This is a celebration of the contributions these boats make to our working waterfront, to our economy and our communities,” he said.

The festival is scheduled to start while the Northeast is bracing for the possible arrival of Hurricane Earl and organizers are going to be keeping an eye on the storm’s trajectory throughout the week. They expected to have an effective forecast by Wednesday afternoon, according to Bookham.

“Right now, it looks like we’re full-steam ahead,” he said Monday. “The Windjammer festival is scheduled to start Friday at noon with the roar of a cannon.”

The windjammer fleet is expected to begin arriving by noontime Friday and once assembled will sail past the harbor in the annual windjammer parade. There will be an emcee, who will describe the vessels as they sail by.

“The emcee will let people know what they’re looking at,” said Meg Maiden, marketing director for the Maine Windjammer Association.

Camden and the entire midcoast region have a long maritime history. Many towns, Camden included, were launch sites and home ports to ocean-going schooners that traveled around the world carrying cargo to and from Maine. The windjammer tradition of recreational schooner trips started in Camden in the 1930s and is now in its 74th year, according to Maiden.

The boats will raft up in Camden’s inner harbor where they will take on visitors during open house hours on Friday. Many of the vessels are completing four- or six-day cruises and will have guests on board, Maiden said, and the festival is a nice way to end their cruise.

“It’s also a good way to showcase the fleet,” she said. “It’s a way for people to get a close-up view of the boats, get on board, meet the captains and see what windjamming is all about.”

The fleet’s stay in the harbor will include a talent show featuring captains and crews from the vessels and a dinner auction, in which participants will be able to bid on a dinner on board the windjammers. Proceeds will go to the association.

On shore, the festival will feature the Maritime Heritage Fair, which will feature a wide variety of tradespeople, including boat builders, blacksmiths, coopers, sail makers and fishermen, who will talk about and demonstrate maritime skills.

“There are a lot of ways to get hands-on experience, building boat models and even building a small boat from plywood,” Bookham said. “It’s a great chance — especially for children — to get their hands dirty and have a good time in downtown Camden.”

All the events — with the exception of a pancake breakfast and a chowder cookoff — are free, including a concert by Maine singer and songwriter Gordon Bok, scheduled for Sunday evening outdoors in Harbor Park. Other events will include Friday night fireworks, lobster crate races and a pirate attack on the town by Pirates of the Dark Rose.

A full schedule of events, including a list of participants in the Marine Heritage Fair, is available on the festival website at www.camdenwindjammerfestival.com.

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