Windjammer days poised for clearing skies

Posted Sept. 04, 2010, at 9:36 a.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Life aboard the Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch this morning was wet, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for its captain, crew or passengers.

After all, schooners are made for wet weather.

The Bowditch, a 108-foot former submarine hunter, is also made for rough weather. Though the Rockland-based vessel was cited twice by the Coast Guard during World War II for its seaworthiness, Capt. Owen Dorr said he was pleased Hurricane Earl didn’t toss it around — at least for the sake of his passengers.

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Hurricane Earl lost steam as it approached Maine on Friday evening, downgraded first to a category 1 hurricane, then to a tropical storm.

“There’s seas I’m comfortable in, and then there are seas the passengers are comfortable in,” said Dorr, enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while about a dozen passengers prepared for a breakfast of salmon, eggs and fresh fruit. “There’s a difference. This boat can handle quite a bit.”

The Bowditch was the only Rockland-based schooner that made it to Camden early for the town’s annual Windjammer Days, but Harbor Master Steve Pixlet predicted clear skies, calm seas and a harbor brimming with ships by 4 p.m. Saturday, when the festival’s delayed schedule events were scheduled to resume.

Pixlet said he visited the harbor three times overnight but found few complications other than periods of heavy rain and moderate wind gusts. In other words, according to life on the shore, it was just another rainy night.

“We had to do what we had to do,” he said. “We did have some fog last night, which canceled the fireworks. That surprised me a little bit.”

The festival’s popular pirate invasion and the arrival of numerous vessels was scheduled to begin in earnest at 4 p.m. with a fleet-welcoming ceremony at the public landing, according to a schedule at the web site www.camdenwindjammerfestival.com. Saturday’s events were to culminate with a free concert by the well-known Portland rock group Paranoid Social Club at 7:30 p.m. at the Camden Opera House.

The festivities will resume Sunday morning at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at the public landing, followed by the Maritime Heritage Fair, which begins at 9 a.m. A full schedule of events, which includes everything from children’s activities to maritime demonstrations to a concert by Gordon Bok at 7 p.m., is available at the festival’s website. The festival wraps up Sunday at 9 p.m. with fireworks over the harbor.

Capt. Dorr, who said he’s brought the Bowditch to the Camden festival for several years running, said his passengers were in for a good time as soon as the skies cleared Saturday.

“We’re planning on doing what we’d normally do, just a little bit later,” he said. His wife and co-owner of the Bowditch, Cathie, agreed.

“The first issue was passenger safety,” she said. “There were a lot of phone calls made and we’ve been watching the weather, but there have been no problems.

One of the Bowditch’s passengers, Teresa Taylor of Connecticut, said her family has a 22-year history of coming to Maine, most years to the Windjammer Festival.

“We were ready for the weather,” she said from beneath a canvas rigged over the deck that kept everything more or less dry. “We’ll go through anything for this. We love Maine that much.”

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