ROCKLAND, Maine — More than 30 years ago, the nation had its attention caught by the beauty and grace of tall sailing ships, whose sails seemed to pierce the sky during popular regattas.
Boat aficionados from Rockland’s The Apprenticeshop didn’t want to be left behind. So they created a Short Ships Rowing Regatta, where all types of small, human-powered vessels raced for fun and glory for 3 miles around the Rockland inner harbor.
The event marked its 36th year on Saturday as 25 rowboats, outrigger canoes, kayaks, dories, Whitehalls and stand-up paddle boards took to the waves in the bright September sunshine.
Jen Feeney, a former Outward Bound instructor who appeared to deftly steer her stand-up paddle board, said what’s great about the regatta is the sheer variety of the entries — and also the cheering onlookers.
“All the diversity of boats, people and dogs,” she said.
While the short ships might be not quite as majestic as their towering cousins, enthusiasm and fun were in plentiful supply during the regatta.
Adam Yanchunis of Rockland is a student at the traditional boat building and seamanship school, The Apprenticeshop. He helped to row the eight-oared Light Horseman during the regatta — or, at least, until he broke his oar. But that didn’t stop him.
“I rowed on the stub,” Yanchunis said.
Race organizer KC Heyniger of the boat-building school said that while the regatta has had just a handful of entrants in some years, it seems to be growing in popularity — if not height.
“We want to grow it into a Rockland thing,” he said.
After Thor Emory finished the race, he sat near his stand-up paddle board to cheer on the remaining participants. He’s the owner of Thor-Finn, a Rockland outdoors adventure company that has been teaching people ages 4 to 80 to have fun on the boards this summer.
“It’s an amazing workout, and the perspective from the board is incredible,” he said. “The race was a blast. It was a lot of work, especially for paddle boards today, with the wind, but it was a lot of fun.”
The biggest cheers and applause seemed to be reserved for the final duo to cross the finish line, Joe McGeady of Thomaston and his 8-year-old son, Henry, in the 14-foot dory the Cape Crusader.
“It felt good,” Henry said of hearing the cheers.
Competitor Reinhard Zollitsch of Orono placed first in the outrigger canoe division.
“It’s a very relaxed race,” the 72-year-old avid boater said. “This is just nice camaraderie.”