February 19, 2018
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Schooner race brings romance, adventure to Penobscot Bay

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — Becky Holmes said she was looking for an adventure for her and her husband to have when they got married. The Houston couple decided on a weeklong sail aboard a schooner in Penobscot Bay.

Three days after Holmes and her husband, Glenn Holmes, were wed aboard the 68-foot long schooner Stephen Taber, they were among the passengers and crew participating in the 2015 Great Schooner Race.

The race, which has been an annual event since 1977, is an opportunity for both fun and bragging rights by the captains, crews and passengers.

This year, 14 schooners took part in the race that began off Gilkey Harbor in Islesboro and ends in Rockland Harbor. The participants were blessed with blue skies and a slight breeze that helped propel the vessels to the mainland.

Capt. Noah Barnes of the Stephen Taber was enthusiastic in talking about the tradition.

“This is a great day. Where else in the world could we do something like this in such a beautiful environment?” Barnes said.

He donned his lucky straw hat and had a tight grip on one of the previous trophies he has collected over the years in the race before he gave a quick pep talk to his crew and 20 passengers.

Barnes said marriages aboard a schooner are not uncommon. He said he has performed 30 over the years.

Becky Holmes, an emergency room nurse, said she went online last May to search for adventure trips and eventually came to the Maine Windjammer Association’s website.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, this is it,’” Holmes said.

She wore a dress and was barefoot for the ceremony that took place at sunset Tuesday. She said they had only told immediate family and three of their closest friends of their intention to marry aboard the schooner.

This was the first time in Maine for Becky and Glenn Holmes.

But for other passengers, this was a return trip. Charles Dillingham of Pasadena, California, said he spent summers as a child in Camden and would often ask his mother if he could go on one of the schooners but she said no. He and his wife had sailed on a local schooner in the 1980s.

Peter Lutz of Napa, California, said this was the first time aboard a schooner for him. He said the food was exceptional and Barnes was enthusiastic.

Spectators were gathering on the 4,300-foot long Rockland Breakwater to await the arrival of the schooners Friday.

Many of the participating schooners are National Historic Landmarks, while others were built in the last century specifically for the windjamming trade, according to a news release from the Maine Windjammer Association. The largest of the fleet is the 132-foot Victory Chimes that is based in Rockland and operated by Capt. Kip Files and his crew.

The first vessels were expected to enter Rockland Harbor by 3 p.m. Awards were to be presented Friday evening at Harbor Park in Rockland.


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