ROCKLAND, Maine ― A plan to bring Tall Ships America — a fleet of sailboats that navigate the world to promote maritime heritage — to Rockland this summer as part of the city’s bicentennial celebration has fallen through.
“We had great conversations with Tall Ships America but ultimately we decided [the plan] didn’t work from a financial perspective,” Dan Bookham, a member of a group working to bring the ships to Rockland, said in an email Wednesday.
The plan to include one of the organization’s ships in the city’s maritime celebration in honor of Maine’s 200th birthday was floated in December. The plan drew criticism from the chair of the city’s harbor management commission, who feared the contract to bring the ships to Rockland could leave the city financially responsible if private fundraising fell through.
The celebration, planned for July 3 on Rockland Harbor, will continue with windjammer races featuring local vessels, a maritime fair, a concert and fireworks.
Proponents of bringing a tall ship to Rockland for the celebration say the attraction aligned with the city’s maritime heritage. Tall Ships America is still expected to dock in Portland this summer as part of Maine’s 200th birthday celebration.
When city councilors approved a contract with Tall Ships America last month, organizers estimated it would require about $27,500 in private fundraising to host a ship. The city also agreed to waive any docking fees that Tall Ships America would have had to pay to utilize Rockland docks, according to the contract.
Bookham said the cost to host the ship would largely be offset by revenue generated from tours of the vessel. But in the end, that equation proved too financially risky.
“With every other element [of the celebration] being free to the public and the ticketed ship tour revenue being so dependent on weather and attendance and so thus being a number we couldn’t count on until after the event we decided to regretfully pass on that element of the celebrations,” Bookham said.