A Sampling of Boothbay's Windjammer Days

Wednesday, July 09, 2014 5:23 PM

This year was the 52nd Annual Windjammer Days Festival in the beautiful and historic Boothbay Harbor Region. This fun-filled, week long festival celebrates the regions fascinating maritime history and is jam-packed with loads of events that are definitely worth partaking in. Mark and Diane Gimbel, the Boothbay locals who run and coordinate the Festival are wonderfully energetic, informative, and inviting, they had me along to join in on the celebration and did I ever get the special treatment! Between island clam bakes, a thrilling sail into the harbor aboard one of the beautiful windjammers, and joining in the festival fun I had a hands down amazing experience to share with everyone, read on for the inside scoop!

It was a glorious Tuesday afternoon when I arrived in Boothbay to browse the art show and attend the Cabbage Island Clambake where sponsors, captains and their passengers, and Casey Zaluckiinvited guests partake in an authentic clambake experience for the annual “greeting of the windjammer fleet”. After checking out some great local artists in the show, I met up with captain’s Pete Ripley and Nick Ripley aboard their sportfishing charter the Breakaway for a lift to the island. Also along for the ride was our own Bill Green, (of WCSH6’s Bill Green’s Maine) working on a story of his own on the event! Nothing like a bit of journalism enthusiasm to add to the excitement! It was a lovely ride out to Cabbage Island, and as we rounded a bend the breathtaking sight of the gathered windjammer fleet came into view. Gazing upon the fleet of historic schooners stirred up imaginative thoughts of days past, and ignited in me a curiosity to dapple into the history surrounding the impressive ships.

I stepped onto Quaint Cabbage Island and immediately began exploring, my face buried behind my camera. Cabbage Island hosts authentic Maine clambakes and it truly is authentic! With outdoor wood fired lobster boilers and wooden picnic tables scattered around the lawn you are instantly reminded of “The way life should be”. I chatted and mingled with sailing enthusiasts who radiated excitement and passion for the event, salty ocean air mixed with delicious smoky smells from the cookers and the cottage themed landscape of the island fit in perfectly. Dinner was called by the ringing of a cow bell and served by the blasting of an air horn, although I felt like it was a blasting reminder to appreciate the simple things in life. The bake included homemade seafood chowder, fresh lobster and clams, summer corn, roasted onion and potatoes, a boiled egg, and famous blueberry cake. It was exquisitely delicious, but I assume that goes without saying. I had dinner with the Ripley’s and Captain John Foss of the American Eagle (a participating schooner) and was kindly invited to sail along the next day for the arrival into the harbor! I was over the moon with excitement!

I was up early on Wednesday morning to board The American Eagle for my sail. Breakaway Charters once again taxied me over and once on board the friendly crew and passengers warmly welcomed me. I was given a tour of the impressive wooden ship, and was instantly in awe of the incredible craftsmanship, detail, and history surrounding her. Built in 1930, she was the last fishing ship to be built in Gloucester and was launched under the name Andrew & Rosalie. In 1941 she was renamed the American Eagle by Capt. Ben Pine and was used as a fishing ship until 1983. After her final trip she was sailed to Rockland, and in 1984 Captain Foss, along with five other schooner captains began a two-year restoration, 53 years of hard fishing had done a number on her! After a complete rebuild, she was relaunched in April of 1986, and in 1991 she was designated a national historic landmark, quite the story she has! Today she can be seen sailing the coast of Maine, and sometimes into Canada. The American Eagle offers four, five, and six night cruises, and after my afternoon sail aboard I am highly considering taking one, the guests were all having a great, unique vacation, and many were return sailors back for another trip!

We sailed the scenic coast for most of the afternoon until about 2:30, when we sailed into Boothbay Harbor alongside the other schooners as a fleet. It was a memorable experience cruising into the harbor, under full sail as a fleet of windjammers, a truly once in a lifetime experience I won’t soon forget. The excitement and energy greeting the ships was incredible. The Pirates of the Dark Rose were firing away at our “attack” on Boothbay Harbor from the helm of their ship the Must Roos, stirring up excitement even more with their wicked pirate pranks and fun.

After bidding farewell to the memorable passengers, Captain, and ship, I set foot on dry land to attend my first ever Cod Fish Races. This hysterical event involves teams of four where members of the team’s scramble into oil pants, jacket, and boots and run a set course while carrying two cod fish, they then trade outfits and pass the fish along to the next team member, this is repeated four times. It was a complete riot, the cod fish were slipping, sliding, and dropping everywhere and the runners were scrambling in and out of oil slickers at top speed. It was a laugh factory on Maine Street. Shortly following the races the Windjammer days street parade was underway spreading candy tossing, water spraying, siren blaring fun through town.

With an entire week to experience endless festivities I would highly recommend penciling next years Windjammer Days Festival into your summer plans, along with my above experiences you can enjoy fireworks, concerts, shopping, dining around town, street races, a golf tournament, pirate ship tours, and numerous other scheduled events, check the official website for any and all information you may need!

Posted by: Casey Zalucki 
Casey Zalucki

Casey Zalucki is a Photographer and Blogger who lives in Portland, Maine.


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